Cablevision Not Above the Law

One minute, Cablevision executive Max Kipfer tells us how lucky Loudoun citizens are to have Cablevision provide Channel 3 as a community service. The next minute, Kipfer claims that the terminations of Kathleen Hazleton and Chuck Kaster, both involved with Channel 3 news coverage, are personal issues between the company and its employees.

If the ramifications were not so disturbing, the matter would be laughable. As a community service, you should expect compliance with laws relating to providing a public, education and government access channel. And as with an applicable broadcast in the United States, you would expect news and other coverage to be evenhanded and in compliance with applicable state and federal laws. This includes Title 47 of the Code of Federal Regulations and other such laws pertaining to equal time and equal opportunity for broadcast coverage of political candidates. It is doubtful that Cablevision is above any of these statutes, as these laws even apply to the broadcasts of the president of the United States, which is why the Republicans get an opportunity to counter what President Clinton says in his State of the Union address.

Both Hazleton and Kaster were terminated around elections, and each claims that their respective termination was directly related to a refusal to bow to Cablevision's policy of preferential treatment for Board of Supervisors Chairman Dale Polen Myers ["Channel 3 Criticized as Biased," July 25]. This preferential treatment includes Cablevision's failure to honor requests by Myers's political adversaries during the elections, even though Myers's show continued to be broadcast during the period leading up to the elections.

If nothing else, Kipfer appears guilty of doublespeak. However, I fear that Kipfer and Cablevision may be guilty of much worse, including improper terminations, violations of federal laws and a breach of the public's trust.

Unless five members of the Board of Supervisors are courageous enough to ensure that justice is done, within three months Kipfer and the other beneficiaries of Cablevision's sale will be laughing all the way to the bank with the millions they received for selling a "privilege" granted to them during Myers's tenure as board chairman.



Cablevision's Services Fall Short

I have been surprised to find that there have been no other letters to date regarding the seemingly imminent sale of Cablevision. It is my understanding that Cablevision must be in full compliance with all requirements of county regulations in order to allow a sale to proceed, and that includes issues such as outages, customer service and response quality. Given my own experiences and those of some other families, I am curious as to what level of "service" is acceptable per county regulations.

Over the past several months, I have been inconvenienced and my intelligence insulted by Cablevision representatives on several occasions. The most notable was during the Christmas-New Year's holiday last December. Because of "system upgrades," myself and my holiday guests were without cable service for most of that period. What's more, what "service" I did receive was often quite rude, including questions such as: Was I sure it was working before? When someone was finally dispatched to fix my problem, that person disconnected my VCR, which had been connected and working in conjunction with my cable box for quite some time, and claimed that was the problem. They swapped out both my cable box and remote control several times and kept reloading the channel information every evening for several nights until it finally worked again. All this time with my "guilty" VCR disconnected. It is bad enough that we have to use the cable boxes when we already have cable-ready TVs just so they can try to sell us pay-per-view. But when their "upgrades" result in standard working items having to be disconnected, I think that says something about the questionable quality of the service for which we have been paying so handsomely.

Which brings to mind Cablevision's claims about its contributions to the Loudoun community, including the creation of the local interest Channel 3. As most anyone who has stopped on Channel 3 while channel surfing (or has had that as the only channel available for an extended period) can tell, Channel 3 appears to be nothing more than a series of ongoing infomercials of area businesses and politicians. The fact that they list some community events in between is hardly worthy of reference as local interest programming. Anyone who has seen real local interest and public access (available as close as Fairfax County) knows that this is not it.

While I would be happy to have almost any cable provider that would consistently provide me good service at reasonable prices, I do not think it is right for Cablevision to be rewarded for the value of Loudoun's lucrative market without having kept to their legal obligations and reasonable business professionalism. I encourage others in the community to join me in making their voices heard.


Sugarland Run

A Strain on Retirees' Resources

I've never written a letter to the editor before, and I've never been heavily into politics. However, I received a call before the Republican primary asking me to support a specific candidate. Part of the spiel was "better jobs for our children resulting from growth in the county." What they don't mention is this continuing growth is accompanied by ever-increasing taxes. Though I always considered that our income was comfortable, the price of living in Loudoun County may leave little choice for many of the older, retired people but to move on!

When my husband and I came to Leesburg 30 years ago, our income was approximately $10,000, which at that time enabled us to buy a nice home and easily meet our financial obligations, even though I was a stay-at-home mom. However, when my husband retired several years ago, even though we had saved for this time and our mortgage was paid off, we found that we were unable to afford anything beyond the most basic needs. Therefore, my husband had to return to work.

Why can we not enjoy retirement? Why should we have to move, as so many of our friends have, in order to live comfortably? Why are we paying more and more taxes to support the people moving in to Loudoun County, to stress our schools, our services, our volunteer rescue and fire system, our roads? They live in homes built in Loudoun that many of the longtime residents could never afford--and yet many commute out of Loudoun every day for work!

When I came to Loudoun, I fell in love with it for its beauty, its serenity, its people. I remember the bumper sticker years ago: "Don't Fairfax Loudoun." I agreed wholeheartedly with it. I never realized how fast that was truly happening! I am not against growth when it is reasonable and well planned, but the fast and furious growth in Loudoun is far beyond the county's resources and the residents' abilities to keep up with it. I have read that Loudoun is the third fastest-growing county in the nation, but nowhere have I read that it is the third wealthiest (we can't even attract teachers by offering competitive salaries)! I believe that even the newer residents in the pricey homes came here because they wanted to live someplace less urban than Fairfax. I don't believe they want to see this continued rate of growth any more than the old-timers do!

Board of Supervisors candidate Mark Herring came to my door the other day to introduce himself. Running for the Leesburg seat, he spoke at length about growth, the need to get it under control and to require developers to pay their fair share of the costs associated with their projects. His visit made me realize that it's time to take the politicians who have allowed this insane growth rate out of office and replace them with candidates who are committed to saving some of the area's beauty and some of the even more valuable resources--the people who have made their lives here.



Route 15 Alternatives Needed

In a recent letter to Gov. James R. Gilmore's Road Study Commission, the Lucketts Ruritan Club requested that the commission not overlook the problems of Route 15 between Point of Rocks, Md., and Leesburg, and the need for an alternate road and bridge over the Potomac to replace Route 15.

While funds for Route 15 safety improvements were included in the recently approved road bond, the point had to be made that the work will not resolve the congestion or the high rate of accidents on this section of road. It will not expedite traffic from the Dulles industrial area to the Montgomery County industrial area. Regardless of what is done to the two lanes of U.S. Route 15, it is not going to eliminate the need for commuters to make the long trek to the I-95 Beltway to get to jobs in Maryland or Virginia. Nor is it going to eliminate the need for another bridge across the Potomac, which public opinion polls show has a high level of support on both sides of the river.

The commission was asked to take all of these factors into consideration when it looked at the road situation serving Loudoun County and the Dulles Corridor. The commission was also urged to come out with a strong endorsement of the Western Transportation Corridor and a new bridge across the Potomac, which are both critically needed as an alternative for Route 15.




Loudoun Extra welcomes your opinions, which run on Thursdays and Sundays. Letters, which may be edited for length, should include your name, address and day and evening telephone numbers so we can verify authorship. Deadlines are noon Tuesday for Thursday publication and noon Thursday for Sunday publication. Send them to:

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