Arlene Krieger and John Mooney, the two candidates in the race for the North Point seat on the Reston Association Board of Directors, made their cases Wednesday during a candidate forum at the Lake House.
The venue itself was a major topic of discussion during the event. The Lake House has been the subject of a great deal of community debate since its controversial purchase and costly renovation by Reston Association.
Krieger, a longtime community activist, said Reston Association’s board should have recognized from the start that it lacked the expertise to make such a deal.
“It is very, very foolish to initiate a plan when you have no idea what you’re doing and you don’t even know that you have no idea what you’re doing,” she said. “This thing should never have been taken on by this particular group of people. We need to recruit from the community experts who know what they’re doing, [and] we need to include them from the first day anything is planned.”
Mooney, a senior manager in Arlington County for 17 years, said major deals such as the Lake House purchase require an ability to do proper analysis from the get-go.
“[It’s about] making sure that we have the analytic capacity within Reston Association to deal with complex issues, to do upfront, thorough investigation of the issues so that we don’t make false starts and big mistakes,” he said. “We need that both for the renovations and the programming for income, we need advice on both of those.”
Mooney made similar statements when asked about the Lake Newport soccer field renovation project, which has been tabled indefinitely by the RA board after strong outcry from the community.
“When a community process becomes very divisive, so that fruitful dialogue can’t occur, the board needs to decisively and quickly stop the process,” he said. “We need careful and thorough analysis of complex proposals before endorsing them. … I think that could have been analyzed better, and to me it indicates an improvement the Association can make.”
Krieger said the community has “totally and completely made up its mind” on the soccer project, and RA stumbled out of the starting blocks by not including them in the discussion from Day One.
“The mistake Reston Association made again is that they started a project 10 months before the community and the affected parties knew about the project,” she said. “They once again underestimated the power of the community, and that’s why they got themselves again in so much trouble.”
Krieger said the community should always be involved from the outset of a project, and that she would work to create an ad hoc telecommunications committee in the attempt to better that communication. While Mooney agreed that community dialogue is important, he said it’s also important to remember that some projects need to be vetted before involving residents.
“[The community wants] the board to winnow issues down, to structure issues, so the community doesn’t waste time,” he said. “Then you engage the community fruitfully, otherwise the community becomes frustrated and will walk away from the whole process.”
Both Krieger and Mooney have been involved in the fight against redevelopment at St. Johns Wood, though that was a source of disagreement for them in Wednesday’s forum. Mooney cited his work on a critical analysis of the proposal that helped bring it to a stop; Krieger, though, said Mooney didn’t do as much as he claims.
“The reports were a composite of everyone else’s research,” she said. “The only original thing that John did [was when] I assigned John to do a traffic study at the Sept. 14 meeting. I figured out how to get this before the Board of Directors, nobody else could figure that out.”
Mooney said he was “astounded” by Krieger’s claims.
“What I did was not a composite of other people’s work,” he said. “It was the result of 80 hours-plus of careful analysis of the Reston Master Plan and the Fairfax County Comprehensive Plan and identifying in very particular, quantified ways how this did not comply with the Reston Master Plan.”
The candidates also answered questions on assessment rates, transparency, potential golf course redevelopment and more. The forum can be viewed in full on the Reston Association YouTube channel.
The candidate who wins the race will serve the remaining two years of a term being vacated by Dannielle LaRosa, who announced in December she would step down. Voting will continue through April 3.
Candidate forums in the races for the Hunters Woods/Dogwood District and an At-Large seat will take place tonight, at 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. respectively, at RA Headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).