Reston community organizer John Morris was sitting at home disconsolately Tuesday night, hoping against hope that his four-year dream of bringing town government to the planned community finally would be realized. With each ring of the telephone, Morris realized how hopeless that dream was.
"This is the end of it," Morris sighed after hearing that Reston voters had rejected the measure by an almost 2-to-1 margin. "I don't see any point in trying it again."
The verdict appears to mark the last chapter in Reston's search for self-determination -- a quest that started almost as soon as the planned community's original developer laid the foundations for its first town houses.
Caught in a squabble between those who felt the proposal did not offer Reston citizens enough government and those who thought it was too much, proponents of the measure say they see virtually no possibility of convincing legislators in Richmond to let Reston voters work out a compromise proposal.
"I couldn't get to first base with the [Fairfax County] supervisors on a stronger form of government," said Democratic Supervisor Martha V. Pennino, who represents the Reston area and often calls herself its "fairy godmother."
"If the board of supervisors won't support it, there's no way it would pass in Richmond. Those who think they can go down to Richmond and walk out with a stronger form of town government are just crowing up a dead tree."
Top elected officials in Fairfax have long opposed the move toward town status for Reston, fearing it would siphon off valuable tax revenues from the county and spur the fragmentation of the area into many small jurisdictions.
Several county officials attributed the measure's defeat, by 7,356 to 4,040, to the growing conservative mood seen in Tuesday's record Republican victories across the nation. That mood, they said, probably also was responsible for the defeat of an $8.55 million bond proposal for renovating and expanding the county jail. The jail measure went down, 96,016 to 85,265, in unofficial returns.
Sheriff Wayne Huggins, citing jail crowding, said he planned to ask county officials for an estimated $1.5 million from the general fund to begin expanding the jail despite Tuesday's vote.
Fairfax voters readily approved $54 million in county bonds designated for curbs and gutters, police and fire stations, storm drainage and new libraries.
The only bright spot for Virginia Democrats was approval of an amendment to the state constitution that will give the Democratic legislature the right to review vetoes by the state's Republican governor.
By a vote of 732,188 to 516,471, with 91 percent of the precincts reporting, voters authorized an annual special session of the state legislature to consider gubernatorial vetoes. Gov. John Dalton and the Taxpayers' Alliance, a conservative citizens' group, had opposed the measure as a waste of the taxpayers' money.
Three other proposed constitutional amendments, aimed at further limiting municipal borrowing and authorizing some new tax credits, were approved by wide margins.