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New Life for Reston Citizen's Association?

Former RA board member Mike Corrigan and a group of fellow community activists are trying to revive RCA.

The past few years have not been kind to the Reston Citizens Association. A lack of interest has left its board of directors more than half empty. The organization's meetings are regularly canceled because of a lack of anything on the agenda. An average of 250 out of 66,000 Reston citizens typically vote in RCA's annual elections.

"I don't see RCA continuing for much longer," said Arthur Hill, who has served on the organization's board of directors for the past decade. "You can't keep beating a dead horse."

But now a small group of community activists is hoping to revive the Reston community's former political powerhouse. Mike Corrigan, a former member of the Reston Association Board of Directors, along with a loosely-knit group of other Reston residents plan to file for candidacy in the coming days. The election will be held at the Reston Festival on July 10 and 11 at Reston Town Center.

"We want to breathe new life into RCA," Corrigan said. "There's enough interest to do this, as far as I can see."

Corrigan said there are enough viable and motivated candidates to almost fill the organization's 15-member board of directors and he expects more candidates will step forward in the next month.

Mark Terry, who lives in the North Point area, said he also plans to run for a seat on the RCA board.

"I just want to be a part of the community and help contribute to it," said Terry, who moved to Reston three years ago.

Both Corrigan and Terry signed on with the other interested candidates last weekend at an informal meeting. News that Chad Davis, RCA's current president, was moving to Loudoun County in the coming months served as a catalyst for the new community activists to pick up the organization's banner and start anew.

The other interested candidates have not yet been publicly disclosed.

RCA WAS FORMED in 1967, when Reston's founder Robert Simon left the community. Reston residents wanted an independent body that could preserve Simon's ideals of preserving open space, offering a diversity of housing for people of all income levels, and fostering a sense of community in which residents could live, work and play in the same place.

Over the years, RCA grew into a political body that served as the voice of the Reston community. Its members founded the Reston Festival, Reston's commuter bus system, provided health insurance to low-income residents and organized action when the community was faced with major, divisive issues. RCA also notably launched the political career of state Sen. Janet Howell (D-Reston), who served as its president during the 1980s.

Today, serious issues are facing Reston, but the existing governing bodies Ñ particularly RA's Board of Directors and the Reston Community Center's Board of Governors Ñ have either not addressed the issues because the issues are outside their mandate or are focused elsewhere, Corrigan said.

Foremost in Corrigan's mind is the issue of Reston's governance. In the most recent RA Board of Directors election, Corrigan ran for an open at-large seat on the board, saying that he would push to investigate the viability of Reston incorporating as a town or other alternative form of governance.

Corrigan, who received 2,365 votes, lost the race to the current RA Board President Rick Beyer, who received 2,807 votes. Since the election, Corrigan said he has been told on several occasions that his ideas need to be discussed by the community and that RCA is the more appropriate forum.

"My goal here is not to create a new layer of government," Corrigan said. "My goal is to streamline the dysfunctional layers that exist now."

In addition to the governance issue, Terry said he would like RCA to hold community forums on the Dulles Rail Project, which will extend Metrorail service to Reston, and on the growing problem of gang violence in Northern Virginia.

"RCA has a place in dealing with public policy and political issues," he said. "The more we can get involved, the better we'll be."