I have been eagerly awaiting an objective evaluation, by the Gazette, of the first third of the initial term in office of our new Mount Vernon Supervisor Dan Storck. After reading the front page article in last week's Gazette, I am still waiting. The Gazette has a responsibility to neutrally evaluate political office holders. In my opinion, last week's article fell way short.
One thing Supervisor Storck has done which is an improvement from former Supervisor Gerry Hyland is to provide frequent e-mail communications in the form of newsletters and reports keeping e-mail subscribers informed about what is going on in the district and county. These communications are well written and much appreciated. However, in other respects, we have unfortunately taken a step backward from the tenure of Supervisor Hyland.
On Oct. 23, 2015, Mr. Storck responded to questions and answers propounded by Connection Newspapers. In response to the question "How many hours a week of outside employment do you anticipate while serving on the Board of Supervisors? Mr. Storck responded as follows:
"For the past 12 years, I’ve worked two full-time jobs – as the business partner of my healthcare company and as your School Board member. I regularly leave home before 7 a.m. and return around midnight. I’ve maintained this schedule because I have a passion for our community, am committed to bringing folks together and am willing to do the hard work to get things done.
“As supervisor, I’ll maintain that same level of commitment to our community while ending my daily business involvement so that I can be your full-time supervisor.
“The needs we have are too real, the challenges we face too many and the opportunities too great to treat this position as a 9-to-5 job. And I don’t work that way either! As your supervisor, I will continue my daily community engagements — from board, community and association meetings to community activities and events. I’ll also continue my tradition of holding office hours throughout the district on evenings and weekends."
My own anecdotal evidence leads me to conclude that Supervisor Storck is not fulfilling his campaign pledge to end his "daily business involvement" so he can be a "full-time supervisor." In my opinion "daily" means "during the day" not at night and "full-time" doesn't mean the night shift.
Virtually every day I drive past the Mount Vernon government center. When Supervisor Hyland was in office, several times a week I would see his car in the parking lot and could see him at his desk through the windows of his office working away for his constituents during regular business hours. I could drop in without an appointment and usually see the supervisor within 10 minutes of my arrival. By contrast, during the past 18 months, during regular business hours, I have only seen Supervisor Storck's car in the parking lot and viewed him at his desk through the windows of his office fewer than a dozen times. While this evidence is anecdotal, it would have been helpful if the Gazette had closely questioned him concerning the status of his workload between the supervisor job and his other business. Yes, Supervisor Storck attends a lot of ribbon cuttings. Yes, he attends and conducts a lot of evening and weekend meetings. However, in my opinion, and others may disagree, the core responsibility of a supervisor is to be in his supervisor office during normal business hours, available to meet constituents and address their concerns, not force them to spend their valuable weekend and evening hours meeting him.
Concerning Supervisor Storck's other business, the Gazette failed to mention that the other business is not even located in Fairfax County or Virginia. On his own website at www.danstorck.org, he describes the business as including "more than 60 staff and healthcare practitioners." The business is located on Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest Washington. Imagine all the tax revenue we are losing by virtue of the fact that our own supervisor chooses to conduct his personal business outside Virginia. Perhaps if he were to move his business to the Mount Vernon District, not only would he be reducing carbon emissions resulting from his lengthy commute, the BPOL tax and revenue Fairfax County would derive from the activities of a 60-plus person business, as well as the local benefits of state income tax and car tax revenue might make Supervisor Storck less prone to advocating drastic tax increases at every turn.
Regarding tax increases, two months after Supervisor Storck took the oath of office he tried to convince his new colleagues on the Board of Supervisors to advertise a six cent increase in the county's real estate tax rate. Even his Democratic colleagues on the board wouldn't go along with such a drastic increase and finally settled on 4 cents. He was also one of the strongest advocates for enactment of a meals tax in Fairfax County. I attended a referendum in September 2016 where the proposed referendum was being debated by Supervisor Storck, Supervisor Pat Herrity, and others. In one of the most remarkable statements I have ever heard a politician make, Supervisor Storck said the following in support of enactment of the meals tax: "This is about yes for me, yes, yes. First off, it is a chance, it is a chance for us to grow and help our restaurants here locally thrive. Yes, the restaurants in this area will thrive, I think, because of this meals tax ultimately, I absolutely do." (Transcribed from video.) Remarkable, indeed.
The reflex to address fiscal issues in Fairfax County with proposals to increase taxes, as opposed to engaging in responsible fiscal management is one that should greatly concern Mount Vernon voters. I hope Supervisor Storck has learned his lesson from the failed meals tax and his failed attempt to add 6 cents to our real estate tax rate and will become more of a budget hawk on behalf of taxpayers. I hope he will give serious consideration to moving his business to Fairfax County so that his constituents can benefit from the tax revenues generated from such a large business. This will also make him think more carefully before proposing tax increases. I hope he will spend more time in his office during normal business hours so his constituents can meet with him when it is convenient for them.
There is still time to address these issues and become the supervisor for all the residents of Mount Vernon that Supervisor Storck promised in writing he would be after he was elected and before he took the oath of office.
H. Jay Spiegel