Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors narrowly passed a resolution Monday, June 5 to convert the representation of five of the nine board members from at-large seats to district seats. Currently, all nine board members hold at-large seats.
The 5-4 vote, which stems from a rift among board members along partisan lines, is the latest in a series of policy changes that a lame duck majority has tried to push through the past few months.
Chairman Joseph Lombardo, who leads the board’s anti-tax, conservative majority, voted for the change, claiming that adding district seats would increase the number of candidates running for the board and voter turnout.
“I think it helps the board have better representation in various areas of the tax district,” said Lombardo.
With a mix of at-large and district seats, the board will be more balanced and better suited to handle various viewpoints that could emerge around any given issue, said Lombardo.
OPPONENTS TOOK a sharply different view. “I feel the system we have now works well,” said Roger Lowen, RCC board member. “I’d hate to see the balkanization of the Reston Community Center board.”
Terry Smith, another board member, agrees. “We’re not an organization that services different areas of the community, we service the entire community at the same time,” said Smith, arguing that board members ought to be focused on the needs of all residents in the tax district.
In addition, opponents of the resolution complained that the districts did not include an equal amount of voters, effectively giving some districts over-representation.
But proponents of the measure argued that district representation could quell the efforts of some neighborhoods in the tax district seeking succession. “There’s a movement to separate from the tax district,” said RCC Board Member Peter von zur Muehlen, who voted in favor of district seats. “This is a small concession for the greater benefit of the community.”
Lowen points out that the resolution requires a change to RCC’s memorandum of understanding, which must be approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) said she could not comment on the resolution because she has not seen it yet.
THREE KEY departures from the RCC board next month are expected to change the political makeup of the board.
If members of the board’s current minority find themselves back in the majority because of the departures, it's likely decisions the past several months will be reconsidered. “That’s always a possibility,” said Smith.
In last October’s preference poll, tax district residents elected three board members who live outside of Reston. Once elected, the three non-Reston board members — Kevin Deasy, George Lawton and Von zur Muehlen, who aligned with Lombardo and board member Mary Buff to form a majority — helped lead a successful effort to get disaffected residents with Herndon, Oakton and Vienna addresses redistricted out of Small Tax District 5, which funds RCC.
In doing so, the three board members also redistricted themselves off the board, starting in July.
Within the next month, Hudgins said she plans to appoint three tax district residents to fill Deasy, Lawton and Von zur Muehlen’s vacancies. “It would be a board with a huge vacancy, so I think it’s important to make replacements,” said Hudgins.
BUT HUDGINS SAID she hasn’t decided if she’ll choose the three candidates with the next highest number of votes in last October’s preference poll, a past precedent for filling vacancies, or choose by some other method.
Karen Cleveland, Catherine Vivona and Ruth Overton received the next highest number of votes in last year’s poll.
Some board members feel the recent focus on issues related to governance has distracted the board from dealing with priority programmatic issues, including decisions to determine where to make capital investments and how to best maintain facilities.
“We’ve spent too much time arguing about governance,” said Lowen, adding that governance issues were formally examined by a panel three years ago. “I would like to see a return to a discussion about efficient programming for RCC.”
Residents of Small Tax District 5, which was formed more than 25 years ago, pay 5.2 cents per $100 assessed property to fund the RCC. The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently agreed to reduce the tax rate to 4.7 cents per $100, which will take affect in July.
—Intern Anne Marley contributed to this article.