Op-Ed: Your Vote Matters for Reston Association

Colin Mills/File photoThis is an op-ed from Reston resident Colin Mills. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

It seems like you can’t open your computer or turn on your TV these days without hearing about this year’s presidential election. If you follow the news at all, you’ve been bombarded with stories about the candidates and their plans for the country.

But there’s another election going on right now, one that has a direct impact on our community, and you’ve probably barely heard about it at all. I’m referring to the Reston Association Board of Directors’ election taking place this month.

They say that decisions are made by the people who show up. And when it comes to deciding who’s on the RA board, far too few Restonians are showing up with their vote.

Even though the ballot and electronic information are mailed or emailed right to you, and even though voting online or by mail takes just a couple of minutes, turnout in these elections usually hovers in the 15-percent to 20-percent range.

It seems that a lot of Restonians don’t know about the election or think it’s important enough to vote. That’s a shame, because who represents us on the RA board matters a great deal to the future of our community.

There are countless ways in which the RA board affects the future of Reston, but today I’ll focus on one: the development and redevelopment of our community.

For better or for worse, Reston is changing. The Silver Line is a reality now, and every time you drive past the Wiehle-Reston East station or over by the Reston International Center, you can see that change is underway.

The new development sparked by the Silver Line will bring a lot of opportunities and challenges here in Reston. On the positive side, it will bring new jobs, an influx of younger residents, and exciting new shops and restaurants. On the other hand, it will also bring more traffic, more pollution, and more demands on our facilities, our infrastructure, our open space.

How are we going to ensure that the new development is consistent with founder Bob Simon’s vision? How are we going to ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of our bigger, more urban, more connected community without losing the qualities that make Reston special? Who is going to represent us, the citizens, with the developers and local government to make sure that our interests are considering during all this change? The RA board, that’s who.

In recent years, RA has really stepped up its game. They recognized how important this development and redevelopment is to Reston’s future. They’ve worked hard to strengthen their relationships with the development community and with our elected officials in order to make sure Reston’s citizens have a seat at the table when redevelopment proposals are considered. They’ve gotten better informed about the changes coming to our community, so that they can make sure Restonians stay informed as well.

Let’s not kid ourselves: the issues surrounding redevelopment and the challenges we have to address as a community aren’t easy. We’re going to have to work hard to protect our open space, our environmental resources and our natural beauty.

We’re going to have to get creative to provide recreational facilities for our new residents while dealing with the reality that money and land aren’t limitless.

We’re going to have to find a way to maintain, refresh, and renew our aging infrastructure without driving assessments through the roof. We’re going to have to adapt the principles of Reston to meet the realities of the next 50 years.

If we’re going to do all this, it’s going to take a lot of hard work. It’s going to take smart, dedicated, principled, and capable people representing us on the RA board and its committees. And the only way we’re going to make sure we have a Board that truly represents the community is if we take the time to vote.

So when you receive that election packet in the mail or in your inbox, don’t toss it in the trash. Take a few minutes and read it. Take the time to learn about the candidates and their plans for the community’s future. And then cast your vote.

If you’re feeling election fatigue these days, I don’t blame you. But this is one election that requires your attention, and your vote. The future of our community depends on it.

Colin Mills/file photo

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