Many Contentious Issues Await Fairfax Supervisors
Sunday, November 11, 2007
For incumbents on the 10-member Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the 2007 campaign was, with one exception, a walk.
Tuesday's Democratic surge helped unseat Supervisor Joan M. DuBois (R-Dranesville) in favor of John W. Foust of McLean. Five other Democrats, including Board Chairman Gerald E. Connolly, averaged almost 68 percent of the vote in their reelection victories. Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth (D-Providence) ran unopposed. Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully) topped 80 percent.
Although the numbers seem to confirm what pollsters said -- that Fairfax residents are generally pleased with their government -- some caution that it would be a mistake to treat the fat electoral margins as assurance that all is well.
"I don't think anyone should take the vote as evidence that everything is wonderful," said Supervisor T. Dana Kauffman (D-Lee), who is retiring and will be succeeded by his longtime chief of staff, Jeff C. McKay.
The new board will take office in January with a lengthy list of policy questions, as well as three freshman members whose eagerness to make their marks means they might not readily fall into line with Connolly. There's also the issue of the chairman himself, who may soon be running for Congress.
A brief tour of the horizon:
Budget. Signs point to a difficult year, with residential property assessments expected to be off by an average of at least 4 percent, driving down real estate tax revenues for the budget year that begins July 1.
County Executive Anthony H. Griffin, who will submit a proposed budget in late February, has begun a "lines of business" review, an intensive two-year study of county services with an eye toward possible cuts and consolidations. The county is also facing at least $1.7 million in state funding cuts, the bulk coming from a program that aids the police department.
Future of Tysons Corner. A 35-member citizens task force appointed by the board in 2005 will deliver a plan early next year for the county's 1,700-acre commercial and retail core, the country's 12th-largest business district. It is expected to call for an urban-style street grid and increased high-rise construction around the new Metro stations included in the proposed rail extension to Dulles International Airport.
The most contentious issue for the board will be how much additional density to allow. Residents of surrounding communities are anxious about traffic spilling onto their secondary streets and growth coming without the infrastructure to absorb it. Rob Jackson, president of the McLean Citizens Association, said the fear is that Tysons will become "Manhattan, New York, with the facilities of Manhattan, Kansas."
Supervisor-elect Foust, whose district includes McLean, said that what he has seen of the Tysons task force doesn't reassure him.
"I've participated in every public forum, and the focus has always been on density without discussion of infrastructure," he said.