Citizens of Fairfax County, Virginia (myself included) will be voting on four bond referendums on November 2. For more information about all four, please click the link at the bottom of this endorsement.
Human Services Facilities Bonds
This bond referendum would allow the Fairfax County government to borrow up to $32.5 million for human services facilities. 30 million dollars would go to construction and renovations at two community mental health Centers, redevelopment of another facility, and provide 10 million dollars for construction and renovations at the Juvenile Court Services facility. Additionally, the bond referendum would provide $2.5 million for major capital renewal at the Human Services and Juvenile Court Services facilities.
While I do not doubt that these improvements are needed—the Mount Vernon and Woodburn Community Mental Health Centers are over 30 years old and serve 70 percent of the county’s mental health services—I am confident that now is not the time. Taking on additional debt in a time of economic weakness is not a good idea, and it should only be done when absolutely necessary. In this case, it is not. I endorse a NO vote on the Human Services Facilities Bond referendum, although I would be willing to reconsider a similar referendum in the future when the economy is stronger.
Public Library Facilities Bonds
This bond referendum would allow the Fairfax County government to borrow up to $52.5 million for Fairfax County Public Libraries. $18.8 million would go to building two new branches, $29.5 million for renovation of existing libraries, $2.5 million for major capital renewal at existing facilities, and $1.7 million for preliminary design on major renovations at five libraries.
I endorse a NO vote on the Public Library Facilities Bond referendum. Fairfax County has one of the nicest, best equipped, and expansive library systems in the United States, and it hardly needs any drastic improvements now. Incurring more than 50 million dollars in debt to fix a system that is not seriously broken is not a logical use of Fairfax County’s good credit in a time of economic weakness. We should reconsider this when the economy is stronger.
Parks and Park Facilities Bonds
This bond referendum would allow the Fairfax County government to borrow up to 75 million dollars for parks and park facilities. 65 million dollars would go to the Fairfax County Park Authority and the remaining 10 million dollars would go to the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority. These funds would allow the two authorities to acquire new land for parks, as well as repair and renovate existing facilities including athletic fields, trails, and so on. It would also supplement the 1998 park bond program.
I endorse a NO vote on the Parks and Park Facilities Bond referendum. Let me put this referendum in perspective: The Fairfax County Park Authority manages 388 parks on 22,908 acres of land. I am all for parks—parks are great—but it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to expand an already-massive local park system at this time. It is much more important to maintain the parks that we have, but it’s not 75 million dollars important either way. Existing parks should be funded through the existing tax system, not by incurring large, long-term public debts.
Transportation Improvements and Facilities Bonds
This bond referendum would allow the Fairfax County government to borrow up to 165 million dollars for transportation improvements. 110 million dollars would go to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA, ‘Metro’) capital improvement program to purchase new rail cars and busses and rehabilitate existing equipment, 50 million dollars would go to the Board of Supervisors Four-Year Transportation Plan for major and minor road and intersection improvements in the county, and 5 million dollars would go to pedestrian enhancements.
I reluctantly endorse a YES vote on the Transportation Improvements and Facilities Bond referendum. I don’t want Fairfax County to incur an additional 165 million dollar debt at this time, but the transportation situation in northern Virginia is getting out of hand. The state spends (per-capita) a disproportionate amount of its road-and-rail money in low-population regions of central and southern Virginia, and the voters here shortsightedly voted down a regional sales tax increase in 2002 that would have easily closed the gap (raising an estimated 5 billion dollars in all).
I think that 110 million dollars for the grossly mismanaged Metro system is far too much, especially when compared to the piddly 50 million dollars for road improvements. Further, any money going to the flailing, increasingly lethargic, horribly out-of-touch WMATA should come with some heavy strings attached—ie., that they get their act together, trim their expenses, and improve the price/quality ratio drastically. But I would rather give Metro too much than give the roads nothing at all. Fairfax County needs that money, and its worth incurring a long-term debt to finally get some of these improvements done.
(Click for more information about the above four bond referendums [no longer available].)