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Mount Vernon District Town Hall: A Public Service

Observations from Saturday's Mount Vernon Town Hall Meeting.

I just got back from Supervisor Gerry Hyland’s 25th Annual Town Meeting at Mount Vernon High School. The meeting started at about 9:15, but for an hour or so before that, you can visit the 30 vendors with tables displaying their wares. The Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce, the Park Authority, INOVA Hospital, George Mason University, etc., all have tables so it’s a great opportunity to learn more about what resources we have in Mount Vernon.

Then, at 9:15 we listened to several speakers: County Chairwoman Sharon Bulova, Congressman Gerry Connolly and County Executive Tony Griffin all give updates.  The interesting tidbit that Mr. Griffin shared was that he will be proposing a budget to the Board of Supervisors that maintains the current tax rate (which means if your assessment goes up, you’ll pay more taxes). He also will recommend that the county give a little more money to the school system. 

After the speeches, Gerry Hyland did his popular “Bus Tour,” where he simulates being on a bus going up and down Richmond Highway (by the way, he asks that everyone not refer to it anymore as “Route One”). This “tour” provides an update on all the development in the area. So, the audience learned that the new Costco will be completed by the Spring of 2013, the new Mulligan Road that will lead us all to the new Wegman’s will be done by September 2013, and that the Gum Springs community is adamantly opposed to a new Transit Center at the corner of Boswell and Route One, uh, excuse me, Richmond Highway. We also learn that they want to put a new turf field in at Grist Mill Park. Lots of good info. The “tour” will be available on the Supervisor’s website in a short while. It’s worth a look. 

Now that I’ve done my “reporting” thing, I must now make a few observations: 

I’m sorry but can’t folks stay off their friggin' cell phones and give the speakers their full attention?  What is so vital to know on a Saturday morning?  Do you really need to get an update on your son’s soccer game or your daughter’s dance class?  And this goes for the speakers on the dais. Yep, one of the speakers actually had his head down during most of the presentations, looking into his lap. Now, sure, he may have just been fascinated with a bug crawling on the floor but I think his bobbing elbows gave it all away.

In future meetings, give everyone a name tag. This is the meeting that most of the movers and shakers come to but many have yet to put a face to a name.  Gerry’s staff might be interested in meeting (or running away from) a constituent who they may have been talking to over the phone for weeks.  It’s just a nice, social thing to do.

He would never say anything, but I think it was insulting to have Dan Storck, our school board representative, as the last speaker – even after the bus tour.  If there is a topic that is more important than education, I’m open to suggestions.  But, after the bus tour, half the room empties out and the ones that are left are too preoccupied with lining up to the microphones to get ready to hear themselves talk. Dan deserves better.

A shout-out to the MVHS Academic Boosters Corp for getting to Starbucks at the crack of dawn to have coffee for the attendees. And thanks for the low fat donuts!  And good decision on charging for the breakfast. For too many years, I watched in horror as too many people just took the coffee and food and never made the suggested donations.    

Anyway, it was a useful event and Gerry and his staff should be commended for doing this year after year.  It’s a great public service – it's just too bad that most of the public does not attend.   

m.tracy February 12, 2012 at 04:27 PM
according to the fine print in today's wash post story on the Supervisors' retreat (c.4), , it would appear that the Board is intent on making it even more difficult for residents to weigh in on land use deals in the future (and even now too much seems to go on under the radar). paul revere, where are you??
Wildermann February 12, 2012 at 05:28 PM
Aaah, those pesky citizens interfering with progress. So to whom are the Supervisors accountable? The citizens that elect them and mistakenly believe the Supervisors work for them or do they work in the interest of the primary donors to their campaigns? VPAP or the Virginia Public Access Project does a great job tracing the money in the campaigns of VA pols. Developers, real estate businesses and ancillary businesses connected to real estate and business are the biggest campaign money boosters in local election contests aside from political party contributions. The evidence shows clearly who is in the development drivers seat. I believe that we simply have at the local level a microcosm of the same phenomena that is corrupting our national politics. Richmond highway needs leadership that unifies the neighborhoods and communities along the corridor not finger pointing or assigning blame by demonizing citizens for having the sense of community to say we welcome your desire to do development in our neighborhood, won't you please come to the table with us and together decide what works best for all of us. Leadership should be about moderating the interests of both sides and using county staff and agencies to offer guidance and resources to smooth out the bumps and come to a consensus. In my view under the radar tinkering with Kings Xing undermined efforts by SFDC resulting in a number of people in executive positions just leaving out of frustration.
m.tracy February 12, 2012 at 08:23 PM
with respect to comparing rte 1 with arlington, the development there occurred along the subway line. don't see an extension happening here before hell freezes over, if at all, though it seems the developers believe otherwise.
Wildermann February 12, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Understood and a critical point. Transportation issues must be addressed first. Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smart Growth has brought this very point before Mount Vernon and Lee District citizens and communities along the corridor at several forums. It could happen here the same as in Tysons to Dulles but given the development history of the county and the outright attention deficit disorder by Fairfax County towards Richmond Highway, highly unlikely. Without a unifying plan beginning with transportation focusing on historical and natural resource assets linked to commerce on the corridor the best that will happen is a continued proliferation of automobile dependent strip shopping centers, fast food eateries, and an abundance of new motels to match the number of drug stores. Current projects do not bode well for the environment in terms of water and air quality nor do they offer a change in opportunity for economic prosperity for the large number of Richmond Highway residents on public assistance and in rent subsidized housing. Retail clerks and motel housekeeping jobs are not living wage jobs. Pedestrian friendly, mixed use community business centers supported by surrounding communities have a nice ring but still seem out of touch with the reality citizens face given the continued hodge-podge development patterns masquerading as revitalization.
Will Radle February 13, 2012 at 12:09 AM
I bring a new approach. As a public servant bringing decades of service on state, regional and local public committees as well as nonprofit boards, I work to create a culture of listening and deliver the solutions our community needs. Developing roads, rails and lines in Northern Virginia is clearly in the best interests of our nation and our community. We need advocates who are not merely controversial benchwarmers. Our plan for positive action remains avaliable for your review on www.VA8.com. Thank you. A. Will Radle, Jr. www.VA8.com

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