The Vienna Town Council was not greedy when it brought its annual wish list to state Sen. Jeannemarie Devolites Davis during a work session Monday night. The discussion was brief and friendly, as council members laid out their hopes for the coming General Assembly.
The question of preemptively banning potentially dangerous dogs came up, with reference to complaints over the summer from residents of Oak Street, S.W. The residents had said they feared for their children's safety, given the wild behavior of two large Argentinean dogos living in a house on the street. However, it appears that, in Virginia, the dogs cannot be banned until they have attacked someone or another pet.
Councilmember Laurie Cole then asked if Devolites Davis might revive the campaign finance disclosure bill she championed this year.
"You know, I've been considering doing that, and as I recall, it lost by one vote," said Devolites Davis, noting that the tie-breaker had remarked that he voted against the bill because it would have applied only to Fairfax County. "So, then, I just might bring that one back and make it statewide and see if we can't convince him to vote for it," she said.
The bill would require special reports to be filed disclosing the sources of large contributions to "political committees, persons and entities."
COUNCILMEMBER Maud Robinson's plea was more far-reaching. "Please, don't let them take away powers already delegated to municipalities," she said, adding a request for no "unfunded mandates."
Councilmember Edythe Kelleher asked that Devolites Davis push for options other than Gov. Tim Kaine's proposed "homestead exemption" to give property tax relief to homeowners. The proposal, which Kelleher noted is likely to be put forth this year, would allow local governments to exempt up to 20 percent of the value of owner-occupied homes from taxation.
"I think what would happen, in reality, is that citizens would demand that all local governments adopt it, and they would expect that they're going to get a 20 percent break on their taxes," said Kelleher. She noted that residential properties represent 80 percent of Vienna's tax base. "By the time we raise the rate to be able to give the residents a 20 percent break, they're really only getting like a 4 percent break," she said, adding that the cost of implementing the measure could make it worthless.
Kelleher instead proposed that the town be able to impose different tax rates on commercial and residential properties. "That would give our residents a much better way to have a break, and a more straightforward way," she said.
AT THE RECENT convention of the Virginia Municipal League, said Councilmember Mike Polychrones, participants were informed that municipalities receiving road maintenance reimbursement could expect a reduction of up to 25 percent in the money being reimbursed by the state. He asked that Devolites Davis work to maintain the reimbursements and also continue to push for them to be awarded according to traffic volume, rather than lane miles, in areas with dense population. The town has far more traffic per lane mile than most of the state.
Devolites Davis noted that she and Del. Dave Albo (R-42) had pushed for the distribution system to take traffic volume into consideration, but that high-density areas were still far outnumbered in the state, making this a difficult battle. Nonetheless, she said she would continue to press the matter.
"And I will say that I think you're all aware that by 2010, there will be no construction money left," she added, "and that means there will be no construction money to put into the maintenance fund to keep the maintenance fund whole." At that point, she predicted, rural areas of the state will begin to be concerned, and more road funding will be raised. "They're not as impacted by construction money as we are, but they are impacted by maintenance money," she said. "When there are enough potholes, everyone can hold hands and vote for something."