Citizens of Fairfax County, Virginia will be voting in a special election on February 3, 2009, to choose a new Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Chairman Gerald “Gerry” Connolly (D), who was in his fourth term as a member of the Board and second term as Chairman, won election to the U.S. House of Representatives (VA-11th) in the November general election and left an open seat on the Board. Two County Supervisors—Sharon Bulova (D-Braddock) and Pat Herrity (R-Springfield)—are vying for the seat, joined by Carey Campbell (IG) and Christopher DeCarlo (I).
DeCarlo, running as an independent, apparently doesn’t really want anybody to vote for him. He has no campaign web site, and it’s effectively impossible to find out what he believes about anything.
Campbell, on the other hand, is running under the ever-familiar ‘Independent Green’ banner that has become a laughable staple of our local political scene. Standing for building rail, balancing the budget, and apparently nothing else, it’s easy to dismiss anybody with an ‘IG’ after their name. Campbell falls cleanly into the same mold past IG candidates fell into—a repeated mantra of rail and balanced budget with few, if any, ideas on how to achieve those goals. The silence about illegal immigration, property rights, schools, public safety, ‘smart growth’, WMATA/Metro mismanagement, and more is deafening.
Democratic candidate Sharon Bulova is the ordained successor to Connolly—a candidate who has stood with Connolly, voted with him, and acted as his Vice Chair over the last five years. She promises to keep Fairfax County on the same path it is on today and ‘keep [the] good things going.’ She has received endorsements from outgoing Chairman Connolly, incoming Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), and Governor Tim Kaine (D-VA). Clearly, the best way to judge Bulova’s candidacy is to judge Connolly’s leadership over the past few years and determine if the current course of the Fairfax County government is one we should continue following.
When I endorsed Gerry Connolly for re-election to this seat in 2007, I pointed out many of the same points Bulova’s campaign points out today: the county has kept its budget balanced, maintained its AAA bond rating (the highest possible), maintained a fairly low crime rate, and finally managed to get some dollars (though not enough of them) from Richmond for transportation improvements. I did, however, make my endorsement with a few caveats:
. . . in the coming four years, the Board must do much more to fight illegal immigration (since the federal government steadfastly refuses to solve the problem), must further control the county budget and reduce property taxes, must continue to pressure Richmond for more transportation dollars, and must try to encourage controlled, rational growth without trampling the rights of property owners.
So what has happened since then?
Fairfax County has made no effort whatsoever to control the social ills and increased crime brought into our county by illegal immigration and the federal government’s failure to enforce immigration law. Property taxes—the primary source of income for the county—remain high in the face of a housing crisis and economic downturn, exacerbating the problem. The county’s exorbitant spending, unchanged despite the downturn, has resulted in an estimated 650 million dollar budget shortfall. Richmond continues to grossly underfund our transportation infrastructure, and the county has made little effort to act independently on this critical issue.
Now is not the time for Fairfax County to ‘stay the course’; now is the time for a correction.
Herrity, the Republican candidate, is the son of former Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Jack Herrity (R) who led the county from 1975 to 1988. Over that time, Fairfax grew from a rural farm county to a bustling suburb of Washington, DC. The government made appropriate investments in the transportation infrastructure and other public services, but maintained a low tax burden on private citizens by continually attracting businesses to the region and maintaining an almost-30 percent commercial tax base. More than half of the cost of transportation improvements were funded by local and private sector sources, without reliance on the state or federal governments.
Since then, the county has led itself astray. Property taxes on private citizens have doubled in the last seven years. The commercial tax base has fallen to under 20 percent, increasing the burden on homeowners. Illegal immigrants—people who have little or no respect for the law—have swarmed the area un-checked, driving an increase in crime and a decrease in property values. In the absence of state and federal funding for badly-needed transportation improvements, the Board of Supervisors simply abdicated their responsibility and allowed us to fall dangerously behind the curve.
Herrity proposes to embark upon a concerted effort to fix many of these major errors in county leadership as quickly as possible. With a business and financial background, Herrity’s first priority will be to rein-in the county’s fiscal policies. Wasteful spending—on county housing and housing subsidies for people making six-figure salaries; on efforts to buy or build a multi-million dollar school administration building for our bloated, mismanaged, over-funded school system; and more—needs to stop. Herrity intends to stop it, and do so without misguided tax increases.
Herrity also has a long record as a transportation activist, and is exactly what we need to start fixing our transportation mess. Herrity pressed the Virginia Dept. of Transportation (VDOT) to implement positive, short-term solutions on the I-66 corridor, including longer hours for the ‘shoulder lanes’ and efforts currently in-progress to open those ‘shoulder lanes’ on weekends (when they are currently closed, creating a major, pointless bottleneck). He is also pressing hard for major interchange improvements to occur now, rather than later, at key intersections like Fairfax County Parkway and Fair Lakes Parkway. He has been an advocate for improvements to traffic light timing—an easy, inexpensive solution for many of the most frustrating back-ups that the county government has largely ignored.
Best of all, he wants to use the county’s own budget to fund many of these important efforts (in the absence of any help from Richmond) by re-routing money from failed, pointless projects—including many projects that Bulova has supported. Transportation improvements must be a county priority since the state government in Richmond has failed to live up to its responsibilities; only Herrity seems to understand that.
Herrity is wrong on so-called ‘HOT lanes’—a horrible combination of HOV lanes with toll roads—and has been too quiet on the issue of illegal immigration, though he rightfully states that we need to work harder to keep crime rates down. If elected, Herrity must eliminate the thriving illegal immigrant community in Fairfax County—one that has brought with it crime, depressed property values, and a lessened respect for the rule of law—while encouraging and supporting communities of law-abiding immigrants that contribute so much to the region.
All-in-all though, Herrity is the right man to lead Fairfax County. He proposes a rational, conservative agenda of restrained spending, setting and sticking-to meaningful priorities, keeping private taxes low, and tackling the biggest problem effecting our region—transportation—rather than avoiding it as Bulova and Connolly have. With these and other issues carefully considered, I proudly endorse Pat Herrity for Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.