Op-Ed: Your RA Vote Matters

This is an op-ed by Lake Anne resident John Lovaas.

By the time you read this, your ballot for the 2015 Reston Association Board election has arrived. It’s easy to vote, with a maximum of three blocks to check.

Does it matter? I think it does. RA Board decisions affect us all. While staff generally is solid, there are questions about the leadership. Recently, questions have surfaced about transparency, internal communications, and ethics, for example.

In December 2013,  leadership and members of the Environmental Advisory Committee resigned to protest board leadership’s secretive and questionable handling of the Lake Anne “land swap.”

Later, I learned board members were filing incomplete financial disclosure forms — but, no one even bothered to review them until a homeowner made a FOIA request and saw them. It took months to get missing information partially completed.

The flow of information is so tightly controlled internally that Board members cannot answer constituent questions by simply picking up the phone and asking RA staff for needed information. Every communication must be channeled through the CEO, where bottlenecks occur and responses are delayed.

Change does not come easily. New blood may help.

Those in the South Lakes district get to select one director, and North Pointers will select a one-year director to complete a term. Unfortunately, there is no competition for the At-Large seats.

The two candidates are Michael Sanio, a sustainability consultant running for re-election, and Ray Wedell, a Reston realtor. To his credit, Mr. Sanio initially voted against the land giveaway; but, he then voted to block a new procedure to prevent a recurrence and voted no to an independent ethics panel. Mr. Wedell is new, says he wants to protect open space and “spruce up clusters,”  in part by creating a “Reston Infrastructure Bank” to offer interest-free loans to clusters for maintenance and repair.

In the North Point race, there are two candidates for a one-year vacancy. Dannielle La Rosa is an accountant and former PTA President. She has served eight months as an appointee. Hopefully, she would be an independent voice on the Board. Her opponent is Charles Dorfeuille, who is refreshingly young with a bundle of ideas for programs to serve teens and younger residents. Very slight edge here to Mr. Dorfeuille.

The South Lakes race, with three candidates, is where the action is.  Incumbent Richard Chew will have to overcome neighbors upset over a bocce ball court he pushed. And, he voted for the land swap. Andy Sigle, a former At-Large Board member defeated in a 2014 re-election bid, also voted for the land giveaway, and is hard to pin down on issue stances.

My pick in South Lakes is first-time candidate Julie Bitzer, a landscape designer and active outdoors person. She is articulate, a committed environmentalist, and ready to ask hard questions. She opposed the land swap; and supports transparency, a strong code of conduct, and a more rigorous budget review process.

As winter ends, I nominate the RA Snow Removal team for the Oscar.

February was the coldest, and nearly the snowiest I can remember. Yet, the RA staff again cleared pathways we so enjoy as part of Reston living almost before the snow stopped falling — every time! Thanks to these folks, we’ve been able to enjoy our winter wonderland. Hats off to all the men and women who made it possible!

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