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Votes

Unfair Advantage?

To the Editor:

On May 17, Mr. H. Jay Spiegel goes through his listing of people and organizations supporting the off leash dog park or OLDA at Westgrove Park. “Those in support of the OLDA proposal include the MVCCA.” I find it ironic that Mr. Spiegel has for the past several years devoted much time and attention writing editorials in this paper making claims that the MVCCA does not represent the broad consensus of the majority of the citizens of the district. Just this past March he wrote “the MVCCA does not represent the Mount Vernon community. It only represents the small percentage of residents whose neighborhood associations are MVCCA members. At that, insofar as community association representatives do not vote in accordance with the consensus of their respective communities, the MVCCA doesn't even represent them.

http://www.mountvernongazette.com/news/2012/mar/22/letter-community-disconnect/

In the October 1, 2010 edition, http://connection.membershipsoftware.org/article.asp?article=344701&paper=69&cat=110

Mr. Spiegel asserts that the number of member organizations present at the monthly general meeting and casting votes on resolutions is inadequate and cites attendance records as evidence saying “it would be inappropriate to credit the MVCCA with the influence attributable to more than 37 member associations” when attendance is low as given by his examples.

Does Mr. Spiegel believe that the MVCCA is credible only when their vote is in agreement with his views and the remainder of the time the organization is lacking credibility and behaving badly?

Mr. Spiegel cites and references rules, bylaws and legalities when critical of the MVCCA and other community issues and to his credit as a legal professional, his often strident position on such issues seem rational if you are one to believe that grass roots democracy and life in the civic arena must comport entirely to a strict adherence of such rules. Unfortunately the lack of civil discourse and fear of large vocal special interest groups that has become so ingrained in our political arena is now seemingly spilling over into the governance of our local institutions.

I find it odd that one who so forcefully argues his position on the written rules and laws is backing a group of rule breakers with many cited by the Fairfax County Animal Control for violating a well known FCPA ordinance on dogs in parks. It is unfortunate that the FCPA stepped away from master planning Westgrove Park in 2005 because it was too difficult to obtain community consensus. It will now be more difficult to gain a fair community consensus in the now promised master planning to begin several months after the interim use is granted because by granting PACK this use, FCPA is literally giving PACK a leg up and permitting them like a canine to mark their territory. FCPA is deliberately creating a master planning scenario where five wolves and three sheep get to vote on what is for dinner.

This display of favoritism to one group to help them solve their dilemma of getting legal citations and becoming victims because they did not wish to follow the rules is nothing less than rewarding bad behavior. What of the other groups that did not break the rules and have since 2005 advocated for a nature park with forest restoration and preservation of a natural connective corridor between the upland forests of Mount Vernon Park and the Dyke Marsh Nature Preserve? Isn’t the purpose of a master planning process meant to keep an even playing field?

One public speaker at the May 17 Planning Commission (PC) hearing stated before the PC that he let his dog run loose on 400 visits in a two-year period. Admitting to 400 infractions of the law in front of a government commission that itself runs by strict adherence to rules and legalities, I was surprised that the speaker received no admonishments from a single member of the PC. The speaker was the second to last public speaker and quipped back and forth with a few of the commissioners. Such a display was highly inappropriate in the first place and insulting to speakers that followed FCPA ordinances and were asking for fair treatment.

I am not at all surprised given the fact that the primary clients of the PC, developers in Fairfax County, have long engaged in a practice of asking for forgiveness rather than having sought permission for environmental infractions. All this forgiveness over several decades has added thousands of seemingly benign cuts when examined individually but when examined cumulatively have led to the poor environmental rankings of both the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay ecosystems. Granting the FCPA the right to an interim use is giving a county agency with an expressed commitment to land preservation of environmentally sensitive areas they control the right to experiment with potentially destructive practices and uses on those lands without conducting any rigorous science study and to reinforce a precedent that undermines a fair approach for citizen input to a master planning process meant to insure equal treatment and consideration between competing interests.

Martin Tillett

Friends of Quander Brook and Belle Haven Watersheds