Office sought: Lee District Supervisor, Fairfax County
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Previous offices held; please include dates:
Incumbents: when elected to this position: 1995
Occupation: Lee District Supervisor
County of Fairfax
6121 Franconia Road
Alexandria, VA 22310
Current employment (include name and address of employers): Lee District Supervisor
Franconia Governmental Center
6121 Franconia Road, Alexandria, VA 222310
Elected Lee District Supervisor in November 1995. Prior to that, vice president for commercial and residential operations, A.J. Dwoskin and Associates, Inc. From 1982-1989, chief of staff for former Lee District Supervisor Joe Alexander.
Education: (please list schools attended, degrees and dates)
Master of Public Administration from George Mason University in 1982, and a Bachelor of Science from George Mason University in 1979.
List a few current endorsements you are most proud of:
1. What is your top public-service accomplishment?
Incumbents: Describe the top accomplishment of your last term. Why shouldn’t voters blame you for current problems in your district?
I am most proud of my success in persuading the Board of Supervisors to adopt a system of cash proffers that prompts developers to make a financial contribution up front to school capital costs. This was a lengthy process—some two years in the making.
This August, we opened a medical education campus in Springfield. This first-of-its kind facility took years of personal effort.
I also consider getting an accelerated building schedule for Island Creek Elementary School (and the subsequent elimination of trailers at Lane Elementary) as a significant accomplishment.
To this, I would include a number of community building activities, including Lee Nights, our free summer concert series (expanded this year to Friday evenings, as well as Wednesdays), the Tour de Lee family bike event, and the annual “Lighting the Heart of Springfield’ community bridge walk and celebration in central Springfield.
Voters should hold elected officials accountable. This said, governing is a partnership that works best when both citizens and elected officials are fully engaged.
2. What are the top five problems facing your constituents and what approaches will you use to solve them? Describe one challenge (or more) in your district that is different than other parts of the county.
1) The most urgent issue is how to keep Fairfax County your home of choice. We hear growing demands for both services and tax relief. How we balance these conflicting demands will determine whether people and businesses continue to see us as a safe and desirable community.
2) Changing demographics compound the challenge with children and senior citizens being the fastest growing segments of our population. Both require significant public investment in both long and short term.
3) We are a community that increasingly must face city challenges without the tools we need from Richmond.
4) The disconnect between the pace of residential development and the availability of adequate public facilities continues to be a problem, even in a declining economy.
5) In southeastern Fairfax, we have a particularly pressing problem. Our community hospital is at risk. This is a countywide issue but it is taking considerable effort to make its importance understood outside of the Richmond Highway corridor.
3. What qualities, qualifications and characteristics will you bring to this office?
As I have for the past eight years, I will work with community leaders to obtain greater control over development, transportation improvements, and tax relief. I care what happens to Lee District.
4. How will voters best distinguish between you and your opponent(s)?
I am unopposed in this election.
5. What specific solutions will you propose for the transportation dilemma?
Please address funding, prioritization, air quality, bus service and other non-rail public transportation solutions, expansion of rail service, and any other possible approach.
We have very limited funds with which to solve our transportation dilemma. It’s not possible to pave our way out of this mess so we will have to use a variety of incentives to change how people use our transportation network.
We need to work with the Federal and regional government organizations to try to better manage the demand placed on our existing road and transit network. Unless we spread out demand, even our Metro system with 8-car trains cannot support peak period ridership. Telecommuting and different work hours must be encouraged. We also need to restore some of the bus service suspended years ago with the opening of our rail stations. Initially, bus service was seen as competing with rail service. Now we know we need both to provide relief.
And speaking of buses, we should be using clean diesel fuel. I believe that we created excellent photo opportunities but implemented poor public policy when we went with CNG at Metro. The bottom line is that we have finite transit budget and we need as many buses as we can get on the streets. The costs of a CNG program and support infrastructure was a net loss for air quality as it absorbed funds that could have been used for expanding bus service.
Additionally, I support an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance to keep development from taking place before the transportation infrastructure is in place.
We need to focus on telecommuting so that we don’t have everyone trying to get to the same place at the same time on the same roads. The Federal Government must set goals for making this happen for its employees—as indeed we have done in Fairfax County.
We also need projects that link transit hubs or centers. Regionally, I see the extension of rail to Dulles as a linking of the region’s international airport with our core and the nation’s capitol. At the County level, I have been pushing for linking the Franconia-Springfield Transit Center to the Reston-Herndon transit center. I am also trying to get transit on our Fairfax County Parkway. It makes no sense for our ‘Main Street’ to be without bus service.
I also support privately funded HOT lanes as long as they are modified as outlined in my attached board item approved this July by the County Board of Supervisors.
6. Fairfax County now dedicates more than 50 percent of its budget to the public school system. How will you measure the effectiveness of this expenditure? What do you see as the biggest challenges? Is this sort of expenditure sustainable given that fewer than 25 percent of households have children in the schools?
The challenge remains to have a “world class” school system without having a “gold plated” one. A constant challenge is the gap that exists between the County Board’s accountability for raising tax dollars and the School Board’s responsibility for spending school funds. Growth (school enrollment) expenditures are usually defensible. We must closely monitor non-growth related spending.
Two areas where the School Board and County Board can do better are in monitoring technology and special education spending. According to the Council of PTA’s, we lack a detailed understanding of how technology funds are spent in individual schools and at specific grade levels. There is also little information available on the utilization of technology resources.
The biggest challenge, and one that continues to grow, is our special education programs. These programs serve students with limited English proficiency as well as those with special needs. Again, according to figures from the Council of PTA’s, special education accounts for more than double the budget of the entire middle school program and nearly triple the number of positions. It is also is bigger than the entire high school program.
We provide a higher level of services than mandated and attract many families to our County strictly for the opportunity to have their children enrolled in these programs. We must find economies and efficiencies or we will not be able to continue these popular programs without striping funds away from other school programs or County-funded priorities including services to our fast-growing senior population.
7. Many parts of Northern Virginia are approaching buildout and the current economic climate favors residential over commercial construction. Do local governments have the tools they need to control and guide growth? How will state and local governments cope with the additional demand for services that comes with additional residential construction? What are the important features of "smart growth," and can more emphasis on smart growth help offset some of the effects of suburban development?
I have actively fought to require more funds from developers to offset the impact of their developments on school capacity. Every residential case in Lee District now must include ‘cash proffers’ for school capital needs. It’s not balanced against other community needs; it’s a baseline expectation. We are still more than able to secure proffers for tree save areas, drainage, and other environmental controls along with this funding for school construction.
On my motion, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors joined the High Growth Coalition during the last session of the General Assembly. I testified in Richmond for an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) and remain committed to obtaining such authority for Fairfax County. I also believe transfer development rights make good sense and I support going after that authority.
Both ‘smart growth’ and ‘sprawl’ are in the eye of the beholder. I grant that the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor is the model for which to strive. However, two key facts are often overlooked. First, Rosslyn-Ballston isn’t just about Metro, it’s also about the ‘Roman grid’ road network that surrounds and supports it. If we tried to pack Rosslyn-Ballston intensity developments around Fairfax County’s metro stations—with our ‘widened Indian path’ road network—we would create monster traffic jams!
We have done right by promoting greater intensity options along the Dulles corridor and by ‘up planning’ sections of Route One and Central Springfield near our Metro stations. Correspondingly, we have also done right by rejecting a series of intense development proposals for Beulah Street and by ‘down planning’ the Engineer Proving Grounds (EPG) and the Telegraph Road corridor.
8. What are your top environmental priorities? Please address air quality, water quality, open space, etc.
Air quality is the top priority. If we fail to meet Federal standards, what little transportation funds we receive will vanish. As the newly elected Vice Chairman of COG’s Air Quality Advisory Council, I have taken a lead role in getting us to both meet the letter and spirit of the law. We are reaching consensus on what we have to do while compiling a “Gold book” of all the additional measures we are taking on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction basis to go even further.
As an elected leader for a jurisdiction where all the water we drink is recycled, water quality is also a high priority. Some on the Board questioned our recent action to expand the limit of our resource protection areas. However, whether it’s to limit flooding like we just experienced in New Alexandria or actions to secure back-up power for our treatment plants, clean drinking water has never before received such focused attention.
Preserving open space is something that gets everyone’s attention. I strongly supported the major land acquisition efforts this Board made happen in the Sully and Mount Vernon Districts. I’ve also led efforts in Lee District to add over 320 acres of land to our Park holdings. Where we will continue to have debate is over the priorities given to open land and to clearing for active recreational uses. We must make good on commitments made for ball fields at the time we acquired Laurel Hill and land in Centreville.
9. Are residents safe enough? How do public safety officials balance new demands of "homeland security" with other safety and quality of life issues?
We are not a safe community by accident. When I was first elected, my home was seen as being in a “high crime area.” Supervisor Gerry Hyland and I have consistently worked together to get the staffing and resources the Richmond Highway needed for so long. The bottom line is that we are now one of the safest parts of the County in terms of major crimes and, believe it or not, even our accident rate has dropped by close to 8% this year.
The biggest challenges we face Countywide are in dealing with the terrorists who have lived in or passed through our County and with gangs. We have a special crimes unit to deal with the terrorist threat (many of the identified September 11 terrorists lived and/or worked in Fairfax County). In this key area we rapidly went from seeking help from Federal agencies to being sought out for help by Federal agencies.
When it comes to gang activity, we are working hard with limited resources to keep ahead of the problem. To date, the problem has been largely gang on gang violence. However, this does not negate the impact we could face if the gangs turned to dealing drugs.
Last but certainly not least, is how to keep our highly skilled and recognized officers in the Department. The good news of being just across the river from the Nation’s capital is our ready access to its resources. The bad news is many Federal agencies can offer our skilled public safety employees alternative employment.
10. Do you have any concerns about civil liberties and public access to information in the wake of the Patriot Act and other responses to Sept. 11?
On its own, Congress is rethinking the wisdom of many parts of the Patriot Act—especially its ‘sneak and peak’ provisions. The Act went too far and I support its revision.
11. Working poor families in Northern Virginia face a daunting cost of living, with little in the way of affordable housing, health care, child care and transportation. Are low-wage workers important to the local economy? What do you propose to address the needs of these families?
As the Co-Chairman of the Board’s Housing Committee, I helped lead efforts to modify our Affordable Dwelling Unit Ordinance to insure its applicability across a broader range of housing types and development sizes. Most recently, over opposition from many in the housing industry, we expanded our requirements for affordable housing set-asides to include units in new, mid-rise developments.
Also, I have championed transit improvements along the Richmond Highway corridor and supported finally making bus service a reality in the western end of Fairfax County. We still need to make transit happen on the Parkway so that we can link jobs and people Countywide.
As the parent of a young son, I have recent memories of the choices on childcare: generally a choice between bad and worse. For that reason, I supported additional childcare assistance for our working poor as a part of the recent Carryover budget.
12. Should counties have the taxing authority of cities?
Yes. Currently, the County funds schools, public safety, human services, and other County services and programs from primarily two sources: real estate and personal property taxes that together account for approximately 76 percent of the General Fund. This puts a heavy burden on homeowners, senior citizens, and parents, among others.
As things stand today, the state has tied Fairfax County’s hands by refusing it allow it to diversify its sources of revenue.
13. What proposals do you have for mitigating the effects of soaring property values and related taxes? Do you endorse the 5 percent cap on property tax increases? If you support a cap on property tax increases, please name at least one service provided by county government that you currently use that you would be prepared to live without.
I do not support a five percent cap on property tax increases.
The BOS has increased the ceiling for tax relief for seniors and the disabled and has increased user fees where possible, so that some County services (such as recreation centers) can cover costs. Over the past 2 years, the BOS has lowered the property tax rate by 5 cents and tightened up its budget, cutting back on expenses staff without serious cuts to service.
Another round of cuts will no doubt have an impact on some of the services that our citizens expect to receive.
Ultimately, the best way to preserve those services residents value, without further escalating the impact of the property tax, is to continue our efforts to get the taxing authority of a city. As large and as urban as Fairfax County has become, it makes no sense that we should be so reliant on such a limited range of revenues. We need more options if we are to be in a position to offer real and long-term homeowner relief.
14. Fairfax County has more than 10,000 full-time employees. How should the Board of Supervisors guide such a large bureaucracy? How do you measure the effectiveness of such a work force? We’ve heard stories of departments that
resist change and are unresponsive to both citizens and elected officials. How would you address these concerns? Please give specific examples.
For every story of non-responsiveness, we can also point to awards for citizen service and recognition at the state and national level for innovation, efficiency and savings. As a one-time student of public administration, I can see much to be proud of in the work of our employees. That’s not to say that we can’t do better.
One tool we have tried is pay for performance. It has shown some success but needs more work to be consistent and fair. We have also made investments in training the prospective next generation of senior staff. I have donated personal funds to the County’s program to underwrite graduate studies focused on learning best management practices both within this country and in Europe.
Frankly to get the best, we must work to hire the best. Once hired, we have worked with the County Executive to articulate guiding principles for our employees and strived to create an environment that fosters creativity and rewards, rather than punishes, innovation. This has been difficult to overlay on an organization that was predicated on regular steps and grades. However, the battleship is now capable of making tighter turns!
15. What campaign finance reform do you support? How should the county avoid conflict of interest, or even the appearance of conflict, given the Board’s role in approving development and zoning changes and contributions by
The disclosure requirements we have in place are actually an outgrowth of a bribery scandal in the early 1960s when some Board members were found to have taken money for zoning votes. Currently, I believe the Virginia Conflict of Interest Act precludes localities from adopting more or less restrictive disclosures and conflict requirements.
Would I support more restrictive provisions? Sure. However, I don’t know what they would be other than to disclose any contribution regardless of the amount that could be linked to any land use case. Currently, the reporting threshold is any amount of $200 or more.