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RCC Candidates Debate

Candidates tackle issues related to maintenance, communication and diversity.

Four of the five candidates running for Reston Community Center’s Board of Governors — Carol Ann Bradley, Rod Koozmin, Colin Mills and William Penniman — met last Tuesday, Sept. 26, at a candidates forum where they outlined their positions on facility maintenance, communications, diversity and election participation.

Bill Bouie, the only incumbent seeking re-election, could not attend the forum because of a family emergency, said Ellen Graves, the forum’s moderator and longtime Reston resident.

The nine-member Board of Governors is responsible for establishing the community center’s policies, gathering public input on programming and services, and providing fiscal oversight of the center’s budget.

A QUESTION FROM the audience turned the discussion to RCC maintenance needs.

The current board has received criticism recently because the Hunters Woods facility may need to be shut down for as long as three months to replace the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system.

Ed Robichaud of Reston asked the candidates if they supported phasing in the repair or shutting down the center completely.

All the candidates said they favored the least disruptive option, but also said it would likely be shutting down the facility.

“I think doing a little bit at a time is more disruptive,” said Bradley.

“I realize if we shut it down in phases it could take a lot longer,” said Mills.

Penniman also noted that phasing in the repairs could cost more.

RESPONDING TO a question from Graves, the candidates talked about how they would deal with the challenges of addressing the programming needs of a diverse community.

“We must deal with the diversity. I see that as a positive,” said Bradley. “I see [the center] as a place where the young and the old come together.” She added that the center’s programming allows people to discover the world and themselves.

Penniman said the center offers numerous recreational and learning activities. “The Reston Community Center also plays an important role in building community,” said Penniman. “I think the RCC can do more in reaching out to communities.” He promised to reach out more to ethnic communities, who he speculated may be underserved.

Mills echoed Penniman’s sentiment, calling the RCC a “gem” and “cultural center.”

Koozmin said the RCC should allow for more diversity, using his cul-de-sac as an example. “We were having more and more multi-families living in houses. And at first it was an alarming thing, but as we come to know them that they have great value,” said Koozmin. “They come from villages where they communicate and talk to each other, and I’d like to see the center take a role in opening up to this new aspect of Reston.”

ALL THE CANDIDATES supported greater communication between the board and the community.

Koozmin argued that citizen input should be encouraged. “Currently, there is no suggestion box,” said Koozmin, who argued for additional lines of communication.

Mills said programming could be improved with greater communication efforts. “I fear too many Restonians don’t know all that RCC offers,” said Mills, who promised to improve outreach.

Penniman, who also promoted more “two-way communication,” offered several ideas for reaching out to newcomers, including a welcome package and discount coupons for classes or programs. “Once they use it, they’ll be hooked,” said Penniman.

Bradley said each board member is responsible for “talking to people who may not know about the community center.” She supported greater, more widespread outreach.

Ellen Douglas, coordinator of the Alliance for a Better Community, asked Koozmin to clarify a statement he made on an online community-based Web site where he said residents should pay more for events or go to the Kennedy Center.

Koozmin said he was quoting someone in the online statement, but advocated for the closure of events with low attendance to optimize efficiency.

A FEW CANDIDATES addressed the historically low voter turnout during the RCC preference poll. In his opening statement, Mills said he wants to increase voter turnout, possibly by allowing voters to cast ballots over the Internet.

Electronic balloting, Penniman said, is too complicated and may not be reliable.

Mills disagreed, arguing that the Reston Association overcame security concerns when it implemented electronic balloting.