That is what a reporter for Norfolk’s Virginian Pilot called Reston in a column recently. She was reacting to a bill in the legislature that would create a Reston license plate. "Is there a more soulless spot in the Commonwealth than this bland ant colony near Dulles?" she wrote.
I was aghast reading it. How could someone be so unaware? How could an otherwise reputable and progressive newspaper print such a misdirected statement? Are there others who are so misinformed about our community?
Unfortunately, her column is an example of the misunderstandings that are too common across the regions of Virginia and that make the state legislative process challenging. I know the city where her newspaper is located; I lived there for almost four years while I completed a degree at Old Dominion University. It is a struggling city with too much poverty, perpetual redevelopment projects, and a continuing struggle to keep its downtown alive. Derogatory comments could be made about the city, but they would serve no good purpose.
I often hear comments from Northern Virginians that we do not get our fair share and that downstate gets all the state benefits. Riding through communities on a federal interstate highway, it is easy to assume that all the surrounding communities may have excellent roads when some actually have some unpaved roads. When all our Northern Virginia graduates do not get into Virginia colleges, the assumption may be that the students in southern Virginia fill all the openings. Many of these and other generalizations about communities we do not know are sometimes partially or totally false.
As a native Virginian who grew up in the Shenandoah Valley, lived in the Tidewater Region when I was at Old Dominion University, and in the Piedmont when I did graduate work at the University of Virginia, and who has been in Northern Virginia for more than four decades, I am advantaged by knowing the state and traveling about it frequently. It helps me in the legislative process. A part of my responsibility is helping persons in other areas of the state get to know Reston and Northern Virginia better. I often introduce commending resolutions for the General Assembly to pass including ones for Best of Reston awardees as a way to help my colleagues get to know my district. My conversations with other legislators often involve my talking about our needs but also about the marvelous nature of Reston and its residents.
Back to Kerry Dougherty, who wrote the misdirected comments about Reston: I have written her a long, introductory letter about the place I call home with the biggest soul I know of and that is anything but bland. You can help me educate her. Send her an email telling her your views of Reston at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be nice. Let’s all invite her to visit our community. We can turn her into a downstate advocate for us. I cannot wait to read the column she writes when she really gets to know us!