RA Candidates Face Off

RA Candidates Face Off

Three forums in four days give candidates a chance to present their views on pressing issues.

The ballots for the Reston Association’s Board of Directors elections have been mailed out, and seven candidates' names are on them. Jennifer Blackwell, the incumbent and current board president, is in a crowded race with Richard Chew, George Kain, Rod Koozmin and Mark Watts for two at-large seats on the board of directors. The other two candidates, Kathleen Driscoll McKee and Gerald Volloy, are in a race for the South Lakes District seat.

AT THREE FORUMS — two held by RA and one held by the Alliance of Reston Homeowners and Clusters (ARCH) — the candidates had ample opportunity to present their views on several issues.

One question focused on the governing documents referendum, which members continue to vote on until March 31 and dovetail the RA elections.

Blackwell led the governing documents revision process this past year, even taking a leave of absence from work to dedicate more time to them.

“I strongly support what the board has accomplished in the past 4 1/2 years,” said Blackwell. “We need these documents to continue the financial sustainability of our community.”

All the other candidates, except Koozmin, supported the passage of the governing documents. Koozmin, who plans to vote no, opposes the documents because, among other things, they lower the quorum for super-referendums from 40 percent to 30 percent. “I can’t support a change that requires less participation,” said Koozmin, a current member of the Reston Citizens Association.

ANOTHER ISSUE discussed by the candidates was the recreation and use of open spaces in Reston. In the coming years the board is slated to make decisions about RA recreation facilities.

Watts said that the needs of the community had to be heard on this issue, and that RA had to be “proactive” soliciting community input.

Volloy suggested that more partnerships could be formed to support new facilities, like an indoor pool or year-round tennis. All the candidates supported greater collaboration with other Reston entities, like the Reston Community Center and the Reston Town Center Association.

Last summer, recreation facilities, particularly pools, catapulted into controversy when Pros Consulting, a Texas-based firm hired by the Reston Association, released its recreation study, which is now being evaluated by a parks and recreation committee appointed by the RA board.

The Pros report continues to draw the ire of many residents because it recommended that RA close underutilized pools to save money on operating costs.

Of the five pools with low participation levels, the report specifically recommended Tall Oaks and Shadowood pools for closing. “Both are poorly performing, older pools (put in service in 1977 and 1975, respectively), are geographically close to other pools, and may better serve the community converted to other desirable uses,” the report says.

Members of Save Tall Oaks Pool (STOP), which formed after the report was released, attended the forums to ask the candidates if they would commit to saving neighborhood pools.

The candidates agreed that community pools are important amenities, but said it was premature to take a position before hearing from the committee examining the report’s recommendations.

Kain, however, said that he supported keeping all the neighborhood pools open without condition. After the third forum, he signed the STOP petition that supports keeping the pool open.

Volloy, the immediate past executive vice-president of the RA who ran and lost for an at-large seat last year, said that any decision had to be weighted by the impact of expected future growth and redevelopment.

ANOTHER IMPORTANT topic in the elections this year, and every year, is Design Review Board administration. As Mckee put it, this is always a love-hate relationship. “People love the protection of their home values, but they hate the red tape,” said Mckee, who said she’d support changes that made the process “more member friendly.”

Volloy, Mckee’s opponent in the South Lakes District race, agreed, adding that “significant study needs to be done to make the process more accountable.

Chew said that the consistent member dissatisfaction with the DRB must be addressed.

THE CANDIDATES also had a chance to present their views on the other issues, including the role of RA in Reston, town status and covenants enforcement.

Near the end of the last forum, last Saturday, Mckee was asked a question about whether her job as a legislative assistant with Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) presented a conflict of interest.

“I’ve already offered [Hudgins] my resignation,” said McKee, explaining a decision she made when she decided to run and squashing any possible perception of a conflict.