Our Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ races in the June 11 Democratic Primary are wild and wide open, opening doors to genuine change in five of the ten Board seats. The Chairman’s race, with four candidates including two first-time office seekers, and our Hunter Mill District race with four newcomers and one experienced political appointee offer voters a challenge just getting to know all the players. A good challenge, I think!
The Chairman’s race has been clouded by ethical questions about Democratic establishment favorite, Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay. After interviewing the candidates and watching them for a couple of months, I’ve concluded that I cannot support Mr. McKay for two major reasons. He is ethically challenged and has an unimpressive record of accomplishment in his 12 years as a Supervisor. He takes gobs of developer money—over $70,000 in this cycle alone, $50,000 of it from his biggest donor, given through five different corporate disguises. In addition, there are allegations of possible wrongdoing involving a rezoning request by the same donor, which came before the Board in June 2016 and the subsequent acquisition of a house by Mr. McKay. Attorneys hired by Mr. McKay claim the allegations of a possible quid pro quo in that matter are baseless. Nothing in his lawyer’s response, however, changes the fact that his biggest donor transferred land to McKay’s friend (a developer who also does business before the BOS) who built and sold the house to McKay. According to his lawyer’s memo, “The property was not listed in the MLS to save the expense of this directly negotiated sale. The property could then be purchased at a price Supervisor McKay and his wife could afford…” Thus, it seems McKay got a discount which could be a troubling ethical violation.
In this election year, the current Commonwealth Attorney is unwilling to investigate the allegations and McKay’s response to find the truth. Whether the Commonwealth of Virginia might look into it and this would lead to a full investigation is still unclear. Chairman candidate Ryan McElveen, after reading the allegations and the memo from McKay’s attorney, stated, “The appearance of a conflict of interest is unequivocal. My discomfort with the fact that a supervisor has such a close relationship with a developer is my primary and enduring concern, and that concern is not alleviated by the response.” I share McElveen’s concern. Furthermore, Jeff McKay is a cog in a Board of Supervisors known for its glacial, lowest common denominator decision process. The outcomes of its process lack inspiration and innovation, often resulting in policies with glitzy names but lacking content or real world impact. McKay claims he’ll solve the pre-K deficit, get rid of school trailers, get body cameras on cops, etc. if elected Chairman, but there has been little or no progress on these matters on his watch. It seems reasonable to expect more of the same if he were elected Chairman.
Meanwhile, the other candidates have records of accomplishment, including my preference, Tim Chapman, who has run a very successful affordable housing firm and served as the Chairman of the Board of the Virginia Housing and Development Corporation, a $13 billion operation.
Alicia Plerhoples, a Georgetown University law professor and small business advisor, and Ryan McElveen, with a record of important accomplishments serving county-wide on the Fairfax County School Board, are fine alternatives. Neither will take developer cash.
Turning briefly to Hunter Mill District. Here we have a different situation. No allegations of ethical lapses yet. However, I worry about Walter Alcorn, who equivocates. His position is that he will take developer money (in any amount?) as long as it is not from a developer with land-use business now in the Hunter Mill District. He seeks election for a first time. If from day one he has this laissez faire approach, how might this good man evolve with his hand out to all developers, except those in Hunter Mill. Laurie Dodd is unequivocal.