Some Fairfax County officials are demanding that their county, the largest in the state, be given a greater voice in the Virginia Association of Counties and at least one official has suggested that Fairfax might withdraw from the group if it doesn't win its request.
The Fairfax officials say the association, an influential lobbying group in Richmond, is paying too much attention to rural areas and not the state's rapidly growing suburban jurisdictions.
"If we can't make any headway on that issue," said Fairfax Supervisor James M. Scott, a member of the association executive board, "we ought to think very seriously about our relationship to" the association. Asked if the county should consider withdrawing from the association if proportional voting is not adopted, Scott replied: "Certainly."
"Why should a county like Bath County pop. 5,800 , which has more cows than it has people, have the same kind of voting representation as Fairfax County, with 670,000 people?" asked Martha V. Pennino, vice chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and also a member of the association's executive board. "You're not representing geography, you're representing people."
"It's like taxation without representation," Scott agreed. "We are paying association dues as if we are the largest county in the state, which we are, but we are not able to vote that way."
The association's 94 county members now cast one vote apiece at their annual meeting in November. Under a Fairfax proposal to be considered Sunday by the association's executive board, counties would gain one additional vote for each 50,000 in population.
If approved, Fairfax would cast 14 votes -- more than the state's four next-largest counties -- Arlington, Prince William, Chesterfield and Henrico -- combined.
Scott and other Fairfax officials said that since the association membership dues are based on population, the county pays more than any other association member, about $27,000 a year.
Fairfax Supervisor Thomas M. Davis III, a Republican who also sits on the association's executive board, said Scott's threats are likely to be counterproductive. "I don't favor taking our ball and going home if they don't favor us," he said.
"There's a lot of resentment historically toward Northern Virginia and we've got to build bridges," Davis said. "I don't think you build bridges by trying to go it alone."
Association officials say that the proportional voting system could meet with opposition from rural counties who see the Fairfax proposal as a power grab and fear a loss of their influence. Even if the proposal wins, however, rural counties would still retain about 60 percent of the group's votes, association officials say.
Fairfax officials also said they will contest an association subcommittee recommendation that the state list specific road-building projects on a proposed $500 million state road bond referendum. The county, wary that such a list of projects would favor rural areas, favors a bond that would distribute road funds according to the existing state highway construction formula.
The formula was revised by the state legislature in February to funnel more money to congested suburban areas, in what was considered a major victory for Fairfax.
"We're going to play hardball in road money," said Fairfax County Board Chairman John F. Herrity. "We'll do whatever's necessary . . . to get a fair shake."
The association's executive board is scheduled to consider the two issues Sunday in Charlottesville. The executive board's recommendations would be forwarded to the membership for a vote in November.