Filmed live on Comcast channel 28, a panel of three members of the Reston Association board conducted a town hall meeting as part of an effort to convince residents to support the proposed governing documents, which go to voters by referendum this month.
Robert Goudie, a Reston resident who lives outside of the Reston Association borders, moderated the televised event that drew about 10 residents to the Comcast studios.
“I truly believe these documents reflect community consensus,” said RA president Jennifer Blackwell, who joined fellow board members Doug Bushée and Robin Smyers on the panel. “These documents protect the future.”
Blackwell explained that the board has labored for four years to revise the 22-year-old documents, “the blueprint by which the association is governed.” She also outlined several of the main changes, including the modification of how the maximum assessment is calculated, the amendment to allow RA to add non-contiguous neighborhoods, and the change to require clusters to obtain $1 million in liability insurance.
For passage, the referendum requires 40 percent of the roughly 17,000 eligible voters to cast ballots with two-thirds approving the changes.
“That’s a Herculean effort,” Blackwell said.
FOR MOST OF the next three weeks, RA will focus on getting out the vote to help meet the 40 percent voter turnout threshold. Worried about the effort, proponents of the documents asked the panel about how it would approach voter turnout.
“This is the most important question to come before the community, ever,” said Suzi Jones, a former board member and board president, who helped draft the 1984 documents. “I can’t underscore how important it is for people to get informed, vote and vote yes.”
Jones asked the panel how members could better get informed.
Responding to the question, Blackwell said that one of the best places to find information was at the RA Web site, www.reston.org, but she also said that the ballots will be mailed with a 10-page executive summary that explains all the changes and a final document of the draft.
During the meeting, Smyers and Bushée encouraged members to call them anytime to talk about the changes.
THE TOWN MEETING seemed almost scripted with near unanimous support for the documents until Donn Dears spoke.
“I’m here to encourage people to vote 'no' on the documents,” said Dears, a former vice president of RA. “I hope people don’t get scared by a lot of this rhetoric.”
Dears said the board has been using scare tactics to coerce the membership to vote 'yes.' The board, however, has consistently argued that the cap is broken and that if the changes aren’t approved, Reston will soon see a decline in services.
“I don’t think Reston will look like Reston,” said Blackwell, expressing what she thought would happen if the referendum fails. “Programs and services will have to be cut.”
Smyers said she didn’t want to think about the possibility of a failed referendum, fearing “dire consequences.”
“The thing that bothers me is that they are trying to use fear to get people to vote. There is no reason the existing documents will not sustain Reston,” said Dears. Despite the proposed changes, Dears said that RA is on its way to accruing $7-9 million in reserve funding. With that amount of projected reserves, he said the scare tactics are inappropriate.
Jane Wong, a long-time Reston resident, also asked a question that tripped up the panel, who all wore “vote yes” stickers on their lapels. She wondered if the RA would be able to afford capital improvements, like a skate park or a pool, if the membership ever wanted one.
Bushée responded to the concern, saying that people will have to remember that the board will still be constrained by the maximum assessment, also called the “cap.”
“The board will have to take into account what resources will be available for any particular project,” Bushée said.