Tag Archives: Janet Clark

IS SMART GROWTH STILL AN ISSUE?

[Promoted by Liz. I'd like to see where this discussion goes. I also edited it so that the links work. And I added a link to Burton's opponent]

We may believe that “money can’t buy you love” or possibly even happiness (although more are beginning to doubt this), but we obviously do believe it can buy you an election. So much so, in fact, that campaign effectiveness is often judged almost solely on who has raised the most money in the shortest amount of time. Is that true? Should we just add up the total amount raised and declare the winners without going through all the bother of stuffing envelopes, “dialing” phones, and knocking on doors in 100 degree weather? (Receipents of those annoying robocalls are probably shouting “yes!” at this point.)

Maybe. Maybe not.

Large contributions do convey a message: In the Blue Ridge District of Loudoun, the Republican challenger had not only raised $44,730 as of June 30 (including in-kind donations), but had already spent $34,300 of it. www.loudoun.gov/Default.aspx?tabid=344&fmpath=/Electoral%20Board/2011%20Campaign%20Finance%20Reports. She obviously must be expecting much more to come in; November is still a long way off. Almost all of these contributions are from real estate developers, brokers, agents, builders, contractors, financial management, attorneys and insurance — many of whom are located outside the District: (There is one Round Hill contributor listed as “farmer,” but when I looked up the name and address, an entity appeared on the web as “Financial Management Services.”) Three donors are from outside the County: Herndon, VA, Alexandria, VA, and Catonsville, MD.

This clearly represents a full frontal attack on the current zoning of western Loudoun. More housing development, strip malls, chain stores, office buildings and traffic. Is that what you want?

We have over 30 million square feet of industrial and office space approved by the county and waiting to be constructed now, in addition to the 14% vacancy rate of existing buildings. A “no holds barred” approach to unfettered growth could likely result in more stalled commercial projects surrounded by houses which will be sold on the promise of a tranquil life in (rapidly disappearing) rural Loudoun. After which it will be even harder to convince businesses to fill the vacant buildings, considering our biggest draw is the beauty that surrounds us. So, the commerce we actually get may very well come in the form of fast food, strip malls and big box stores to service a sprawling residential demographic that works in Tysons Corner.

Are you really ready to give up the idea of Smart Growth? (Drive slowly by Rt. 15 N in the vicinity of WalMart and Target before you answer.)

Although outside money IS intent on buying access to the open space, if you disagree with this goal, you don’t need to dispair of being able to defeat that intention since the conventional wisdom about elections being all about money is not necessarily true: I noted with interest that in the Leesburg Town elections last year, Mayor Kristen Umstattd was re-elected even though she spent far less than other candidates during her campaign (approximately $2.60 per vote received compared to challenger Dunn’s $5.50.). Similarly Councilman Kevin Wright’s tally calculated at only $3.75 each, while Reid spent a whopping $7.00. Winning does not always require heavy fund raising and expenditures; it can be done with experienced name recognition and a history of trusted service.

The incumbant, Jim Burton (I) has a 16-year history on the Board of Supervisors as a strong supporter of Smart Growth and the county’s Comprehensive Plan. Contrary to the other Blue Ridge candidate, all of the donors on his recent financial report actually live in the Blue Ridge District that he represents.

Why did you move here? Why do you stay? This year’s elections, possibly more than any other, will determine the future shape of Loudoun County. The choice is between quick speculative profits for outside development firms — or sustainable economic development for a diversified area. It’s time to pick a side and make a stand.