A Naive Philosophy

A very few, sometimes referred to as libertarians, believe that market forces should supersede virtually everything, even government. Sterling's Mark Steckbeck ["Activists' Extreme Position," Letters, Dec. 9] appears to be one of these very few.

One wonders if Mr. Steckbeck's fervent faith in the market would waver in the face of a depression. Would it hold steadfast if he lived in a country, such as Russia, where government-sponsored market reforms had yet to occur?

In "Wealth of Nations," Adam Smith never intended laissez faire as a substitute for government. And his scale of competition was the pin factory, not Exxon/Mobil or Disney/ABC. Without something resembling pure competition, i.e., many small competitors, the Steckbeckian idea of "voluntary" exchange is naive.

We live under federal and state constitutions that provide for representative governments that are elected democratically. Between elections, regular, direct contact with government is principally by citizen activists and by paid lobbyists. If, as Mr. Steckbeck alleges, citizen activists are "extremists," then what does this make paid lobbyists? Aren't the former more likely to reflect community values than the latter?

In Loudoun, the principal alternative to government by the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association, AOL and WorldCom are citizen activists, whether as members of political or civic organizations. If these fail to act, business will fill the vacuum. Mr. Steckbeck apparently prefers that businesses operate government, but I doubt that many voters would agree.

Mr. Steckbeck is enamored of the shopping opportunities--in restaurants, bookstores, movie houses and malls--established by developers in Sterling. Frankly, I know of no high-quality restaurants in Sterling. The Borders in Cascades is a good bookstore, although less comprehensive than its free, government-operated neighbor, the Eastern Regional Library. Having additional movie theaters that offer movies shown simultaneously throughout the metro area seems wasteful, not benign. Sterling residents are conjuring ways to improve their somewhat dilapidated malls--should they desist from this show of civic activism?

According to Mr. Steckbeck, the Sterling community is "unsurpassed by any other." Now this is extreme. Surely there are communities that in some positive sense surpass Sterling. The very fact that Mr. Steckbeck would utter such an extreme thought further discredits his dismal philosophy of market forces uber alles.



Spare Hospital's Land

As a resident of the tiny village of Lincoln, located just south of the Frazer farm, I am concerned about the sale of this 200-acre tract by Loudoun Healthcare Inc. to developers. This amazingly beautiful green land, skirting the Goose Creek Historic District and home to abundant wildlife, fertile creek beds and dirt-road ambiance is a warm buffer between the Hamilton urban growth area and our quiet Quaker town. Nestled from view of most Loudoun residents, this farmland gem may not exact the kind of immediate concern from our slow-growth advocates and preservations that it deserves. It is, after all, hard to find. From Hamilton, you have to go south on St. Paul Street until it becomes unpaved Sands Road and follow it past another development in progress. Just where the land begins to roll and ancient stone fences reappear at Taylor Road, you're there. The Frazer farm contains one of the longest unbroken sections of the old Manassas Gap Railroad bed--a remnant of the Civil War era that may soon be forgotten. The land lies adjacent to working farms where stone houses from the 18th century still warm their occupants--descendants of the first Loudoun Quaker settlers--and where farmers farm, hunters hunt and preservationists smile. At least for now.

The Frazer farm stands poised to join the wave of development pushing Hamilton's borders, and you can bet its rolling hills will be dotted with trophy homes boasting their presence and stealing our view. Lincoln village may soon conjure up images more akin to Ashburn Village than to its Quaker cousin, Waterford. The frustrating part of this scenario is that it doesn't have to be. If The Washington Post is correct, Loudoun Healthcare had a willing and competitive buyer in an adjacent landowner who is well known here for his sympathy toward preserving open land. If the landowner could work together with Loudoun County and/or willing conservationists to raise additional funds to buy the Frazer farm, it would create a precedent for future land rescue. Let's hope Loudoun Healthcare will revisit its options and consider the well-being of its neighbors to the west. Our historic districts and villages deserve to be spared. Loudoun Healthcare can make the difference.



Hospital's Hurtful Moves

I would like to thank the board of directors of Loudoun Healthcare Inc. for thrice giving the back of its corporate hand to western Loudoun County.

Slap number one was when the board came to the realization that the Loudoun Hospital Center just couldn't survive in the central location of Leesburg. Someone in management must have been very impressed by the movie "Jerry Maguire," and all they wanted was to be "shown the money." If they wanted to "go for the gold," they would have to cut loose one of their core constituencies, no matter how loyal or needful of services they were. Thus, the worried residents of western Loudoun were left pretty much on their own, medically speaking. A bone of appeasement was tossed to the western residents in the form of an emergency center in Purcellville.

Slap number two was when the board leadership so badly underestimated, bungled and mismanaged its corporate thinking, its new facility and its resources that the new hospital was almost placed into receivership. Thanks to the board's strokes of corporate genius, the entire county was in jeopardy of losing its medical care facility. Cost-cutting was now the policy, including cutting costs in western Loudoun by pulling most of the resources for the emergency center in Purcellville. This was in direct contradiction to the promise the board made that western Loudoun's medical coverage would not be jeopardized as a result of the move.

Slap number three was when the board's leadership decided that one of the ways that they could save their corporate hides was by selling off some of the board's nonmedical holdings ["Farmland's Sale Looms for Hospital," Dec. 12]. In this case, it turns out to be the Frazer farm property, south of Hamilton, which they intend to sell to a developer. The proceeds of the sale will no doubt go into something important for the hospital's survival. This will probably be golden parachutes for the past and present hospital leadership.

While western Loudoun is trying so hard to preserve the rural character of the land and trying to redirect growth into something more manageable, the hospital leadership is going to stifle these efforts by dumping 200 acres worth of "McMansions" on the taxpayers. This last decision should come as no surprise to the residents of western Loudoun. The hospital board amputated us from its corporate concerns with its decision to move.

Until the recent past, Loudoun Hospital Center was a core institution in the community, respected and respectful of its responsibility to Loudoun County--all of Loudoun County. But in the years just prior to and during the hospital's move to greener pastures, the board's thinking went from community responsibility and service to corporate ineptitude and mismanagement. As the results have proven, it served neither them nor the community well.

The board of directors has not only mismanaged its physical and monetary resources but it has also squandered a more valuable commodity: the good will of the community.



Shenstone Farm as Park

Loudoun County should acquire the Shenstone Farm property for public use. Shenstone Farm is an ideal candidate for a flagship county park. Its rolling terrain, which exemplifies the best of Loudoun County's viewshed, is visible from Route 7, Dry Mill Road and the popular Washington & Old Dominion trail. It is a large enough parcel to accommodate activities for everyone: ballfields, picnic pavilions, pedestrian and horse trails, community meeting space and an educational center featuring interpretive exhibits and programs about the W&OD railroad, agricultural heritage and natural habitats.

Whatever dollar price we have to pay at this point will be looked upon in the future as quite a deal as land prices increase. But more important is the price in terms of lost opportunity that we will continue to pay if the county does not purchase the land now.



Coexist With Nature

In reply to your story on Lyme disease ["Lyme Disease Triples; High Among Children," Dec. 5], my sympathies to the child in contracting this painful disease and my hope for a speedy recovery.

I can relate to the parents' anguish; it's human for a parent to want to place blame on someone. Is this parent suggesting Cascade neighbors caused this child to contract Lyme disease?

I noticed a few inaccuracies in the story. First, the parent has no evidence to prove her child was infected at Cascades playground. There are dozens of children playing at these playgrounds. Ticks can be found anywhere and on most wildlife. In fact, cases have been reported in Florida beaches, New York City, Washington, D.C., and most eastern states.

Secondly, none of her Cascades neighbors feed deer in their back yards or any Cascades common grounds.

The statement that seven years ago she noticed only seven to 10 deer is true; that's all most people noticed. Fact, there are generations of wildlife in Cascades--deer, fox, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, birds, etc. We are not seeing more due to the fact that hundreds of homes have been built along with shopping centers and two schools, all taking hundreds of acres from wildlife habitat and grazing land. Were any provisions made by Cascades homeowners for wildlife in Cascades? Would someone please explain where wildlife is supposed to live and feed? Wildlife has nowhere to go, they are surrounded by homes, highways and a river.

When living this close to wildlife and parks, it is our responsibility as parents to protect and watch our children; we must coexist with nature or our children will only experience life through stories and picture books.