Reston Political Scene as 2023 Ends

Reston Political Scene as 2023 Ends

I cannot believe that we are about to go over the cliff into 2024! To me it seems like we need more of 2023 just to get ready for potentially cataclysmic 2024. We are too close to Washington, the focal point of a national election campaign many fear puts us on course to ending our representative democratic form of governance. A former president, already found guilty of massive fraud in NY and indicted on 91 criminal counts including attempting our first ever coup d’etat, is poised to return to power. Meanwhile our incumbent president who early on achieved great things, including transformative legislation to create a new industrial framework and to build an environmentally sound infrastructure, is badly fumbling Mideast policy and seems one misstep from defeat in 2024.             

In 2023, Reston experienced a generational shift in our Virginia General Assembly contingent with the retirements of venerable Del. Ken Plum and State Senator Janet Howell, both Democrats. Imagine, they had served 76 years between them! 

Karen Keys-Gamarra (D) handily won the race to replace Plum as Delegate. State Senator Jennifer Boysko was easily re-elected in a district re-drawn to include Reston, and promptly announced she was running for Congress to replace retiring Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton. Democrats in Reston were part Democrats taking control of both the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate. 

While many of us are concerned with the continued shortage of affordable housing in Reston and Fairfax County’s inaction in addressing it, a quite different issue took center stage in late 2023. Comstock, the lead developer of the Wiehle Metro Station area, is leading a major lobbying effort to put a casino next to Google at that signature entry to Reston. News of the proposed casino triggered an uproar of opposition. A well-publicized fundraiser held by casino advocates for some Democratic legislators deepened the concern.

Reston’s elected officials Supervisor Walter Alcorn, Del. Keys-Gamarra, and Sen. Boysko have all sworn to oppose any casino. However, other Democrats like State Senator Dave Marsden and new Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell, likely among others, are supportive of the gambling houses. Surovell got a reported $20,000 contribution.

While Reston electeds oppose casinos, it is not clear how the approval process for a casino would work. For example, might a referendum be required? Countywide or only in Reston? That is not yet clear, but I am concerned that this is likely one of those circumstances where Reston’s being unincorporated, i.e., not existing as a town or city, is a major disadvantage. If the issue gets to referendum stage, the casino’s fate might be decided by all Fairfax County voters. And, you can count on the casino lobby being very well funded for a campaign to vote yes.        

What actions should Restonians take to head off the approval of a casino and all that comes with it? Supervisor Alcorn needs to be working his fellow supervisors to support his opposition and all of us should call Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay (who has yet to take a public position) insisting he oppose a casino in Reston! Chairman McKay’s office number is 703-324-2321.