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South Lakes District Candidates Tackle Future Challenges in Election Forum

by Fatimah Waseem February 28, 2018 at 1:00 pm 62 Comments

Tammi Petrine, a community advocate, challenged current director Julie Bitzer for her South Lakes District seat at a Reston Association candidate forum Tuesday night.

Critical decisions regarding public amenities took center stage at the forum, including whether or not to close Shadowood Pool – the most underutilized pool in Reston – and the Lake Thoreau Pool – which requires nearly $1 million in repairs.

Petrine said she would need to gather more information and conduct a stakeholder analysis by speaking with residents before reaching a final decision. She also stated the need to issue multiple bids for projects to ensure RA gets the best deal for services.

“The pools are an amenity that people in Reston expect. At the same time, we have to analyze carefully how they’re used and why or why not they’re not used,” Petrine said.

Bitzer said the board will have to decide whether or not to keep Lake Thoreau’s pool open next year, although she noted that residents she spoke with want to keep the pool open. She also plans to propose a measure to conduct a needs analysis of Reston’s pools.

As RA struggles to strike a balance between capital spending priorities like indoor tennis and soccer, Bitzer said the community should look into public-private partnerships like installing a tennis academy at Hidden Creek Country Club with special benefits for RA members.

In contrast, Petrine took a hard stance against funding indoor tennis for what she said was a “small demographic” and a mere “commercial activity,” especially because the community is “fighting for our lives with density” and aging infrastructure.

“An absolute no,” she said.

Frustrations on limited county resources, including the beleaguered call for a recreation center, for Reston were high at the forum. Petrine said she is “100 percent furious” that the Hunter Mill District is left out of the county.

Similar concerns arose in the candidates’ discussion around a controversial plan to increase Reston’s population density as major developments come in the pipeline.

“My gut reaction is: where is the infrastructure you promised me when you put in the Metro?” Bitzer questioned. She said she opposes the population density increase and was appalled about Reston’s lack of workforce housing.

Petrine, who has been instrumental in organizing the Coalition for a Planned Reston, a grassroots organization opposing the plans, said she has taken steps to fight back against the plans “in defense of our balanced community.” She encouraged community members to raise their voice in opposition, noting her experience in observing the intersection between RA and other stakeholders.

“The only thing that matters to our supervisor is mass agreement by citizens that this is not what we want in Reston,” she said.

Both candidates took similar stances on the need to utilize the Lake House. Bitzer suggested adding programming for aquatics and fishing education, similar to the Walker Nature Center.

“Not everything should cost you to use something you own,” she said.

They also posed similar ideas on how to ensure the board operates as an effective and respectful governing body.

Bitzer said holding “open houses” was a sign of respect. “It’s respectful of our community, not just board behavior,” she said.

Petrine is running on a slate with Travis Johnson, Sridhar Ganesan and John Bowman. When asked if it offered her an unfair advantage, she defended the move, which she said was logical given the candidates’ shared views, common goals and commitment to Reston’s core principles.

Bitzer, who described herself as self-funded candidate, said the issue of slate candidates is a fairly new development that has prompted questions by community members. Unlike the slate candidates who sent mailings to constituents, Bitzer said she could not afford major print distributions.

Instead, she will host a public listening session on March 13 at the Walker Nature House.

Click here to view video statements or read candidate statements. Profiles on Petrine and Bitzer are also on our website.

Photo by Reston Association

  • MakeRestonBetter

    Frustrations on limited county resources, including the beleaguered call for a recreation center, for Reston were high at the forum. Petrine said she is “100 percent furious” that the Hunter Mill District is left out of the county, while Bitzer said.

    While Bitzer said … what?

    She said she opposes the population density increase and was appalled about the Reston’s lack of workforce housing.

    “the” Reston?

    Unlike the slate candidates who sent mailings to constituents, Bitzer said could not afford major print distributions.

    Bitzer said “she” ….

    This article has some editing problems.

    • Mike M

      Too busy censoring my best pieces. Very Third Worldish. Frustrating to see the decline.

      • Mike M

        Poor editing is equivalent to authoritarian regimes.

        • Mike M

          No censorship, fake and less intelligent Mike M. But you were supposed to be censored for your false identity, and you have not been.

    • Greg

      Lack of workforce housing? There’s more in Reston (and much more on the way) than anywhere else in Fairfax County.

  • Mike M

    Bitzer seems to be part of a fundamentally disconnected set. She seems part of the bigger old RA problem – incapable of seeing the need to take care of what we have, while always thinking of odd new ways to squander our dues for their special friends, it seems. Petrine seems to share many of the concerns I have and have seen expressed in here. Between the two? Petrine for me.

    • Drip

      I agree. Bitzer represents the same old RA where it views the RA akin to local government instead of a homeowners association.

      • dudewe

        Bitzer was unqualified when she ran the first time and learned very little on the job. She does not deserve a second chance.

  • Mister Magoo

    My vote is not for Iris Apfel

  • World Peace next

    I think this race is so close it cannot be possibly resolved in an election forum, I would suggest we establish leadership in a specially held roller derby open to RA members only (must be in good standing, “paid”).

    • John Higgins

      The visual of your suggestion is priceless.

  • Sam In Reston

    Oh come on! Bitzer danced circles around Patrine! It wasn’t even close! Tammie sounded befuddled!

    • John Higgins

      That wasn’t my take. Ms. Petrine was refreshingly candid as a challenger in telling us that she didn’t have information deep in the weeds on certain matters – rather than bluffing or providing an answer to a question not asked. You might question her stance on certain issues (maybe all) or dislike her approaches, but no one should devalue the depth of her knowledge regarding Reston matters in which she has been involved.

      Among all the people and organizations who talk the talk on confronting development, only Ms. Petrine stood in the county’s board room to urge the Planning Commission to not approve the Kensington proposal. Thank you Tammi.

      • Walter James

        John- that you have been part of the “Kitchen Cabinet” with Tammie is not hard to imagine. I’m surprised that after all your years of service you’re so interested in dismantling Reston. If the group of 4 succeeds they’ll have a super majority that for a year will give them pretty free range to do what they please, and that will be a damn shame.

        • John Higgins

          I’m proud to call myself a snoot. Words matter. So, you are correct to imagine such an association with Tammi. But it is imagined. From other comments I posted in RestonNow complimentary to Ms. Blitzer and distainful of half-baked theories about Tetra, some might believe quite the opposite.

          I don’t think campaigns for the RA bought have to be, or should be, attacks on one another. Give everyone their due, accentuate the positive, and let opinions form based on fact rather than slanted opinions.

          I happen to agree with your concluding premise. The RA is served best when there are independent voices at the table. It’s not guaranteed that those who team up for a campaign will fall in line if elected. The question we might pose (with no expectation of an answer) is: did these individuals decide to run and then team up, or were they encouraged to run for the purpose of building a solid block?

          What’s interesting is that team formation might hurt them more than help. They saved money and effort, but in the process they introduce an additional element – with more negatives than positives.

          • Bernie Supporter

            Wish I could believe the “more negative than positives” thought but the finances make it difficult to buy that. Pooling resources, the gang of four have four times the resources available to them for mailings, door hangers, etc. For getting RA members to vote at all, this is a major (and unfair) advantage. I hope I’m wrong.

          • Arlene Krieger

            OK some truth here. Not only did the 4 team up but other members of the board are campaigning for them. This has become a Citizens United situation here in Reston. I would like to see all candidates disclose all campaign contributions from inside and outside the Board. This should include those who may have paid some of the campaign expenses directly and all in kind contributions. There should be an investigation. I am reminded of the attorney who paid off the gal directly who accused Trump of assaulting her. Is this legal or not. I don’t know?

          • Donald

            See all candidates “disclose all campaign contributions from inside and outside the board.”

            I like that idea, but I suspect our board will hide behind the old standby statement — “it’s not in our governing documents, so it’s not something we could do, or even enforce.”

            I say — this is an ethics issue, and it is something every board should sign up to, and enforce.

            Donald

          • John Higgins

            Interestingly, the suggestion of full disclosure was made by Ms. Thompson before she left the board. As others have pointed out, there is merit in requiring disclosure of non-member (e.g., developer) campaign funding. Personally, I would stop there. I think it would be chilling to legitimate supporters of the candidacy of members who don’t have the personal resources of their opponents. I see your point, as well. Perhaps the next board will take this up for discussion.

          • Donald

            Curious if this is in the Conflict of Interest document still being discussed. I’ll have to track down latest version.

            Donald

      • Arlene Krieger

        Are you kidding me. I was at every meeting she was at when the Kensington proposal was first introduced. She did nothing to stop it. And it’s in her own district. Wow! It was only a month or so ago when it went before the Planning Commission Board at Fairfax that she showed up. She knew she did nothing and could do nothing to stop it. Yet, maybe she showed up to look good and try and get votes. I really don’t know what that was all about. She has been active in Reston for years and managed to achieve NOTHING regarding over development except through her association with Rescue Reston and that group does not help any other group stop any kind of development. I personally asked her to help with Reclaim Reston way back at the beginning but she was hostile to the idea and said nothing could be done because the DRB already decided to go ahead with the project. Asked her about the Master Plan violations– she did not know what to say. This is what you get with all these people who have been around for way to long. They are so ingrained in the system that is broken that they will never really be able to move forward no matter what they say. Out side of the Golf Course what has she ever stopped from being developed. I’m happy to be corrected if I’m wrong. Sure she is with Reclaim Reston now, but so is everyone. Big deal! Tell me what has she done to stop all this building over the last 20 years? I’d be overjoyed to be wrong.

    • Arlene Krieger

      She had no idea what was going on in her own community. It was sad.

  • Arlene Krieger

    Bitzer clearly lives in South Lakes. She has a firm knowledge of the community and the issues.. Tammy answered that she would have to study the issue for almost every question asked I was thinking does she actually live in that community? She seemed ignorant. She offended every other candidate by not bothering to learn anything about the people she is trying to represent. All that money pooled by the Gang of Four does not make us for basic knowledge.

    • Snakeden Sam

      Stop it. Bitzer had no idea about the sad condition of the Soapstone Convenience Center which is smack in the middle of her district and has been the subject of multiple covenants complaints with little enforcement by RA staff and even less remediation by the absentee owner.

      • Greg

        But it was part of Bob Simon’s plan!

      • Arlene Krieger

        She sure did. She said she had been there recently and there seemed to be some improvement by the owner. She did not say that more improvement was not needed. But she knew exactly what she was talking about.

        • Are you

          No thanks to her. RA staff made that happen. Nothing worse than a Board member taking credit for the work staff has done. DISGUISTING

          • Greg

            Really? And how long has “RA staff” been aware of the covenants issues?

            The “RA staff” have ignored many covenants violations and do so regularly, even when informed — informally and through a formal written complaint.

  • Bernie Supporter

    Both these women seemed competent. However, the tie breaker for me in the 4-For “slate” …backed by current members of the board. For me this is setting up a built in majority on votes with no room for serious debate. I like Tammi. And I hope she will continue to lead the Coalition for a Planned Reston. But I just can’t — and won’t — vote for a slate of candidates. (And for those who say you don’t have to vote for all four, they’re all running independently — you’re right, of course — but it troubles me that this is what they WANT going in the door. Sorry, Tammi. I can’t go there with you.

    • Snakeden Sam

      Nonsense.

      If you actually bother to watch a RA Board meeting, you’ll see plenty of disagreement among Ganesan, Carr, Bowman and the others. The difference from prior board is that this group disgrees respectfully and persuasively and work to a consensus openly during the meeting with input from the members in real time and without the bloviating, downshouting or filabustering that happened before Bowman joined.

      Tetra was a product of groupthink. That wouldn’t happen with this Board and the 4 for Reston.

      • Greg

        Tetra was a product of fraud and conspiracy, wasn’t it?

        • cRAzy

          More like stupidity and irresponsibility.

          • Tetra Troll

            How about both: fraud and conspiracy on the part of the active proponents and stupidity and irresponsibility on the part of those who passively went along?

      • Bernie Supporter

        Nonsense indeed. I do better than watch a RA Board meeting. I show up for them. And the best example of groupthink between the people you cite was the meeting over the boat/dock issue — where every single board member said that they should grandfather the member’s boat/dock in because the problem only came up upon repurchase. Well, after articulating how stupid it would be not to use common sense, one genius on the board said, “Nope, rules are rules.” And faster than you could snap your fingers, the board voted this member down. And if that ain’t GroupThink I don’t know what is. I don’t give a flying — if RA Board members treat each other respectfully. I care that they treat RA MEMBERS with respect. Go vote for the “slate”. Allow Bowman to continue to treat RA members with the same disrespect and contempt that he displayed last night at his debate. Nonsense indeed.

        • Snakeden Sam

          So they took your or your friends illegal boat away.

          The scene described isn’t an example group think but rather persuasion by one member of their colleagues. An other than the outcome, your complaint is what?

          • John Higgins

            Have to agree, Sam. “Groupthink” (seeking harmony rather than individual input) is an ever-present danger on boards and there are better examples in RA than this one.

          • Tetra Troll

            Like Tetra

          • John Higgins

            Yes, Tetra is an outstanding example. I bet you have a dozen more.

          • Bernie Supporter

            Snakeden, had this been persuasion of the group by one of their members, I would agree with you. I wouldn’t have a complaint. But I was there and that’s not what I heard and saw. What I saw was the entire board agree that what it was stupid NOT to grandfather this guy in. This included he guy who called for the “no” vote. There was no persuasion. If there had been, I could respect that. But when the board announces that what they are about to do makes no sense, then I have to agree with them…

        • Frank

          “And if that ain’t GroupThink I don’t know what is.” It is clear that you do not know what it is. GroupThink is defined as, “the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.“ Snakeden Sam has it right. Tetra was a prime example of Groupthink.

          Your example of the boat owner is an example of someone who attempted to be a sneak. He knew what the rules were and was informed that he would not be grandfathered before he purchased the property and the boat. Instead of acting forthrightly and seeking an amendment to the rule, he quietly continued to use the boat, especially after he found out it would cost him $5,000 to modify the boat. Others before him had modified their boats. But he decided to wait it out, until he was found out. When he was, he drew the matter out as long as he could. Only after all of his other recourses were exhausted and he had lost at each step of the way, did he come before the board to seek an exception or modification to the rule. This person wanted to be treated differently from his neighbors. He did not want to accept the rules and did not want to challenge the rule up front. He wanted to use his boat for as long as he could without paying the cost of modification. For that reason alone, he deserved to have the rule enforced. He thumbed his nose at the rule and at the RA.

          The cost of modifying the rule is the cost of holding a referendum. A referendum of all property owners in Reston would mean a cost to the RA of approximately $50,000 to $75,000. So, he wanted the RA members to subsidize the allowance of the use of his boat by that amount, rather than pay for the modification himself. This is the height of egotism, someone who wants to shift costs of his enjoyment onto others who derive no enjoyment from that, except the joy of paying for it. If you have any doubts about what happened, go look at the recording of the board session in which this occurred. If you are going to claim something, get your facts straight.

          • Bernie Supporter

            Yup. I don’t now what group think is. But you’re the smartest guy in the room so you do. By the way, genius, a referendum of property owners was never on the table. Love how you mix relevant issues with straw dogs. Intellectual integrity. Classy.

          • John Higgins

            May I referee here? Around the table that night there was a developing general consensus that the rule on boat length seemed arbitrary. Discussion centered on what directors thought it should or could be. An interesting discussion, but somewhat a waste of time. Perhaps their desire to cut the member a break was itself “groupthink”. But in the end, regardless of what they thought, they had to come around to the question: do we (a) ignore the rule; (b) look for an accommodation for a member who was knowingly and intentionally in violation; or (c) do we enforce the rule?

            Since the maximum length of boats is stated with precision in the deed, the only way to change the rule is through referendum. That was brought up and discussed. As I recall, the board dodged that question with a suggestion that all provisions of the deed should be looked at from time to time to assure they are still relevant and desirable.

          • Bernie Supporter

            Your memory of the evening may be sharper than mine. I remember the long, waste-of-time discussion (based on what the board ultimately decided.) And I remember the a, b, c choices you cite. Don’t remember discussion about a referendum but that could just be my old age and a failing memory. But I buy what you’re saying.

      • Are you

        Amen!

    • cRAzy

      You don’t HAVE to vote for all four of them. Vote for the ones you think will help Reston the most, then vote for someone else to fill in the gaps.

      You’re really hung up on this “slate” thing.

      • Bernie Supporter

        It’s true. I am. But I feel so burned by lack of transparency from RA boards, and I still remember how, immediately after the last year’s winners were announced, that at least one of them tried to cut private deals to assume leadership positions on the board. With the 4-for crowd, they don’t even have to wait to be elected. I see them as making the board less transparent, not more, and given all the shenanigans, conflicts of interests, and groupthink I’ve already seen on the board in recent years, I just hate the idea of it being baked in. Also hate the idea that these four, by combining resources, can put out four times as many political marketing materials and try to buy the election. And I don’t mean that literally, as if paying someone off. I mean it as so many people don’t vote, and many of those who do are basing their decisions based on the flyers being handed out by their supermarkets or dropped off at their homes. Four times the resources is an incredible advantage. And I simply don’t trust people who know how to “work the system” better than others to get an unfair advantage. Because I think they’ll be looking out for themselves, not RA members, if they ever get the chance to serve.

        • Tetra Troll

          Please, get serious.

          Every April after the Board election, there’s lots of “backroom” negotiating among the new and continuing RA Board members over who will be elected to the officer positions.

          Apparently, your preferred candidate didn’t win their preferred officer slot last April? So of course, it must be the product of nefarious forces.

          That seems to be a theme with you. If you don’t get your way, it’s the product of illegally.

          Thanks for clearing that up.

          • Bernie Supporter

            I wouldn’t go as far as illegal. But I would go as far as immoral.
            Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clear that up for you.

          • John Higgins

            You raise an interesting point. To assure continuity of leadership, the RA by-laws require that officers be elected the day following the annual membership meeting, i.e., the day incumbent officers might all be off the board. It has always been the case that off-screen discussions and deals are struck in that 24-hour period (and often before.) That’s just a reality. But I’d point out that RA had one first term director elected president (Rick Beyer) and several first term directors as officers.

  • Jason Rubinstein

    “Bitzer said the community should look into public-private partnerships like installing a tennis academy at Hidden Creek Country Club with special benefits for RA members.”

    this is the most myopic idea i’ve heard in a long time.

    Petrine all the way

    • Greg

      She (Blitzer) doesn’t seem to get it that both RA and Hidden Creek are private entities. Or, that golfing and tennis are the last thing on the mind of Hidden Creek’s new owner.

      • John Higgins

        True, the term “public-private partnership” typically involves a gov’t entity. It’s also true that HCCC is private property, not open to the public (us). So, beyond the semantics, I’m liking the direction of Ms. Bitzer’s thinking. If RA-owned indoor tennis is not practical, maybe there is room for discussion with HCCC. They use RA’s water retention ponds – excuse me, lakes – for irrigation, so mutual agreements are not unheard of. Where they have excess capacity (ballroom, meeting rooms, non-member golf outings) they open their arms to “the public”, for a fee of course. My point is simply that we should be open to creative ideas that address issues raised by members.

        This response would have been more appropriate to Jason Rubinstein’s comment, but as he is not a resident within RA, I find it to be meddling in our election process. (Maybe there is a use for that special counsel after all.)

        • Greg

          Good suggestions all around, but time is of the essence. After all, HCCC’s new ownership appears headed in a very different direction.

          Nevertheless, there are many other public-private opportunities throughout Reston, including all aging pool and tennis assets.

          Also, don’t forget that Reston’s done public-private successfully with stream restoration — investments / savings north of of $67 million if some of the estimates are to be believed.

          http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2018/feb/14/independent-progressive-stream-restoration-big-mon/

          https://www.wetlands.com/nvsrb/

          • Snakeden Sam

            Actually RA got hosed on that deal.

            The $ millions WSSI made selling wetland mitigation credits far outweighs their puny costs expended fixing the streams.

          • Greg

            That’s good to know, too.

            Do you know who brokered the deals?

          • Snakeden Sam

            Dunno. Pretty sure Kathleen Driscoll was President when that deal went down.

          • John Higgins

            Love your use of “hosed” in relation to wetlands.

            RA began working with WSSI in 2000. The first formal agreement was in 2003, which I think was under President Smyers.

            It’s not clear how you see this as a bad deal for RA. WSSI did millions of dollars of stream restoration work at no cost to RA, and which RA could not conceivably have afforded on its own. If they made a princely profit, good for them, it was not at RA’s expense.

          • Snakeden Sam

            Because other landowners who entered into land banking arrangements with WSSI got their streams restored and shared in the profits that WSSI got from selling the mitigation credits.

            In any mitigation bank operation, the most expensive element is the cost of the land not the cost of the remediation. WSSI paid RA nothing for the use of its land.

          • John Higgins

            Sam, I may have it wrong, and please correct me if so, but my understanding is the exact opposite. WSSI’s funding of work in RA was from banked credits from other entities which could not do adequate remediation and therefore had to pay into the bank. Am I wrong?

          • Snakeden Sam

            Yup, you’re wrong. To sell the credits, WSSI had to have controll of the land; which they got from RA for free.

        • Jason Rubinstein

          my family are RA members, we own a home in Golf Course, thank you

          • John Higgins

            In that case, please accept my sincere apology. In an earlier posting you said that your address was 12001 Market Street; that would be RTC. I was careful to say “resident”, allowing for the possibility that you own a rental property in RA, but reside elsewhere.

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