The Fairfax Board of Supervisors voted 6 to 3 to use revenue bonds to pay for the Fairfax County Parkway, with supervisors Thomas M. Davis III (R-Mason), Elaine McConnell (R-Springfield) and Sharon Bulova (D-Annandale) opposing the plan. A story yesterday may have implied the board unanimously favored the plan. (Published 11/9/90)
Fairfax Board Chairman Audrey Moore withdrew her support yesterday for a $330 million plan to finance the Fairfax County Parkway, leaving the county's top transportation project in disarray.
The reversal, which followed a widespread voter rebellion Tuesday against similar funding plans, was promptly attacked by two of her probable opponents in next year's election.
Moore had hailed the plan to issue revenue bonds as the most significant transportation initiative of her three-year administration. She said the plan would allow completion of the parkway by 1994, reducing pressure on the Capital Beltway and on other roads.
On Tuesday, however, three-quarters of county voters rejected a plan to permit state and local governments to issue pledge bonds without holding referendums, a method similar to Moore's plan in that the bonds would not require voter approval. Political leaders said the proposals were crushed amid deep voter anxiety about government spending.
Moore was out of town and not available for comment. Her chief aide, Martin Machowsky, said, "It's clearly a change in position. I'm not going to say it's not. But the voters sent a clear signal. They indicated their concern about assuming debt with this type of mechanism, and Audrey's going to listen."
In March, following Moore's lead, the full board approved a plan to issue revenue bonds for the parkway. But the measure has since become stalled in the courts by a lawsuit arguing that voter approval is required, and no bonds have been sold.
If Moore persuades the board to withdraw its support for revenue bonds, completion of the 35-mile, cross-county expressway could be delayed for years and its cost increased by millions of dollars. About 23.5 miles of the parkway, which would connect Route 7 in the northwest part of the county with Route 1 in the southeast, has not been built.
Sources said Moore is now considering letting voters decide whether to issue bonds to pay for a part of the parkway, perhaps as early as March. However, county voters defeated four of seven bond referendums Tuesday and approved an $80 million transportation bond by a scant 5,300 votes, suggesting that a referendum on the parkway could face stiff opposition.
Moore's reversal also left her political agenda in a shambles on the very day that the opening gun was fired in the 1991 race for chairman. Would-be Republican opponents wasted no time launching a political onslaught.
"The taxpayers have wasted millions of dollars in on-the-job training for our chairman, and frankly, I'm a little bit tired of it," said Supervisor Thomas M. Davis III (R-Mason), who is considering running against Moore. "I've figured out her reelection strategy. She's going to run against everything she's done and blame it on the board," which previously proposed funding the parkway with voter-approved bonds.
Former Republican chairman John F. Herrity, who was unseated by Moore in the 1987 election and who will likely battle Davis in a primary for the GOP nomination to challenge her, said the initial decision not to seek voter approval for the parkway's funding "was really bad political judgment that is now going to delay a project that is highly important to the people of the county.
"I think it bodes ill for the whole board, not just the chairman," Herrity said. "Every major program that the board has undertaken has been a failure for political, economic or legal reasons."
"That's the difference between Audrey and the Herrity-Davis team," Machowsky said. "Jack and Tom are playing for political advantage. Audrey is working to address the county's problems both in transportation and development."
Opponents, including Frederick T. and Marcia Dykes, founders of the anti-tax group Citizens for Sensible Taxation, have challenged the revenue bonds in a case pending in the Virginia Supreme Court.
Marcia Dykes said yesterday that the opponents would not drop their suit. "We have to find out whether it's legal or not," she said. "The board could pull it this year and then try it again in six months."
Supervisor Kate Hanley (D-Providence) said yesterday that she too now opposes the revenue bond idea "because the citizens have made it clear that they think it's an unacceptable way to finance transportation improvements."
Supervisor Lilla Richards (D-Dranesville) said she believed her constituents supported the revenue bond idea because county studies showed it would complete the parkway faster and cheaper, and with tax money from businesses, not homeowners. Because of the lawsuit, she said, "What advantage we had in terms of time and money has pretty much been eaten up."
She said she would support a bond referendum for the parkway if it would hurry its completion, but added, "I think March is too soon. We need to cool it and . . . wait until the economic situation for the region improves before we go to a bond referendum for construction money."