Voting in the 2018 Reston Association Board of Directors election will run from March 5 through April 2. This week, we will continue posting profiles on each of the candidates. This is the last of those profiles.
Featured here is Ven Iyer, who is facing six other candidates for two at-large seats for a three-year term. The profiles are in a Q-and-A format. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form. Each candidate had an opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words.
How long have you lived in Reston? What brought you here?
I have enjoyed living in Reston near Lake Anne for nine years. I was born and raised in Mumbai in a middle class family. After completing my bachelors degree in Electronics Engineering, I came to the United States to earn a Masters Degree in Computer Science. After graduation, I proceeded to take a job at IBM, which allowed me to live anywhere in the country and travel across the United States to customers. Eleven years ago, I was living in Florida, and planning to start my own technology company. I was searching for a place to call home, with plenty of open space and outdoor activities. I happened upon Reston, which was featured as one of the top places to live in America. I flew into Dulles to explore the area, and I was captivated by what Reston had to offer. After renting in Ashburn for a couple years, I bought my first home near Lake Anne in May 2009. I also went on to start my technology company. We are a small and minority-owned business, and our customers are Local, State, and Federal Government agencies. Thus, Reston has been instrumental in my personal and professional life.
What inspired you to run for the board?
I want to stop the wasteful spending on projects Members clearly have expressed they don’t want. For example, the Board pushed for the Hook Road rec-area full-facility rebuild with a mere budget of $122,000. They proposed regulation soccer, baseball, lacrosse fields with lights, bleachers, pavilions; butterfly park, dog park, skateboard park and sculpture garden as “enhancements”, which Members found are invasive on neighbors and nature. This also shows that the Board is disconnected from the expectations of grass roots Members and there is influence from special interest groups. In another example, the Board insists that StoneTurn’s $45,000 business process review of the Tetra fiasco is forensic analysis. Members find that it is a 30-page report of process and policy philosophies devoid of individual culpability, law-breaking and conflicts of interest, also found in an HOA manual available at the Reston library or for $16.95 on amazon. Other examples are the $100k RA website with terrible user experience, glossy magazine with outrageous costs. I want to demand Board transparency. I want to stop the rapidly rising assessment bills – although RA brags that the 2018 assessments are lower, it is because new Members brought additional revenue and not because RA cut costs.
What are three of the biggest concerns you have for Reston?
The biggest concerns for the Reston community are from wasteful spending and lack of transparency posed by RA, and threat of increased development posed by developers, Fairfax County and others set to benefit from it. Any zoning changes must be accompanied by planned growth and concomitant infrastructure without threat to Reston’s open and green space. Although RA may be viewed as a mere HOA with no enforceable ordinance by those who will benefit by increased growth, we must remind them that we are recognized as a hybrid government in many levels including courts. Also, the most common way people lose power is by thinking that they don’t have any. With about 22,000 households, our Members are our biggest asset in making our voice heard against zoning changes, and RA is in the frontline. We must, however, champion Member participation further in meetings, gatherings, protests and marches and increase our campaigning and lobbying efforts. Although we see hundreds of Members participate, it is a small fraction of the booming roar we can generate, and activist groups need further support. We also need DRB and Covenants to focus resources on deterring increased development over policing obsolete and burdensome design Rules on residents.
What do you hope to accomplish by being on the board?
The RA Board is a highly cohesive group where its desire for consensus and agreement overrides critical thinking and correct judgment. Dissenting opinions are ignored or discouraged by the Board, and Member input is restricted in the interests of reaching a unanimous decision. Meeting minutes for this Board seem to show that there has been only one failed motion versus over a 120 of them passed unanimously. The voting majority and groupthink mode is evident when the Board unanimously voted to use $2.42 million of Members’ reserve money to pay off the Lake House loan. This was a rushed and self-serving decision by the Board in an effort to reduce the 2018 assessments by a mere $8.66, without due diligence, just weeks before its Directors are now running for re-election. They will spend a year’s time and $50,000 of the $122,000 budget to study the Hook Road rec-area but no careful analysis to support a $2.42 million decision? I want to avoid costly mistakes from groupthink, establish effective audits, Member inclusion and better two-way communications to improve transparency. I will remind RA that they operate with their Members’ money and trust, and the Board must always be cognizant of that.
How will your personal or professional experience help you in your role with RA?
I am grateful to this country; it has facilitated everything I’ve achieved, and that makes me want to give back even more. I have actively participated in prevention of St. Johns Wood high-rises, unwarranted Hook Road full-facility rebuild, replacing natural Lake Newport soccer fields with artificial turf, Fairfax County zoning changes that would eliminate our golf course open spaces, paid parking at Reston Town Center, and the Density Cap Increase. I have been involved in community service with Fairfax County organizations. At HART, I drove a van of rescue animals for adoption events, fostered rescue dogs and house checked potential adopters. At FACETS, I assisted parents and children affected by poverty and mentored students towards well-paying careers in technology. I am running for the RA Board, At-Large Seat because I believe my positions on key issues will benefit the entire Reston community. You can learn more at veniyer.com or facebook.com/voteforven. Finally, during my campaign, I have met some terrific Restonians with excellent insight into the issues and solutions, and many who are eager to help. I am certain that I can do my job better with their involvement and hope that the community will participate in making my service successful.
Photo by Reston Association