Rewriting History

Rewriting History

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

After reading numerous articles, interviews and Del. Dave Albo's Web site, about how the "Albo-Rust" school finance plan is responsible for the construction of the South County Secondary School, it is time for more rigorous public scrutiny. The "Albo-Rust" scheme, as presented by Mr. Albo, did not build the school. It started as a political ploy to draw attention from the his record in funding education, to provide cover for a vote against a referendum, to quiet local activists during a political campaign and of course to get votes. At its genesis, it was political obfuscation, pure and simple. And Mr. Albo's reliance on this issue as a primary thrust for his campaign and the way he's used the issue, raises broader concerns of his integrity.

Back in 2001 Albo cast one of two votes that prevented a referendum on a half-cent sales tax increase to fund education. This option was needed because of the legislature's refusal to adequately fund education at a level they themselves had identified as appropriate in their own "Standards of Quality." Perhaps more importantly, it represented a chance for direct citizen involvement in the issue — a chance for the people to have a voice which Mr. Albo prevented.

Then emerged the "Albo-Rust School Finance Plan." A plan which essentially called for developers to build a school and lease it back to the system. Great idea, but the lease had to be paid from somewhere and there were no provisions included in the plan for funding. It was simply unworkable without a funding mechanism.

The funding element that made the school happen was the land-swap whereby Fairfax County took ownership of the Lorton prison site and made it available to the school system. This was not the result of any Albo-Rust scheme ... it was good fortune, an opportunistic occurrence adroitly exploited by county and federal officials working together and coming as a result of a concerted effort by a core group of community activists. The Albo-Rust plan as presented would not have resulted in bricks and mortar and to suggest otherwise, as Mr. Albo is currently doing, is disingenuous if not dishonest.

Moving forward to 2005, Mr. Albo and his campaign have sought to "edit history" by suggesting he is significantly responsible for the beautiful new school that a community worked so hard together to build. He's used the issue aggressively in campaign appearances, in campaign literature, on his Web site and has even listed building the school as one of his top legislative achievements in newspaper profiles.

The message that is deliberately conveyed is clear, that his plan was what made the school possible. Dave has told me that he'll never seek to take credit for the school being built — just the financing mechanism, which as described above had no funding component. But to look at the literature and the presentation of the issue by Mr. Albo it would be difficult to conclude that he seeks anything else than to have his constituency believe he is responsible. His Web site states it outright "My 'Albo-Rust Public/Private School Construction Plan' built the new school."

His parsing of words now, in saying that "I have never taken credit for the school being built," while crafting a campaign message and aura that so clearly is dependent on promoting that image, is reminiscent of another politician uncomfortably struggling over the meaning of what the word "is" is, or another trying to explain away inconsistencies in knowledge of his blind trust, or others discussing at which point divulging a government operatives name constitutes a crime. All attempts to explain around the truth.

I believe the voters of the 42nd District are a smart bunch and will reward honest and hard work and punish obfuscation and deception. The way Mr. Albo has handled this issue makes me question the authenticity and accuracy of his other campaign claims. It makes me want to more closely scrutinize other policy accomplishments for which he has sought credit over his decade in office. It makes me wonder if Mr. Albo is more interested in fighting for us or just maintaining his comfy position in Richmond. At the end of the day, it makes me realize that we do truly need new leadership in the 42nd District.

David B. Collins

Fairfax Station