By Alec MacGillis and Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 22, 2007
The debate over whether to build a Metrorail extension below or above ground through Tysons Corner has officially made it to the big time. Last week, video clips of a rally held by tunnel supporters were posted on YouTube, where they had been viewed hundreds of times. Even more surprising, a teenager has been devoting his blog to the debate.
Hans Mast, 19, has been maintaining his blog, at http://hansmast.com/, for 2 1/2 years. In recent weeks, he has given over the blog almost entirely to pro-tunnel postings about the latest developments in the increasingly heated debate, which is threatening to play a role in this fall's county and state elections.
Mast is an unlikely chronicler of the project. He is a native of Fauquier County and a student at Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute in Pennsylvania, where he is training to be a missionary, with his first posting likely to be in Thailand.
He says he learned of the tunnel debate from Guy Schum, a public relations executive whose firm has been assisting the group pushing for a below-ground route and who attends the Mast family's church, Faith Christian Fellowship in Fauquier. The company owned by Mast's father, Golden Rule Travel and Communications, has one of its computer servers at Tysons, and Mast says he has been through the area enough to know that a below-ground route would make far more sense.
"I saw in this a very clear-cut right-and-wrong answer . . . and I decided to jump right in," he said.
Mast acknowledges that his advocacy of a potentially more costly transit option might be seen as at odds with his strong conservative political philosophy.
But he argues that public transportation is an area in which market rules simply don't apply because, though transit is necessary, it usually isn't economically viable without subsidy. "It's going to happen, and we might as well do it right if we're going to do it," he said.
For the record, Mast is not the only blogger in his family. His 17-year-old brother Benji runs an "awesome photoblog." Heidi, 15, is the "family event blogger." Kristi, 10, doesn't have a blog, but she has been reading Edward Gibbon's "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire." And Dietrich, 6, is "just plain cool."Two Decisions on Guns
Fairfax County's attempt to ban firearms in certain areas of police stations and other law enforcement buildings did not survive a hearing in a state House subcommittee last week, despite a personal appeal from Police Chief David M. Rohrer. Last May, two Fairfax officers were shot to death by a mentally ill 18-year-old in the parking lot of the Sully police station.
The measure passed the Senate unanimously Feb. 1 but was scuttled by a subcommittee of the House panel on Militia, Police and Public Safety, dominated by rural Republicans.
Last week also brought an opinion from Virginia Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell that school board meetings are an appropriate venue for people carrying firearms.
The opinion came in response to an inquiry from York County Attorney James E. Barnett after a September 2005 school board meeting in which a man testified while wearing a holstered .45-caliber handgun. Board members expressed concern because students sometimes attend board meetings.
Virginia law bans firearms at "school-sponsored functions." But because the board holds its meetings at York Hall in Yorktown -- and not on school district property -- there was no violation of the law, McDonnell ruled. Student attendance at such meetings is voluntary, he said, and does not make the hearing a school-sponsored event.Reid Redux
Stan L. Reid, who came within 800 votes of deposing Fairfax Supervisor Elaine N. McConnell (R-Springfield) in the 2003 Republican primary, will try again this year.
"She's been in a long time and hasn't really accomplished a whole lot," he said.
Reid, 49, who works in marketing and business development for high-tech companies, said McConnell was a "RINO" (Republican in Name Only) whose six-term record is "pretty liberal." He wants more transparency in the county budgeting process, so that citizens have a better idea of where their money is going.
He said that means "putting all the programs on single sheets of paper so people can see exactly where the money is spent and let the supervisors prioritize the spending."