Fairfax resident Charlie Hall, 52, has decided to challenge Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) for the Providence District Board of Supervisors seat in the June 12 Democratic primary. Hall alleges the current board is out of touch with the community it represents.
"There is a widespread perception that people feel they are not being listened to," said Hall, chairman of the Providence District Council, which represents civic associations in the district. "This is a board-wide problem, but Linda [Smyth] has been very passive in going out to public settings," said Hall.
As an example, Hall said that when the MetroWest project — a 2,250-unit project by the Vienna-Fairfax Metro Station — was going through the development approval process, Smyth did not conduct a single public meeting.
"Something really started gelling in the community when we were fighting MetroWest," said Hall. "There was this sense we were crashing a private party."
Hall added that the supervisors continue to approve projects without scrutinizing them enough. "We have to make these projects work for everybody and that requires supervisors who will make sure everybody's interests are protected," he said.
"The Board of Supervisors has worked with the community on so many levels," said Smyth, a supervisor since 2004. She said the Committee on Aging was formed after a community conversation took place, and the board often has conversations with schools and libraries. As far as citizen input is concerned, Smyth said that her constituents have always had ways to express their concerns and ideas. "They certainly are not shy to tell us what they think," said Smyth.
Ekrem Sarper, the president of the Merrifield Citizens Association, said it is time for people in Providence District to have a good debate. "It's always good to have competition. It will be interesting to see what both candidates have to offer to the community," said Sarper.
"A PRIMARY ELECTION is certainly not going to distract me from my work as a supervisor," said Smyth. She said major issues are taking shape in the Providence District, including planning efforts in Tysons Corner and the debate over the building of the Metrorail through the area. Smyth is also working on environmental issues in the district and is awaiting the opening of the Oakton Library in early September. "Providence is a really busy place," she said. "We have to work to bring the community together on a lot of these issues."
As an example of bringing the community together, Smyth said members of the development community attended an environmental workshop she hosted over the weekend, presenting ideas on how to save more trees. "It's very easy to draw lines in the sand and have a debate. It's much harder to find common ground," said Smyth.
Hall said he would raise issues of planning for transportation upgrades and improving the quality of the county schools in the election. Also, he said he would make himself available to his constituents.
"The simple fact of the matter is, Fairfax [County] is a great place to live," said Smyth. The county has great schools and libraries and a low crime rate. It has won national awards in those categories.
"This is a great opportunity for people to raise their opinions," said Sarper. He added that the candidates would have to convince the voters they could ensure harmonized growth — new development coupled with transportation improvements. "I would love to see a debate between Smyth and Hall," he said.