UPDATED: In Democratic Primary, Former Fairfax County Planning Commissioner Wins Hunter Mill District Seat

 

(Updated at 9:45 p.m.) Former Fairfax County Planning Commissioner Walter Alcorn easily won the Hunter Mill District Supervisor seat in Tuesday’s Democratic primary election.

With nearly 50 percent of the vote, Alcorn defeated four other challengers in the election, which has been fraught with issues like development, traffic and infrastructure needs.

He maintained his sizable lead throughout the night.

The Hunter Mill District seat was vacated by veteran politician Cathy Hudgins earlier this year after she announced her intention to retire.

Reston lawyer Laurie Dodd placed second in the race, with a distant 25 percent of vote. Other challengers included U.S. Air Force Veteran Shyamali Hauth, Comstock executive Maggie Parker, and recent college graduate Parker Messick.

Unofficial election returns are below:

His name will head to the ballot in November. Alcorn wrote the following after the results were released:

It was a privilege to have shared the primary field with a record number of diverse Democrats who believe cooperation, unity, empowerment, and inclusivity are critical to Hunter Mill’s success. Winning the primary couldn’t have been possible without the support of all the volunteers and our union brothers and sisters who gave so generously of their time to make this happen.

I look forward to moving forward with the agenda I laid out in my campaign – including managing growth, protecting our green spaces, fully finding schools – and will work with all community stakeholders to ensure our district is working together to remove barriers to opportunities for all.

In previous interviews with Reston Now, Alcorn stated that he wants the county to manage infrastructure as new development continues in the area. He also wants to improve citizen engagement in the planning and development review process.

He says his biggest concerns are Reston’s population growth, affordable housing, and redevelopment of the community’s village centers.

As Hunter Mill District Supervisor, Alcorn says that he will clean up phase two of Reston’s comprehensive plan, implement affordable housing land use reforms, develop a county energy and climate action plan, and improve the county’s affordable living strategy.

Over the course of his campaign, Alcorn picked up dozens of notable endorsements, including a nod from Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova.

In recent weeks, the local election was fraught with a dispute over whether or not campaigning was allowed at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station’s plaza, which is leased from the county to Comstock Companies.

Concerns voiced by Bulova over the company’s restrictions on free speech suggested Parker had an unfair advantage at the station.

Parker raised $258,225, with sizable backing from her employer. Alcorn raised $102,749 while the other candidates had significantly smaller coffers.

Overall, turnout in the county was just 5.4 percent. The Hunter Mill District had the highest turnout with 7.3 percent of registered voters participating.

Alcorn did not immediately return a request for comment.

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Updated: Democratic Primary in the Hunter Mill District in Full Swing

(Updated at 1:10 p.m.) Voting is in full swing for the Democratic primary as five candidates vie for Hunter Mill District Supervisor — a seat vacated by local veteran legislator Cathy Hudgins.

As of 1 p.m., turnout in the Hunter Mill District was around 4.7 percent — the highest of all other districts in the county. Overall, turnout in the county is 3.4 percent.

The morning got off to a slow start. Campaign volunteers at Reston Community Centers said they only saw a handful of candidates between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. today (Tuesday). Campaign signs flapped quietly in the wind as the casual voter strolled in.

In previous years, voter turnout for local primaries has been under 10 percent. For example, in the 2010 Republican primary, turnout was just under 5 percent in the Hunter Mill District.

So far, Comstock spokeswoman Maggie Parker leads total fundraising with $258,225 raised, despite a late start to her campaign. Former Fairfax County Planning Commissioner Walter Alcorn — who has also picked up a number of local and county endorsements — raised $102,749.

U.S. Air Force Veteran and community advocate Shyamali Hauth raised $28,738 — a little more than lawyer Laurie Dodd, who raised $24,919. Recent Roanoke College graduate Parker Messick raised a little over $7,000.

Candidate profiles published on Reston Now are linked below:

Voters will also select a new chair for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors:

Information about the complete ballot is available online.

Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. Acceptable forms of identification include a Virginia driver’s license, a U.S. passport, employer-issued photo ID, and student photo ID. Only one form of ID is required.

County officials will post updates on Twitter about voter turnout totals throughout the day. Unofficial election returns are expected to come in starting around 7 p.m. today.

As a reminder, registered voters of any party can participate in the Democratic primary.

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Following Allegations of Civil Rights Violations, Comstock Grants Campaigning Rights for Two Days

In anticipation of the Democratic primary tomorrow, Comstock Companies is now allowing campaigning and electioneering for two days at Reston Station Plaza after the county threatened legal recourse due to potential free speech violations.

Chris Clemente, Comstock’s CEO, told Reston Now that the company is inviting all candidates on the June 11 ballots to campaign at the plaza today and tomorrow “on their own schedules and without the need to coordinate schedules with Comstock.”

The temporary change comes after Comstock came under fire for its longstanding restrictions on soliciting, including campaigning and electioneering, at the plaza. The county says the forum qualifies as public space — even though Comstock leases the property from the county through a 99-year ground lease. Comstock disputes this claim.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova lashed out against the company when she learned about the policy late last week. Bulova accused the company of favoritism and civil rights violation after she said it allowed Maggie Parker — Comstock’s vice president of communications — to post campaign signs but barred her opponents from approaching voters.

“Allowing one’s own employee to engage in such highly protected activity in a public area, while excluding other candidates from doing the same, is clearly wrong and cannot be tolerated,” Bulova said in the letter, which threatened legal action.

Parker said that she never campaigned at the plaza and purchased large advertisements from the company at the plaza and on Comstock’s building — a possibility that she said is open to all other candidates.

Ads cost between $2,000 and $3,500 per week.

Claire Gastanaga, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Virginia chapter, said the lease to the private company does not renege individual’s free speech rights.

Ray Morrogh, the county’s commonwealth’s attorney, directed the Fairfax County Police Department to decline any requests to prosecute individuals for campaigning at the train station and the plaza above it. 

“It would not be appropriate to prosecute anyone exercising their First Amendment rights in public areas,” Morrogh wrote in a May letter to the police department.

Clemente did not indicate what led to the two-day allowance for campaigning.

“Although we had hoped to provide the residents of the Hunter Mill District an opportunity to meet all the candidates in a casual setting during these last days of the campaign, we were unable to secure commitments from all candidates to participate in a coordinated event,” he said.

The debate over whether or not the plaza qualifies as a public forum was catapulted into the county spotlight after candidates running for Hunter Mill District Supervisor attempted to campaign at the plaza.

Over the past several weeks, candidates, volunteers for their campaigns, and a representative for a local advocacy group said they were kicked off the property and told to apply for permits.

Photo via Fairfax Connector

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As Primary Election Nears, Confusion over Campaigning at Reston Station Remains

Some residents are concerned that restrictions on political campaigning at Reston Station Plaza raise free speech issues. But local and state officials versed in state election law say the question of whether or not campaigning is allowed on the plaza is a gray area.

That’s because Comstock Companies, the developer of Reston Station, leases the plaza from Fairfax County through a 99-year ground lease. The county says that state election law still allows campaign activities, including voter registration, on the private property.

Several residents who have unsuccessfully tried to campaign and distribute leaflets on the plaza say they’ve been told to request permits from Comstock before distributing materials.

But Comstock’s CEO Chris Clemente says that Comstock has no such policy for requesting permits.

“I cannot respond to the reports you have received about a days-long permit process since that is simply not true,” Clemente told Reston Now in a statement.

He clarified that Comstock has not revised its policy prohibiting soliciting on its private properties “out of respect for the privacy of residents, visitors, and commuters.” Instead, Clemente said Comstock’s policy revision was restricted to scheduling a candidate meet-and-greet for a few hours at the plaza. Candidates would get the chance to meet with voters and distribute campaign materials with no cost.

To date, we have not seen any indication of interest from any of the campaigns (except Maggie Parker’s) to participate in such an event. What we have seen from some of the candidates is public criticism of Comstock for not allowing random soliciting of Metro commuters. It makes me think that the candidates, with the exception of Maggie Parker, have no interest in discussing their vision for the Hunter Mill District with members of the public,” Clemente said.

Parker, who is Comstock’s vice president of communications, is a candidate for the Hunter Mill District seat and has campaign signs on the property. 

Other candidates can purchase advertising space for either $2,000 or $3,500 per week on two plaza locations. Parker said she paid for her ads on Comstock’s property. Comstock and Comstock-linked entities have filled up more than half of her campaign coffers — which exceeds all of her challengers’ fundraising for the latest reporting period combined.

Joanne Collins, a representative for Herndon-Reston Indivisible, said Comstock’s security told her to leave the plaza after she tried to hand out leaflets about Tuesday’s primary. Collins said she requested a permit from Comstock, but was told the process would take several days — possibly after the June 11 Democratic primary.

Residents say that the Fairfax County Board of Elections and the Virginia Department of Elections are mum on the issue. Laurie Dodd, a candidate for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisor’s Hunter Mill District seat, lodged a complaint with the state’s elections department, but was told the issue wasn’t within its jurisdiction.

Dodd said she was told the department only addresses issues within 40 feet of voting machines. The Attorney General of Virginia’s office offered the same statement, she said.

Others said they would file complaints with the county’s election board after the election in order to spend more time campaigning in other parts of the Hunter Mill District.

Dodd also noted that the cost of purchasing signage at the plaza was too high, especially since the election is just days away and the process would require Comstock’s approval.

The Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney is looking into whether or not free speech rights are at risk of being violated.

File photo

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Friday Morning Notes

Local Venture Firm Perfects Fundraising Methodology — Reston-based venture firm Proof.VC, which raised $34.5 million in the first round of funding could exceed that total in the second round. The company aims to perfect its fundraising strategy to invest in businesses like Beyond Meat Inc. and Bird Rides, Inc. [Washington Business Journal]

Reminder: Absentee Voting Deadline is Tomorrow — The last day to cast an absentee ballot is tomorrow at the county’s government center. Satellite absentee voting locations will also be open tomorrow only, including the North County Governmental Center. [Fairfax County Government]

South Lakes High School PTSA Nominated for Family Engagement Award — The group was nominated for the 2019 VA PTA Family Engagement Award. Members are thankful for families who volunteer throughout the year. “The recognition of the Virginia PTA is for you,” the group wrote in a statement. [South Lakes High School PTSA]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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In Race for Hunter Mill District Supervisor, Parker Boasts Big Fundraising Lead Buoyed by Comstock


Maggie Parker, vice president of communications for Comstock Companies and a candidate for Hunter Mill District Supervisor, has received more funds than any candidate running for a district office seat in the county in a single reporting period this year. At least $108,323 of her campaign war chest was given by Comstock or Comstock-linked entities, the developer behind the massive redevelopment of Reston Station.

According to campaign finance reports filed on Tuesday (June 4), Parker’s campaign war chest ballooned over the last several weeks with $254,276 raised in the latest reporting period. She collected $155,375 — roughly 61 percent of total contributions — from 65 donors who contributed more than $100.

In the final stretch before the primary next week, Parker has raised more money in the last reporting period than all four of her challengers combined.

Although Parker spent most of her contributions — leaving her with $11,856 in the bank before the June 11 primary — campaign finance reports indicate Parker is backed by several contributors linked with the development community in Reston.

Former Fairfax County Planning Commissioner Walter Alcorn raised $31,774 over the last reporting period and had $26,821 in the bank. Most of his donations — $28,930 – came from 80 donors who gave more than $100.

Shyamali Hauth, a U.S. Air Force veteran and self-described community advocate, raised $12,366 and ended with a balance of $7,331. She received $6,172 from 22 donors who gave contributions of more than $100.

Laurie Dodd, a local lawyer, raised $9,285 and had $4,468 in the bank. Seven donors gave contributions of more than $100 to her campaign.

Meanwhile, Parker Messick‘s campaign coffers dried out with no donations of more than $100 and a total of $155 raised. He has $1,039 in the bank.

The primary for the Hunter Mill District Supervisor seat is on June 11.

Photo via Maggie Parker

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Monday Morning Notes

Pride of Herndon Band Leaves for D-Day Celebrations Tomorrow — “The Herndon High School band of Herndon leaves Tuesday to participate in 75th D-Day celebrations in Normandy. Band members will carry pictures and stories of crew members who served on the USS Herndon during the invasion.” [WTOP]

Candidates for Fairfax County Board of Supervisor Discuss Stances on Cycling Issues  The Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling caught up with two candidates running for the seat of Hunter Mill District Supervisor. Candidate Walter Alcorn says he hopes to “accelerate existing plans to enable non-motorized access to transit stations and work centers” while candidate Maggie Parker discusses how biking is “a great equalizer.” Other candidates did not respond immediately to requests for comment. [Fairfax County Alliance for Better Bicycling]

Last Day for “LOVE” Letters in Reston Town Center Tomorrow — The iconic letters sign will leave RTC tomorrow as they tour 11 different sites in Fairfax County to celebrate the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s 50th anniversary of “Virginia is for Lovers!” [Reston Town Center]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Comstock Revises Campaigning Policies at Reston Station Plaza

(Updated at 5:45 a.m. on May 31 to state candidates did not receiving ad pricing information from Comstock).

Comstock Companies, the developer of Reston Station, will allow political campaigning and electioneering at Reston Station Plaza following a recent debate over the legality of the company’s longstanding policy to bar soliciting on its properties.

In a letter to Reston Now’s editor regarding the May 24 article, Chris Clemente, the company’s CEO, clarified Comstock’s position on the issue. His company’s vice president of communications, Maggie Parker, is running for Hunter Mill District Supervisor, and her campaign signs are plastered on the property.

“Given the local nature of the Hunter Mill District race, which is the first contested race since Reston Station existed, and the significant number of Hunter Mill District residents using the commuter facilities at Reston Station, it was decided that it would be appropriate to allow such activities for this political contest,” Clemente wrote.

A spokesperson for Fairfax County has stated that campaigning at the property is allowed by state election law, noting that Comstock leases Reston Station Plaza from Fairfax County under a 99-year ground lease.

Comstock leases the Wiehle garage plaza from Fairfax County pursuant to a 99 year ground lease.  State election law doesn’t prohibit campaign activities including voter registration on private property,” according to the county.

Clemente said the company has barred all types of soliciting “out of respect for the thousands of daily visitors’ time.” He also noted that the county has not raised any issues with Comstock’s policy.

A county spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request from Reston Now about why this was the case.

Parker pushed Clemente to give other candidates running for the seat the opportunity to erect signs at Reston Station, Clemente said. Requests to have signs were submitted by Walter Alcorn‘s campaign on May 25 and Laurie Dodd on May 28. Parker also requested permission to use Comstock’s property for an all-candidate meet and greet event, which Clemente said Comstock fully supports.

Clemente, a former Reston resident and parent of current Reston residents, is backing Parker for the seat. In a 19-point letter to Reston Now, Clemente expressed his support for Parker, who he called a “champion of affordable housing” and a “strong proponent of limiting significant development in the Hunter Mill District.”

In a statement, Clemente wrote the following:

This is why I support Maggie Parker in this important race, because she has the skills needed to create solutions to complex issues that can sometimes be divisive, build consensus, and put the interests of the Hunter Mill District residents first, rather than hurling misleading accusations for political purposes. It’s refreshing to see a political candidate take the high road!

Parker said that she organized the forum because she wants to have all five candidates campaign in a safe and open environment and meet some candidates’ interest in coming to the plaza.

“A free-flowing meet and greet is one way to accomplish both,” Parker said. “I am confident that my message and experience will win out.”

Her campaign manager pitched the meet and greet idea to other candidates running for the seat on May 28. A date has not been set.

Alcorn, whose volunteers were recently barred from distributing campaign materials at the plaza, says the gesture comes too late: 

Comstock responded to our community pressure with a token gesture that is too little, too late as Comstock’s candidate has enjoyed weeks of unlimited and exclusive advertising. Democracy does not happen in 3 hour windows. Comstock is attempting to buy a seat on the Board of Supervisors for developers. Voters should also be alarmed that Comstock is using a public private partnership with the County to limit freedom of speech for all candidates but their own.

Both Dodd and Alcorn stated that they have not yet heard back from Comstock regarding requests for the pricing of advertising on the plaza.

The Hunter Mill District primary is set for June 11.

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Lifeguard Shortage Prompts Pool Schedule Change — RA changed the schedule of its pools over the weekend due to an unexpected shortage of lifeguards. The organization is actively hiring lifeguards for this year’s season. A job fair is set for Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at a local pool. [Reston Association]

The Washington Post Releases Endorsements for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors — The paper endorsed Walter Alcorn for the seat of Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, calling him a “formidable land-use expert.” [The Washington Post]

INOVA Blood Drive is Today — Stop by the bloodmobile truck next to the pavilion at Reston Town Center to date blood between 1 and 6 p.m. today. Registration is available online and on site. [Reston Town Center]

Explore Reston Association’s Home Inspection Process — Dive into the exterior inspection process that is required by RA before selling your home. [Reston Today]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Hunter Mill District Supervisor Election: Meet Maggie Parker

Five Democrats are running for the seat of Hunter Mill District Supervisor after Cathy Hudgins, the current supervisor, announced plans to retire earlier this year. This week, Reston Now will publish candidate statements for each of the candidates. This is the last profile.

Statements, which are in question-and-answer format, are published in the order in which they are received. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form. Each candidate had the opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words. 

What inspired you to run for this seat?

I’ve always welcomed an opportunity to serve. I thrive on learning, meeting new people, and learning from a broad range of voices. I learned early on that one must consider many perspectives in order to develop a personal viewpoint. I’ve learned that life experiences impact viewpoints, and that thought process is evolutionary. Humans, hopefully, evolve as they age and engage.

I was compelled to run for Hunter Mill Supervisor when it became a vacant seat, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins having announced retirement after 20 years of bold and noble service to Hunter Mill. I am honored to be a candidate; it is privilege.  

Inspiration comes from varied places; I was most fortunate to grow up in a family that was committed to serve. Both my mom and dad were elected officials in my hometown; my two brothers have served their local jurisdictions and my little sister chairs the Board of Education in a town with a school system that rivals that of Fairfax County. My other sister has chaired noble community efforts in California and is a perennial elections officer in her small town. One might say service runs in the family.

What are the three biggest concerns you have for Reston? What do you plan to do address them?

I’m concerned about:

  • Responsible economic growth: Appropriate development in the right places and making sure that our approved development applications are delivered in the highest quality and are integrated with our community. Whether in Reston or Vienna or Herndon, we must make sure that we welcome the new, engage our new residents and business workers, and integrate all with open arms. Reston is a New Town studied by a world-wide audience; as we enter into the ‘next fifty years’ it’s imperative that we be true to the founding tenants.
  • Improved transportation options: Our community needs to respect the fact that we have and will continue to grow, and additional asphalt lanes are a ready solution to congestion. As soon as a lane is built, it is congested, adding exponentially to our carbon footprint. We need to provide safe and connected pedestrian and bicycle pathways, provide overpasses or underpasses across or beneath some of our wide thoroughfares. We need to adapt our suburban-built thoroughfares into a more urban street grid; often slowing traffic results in better throughput through intersections and community centers.
  • Quality of Life for All – Equity in Housing Options: We have a shortage of housing options — running the range from low-income for-sale and for-rent inventory, through housing options for our service workforce, and onto aging in place and/or affordable senior alternatives. We have thought leaders and industry leaders in our community; we can find solutions.

How can the county improve how it manages growth and development in this growing community, especially as it relates to infrastructure needs, transportation, and affordable housing?

The County is doing a good job of working to plan for our future. Like anything, it can always do better. Current attention can to transportation and infrastructure financing options needs to remain a priority, and efforts to evaluate options for means to provide housing diversity are imperative. Solutions come through many avenues, such as developer commitments to provide work force housing programs in new multifamily buildings, developers paying a fee per square foot per commercial development added and convening industry experts to review national best practices for finding and funding diverse housing types. We will need to review zoning code; we can find solutions.

What do you hope to accomplish in this position?

I hope to provide excellent customer service to all of the Hunter Mill constituents, to enable transparent and inclusive conversation about pressing issues and to ably represent the voice of Hunter Mill on a board of ten. I hope to make the voice of Hunter Mill influence the continued success of Fairfax County, and be recognized as the key driver in the County’s prominence.

Photo via Maggie Comstock

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Comstock and County Clash Over the Legality of Campaigning at Reston Station Plaza

Comstock Companies, the developer of Reston Station, has barred political campaigning at Reston Station Plaza — a policy that clashes with the county’s official position on the issue.

Conflicting stances on the permissibility of political campaigning at the plaza has piqued some concerns about the privatization of public spaces in Reston.

A spokesperson for Fairfax County told Reston Now that state election law “doesn’t prohibit campaign activities including voter registration on private property.”

Comstock leases Reston Station Plaza from Fairfax County under a 99-year ground lease. This public-private partnership does not prevent political campaign activities, the county says.

The company, however, has adopted a longstanding policy that political campaigning is not allowed at the plaza, according to Maggie Parker, Comstock’s vice president of communications.

“It would be like me setting up shop on Walter [Alcorn’s] front lawn,” Parker, who is also a candidate in the race for Hunter Mill District Supervisor, said. 

Alcorn, who is also running for the seat vacated by longtime Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins, said volunteers from his campaign were recently barred from campaigning outside of the Starbucks on the plaza.

He says a security officer told campaigners that political activity was not allowed at the site.

“It’s unfortunate that what should be publicly usable space is being operated as private space,” Alcorn said. “This is one of the challenging and frustrating things about where we are as a community. We’ve really privatized our public spaces.”

Parker, who has campaign signs plastered along a fence near the entrance to the garage at Wiehle-Reston East, said she is seeking Comstock’s approval for all candidates to campaign at the plaza before the primary election on June 11.

“Given the interest in the campaign, I would like an opportunity to challenge our management and have one day — maybe the Thursday before the primary — for all candidates to come out. I would love to work on that,” Parker said.

Jubal Thompson, general counsel for Comstock Companies, noted that Reston Station Plaza’s unique public-private partnership sets it apart from other Metro stations, which may allow political campaigning.

“Comstock has a 99-year leasehold interest for the exclusive use to the land and the improvements it makes to the property. So effectively Reston Station Plaza is private property with public access rights,” Thompson wrote in an email to Reston Now.

Alcorn also took issue with Parker’s campaign signs on Comstock’s property, which he says muddies the line between private and public interests.

Parker noted that her signs are on private property.

“My company is very enthusiastic and support of the campaign and the signs are all on private property,” she said. “I wouldn’t go stick my signs in someone’s yard without them agreeing.”

Comstock’s marketing team is open to selling sign space to any candidate, she added.

Photos by Fatimah Waseem

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Hunter Mill District Supervisor Election: Meet Shyamali Hauth

 Five Democrats are running for the seat of Hunter Mill District Supervisor after Cathy Hudgins, the current supervisor, announced plans to retire earlier this year. This week, Reston Now will publish candidate statements for each of the candidates.

Statements, which are in question-and-answer format, are published in the order in which they are received. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form. Each candidate had the opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words. 

What inspired you to run for this seat?

Our local government is where the rubber meets the road. This is where we make change that affects each of us on a daily basis. I have led a life of service around the world, across this great nation, and right here in Fairfax County. I want Fairfax County, and specifically the Hunter Mill District, to be the leader of a progressive vision of community. It is time for change in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Many of our supervisors have done an incredible job of governing over the past 20 plus years, but the county has changed drastically since they first took office. We need new leadership that reflects the desires and diversity of the community.

As a grassroots community organizer, I understand the benefit of building a community from the ground up. I understand the importance of engaging voters in decisions that will affect their lives. I have walked miles and worn out shoes knocking on doors and talking to residents about their concerns, asking for their input and expertise, and advocating for those concerns before our elected officials. I bring a proven track record of leadership and a collaborative working style which will help me serve the Hunter Mill district with compassion and integrity.

What are the three biggest concerns you have for Reston? What do you plan to do address them?

Problem 1: Climate Change

Solution 1: We need a multi-faceted and bold approach to addressing climate change in Fairfax County. I would like to see us increasing the minimum LEED standard to Gold for any new construction and renovation — with an incentive for Platinum. Placing solar panels on schools and government buildings is a start to reducing our dependence on carbon-based fuels, but we also need to encourage our businesses to do the same and reduce our overall energy use. We must also reduce traffic congestion by lowering the cost of and increasing the use of public transportation systems. Additionally, we can initiate several consumer-oriented changes like a single use plastics ban, an increased emphasis on waste reduction, and the introduction of front yard gardens and zero-scapes.

Problem 2: Affordable Housing

Solution 2: I have a S.M.A.R.T.E. (Safe, Mixed Income, Accessible, Reasonably Priced, Transit-oriented, and Environmentally Sustainable) housing plan. This plan is comprehensive and would incentivize new construction and renovations to include percentages of housing accessible to various income levels. In addition, we need to be creative and use the concepts of tiny or small houses, add-on mother-in-law style apartments, utilizing existing offices and other buildings for new housing and community space, and creating community based housing.

Problem 3: Education

Solution 3: Our teacher and staff pay needs to improve and we need to bring equity across the school system. For both safety and to improve the learning environment, we need to address the overcrowding and excessive use of trailers. We need to ensure we are providing the best education for all of our students and that includes offering apprenticeships for those not choosing to attend a four-year college, or skills based learning for students of differing abilities. I also value our language immersion programs as they foster a broader world view and allow our students to develop new ways of problem solving. In order to address inequities in our education system perhaps the greatest impact will be through offering universal free pre-K programs. Finally, I will work hard to ensure our curriculum and school environment is inclusive and welcoming.

How can the county improve how it manages growth and development in this growing community, especially as it relates to infrastructure needs, transportation, and affordable housing?

We need to ensure as growth and development occur, they are accompanied by appropriate infrastructure support and completion. This includes ensuring we look at new school facilities as well as number and locations of first responder services and other community services. In addition, we need to re-examine some long-term infrastructure plans to determine if, as changes in lifestyle create new modalities of travel, we are planning well for our future needs. One of my biggest concerns in developing housing that falls within the 30% of income level is that it needs to be integrated throughout the community and especially near transit. We cannot make the mistakes other communities have done and have transit oriented equate to high cost “luxury” housing. Making our community transit-friendly means we need to be sure areas are walkable and have appropriate lighting for safety and ease of use. We must also look to emerging technologies to encourage more environmentally sound and commute-friendly transportation options.

What do you hope to accomplish in this position?

It is essential we address climate change in a bold and impactful way. If we don’t do this, all other decisions will not matter. My hope is to accomplish this while listening and responding to the needs and desires of our residents. I will ensure the voices of all residents are heard, including those who work two jobs, have a person with a disability at home, or simply cannot afford to make it to a meeting. I will help maintain a vibrant economy through support for our locally owned small business community, ensure needs of families are met through an excellent education system and affordable housing, and make our county the leader in addressing climate change. For over 30 years I have led a life of service: in the military and in communities in which I have lived. I would be honored to continue serving you as your next Supervisor.

Photo via Shyamali Hauth

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Hunter Mill District Supervisor Candidate Returns $500 from ALEC CEO

(Updated at 1:50 p.m. to clarify that the ALEC contribution and contributions from Alcorn’s developer friends are two separate issues). 

Walter Alcorn, a candidate running for the seat of Hunter Mill District Supervisor, has returned small donor contributions from the  CEO and Strategist of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a right-wing, pro-business group that has been criticized for furthering the goals of its corporate benefactors.

The donations were flagged in a May 3 press release by opponent Laurie Dodd, who is one of five candidates running for the seat.

In that release, Dodd also pointed out that Alcorn accepted contributions from developers in violation of his pledge to not take money from developers.

Alcorn said the donations were from college friends who do not have projects in the Hunter Mill District. He said he has maintained his pledge to decline donations from developers, noting the small size of the contributions from ALEC employees.

According to the latest campaign finance reports, the Democrat raised nearly $71,000 and has $44,942 in the bank — well beyond his competitors.

In 2012, the Democratic Party of Virginia condemned donations from ALEC, stating that the organization is on a “stealthy mission to purchase our democracy,” powered by funding from the Koch brothers.

Dodd told Reston Now that Alcorn’s statements about the matter are unethical and deeply disturbing.

Alcorn clarified that he will not accept contributions from developers who have a stake in land-use cases in the Hunter Mill District.

Dodd, Shyamali Hauth and Parker Messick have also pledged to accept no developer contributions.

Photo via Walter Alcorn

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Hunter Mill District Supervisor Election: Meet Laurie Dodd

Five Democrats are running for the seat of Hunter Mill District Supervisor after Cathy Hudgins, the current supervisor, announced plans to retire earlier this year. This week, Reston Now will publish candidate statements for each of the candidates.

Statements, which are in question-and-answer format, are published in the order in which they are received. With the exception of minor formatting edits, profiles are published in unedited form. Each candidate had the opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words. 

What inspired you to run for this seat? 

As a 23-year resident who has raised 2 children through our public schools, I know that Reston is a unique, inclusive community which has so much to offer. But Reston is at risk from poorly managed development that has threatened to take our open spaces and harm our quality of life. For years, I have been active with community groups who want to protect our planned community. That concern merged with my passion for the environment, and I decided that nothing I could do would have a greater impact than helping manage development in Fairfax County. As supervisor, I will foster smart growth and transit-oriented development while protecting our green spaces. And I will take action to reduce our carbon footprint and fight climate change.

My work as a child advocate attorney also inspired my candidacy. In that role, I have helped ensure that our most vulnerable children get the quality education they need in our public schools, along with mental health care. Both of these vital services provided through our county must be supported and improved.

What are the three biggest concerns you have for Reston? What do you plan to do address them? 

My top concern is uncontrolled development. We see this problem in the continuing battle to protect our open spaces (including two 18-hole golf courses) and the fight to avoid raising the density cap in our planned community. As supervisor, I would not approve more residential development without asking whether we have the schools, roads, parks, and public safety to serve them. We need transit-oriented development and expansion of affordable housing opportunities.  I will not give up one more inch of the district to unplanned growth.

Fairfax County should take the lead in addressing environmental issues through a public/private partnership, engaging the best minds of our region to find innovative solutions. We must move forward with a community-wide energy and climate action plan. Replacing our streetlights with efficient LED lighting is a good start that must be followed by bold action, including a focus on improving our transit system. Transit options must be expanded and buses upgraded to appeal to riders, reducing our reliance on cars.

Education is my third concern. We must fund universal pre-K. Teachers and other staff need pay raises, while class sizes are reduced. We must establish equity throughout the county by improving our lower-performing schools. When our county has more than 800 trailer classrooms, saying that our school system is “fully funded” rings hollow. We must accelerate our capital investment to eliminate trailer classrooms rapidly. I will work with the school board to ensure that we provide a world-class education to our children and future leaders.

How can the county improve how it manages growth and development in this growing community, especially as it relates to infrastructure needs, transportation, and affordable housing? 

Fairfax County residents thrive when growth is managed. The Reston area continues to benefit from the vison of Robert Simon, who believed that high-density housing combined with open space for recreational activities could create a lively and varied community. This philosophy merges easily with today’s transit-oriented development, which emphasizes compact walkable design focused on transit centers and allows decreasing dependence on cars. With expansion of the Silver Line, transit-oriented development should move forward in Fairfax County, while open spaces like golf courses and parks are protected. Bus service should be upgraded to be more convenient and appealing, allowing easy mobility from transit centers to retail and residential sites. Because elected officials should be able to make decisions about development without any possible conflict of interest, I have chosen not to accept any campaign funds from developers.

Affordable housing is a growing need in our area. The county should devote an additional penny on the real estate tax rate to create housing where our teachers, service workers, and young families can afford to live. As Supervisor, I will focus on protecting and increasing affordable housing in all parts of the county — not only in dense areas but also allowing duplex or triplex homes in lower density areas of the county. Affordable housing could be put into underused office buildings, if amenities like shopping and schools are nearby, or co-located in county projects that serve other purposes, like the Residences at the Government Center. Creative solutions must be explored.

What do you hope to accomplish in this position? 

Fairfax County should continue to be one of the best places to live in this country, with diverse neighborhoods, quality schools, and housing options for all. We should become leaders environmentally, bringing together the best minds of our high-tech region to solve energy issues and driving to zero carbon emissions by 2050. Our community-wide climate and energy action plan can become a model for others to emulate. Our transit system should evolve to decrease the amount of time and energy we spend getting from here to there. And all residents should share in a high quality of life that is sustaining and sustainable, with the equity and justice we all deserve. I believe I can lead Hunter Mill District towards this goal.

I am the only candidate in this race who has the breadth of experience in our district, who does not take a dime from corporations or developers — no matter where they have projects, who has advocacy skills to speak up for our residents, and who is beholden to no one but the citizens of Hunter Mill District. This is the leadership we need, now and for the future of Hunter Mill. I hope you agree.

Photo via Laurie Dodd

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Here’s the Hunter Mill Supervisor Candidates’ Stances on the Sale of Reston National

The recent sale of Reston National Golf Course to a pair of Baltimore developers has piqued concerns about the possible redevelopment of the 164-acre property. Weller Development Cos. and War Horse Cities told Reston Now the companies have no information to share about possible redevelopment.

If the 18-hole golf course’s redevelopment goes before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the plan could be a tough sell for the future Hunter Mill District Supervisor.

All five candidates running for the seat vacated by Cathy Hudgins said they do not support an amendment to Reston’s comprehensive plan to allow redevelopment of the site. In statements to Reston Now, each candidate took strikingly similar stances on the potential redevelopment of the golf course.

The comprehensive plan states that Reston National and Hidden Creek Country Club — the community’s two golf courses — are “planned for private recreational use, more specifically to remain as golf courses.”

Laurie Dodd — who said she was the only candidate who testified to protect the golf course in 2015 — said she will be a “strong advocate for the residents of the district, who have already made it clear that nothing should be built on either Reston golf course.” The Reston-based lawyer noted that lost open space can never be recovered.

Calling himself a “progressive candidate with a proven record of giving a voice to citizens and whose livelihood is independent of the development industry,” Walter Alcorn, a former Fairfax County planning commissioner, said he is committed to ensuring Reston’s comprehensive plan is respected.

“It does not matter who owns the golf course because the comprehensive plan calls for that property to be a golf course, and that prevents its development,” Alcorn said.

Maggie Parker, an executive with Comstock Companies, said she will advocate for green and open spaces in the community as well.

“While I personally view the sales as unfortunate, I must practically view them as sales of private property with development restrictions that should not change. I will continue to work with the community to protect what makes Reston the place we call home,” Parker said.

Parker Messick, a recent Roanoke College graduate, said he will “do everything in his power to utilize the power of the comprehensive plan and the zoning powers that supervisors have to make sure Reston National is never developed upon.”

“If development is allowed on Reston National, we will lose one of our previous green spaces that cannot so easily be replaced,” he said.

Shyamali Hauth, a U.S. Air Fore veteran and community advocate, also stated that she will stand with Rescue Reston — a community advocacy organization that formed in response to the threat of Reston National’s redevelopment several years ago — to oppose redevelopment.

“I stand firmly with Rescue Reston, where I have been an active member since 2015, and am committed to preventing any comprehensive plan amendment to allow development that does not keep them in their current open space capacity. Open green spaces are essential in terms of environmental sustainability as well as quality of life,” Hauth said.

She said she is deeply concerned the golf course was purchased by developer.

“There has been no outreach to the surrounding community or Rescue Reston prior to this sale. I hope that the new owners will come out and state clearly that they plan to keep Reston National a public golf course,” she said.

File photo

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