Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Sharon S. Bulova (D) on Sunday formally kicked off her reelection campaign at George Mason University, saying she has helped to steer the county through the worst economy in generations with minimal impact to public services and pocketbooks.
Bulova told listeners that Fairfax County remains one of the best-managed among counties of its size in the U.S. — an oft-heard saying in the county based on a 2002 study by GOVERNING magazine — with a reputation for excellent schools, low crime and a strong economy.
Going forward, Bulova said she would work to ease Northern Virginia’s chronic traffic congestion by focusing on completion of Metro service to Dulles and mass transit in the I-66 corridor to Centreville. She said she would also continue to focus on luring more businesses to Virginia’s most populous jurisdiction and making the county more energy efficient and environmentally responsible.
Bulova became chairman of the board in a February 2009 special election after former Democratic chairman Gerald Connolly won a congressional seat. The at-large chairman’s seat on the 10-member confers no special executive or voting powers on its holder other than offering a bully pulpit that can help to steer the direction of the county.
Bulova’s declared opponent is Michael J. “Spike” Williams, a Republican from Herndon who announced in March he intended to run.
Having inherited a $650 million shortfall as housing values and tax receipts weakened during the worst recession since the 1930s, Bulova has spent a good deal of her time as chairman struggling to bring government spending in line with sluggish economic growth.
The latest budget passed by the board was somewhat typical of the middle-of-the-road approach under Bulova: the $6.1 billion budget included a slight reduction in the property tax rate, froze county employees’ pay for a third year and maintained school funding at the previous year’s level, but it also included higher sewer fees and an effective tax increase on the average homeowner of about $22 a year because of rising home values. Permitting fees also rose.
Under Bulova, the county also has reimposed a car registration fee, boosted the fees for permits, and increased the charges for handling wastewater while also trimming county jobs and cutting spending. Since fiscal 2009, spending has fallen by about $206.6 million, including a $22.5 million decrease approved as part of the 2012 budget. The most recent budget passed 7-3, with the board’s three Republicans opposed.
Bulova served as Braddock district supervisor from 1988 to 2009. She said she chose GMU as the venue for her kickoff because of her deep roots to the Braddock community, where she began her political career, and because of her work helping to manage “town-gown” relations with with an institution that has transformed itself from a small commuters’ school into an academic powerhouse.
Other speakers at the event included her son, Del. David Bulova (D-Fairfax), former DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe, supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason), and Rep. Connolly.
A transcript of her remarks, after the jump:
Welcome! And thank you for joining me this afternoon as we mark the beginning of our 2011 Re-election Campaign.
First, I would like to say a few words about my selection of The Mason Inn and Conference Center for this event. When I first became involved in local government, during the mid ‘80’s, it was as the Civic Association President of Kings Park West, one of Mason’s closest neighbors. Our community was concerned about the growth and traffic associated with George Mason University and in particular construction of the Patriot Center.
Over the years, as Braddock District Supervisor and now as Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, I have had a chance to work with President Alan Merten and university leadership to foster effective “Town-Gown” relations as Mason - once a sleepy little satellite campus of UVA - came into its own as a premier center for higher education in the U.S., and truly a jewel in the crown of Fairfax County.
This beautiful new Mason Inn and Conference Center fills a much needed niche not just for the university, but for the surrounding community as well. Two weeks ago I was pleased to attend a celebration here in this room where President Merton received Gold LEED certification for the hotel and conference center – a first for a university building of its kind.
On the other side of the campus, Mason has constructed Workforce Housing for their employees, housing within an easy walk or bike ride to university jobs.
This mixture of education, energy efficiency, environmental stewardship, affordable housing, mixed use development, and growth of the Hospitality industry is an example of what I am proud Fairfax County has achieved to date, and will build on during these next four years.
I am very pleased that my colleagues have joined me this afternoon. There is much that we can be proud of.
Four years ago when we were all kicking off our campaigns, it was to a backdrop of ominous financial rumblings. Just months after being sworn in, we would learn of the failure of this Country’s major financial institutions, Lehman Brothers, AIG and lending giant Washington Mutual.
During the months and years following, Fairfax County was affected by plummeting property values, foreclosed properties and growing unemployment.
Throughout this term, our Board has worked with our residents and workforce to navigate the most serious economic downturn in most of our lifetimes. And we did so in a way that
· held the line on taxes
· protected our excellent Public School system
· maintained our status as one of the safest communities of our size in the U.S.
· identified efficiencies and re-organizational opportunities in order to right size spending to reduced revenue projections
· encouraged economic development to help kick-start the economy, and
· protected the quality of life we value.
Our Board has worked together as a team.
With Vice Chairman, Mason Supervisor Penny Gross – chair of our Board’s Personnel and Environmental Committees, we have cut the ribbon for a pedestrian overpass to help neighbors get safely from one side of Route 50 in the Seven Corners area to the other. We have brought neighbors together to assist with mitigating the effects of the BRAC move to the MARK Center and have adopted legislation to protect trees during development.
With Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay – chair of our Board’s Transportation and Legislative Committees, we have forged a stronger relationship with Ft. Belvoir and have cleaned up overcrowding and code violations. Working with Jeff, Supervisor Hyland and Congressmen Moran and Connolly we have secured funding for major transportation projects, allowing for the completion of the Fairfax County Parkway all the way to Richmond Highway.
With Mount Vernon Supervisor Gerry Hyland, chair of the Board’s Public Safety and Reorganization Committees, through his Mount Vernon Visioning Task Force, we have adopted a new Vision for the future of Mount Vernon and have celebrated the growth and success of the Lorton area including the exciting Lorton Arts Center.
With Supervisors Cathy Hudgins, John Foust and Linda Smyth, we have adopted an exciting new Comprehensive Plan for Tysons Corner and have advancing rail through Tysons to Reston.
Housing and Human Services Committee Chair Cathy Hudgins and I serve on the Governing Board to Prevent and End Homelessness and are proud of this Board’s efforts to provide a roof over the heads of those most in need, and workforce housing for younger, entry level, and lower income, employees so that people who work here can also live here.
Linda Smyth has been this Board’s “go-to” person as we have moved the new Tysons Vision forward so that Tyson’s Transformation is consistent with the exciting Plan adopted by our Board in last summer.
And John Foust has ably chaired our Board’s Audit Committee and Economic Advisory Commission, providing a forum for the business community to work with our Board and staff to identify tools for regulatory reform and to develop new industry sectors to get our economy moving. He has also served as my first time ever Vice Chairman on the Budget Committee.
We have much to be proud of. It is no accident that Fairfax County is acknowledged as The Best Managed County of its size in the U.S.
We remain tops for the quality of our Schools and our Public Safety record.
Human Services are delivered with compassion and efficiency – often in partnership with our Faith Communities and nonprofit organizations.
More than anything, we are known as an Engaged Community. We are a place where people enjoy investing their efforts, time and talents to make our community the outstanding place it is to live, work, raise our families and grow older comfortably.
To maintain our excellence it is important that we never stop peddling. There is work yet to do.
I look forward to working with our Fairfax County community as we provide more lifestyle choices for our current and future generations – compact, walkable and transit oriented communities - as redevelopment occurs, to complement our existing neighborhoods and commercial areas.
I look forward to making sure a transportation network is developed and built to provide the mobility we need –
the completion of Rail to Dulles,
light rail or transit in the Richmond Highway area,
Mass Transit in the I-66 corridor to Centreville, and
express bus services on the new Beltway HOT lanes.
And to making sure we are careful stewards of our environment - cleaning up our air and water, preserving trees and parkland, and identifying strategies for energy that is efficient, sustainable and secure.
I am honored to have spent these past years first as your Braddock District Supervisors and now as your Chairman.
Continuity matters – and I am pleased to have followed in the capable footsteps of past chairmen Gerry Connolly and Kate Hanley. So much that is coming to fruition today has first been forged in the fire of their efforts and I thank them.
A strong partnership with our State and Federal partners is critical for Fairfax County’s success and I thank members of the General Assembly and our Congressional Representatives who have joined us today.
We have much to be proud of – much to be thankful for – and we have much to do.
I am pleased to announce that – with your help and support – I will be there to keep the positive momentum moving forward – so that in four years we are again looking back with satisfaction. Thank you so much for joining me today! I look forward to being there for you – and working with you as your chairman for another four years.