Damage to Political Sign

Offends in Great Falls

My wife and I are longtime residents of Great Falls who are building a new home there.

On Oct. 10, we installed an 8-by-4-foot painted canvas sign that said "BUSH/CHENEY" prominently on our property where the new home is under construction. The next evening, a neighbor called us to say that our sign had been taken down and was on the ground. We went over at 8 p.m. and discovered that someone -- clearly not a deer -- had pulled the stakes out of the ground and thrown our sign onto the ground.

We put the sign back up, only to receive a call Oct. 12 that the sign was back down. We went over to put it back up.

But this time we discovered that someone had not only torn the sign back down, they had cut it up with a knife or scissors, leaving only the perimeter of the sign attached to the frame, and had taken the sign itself away.

This was a substantial sign, for which we paid $180. It had a strong frame around the entire perimeter, strong poles into the ground to hold it up, and nylon guy lines to provide it strength and stability. Now all that is left is the frame, with three inches of the political banner attached to the perimeter.

Interestingly, both events, as nearly as we can tell, took place during daylight. The sign was up and noted at 2 p.m. on Oct. 11, then down at 7 p.m. that night. We put the sign up again, but it was down by 9:30 a.m. the next day. That particular corner is used by "moms" from the Potomac Forest area for dropping their kids off for the school bus in the morning and waiting for the kids to come home from school.

We have no idea who destroyed the sign, but it is clear that a parent dropping off or waiting for their child 30 feet away certainly had the proximity.

Why do I write this? We love Great Falls. It is a wonderful community in which to live. We have numerous wonderful friends in the area. We are absolutely shocked and saddened that one of our neighbors is the most likely perpetrator of these acts. It should make no difference which candidates' names are on the sign. I thought we all had the right to express our own political preference.

We reported this act of vandalism to the police, of course, but there is little chance of identifying the actor(s). Further, we tried to buy another sign to replace it, but they are all sold out. Thus, one of our neighbors seems to have denied us our rights to express our political opinions.

Larry and Mary Wright

Great Falls

Editor's note: A similar incident occurred near the Wrights on Oct. 10. Patricia C. O'Connor, who lives on Baron Cameron Avenue in Reston, told county police that someone removed a large "Kerry-Edwards" sign from the front yard of her two-story Colonial porch-style house, which dates to 1900.

Orange Line Crowding

Needs Realistic Solutions

Overcrowding on Metro's Orange Line is worsening faster than portrayed in the article "Headed for More Congestion" [Fairfax Extra, Oct. 7].

Recently I attended a presentation by Fairfax County officials about the Nov. 2 bond referendum, at a meeting of the Providence District Council. A portion of the transportation bonds will go toward the "Metro Matters" program, which includes purchasing more rail cars.

According to the officials, Metro trains are currently seriously overcrowded, with 30 to 50 riders standing per car during rush hour. The crowding on the Orange Line is projected to be unmanageable (more than 50 riders standing per car) by 2008 without the new rail cars. However, even with the approval of the bonds and the purchase of new rail cars, the Orange Line crowding is projected to be unmanageable by 2012.

Your article said the system could be full by 2025. The Fairfax County presentation didn't include the plan discussed in your article to divert every other Blue Line train over the Potomac on the Yellow Line bridge. However, I believe the Orange Line overcrowding date of 2012 is closer to the mark, considering the current state of Metro congestion.

Also, do the projections take into account the proposed high-rise development by the Vienna Metro station and Interstate 66? Several proposed developments will bring about 10,000 more people next to the Vienna stop, according to my estimates. Not to mention the tens of thousands that would ride on the Dulles rail extension when it is built.

Another point the Fairfax County officials raised was that the Orange line is the most congested line on Metro. It's clear the bonds and train diversions are not going to be enough. I believe that realistic long-term projections and solutions are needed to the crowding on the Orange Line. The solutions must be in place before the next development boom by Metro stations is approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Mark Tipton


Higher-Density Projects

Just Aren't Smart Growth

I am writing to express my concerns about proposed higher-density development around Northern Virginia Metro stations, including the Vienna station.

I do not support higher-density development of suburban Metro station neighborhoods for the several reasons outlined in the excellent Voices of Fairfax guest column, " 'Smart Growth' Looks More Like 'Urban Cancer,' " by William S. Elliott and Doug Stafford in the Sept. 23 Fairfax Extra.

First, it's obvious to anyone in Northern Virginia that more growth and development -- anything that will result in higher density -- is unwise and unsupportable. The existing roads and schools can't manage what is here already. Northern Virginia is in serious gridlock. Growth advocates seem blind to this fact.

Second, we are all breathing dirty air from this overdevelopment and gridlock. My home town, Vienna, is in the middle of a serious "ozone nonattainment area." The Washington area does not meet federal Clean Air Act ozone standards.

More growth means this area will fall further behind Clean Air Act goals. More growth means only more dirty, unhealthy air for you and me and our kids.

Third, the tax base in Fairfax County is already overburdened by too much unfunded growth. More of the same is just stupid growth. But instead of prohibiting unfunded growth, the state's and county's answer is to simply saddle property owners with increasing taxes and debt (bonds).

As a taxpayer who is burdened by profit-and-run developers, overdevelopment and gridlock, I have to wonder, what is so smart about growth on these terms? What is smart about ever-higher property taxes to underwrite uncontrolled overdevelopment, resulting in overcrowded roads and schools and ever-higher population density? What is smart about allowing developers to pack more people in without assuring that funds exist for sufficient services and schools first?

"Smart growth" is just a pro-development slogan that attempts to hide the obvious: Thank you very much, but I don't believe Northern Virginia needs any more unfunded and unsupportable urbanization.

The other very troubling aspect of the pro-developer "smart growth" lobby is how it not only masks the suburban developer's rip-off of suburbia but also separates and distracts voters and the decision makers from the city. It is wrong for suburbia to turn its back on the inner city. Instead of urbanizing Northern Virginia further, let's reverse the long-running, tragic and irresponsible neglect of our inner cities. Truly smart growth is about urban renewal.

Robert and Avril Dresdner