Linda Smyth, Providence District Supervisor

Linda Smyth, Providence District Supervisor

Office sought: Providence District Supervisor

Party Affiliation: Democrat

Previous offices held; please include dates: no previous elected office

Incumbents: when elected to this position:

Occupation: Providence District Planning Commissioner

Current employment: Fairfax County Planning Commission, 12000 Government Center Parkway, Fairfax, VA 22035

Previous employment: Substitute teacher, Fairfax County Public Schools

Education: (please list schools attended, degrees and dates)

BA, History, Washington University, St. Louis, 1970

MA, History, University of Virginia, 1971

PhD, History, University of Virginia, 1978

Community ties: Current Chair, Providence District VolunteerFest; Past President, Briarwood Citizens' Association; Past Chair, Vienna Metro Area Citizens' Task Force;

Providence District Area Plan Review Task Force; Providence District Council

ENDORSEMENTS: Fairfax Education Association, Fairfax County Professional Fire Fighters and Paramedics, Northern Virginia Central Labor Council, Sierra Club

1. What is your top public-service accomplishment?

As Planning Commissioner, I helped to draft the Residential Development Criteria, which are now part of the County's Comprehensive Plan. These criteria set new, higher standards for residential development in terms of design, neighborhood context, environment, tree preservation, transportation, public facilities, affordable housing, and heritage resources. The new criteria also closed some loopholes that existed under the old Residential Density Criteria.

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.

The top 5 problems facing Providence residents are

Residential Property taxes: Fairfax County is too dependent on residential property taxes to finance our operating budget. We need to work with Gov. Warner to restructure the tax base and diversify our tax resources to reduce the tax burden on our homeowners.

Traffic (see 5 below)

Schools (see 6 below)

Affordable Housing: With the increasing cost of housing in Fairfax, we must look at more options to create and preserve affordable housing to provide more housing opportunities for firefighters, police, teachers, and other County employees. As Planning Commissioner I worked on the Zoning Ordinance Amendment for ADUs in mid-rise multifamily development. We also need to extend the ADU program to high rise developments.

Mixed Use Development in Tysons: Providence has the County's only Urban Center. Finding ways to create and integrate a mix of residential, retail, and office uses into an effective "urban" neighborhood has been and will be a planning challenge.

3. What qualities, qualifications and characteristics will you bring to this office?

As a neighborhood activist, volunteer, educator, and Planning Commissioner, I have the experience to deal with the major issues facing local government, including transportation, schools, land use, and the environment. I am committed to involving citizens in the land use process. I have worked with residents throughout Providence to address concerns and find solutions to problems that impact our community. I want to continue this work on a full time basis as Supervisor for Providence.

4. How will voters best distinguish between you and your opponent(s)?

Besides the neighborhood experience and qualifications listed above, I differ from my opponent in my commitment to our public schools. I have been involved in our public schools as a parent (our son graduated from FCPS), a volunteer, an active member of the PTA, and a teacher. My opponent sends his children to private school and supports education vouchers for private schools. I do not. I also differ from my opponent on the tax cap pledge. He has taken the pledge; I have not. I believe the pledge would jeopardize our bond rating and our ability to respond to serious emergencies. Instead of a rigid formula, we need a real fix. We need to restructure our tax base and have the same ability to tax that cities have. With a better menu of tax resources, we will be able to reduce property taxes and maintain essential services.

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.

Fairfax must consider every option available to improve traffic congestion. Local options include improving bus service; completing the pedestrian/bike trails network; addressing traffic bottlenecks by adding turn lanes and access management; optimizing traffic signalization; promoting telework; providing more park and ride facilities. Through the development process, the County must continue to obtain road frontage and transit facility improvements as well as traffic demand management commitments for car/vanpooling and the use of mass transit to reduce traffic generation for office complexes. Beyond the local level, Fairfax will need to work with the state and federal governments to fund and construct expansion of rail service through Tysons to Dulles. Mass transit should be the County's top priority to get more cars off the road and improve air quality.

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?

Maintaining the high standards of our public school system must remain a priority. Our schools face a number of challenges: raising teachers' salaries to competitive levels; renovating and expanding school facilities; meeting the needs of a diverse student population. We have a world class school system, but it requires our continuing commitment to maintain its excellence. Our school system is an investment not only in our children but also in the economic health of our community because of the businesses drawn here by the reputation of our public schools.

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?

Unlike Maryland, Virginia has not given localities an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance for managing growth. Instead we must rely on the Comprehensive Plan. With the adoption of the Residential Development Criteria, we have a better tool to use for obtaining developer commitments to mitigate impacts on public facilities than we had previously. We must insist that developers pay their share for transportation, education, parks, and other facilities.

The more notable features of "smart growth" include the clustering of development near mass transit and employment centers; good pedestrian connections; an appropriate mix of residential, retail, and office uses. A well integrated mixed use development near transit and jobs will generate less traffic than the typical suburban development.

8. What are your top environmental priorities? Please address air quality, water quality, open space, etc.

As Planning Commissioner I worked on the Chesapeake Bay Zoning Ordinance that will help protect our streams and our water quality. Beyond Chesapeake Bay, stormwater management is a major issue that the County needs to focus on. The County must evaluate new innovative stormwater management techniques and their long term effectiveness and maintenance costs. Currently the Planning Commission is also examining stormwater management ponds/open space requirements. The typical dry stormwater management pond area is counted as open space. The Planning Commission's Policy and Procedures Committee (which I chair) is looking at the possibility of changing the Zoning Ordinance to prevent dry ponds in whole or in part from being counted as open space.

9. Are residents safe enough? How do public safety officials balance new demands of "homeland security" with other safety and quality of life issues?

Most Fairfax County residents feel that they are safe. However, our police force is at minimum strength for handling its duties. Given the needs of "homeland security" in addition to the everyday demands on police, fire and rescue, Fairfax may need to enlarge public safety forces at some point in the future.

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?

Like many other people, I am concerned that "national security" has been used as a justification for abrogating civil liberties, particularly imprisonment without charges being filed.

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?

Low wage workers are an important part of our local economy. Affordable housing is a particular concern for these workers. As a Planning Commissioner I have worked on the Zoning Ordinance Amendment that expanded the ADU requirement to cover mid-rise multifamily units. I have also obtained proffer commitments for ADUs, contributions to the Housing Trust Fund, and the West County homeless shelter. One area that I believe needs more attention is locating affordable housing close to mass transit.

12. Should counties have the taxing authority of cities?


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 the 5% cap. I favor restructuring the tax base (see 1a).

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.

The branches of the county government with which I have dealt the most are the Department of Planning and Zoning and the Planning Commission Office. From experience I know that staff in both departments go out of their way to answer questions and patiently explain issues to citizens. However, it is always important to look for ways to improve government and employee responsiveness to citizens.

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 development interests?

As a first time candidate I can say that fund raising is the bane of anyone running for office. Voters expect candidates to "advertise" through signs, mailings, handouts, bumper stickers, etc.- all of which cost money. I support strong disclosure laws. I also think that it would be a good idea to change the $200 limit for affidavit disclosure to $100, which is the limit in the Electoral Board's finance regulations.