A group of eight Reston residents was given about 20 minutes to reduce a list of 10 problems confronting the community down to two.
Lack of a single voice for the unincorporated community was one clear choice, they felt. A shortage of entry-level workers, no education on Reston traditions for newcomers and too few organized activities for teen-agers did not make the list of the two most important problems.
But what about building affordable housing for the middle class, or, as one person suggested, keeping too much subsidized low-income housing out of the community? Or paving roads versus improving mass transit? "The transportation problem can't be solved by just putting down more pavement," said group member Ridge Loux. "You've got to do something that gets single people out of their cars."
The group was participating in Saturday's Reston Forum, an all-day event in which 200 residents examined the strengths, weaknesses and challenges faced by Reston 22 years after it was founded as the country's first planned community.
In the morning, participants split up into small groups to brainstorm about issues. In the afternoon, the small groups met together to decide on issues that might require further study and to create task forces.
Loux's group eventually decided to lump together the transportation items as the second largest concern. Affordable housing was a close third.
The final result included few surprises. The forum created a laundry list of the issues Reston has recently been confronting. Among the concerns it identified were:
Handling "uncontrolled redevelopment of industrial property." Said Paul Ruden, who led one of the subgroups, "A lot of companies that moved in here 10 years ago and built one-story buildings are now coming back and putting in 10-story buildings." Promoting "commitment of resources by major corporate organizations" with large installations in Reston. Many noted that corporations do not pay the Reston Association dues.
Creating "increased self-governance for Reston," now an unincorporated town. Some had expected the forum to focus on this issue. "We thought governance was an overriding issue. It isn't," said Reston Community Association Board member Vera Hannigan. "It actually takes second place to, say, day care."
Establishing affordable housing. "We need the opportunity not to go into yuppiedom," commented one participant, Joanne Brownsword.
Also included as goals or concerns were improving day care, youth facilities and transportation, getting more citizens involved in Reston government, preventing deterioration of the community's infrastructure and enhancing town spirit.
"It was a reassertion of what the problem areas were, as a springboard to involving many more people out in the community," said Reston founder Robert Simon. "They wouldn't have had to hold the forum 20 years ago. The majority of people 20 years ago were involved in Reston. This is not a criticism. It's natural, as a community moves out from a pioneering stage, for fewer people to be involved."
Organizers of the forum had hoped to attract people who were not normally involved in the unincorporated community's organizations. While some newcomers did attend, most participants were old hands at community activism.
Participants included Fairfax Supervisor Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville), Del. Kenneth R. Plum (D-Reston) and numerous past and present leaders of the Reston's sometimes rival boards and associations. "This is the first time for all of us to say, I don't care whether you're a Reston Association person, or a Reston Community Association person," said Judi Ushio, a forum organizer.
The forum's greatest accomplishment, said Susan Bender, chairman of the Board of Governors of the Reston Community Center, may simply have been getting all the community leaders to sit down in a single place.