The Chamber of Commerce has adopted the roads. The League of Women Voters is looking after Metro. And The Green Team is tending to the parks.
It's all part of a last-minute effort by three Fairfax County citizens groups to get voters on Nov. 2 to approve $108 million in bonds the county says is needed for roads, Metro, and park facility construction.
And it's also part of a squabble over who should have done what sooner.
"We're hustling," said Kaye Sloan Burke, chairman of the county board-appointed Citizens Task Force on the Bond Referendum -- which the groups claim was created perilously late in the game. Burke agrees. "When the board [of supervisors] doesn't decide on the issues until August, then waits until the end of September to appoint and convene the task force , it makes it extremely difficult. . . . They the county supervisors are asking us to do the impossible."
In its own effort, the task force has sent its members on speaking tours throughout the county, where they have tried to squeeze themselves into already tight civic club agendas.
But the three heavyweight citizens groups that are spearheading the lobbying efforts say that isn't enough. On their own, they have divided the issues among themselves and are conducting their own campaigns. The stakes: a $58 million bond for park improvements, $25 million for road construction and $25 million for Metro subway construction.
Perhaps the best-organized of the three is The Green Team, one of the most powerful citizen coalitions in a suburban county where sprawling subdivisions and commercial development are considered a constant threat to open space. The Green Team not only fought successfully for a $58 million parks bond package -- the county staff originally had recommended a $32 million program -- but also has taken charge of the public relations effort needed to sway the voters.
The Green Team also is supporting the road and Metro bonds and is promoting all three in its campaign efforts, organization representatives said.
The Chamber of Commerce has long maintained that the county's road system is inadequate, so it took over the job of pushing for passage of the $25 million road bond.
"Our number one priority is intracounty transporation," said James Cox, executive vice president of the chamber. He said the chamber also has endorsed the Metro bond, but is concentrating primarily on the road bond. The group has taken no position on the parks bond, he said.
Last year, a $30 million road bond received the largest victory margin of any referendum on the ballot. County officials said they need the second referendum this year to finish the projects started with money from last year's bond issue.
Of the three, the $25 million bond for Metro construction has the weakest support base. "It's probably the one bond that needs the most help," said Byrne. "It doesn't have an inbred constituency like the park or road bonds. . . . You mention roads in Fairfax County and it's got an assured constituency."
That prompted the League of Women Voters, which seldom takes sides in political issues, to assume the role as lobbyist for the Metro bond. The organization has taken no position on the road and park bonds.
"Not enough people recognize the importance of the Metro bond," said Byrne. "The bond [vote] will come down to a referendum on Metro."
Supervisors argue that the failure to pass any of the bonds could be disastrous for the county because there would be virtually no new money for needed improvements. Park bonds approved in 1977 and Metro construction bonds voted in 1968, for example, both expire next year.
Apparently the only organized opposition to the bond proposals is coming from the Fairfax County Taxpayers Alliance, which traditionally opposes tax increases and bonds.
The alliance last Friday filed suit to try to stop the county from distributing more than 200,000 voter guides to the referendum, claiming the guides are not objective. A hearing on the alliance's request for a temporary injunction is scheduled for Thursday. In the interim, the county has agreed not to mail the guides.
"Now Fairfax County has over $150 million in unsold bonds approved by taxpayers in previous years," said James Roncaglione, president of the alliance. "That's a dangerous position to be in."
County officials say there are so many unsold bonds because interest rates have remained high. As a result, the county has held back bonds it otherwise might have sold to avoid committing itself to paying exorbitant interest to bondholders. Normally, the county sells about $60 million in bonds annually. In the past year, however, it has sold only about $26 million, said County Supervisor Audrey Moore.
Supervisors say they need the additional bonding authority for the projects proposed in this fall's package to fund the programs once the market improves.