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by Fatimah Waseem April 16, 2018 at 3:30 pm 3 Comments

Reston Association’s Board of Directors is seeking candidates to fill the seat of former Hunters Woods/Dogwood District Supervisor Victoria White.

White resigned one day after RA’s board election results were announced. She was ineligible for the position because she recently moved out of the district.

The term for the seat ends April 2019. To qualify, candidates must be residents of the Hunters Woods/Dogwood district, complete a candidate statement, and meet with the board of directors to indicate interest and present qualifications.

For consideration, candidate statements must be submitted by Friday, May 11 at 5 p.m.. Applicants will be interviewed by the board on May 24.

For more information, email [email protected].

by Fatimah Waseem April 12, 2018 at 12:00 pm 42 Comments

Victoria White stepped down from Reston Association’s Board of Directors Wednesday (April 11).

The vacancy comes just one day after four new board members were elected to serve on the nine-member board.

She stood alongside her colleagues on the newly formulated board at the conclusion of RA’s annual member meeting on Tuesday (April 10) when results were announced.

White who served as the Hunters Woods/Dogwood District representative resigned because she no longer lives in the district she represents, according to a statement by RA. She also served on RA’s covenants committee and the board governance committee.

RA will issue a call for candidates to fill the open seat, which expires in April 2020. The board will consider possible candidates at its May 24 meeting.

Information on when and how RA was made aware of the need for the change was not immediately available.

At a meeting on Wednesday, David Bobzien, formerly the board’s vice president, was elected board president. Sridhar Ganesan, formerly the board’s treasurer, was elected vice president.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

Photo via Reston Association

by Fatimah Waseem April 11, 2018 at 3:30 pm 6 Comments

Ellen Graves, a former Reston Association president and a community leader known for her volunteerism, died Monday (April 9).

Graves, a Reston resident for more than 30 years, worked with many organizations and was well-known for her ability to spot talent, identify community needs, and find solutions to challenges she saw in Reston.

Local residents who knew Graves said she had a penchant for encouraging others to make contributions to the community.

“She was probably the friendliest person you’d meet. She had a big small and could talk to anybody,” said Ed Robichaud, who knew her for more than 20 years. “Small groups tend to be divisive at times or personality driven. That was just not Ellen. She was always one level about the fray.”

She served on RA’s Board of Directors beginning in 2013 and was elected to a three-year term as apartment owners’ representative in 2014. The next year, she was elected president by RA’s board.

Michael Sanio, who served with Graves on RA’s board, said he declined an offer to run against her when she sought the board president position.

“I said absolutely not. She had the time, willingness and leadership skills to do this. She made a real effort to work directly with all members of the board and make sure everyone had a voice in the community,” Sanio said.

In 2004, Graves was named a recipient of the Best of Reston awards.

Professionally, Graves worked at IBM and was executive director of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women, Inc.. She was formerly Chief of Staff for Hunter Mill District Supervisor Cathy Hudgins. 

“She was a very dear friend to me and many, many others. She’s touched countless in the community,” Sanio said.

Graves served on other boards like the Fairfax County Social Services Board, Friendly Instant Sympathetic Help and the Private Industry Council.

“She had the biggest rolodex in town,” Robichaud said. “If you needed someone to pick up trash on South Lakes Drive, she could come up with a name in ten seconds.”

Graves is survived by two children. Funeral arrangements have not yet been made public.

by Fatimah Waseem April 11, 2018 at 10:15 am 50 Comments

Reston Association’s Board of Directors will welcome two new faces following the Tuesday night announcement of election results in the contested race.

Returning board member Andy Sigle secured an at-large seat for one year and newcomer Ven Iyer won an at-large seat for three years. Incumbents Sridhar Ganesan, the board’s current treasurer, maintained his at-large seat for three years and incumbent Julie Bitzer also held on to her seat at South Lakes District Director.

“It’s our hope that the entire membership will join us in this recognition regardless of the outcome,” said Caren Anton, chairwoman of RA’s elections committee.

Ganesan won with 3,476 votes — just 294 votes more than Iyer. Margins in other races were not as slim. Bitzer won over Tammi Petrine with 662 more votes for the South Lakes District seat and Sigle won with more than 843 votes.

Thirteen candidates vied for four open seats during the election period — competitiveness that Anton said could help boost voter turnout, which has been historically low for the organization.

However, this year, overall voter turnout hovered at 19 percent — the same as last year. Turnout hovered around 14 percent three years prior.

Newly elected board members highlighted broad visions for the coming months.

Sigle said he hopes focus on three main goals: boosting community engagement, establishing relationships and processes to improve RA’s influence with the county related to development and sustaining and enhancing RA’s physical infrastructure.

Bitzer also highlighted the need to maintain recreational amenities. With five of RA’s fifteen pools slated for major renovations in the next five years, Bitzer said it is critical to complete a pool demand analysis before upcoming decisions on the budget and RA assessments. She also hopes to build off the work of a working group established in March to analyze lake and boat access.

Our overall policies and governance have some conflicting guidance and potentially out-of-date boat restrictions – again the timeline is to have recommendations ready for the Board’s consideration by November for changes to benefit all – those who use the lakes and those who must enforce our usage and access policies,” Bitzer said.

Iyer said the campaign season has been a “long and uphill journey.” He will continue to “ stop wasteful spending, improve Board transparency, stop projects invasive on neighbors and nature, and advocate Member interests with Fairfax County.”

He noted that the county’s response to RA’s letter about planned population density increases indicated the need to investigate more effective options witht he community.

“… I am not certain if our methods have been effective in conveying Member interests to Fairfax County,” he said.

He also said he was interested in addressing a concern he said he repeatedly heard on the campaign trail that member complaints were not being heard.

The impact of slates on the election — a relatively new development in the election — is unclear. One official slate, “4 for Reston” slate included Ganesan, Travis Johnson, John Bowman and Petrine.

A group of Reston residents created and endorsed an informal group for mailing distributions, coined the “Alliance for a Better Reston,” which included Bitzer, Sigle, Colin Meade and Aaron Webb. RA candidates said they did not choose to be a part of the alliance.

This story has been updated. Ganesan was not immediately available for comment. 

by RestonNow.com April 10, 2018 at 10:15 am 7 Comments

The results of Reston Association’s elections for four new members of the Board of Directors will be announced today at the annual members’ meeting at RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive).

In this year’s board election, which ran from March 5 through April 2, thirteen candidates vied for four positions. Three of the open seats are for at-large positions and another is for the South Lakes District.

The meeting, which will run from 7-9 p.m., will include a report about the state of Reston Association, future projects and current initiatives and programs. A program is available online.

The new board will meet for its initial meeting tomorrow (April 11). New members will be officially sworn in. The agenda also includes the distribution of conflict of interest forms and a discussion about the board’s plans for the next three months.

The annual members’ meeting will be streamed live on RA’s YouTube channel.

Photo by Reston Association

by RestonNow.com April 9, 2018 at 9:00 am 0

Election results released tomorrow — The winners of Reston Association’s Board of Directors’ election will be announced at a meeting tomorrow. [RA]

Girls to the rescue — Registration for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department’s summer camp for girls is open. The academy, which is open to all high school students except seniors, runs from July 9 through 13. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Academy]

Congrats to Tia Baller — The South Lakes High School point guard won all-state honors. [South Lakes Basketball]

Pony Barn renovations march forward — There’s no horsing around here. A plan to renovate the picnic pavilion goes before RA’s Design Review Board tonight. [RA]

Celebrating one year — Scout & Molly’s Boutique in Reston Town Center will celebrate its one year anniversary on April 28. [Scout & Molly’s]

HQ2’s frenemies — The possibility of landing Amazon.com Inc’s second headquarters has united Alexandria and Arlington. [Washington Business Journal]

Photo by Lauren Pinkston

by Fatimah Waseem March 26, 2018 at 3:30 pm 47 Comments

Under a new policy established by Reston Association’s Board of Directors, whistleblowers will be able to anonymously report violations of the law, RA’s deed, bylaws and policies or improper conduct to the board.

On March 22, RA’s board voted to expand the policy, which currently allows violations to be reported up to the level of the CEO. Now, the board will directly hear violations. The association is also working with a third-party service provider to establish an anonymous reporting mechanism.

The board’s treasurer Sridhar Ganesan, who worked with RA’s fiscal committee to push for the expansion, said RA still has to “conclude some procedural steps” like securing arrangements with the third party vendor before formally releasing the policy in its entirety.

“I think this is very beneficial especially in light of all the processes and internal controls that we are implementing as an organization, including the purchasing resolution,” Ganesan said at RA’s meeting last week.

Board Director John Mooney’s attempt to discuss the proposed policy during a special meeting at a later time failed. Mooney said he had hoped the board would take “a deliberative moment” to analyze the policy and ensure it independently assesses decisions made like the association’s controversial $2.65 million purchase of the Tetra property.

“This policy is meant to prevent mistakes like many believe Tetra was,” Mooney said.

by RestonNow.com March 26, 2018 at 10:15 am 19 Comments

In response to residents’ concerns, Reston Association’s Board of Directors created a working group to review policies that govern how lakes, docks and boats are used.

Over the last several months, several RA members complained that docks were often being used non-RA members and policies were not being adequately followed.

The working group, which will have roughly 15 members, will work through November to present recommendations to the board. Candidates will be interviewed by the Board Operation Committee in May. RA members interested in participating should email [email protected] by April 30.

The group’s objectives are below, via Reston Association:

1. Examine the number and types of boats and docks currently on each of the association’s lakes and ponds.

2. Identify any and all environmental impacts docks and boats have on the association’s lakes and ponds.

3. Hold focus groups and public meetings to obtain input from lakefront property owners as well as other RA members.

4. Review all the current governing documents on lakes, docks and boats.

5. Recommend amendments to the governing documents.

6. Identify the impact of RA rules on lakes, docks, and boats on the lakeside property owners’ use of their properties.

7. Identify enforcement issues, especially from the perspective of lakeside property owners and RA staff.

8. Recommend a plan for possible amendments to the governing documents that best resolve issues in objectives 1-7.

File photo

by Fatimah Waseem March 23, 2018 at 12:00 pm 20 Comments

After months of discussion, Reston Association’s Board of Directors unanimously approved stricter financial controls, a need flagged by two in-depth reviews of RA’s $2.65 million purchase of the Tetra property.

StoneTurn Group, an independent firm contracted to review the purchase and associated cost overruns, and a review by two RA members cited the need for updating RA’s purchasing and procurement policies over the last year.

The approval expands RA financial controls by requiring the involvement of multiple stakeholders in the review and approval process of contracts. The changes also clearly delineate steps required before and as contracts are considered. Major purchases require additional scrutiny and a greater emphasis is placed on competitively bid contracts.

Current policies have been criticized by some members as ambiguous and lax, resulting in a decision on the Tetra property that reviews indicate was not up to par.

All purchases above $2,500 require documentation justifying the need for purchases, at least two written quotes from competitive sources, an agreement reviewed by legal counsel and a purchase order signed by the department director, CFO and CEO.

Purchases between $5,000 and $24,999 require at least three written quotes from competitive sources. Major purchases of $25,000 and above require the issuance of a request for proposals, at least three written bids, a closed session meeting and final approval of the scope and pricing of the contract at an open board meeting.

For approval of those contracts, the approval of majority of board officers – defined as the president, vice president, treasurer, secretary and a board liaison for RA’s fiscal committee — is required. Earlier versions of the resolution allowed the fiscal committee chair to partake in the approval process — a move that RA Board Director Julie Bitzer said was inappropriate because it elevated the rank of a volunteer members to that of an elected board member.

Bitzer said she was amenable to allowing the fiscal committee and its chair to contribute by providing a general review.

In order to prevent the board from micromanaging the work of RA’s staff, Bitzer also suggested receiving an annual review of contracts awarded by staff, including a categorical breakdown based on cost brackets created by the resolution.

A move by Board Director John Mooney to require all contractors or service agreements to include provisions that prevent employees from discrimination based on factors like sex, race, color, national origin and religion also passed.

“These are times that we need to speak on such matters,” Mooney said.

Board director Victoria White objected to the proposal because she said it was more appropriate to include the provision in contractual language.

“Bottom line is, it needs to have teeth.” White said.

Other board members said the inclusion of Mooney’s amendment sends a strong message of RA’s position to the community.

A complete breakdown of the resolution is available online. A recording of the board’s meeting is also on YouTube.

by Fatimah Waseem March 22, 2018 at 9:00 am 0

Reston Association Board of Directors meeting today — The board will vote on a move to build in stricter financial controls following a third-party review of RA’s controversial purchase of the Tetra property. The meeting will be streamed live on YouTube. [Reston Now]

Tolls could take a toll – Be prepared for hiccups in your commute. Upgrades to the tolling system on Dulles Toll Road could lead to detours and delays over the next six months. [WTOP]

Congrats to South Lakes High School athletes — Several local students are considered the D.C. area’s best winter sports athletes. Make Reston proud. [The Washington Post]

Metro resumes normal service today — Regular weekday service will resume today. County schools are closed and county government offices are open, with the option of unscheduled leave.  [WMATA]

Reston Community Center programs are cancelled — All RCC programs and co-sponsored programs are cancelled today, although RCC facilities will open today. [RCC]

It’s cleanup time — Volunteers are needed for the annual Potomac River Watershed cleanup on April 14. Make an impact today. [Reston Association]

Photo by Twitter user @jgs3584

by Fatimah Waseem March 19, 2018 at 12:30 pm 42 Comments

After months of discussion, Reston Association’s Board of Directors will consider a move Thursday to strengthen its procurement controls and policies in response to a third-party review of RA’s controversial $2.65 million purchase of the Tetra property.

The rewrite of RA’s purchasing and procurement policies — which were last updated nearly six years ago — was recommended by StoneTurn Group, the forensic accounting firm contracted by RA to review the controversial purchase and cost overruns linked to the buildin’s renovation. A recent presentation by two RA members also flagged multiple concerns. 

“As a result of the Tetra Property Purchase Review by the StoneTurn Group several recommendations were made that the Association should strengthen, and the better document the Association’s policies and practices related to procurement and purchasing,” wrote board president Sherri Hebert in the draft proposal. Hebert was not available for comment.

The move expands RA’s current policies by building in more internal controls, stricter financial checks to avoid sole source contracting and seek competitive bidding, and improved documentation. Major purchases above $25,000 require board approval, among other levels of scrutiny.

If approved, the policies would address four broad areas: procurement rules, competitive procurement and purchasing, re-competing for services and rules governing sole service providers.

(more…)

by Fatimah Waseem March 2, 2018 at 2:00 pm 36 Comments

Big issues, including ambitious growth plans, continue to draw scant attention as voting for Reston Association’s elections begins on Monday.

The beleaguered issue of lower voter turnout, which has hovered between 11 and 19 percent over the last four years, belies the importance of the election. RA commands an $18 million budget, funded in part through assessments from property owners.

In recent years, RA has pushed to boost voter turnout. Last year, nearly 19 percent of eligible voters participated in RA’s election for the Board of Directors – departing from a trend where turnout remained around 14 percent the three years prior.

But RA staff and residents say much more remains to be done.

This year, RA’s elections committee hopes to push turnout beyond 20 percent — a goal that Caren Anton, co-chair of RA’s elections committee acknowledges is a somewhat of a low standard.

“It’s not so much that people are not aware that it’s not happening,” Anton, who has served on the committee for roughly non-consecutive three years, said. “We’re making a real effort to call for candidates.”

Based on a Reston Now analysis of RA elections data over the last four years, voter turnout is significantly higher when elections are contested.

The committee pushed hard to court candidates last year. For the first time, RA will host an open house with all 13 candidates who are vying for four open board seats this Sunday from noon to 2 p.m at The Lake House. The roster of candidates promises a contested race, unlike recent elections for the seat of the Hunter Mill District Supervisor and state Del. Ken Plum.

The impact of past strategies like mobile voting sites at apartments and community centers and postcard mailings has been “minimal,” Anton said. In 2015 and 2016, the elections committee received $54,4000 in reimbursement. The largest expense was a $51,000 services contract with Intelliscan, Inc, which tabulates election ballots and certifies results.

RA staff and volunteers will also distribute a flyer with voting information at Metro Stations, community centers, shops, restaurants, libraries and on cars. Posters on RA property and roadways will go up next week.

Still, limited election engagement is perplexing to some, and RA’s board has grappled with the issue in recent years. The question of whether or not the outcome of RA’s election represents the voice of RA members often elicits pause.

Causes of low turnout have not been studied. Anecdotal evidence suggests members more invested in the community or who have lived in Reston for several years tend to participate more, sources say. Nearly four percent of eligible renters of apartments voted last year, with residents who own property boasting higher turnout.

“Some people think it’s not going to make a difference. And that’s certainly not the case,” Anton said. “It is important to vote and it does matter. We’re doing everything we can to make people aware.”

It’s no surprise the card slated to promote the election reads “important issues face Reston” in bold typeface.

Voting runs from March 5 through April 2. Paper ballots will be mailed on Monday. Electronic ballots can be accessed on RA’s website during the election period.

by Fatimah Waseem February 27, 2018 at 1:00 pm 16 Comments

Candidates for an at-large seat on Reston Association’s Board of Directors called for tighter fiscal controls and better community engagement at a forum Monday night.

All seven candidates running for the three-year position struck similar positions on financial stewardship and balancing current facilities and programs with future programs as Reston’s braces for major population growth.

Calling himself “Reston’s advocate,” Derrick Watkins, an aircraft mechanic who moved to Reston four years ago, said RA must facilitate transparent discussions and invest more time in community engagement.

Sridhar Ganesan, former president of the Reston Citizens Association, drew from his experience as a current treasurer and director on the board, touting accomplishments like lowering assessments this fiscal year and leading the establishment of internal controls.

He hopes to reduce legal costs and employee costs while engaging in an “honest discussion” of services and programs the community desires. “I want to finish what I started eight months ago,” he said.

In contrast, Ven Iyer, president of a small technology business who took a hardline stance at the forum, said the board was operating in a “dogmatic mode” and needed to eliminate wasteful spending.

He said he wants to be the “voice to the families of Reston” by stopping wasteful spending, unwanted increases in assessment bills and invasive development projects. Among other examples, he criticized RA for decisions like a $100,000 website redesign that he said provided a “terrible user experience.”

Aaron Webb, who previously served as president of the Lakeside Cluster board and often cited his commitment to Reston’s core principles, said he wants to find ways to ensure development and amenities are available at the same pace. “Let’s not get the people here first and then get the venue,” he said.

Similarly, Travis Johnson, who touted nearly 20 years of experience in the public and private sector, said RA cannot “make investments randomly. “Every project that the board approves should have a clear middle and end,” he said.

Part of the challenge is staving off the “external greed of developers,” said John Pinkman, who has lived in Reston for 40 years and co-founded Rescue Reston, a grassroots organization. He hopes to protect and enhance property values, with the ultimate aim of uniting the “Reston spirit.”

“The bottom line really for me is that I really appreciate the $10 that we saved in our assessment, but I’m not sure i’m ready to sacrifice my home value to save that $10 a year,” he said.

Colin Meade, a sales executive who frequently reiterated his commitment to children’s programming and families, said RA must find ways to collect non-assessment dues. “I’m running for me and my family,” he said.

(more…)

by Fatimah Waseem February 21, 2018 at 12:00 pm 104 Comments

After reviewing a blistering report about Reston Association’s $2.65 million purchase of the Tetra property, the Board of Directors is mulling next steps.

Controversy surrounding the 2015 purchase, which cost RA nearly double the most recent tax assessment, continues to shadow the board.

In an effort to court closure, At-large Director John Bowman is seeking to involve legal counsel from the state to offer what could be the third review of the purchase. The draft motion will go before the board at their regular meeting at 6:30 p.m.

The proposal comes as two RA members, Moira Callaghan and Jill Gallagher, presented a scathing critique of the purchase in late January. The report flagged concerns about conflicts of interest, inadequate internal controls and limited transparency.

Last year, RA contracted StoneTurn Group to complete a $45,000 review of the purchase. The 30-page independent review included 15 recommendations to avoid a similar situation from happening in the future. In their review, Callaghan and Gallagher contend StoneTurn’s analysis was incomplete and insufficient.

Bowman said taking no further action after the members’ report would be “an avoidance of responsibility.” He also indicated forming a special board committee to review the members’ findings would require considerable board resources. The board may also lack qualifications to complete a review.

Engaging help from the state’s attorney would address “any potential concerns regarding forensic expertise,” Bowman noted.

The motion before the board tomorrow reads:

“Even though we would probably not be advised by the Commonwealth’s Attorney of any action deemed appropriate – we would have referred the matter to a qualified third party; the cost to the Reston Association would be minimal if any; and this Board could close the matter and focus on completing the internal controls.”

How do you hope RA’s board will respond to the report? Respond below.

File photo

by Fatimah Waseem February 15, 2018 at 3:30 pm 61 Comments

Public forums to engage with the 13 candidates vying for seats on Reston Association’s Board of Directors are slated for the end of the month.

There are 11 candidates are running for three at-large board seats and two candidates are running for the South Lakes District seat in an election that could dramatically alter the makeup of the board.

The at-large candidates’ forum for candidates seeking a three-year term is set for Monday, Feb. 26 from 7-9 p.m. at RA headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive). The forum for South Lakes candidates and at-large candidates seeking a one-year term is set for the next day at the same time and place. A tentative rain date is set for March 1.

The breakdown of candidates is as follows:

  • Two at-large seats (three-year term): Aaron Webb, Colin Meade, Derrick Watkins, John Pinkman, Sridhar Ganesan, Travis G. Johnson and Ven Iyer
  • At-large seat (one-year term): Andy Sigle, David Ballard, John Bowman, Ray Wedell
  • South Lakes District seat (three-year term): Tammi Petrine and Julie Bitzer

The voting period for the election is March 5 through April 2. Results will be announced on April 10 at the annual members’ meeting at 7 p.m.

Stay tuned for candidate profiles on Reston Now in the coming weeks. Information on each candidate is available on RA’s website.

File photo.

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