This is a commentary from Eric Carr in response to an editorial published on March 9. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.
Recently on these pages, an editorial appeared attacking me rather personally over a recent episode involving the RA Elections Committee. What struck me is that its author is a man I have never met and, indeed, was not involved in the issue. He did not reach out to express his concerns to me prior to putting pen to paper. If he had, he would have learned that my concerns had nothing to do with any RA member’s right to an opinion, and everything to do with tone and civility, above all from members of the RA Committee chartered to enforce that very civility.
Reflecting on this has led me to a series of thoughts about the quality and tenor of discourse here in Reston, and I submit them for your consideration.
We have entered a time in our country where attacking people, rather than ideas, has become fashionable. People have become proxy for their positions and we have collectively relinquished our interest in dialogue.
This is all the more puzzling given that the vast majority of us are likeminded on the existential issues we face here in Reston. We almost all agree that we need to preserve our open space, develop our infrastructure before we grow, and band together to advocate for Reston on a bigger stage than ever before. We all want to foster a community where we can live, raise our families, feel safe, embrace all shades of America, be treated fairly, and enjoy the fruits of our labors.
We differ, too. In some cases, we differ on how to achieve these goals, on others how to govern ourselves in pursuit of those goals, and others yet on the relative role that our elected organizations should play in achieving those things on which we agree. That’s healthy, and those are conversations well worth having.
So, I am using this space today to ask a favor: let’s make our conversations contests of ideas, not people. Let’s assume noble intent in those with whom we disagree. Let’s not rush to imagine conspiracy or an intent to hide information or to deceive.
Let’s have more conversations in person, rather than from behind a keyboard or using pseudonyms. Those of you who know me, know my standard response to disagreement: let’s get coffee or a beer and talk about it. Face to face, as Restonians who care deeply about the health of our community.
Thank you for reading this. I look forward to our next conversation.
This is a commentary from Bill Krieger, a resident of Reston. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.
On Wednesday, Michael Gandolfo resigned from the Elections Committee after a public dispute with current Board Member, Eric Carr. In solidarity with Michael, I resigned as well. If you’ve seen Carr on Facebook you may already know some of the story. But you may not know it all.
Weeks ago, a current board member asked if he could actively campaign for candidates. The Elections Committee wasn’t certain if this was allowable, and sought legal counsel. My understanding of the answer we received was that no one forfeits their basic rights as an RA member to speak out as they please, regardless of serving on boards or board committees, as long as they make it clear that they are speaking as individuals and not as representatives of those boards or committees.
Speaking only for himself and not for the Elections Committee, Michael Gandolfo posed questions to Carr on Eric’s public Facebook page about whether the Tetra Loan was paid off with Reston reserve funds. According to Gandolfo, Carr proceeded to berate him saying, “As a member of the RA Elections Committee, I would hope you would be more attuned to the operations of the Association, and I would further hope your social media postings might serve as an exemplar of civility.” Carr then contacted the Chair of the Election Committee expressing his concerns about Michael’s position on the committee. In response, the Chair sent all its members an email, saying, in effect, that as Election Committee members we must not to engage in any Reston political issues with board members or candidates on social media or elsewhere.
While the position of the Chair seems reasonable at first, unfortunately it contains an inherent hypocrisy. RA members do not forfeit their rights to speak out on any RA issues when they make it clear that they are speaking out as individuals, not official representatives. Michael Gandolfo did just that. His speech, therefore, was as valid and protected as Eric Carr endorsing candidates. When the Election Committee Chair sent out this email, Michael Gandolfo resigned. I followed suit not only in solidarity with Michael but also because I believe Eric Carr crossed a line. In my opinion, he used his influence as a current board member -not as an individual -to take Michael to task with his committee chair. I believe he abused his positon and for that reason, frankly, he should either be censured by the board, resign his office, or be voted out of office the next time he runs.
Eric Carr’s behavior, to me, personifies the fears of some Restonians regarding the candidates he is actively supporting – Bowman, Ganesan, Johnson and Petrine. These four candidates are running as a slate calling itself “4 for Reston.” For some, the math is troubling. A slate of four fortified by even one current board member in lockstep can easily translate into a guaranteed majority, or what some Reston Now readers are calling “group think.” They rightly fear the creation of a board with a built-in majority that has the potential to rob the RA Board of all debate and independence when important issues come before it. And now a second slate of candidates appears. This is a trend that we, as members, should actively discourage with our votes. The Board must consist of independent thinkers.
New leads in 1995 sexual assault case — A 49-year-old Florida man was charged for the assault of four female roommates living in Reston. [The Washington Post]
If you’re in love with Metro — Dying to snag a Metro-branded gift, t-shirt or souvenir? The M Shop, Metro’s new pop-up retail stores, opens today at Metro Center Station. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]
The fight with Lyft and Uber — A Sterling-based company called Reston Limousine is fighting off its competition by giving its drivers huge referral bonuses. [The Washington Business Journal]
Reston Association assessments due tomorrow — RA extended the deadline to pay dues by a week after phone lines went down last week. [Reston Association]
Photo by Ruth Seviers
This is an op/ed submitted by Paul Anderson, a Reston resident, on February 28. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now.
I was saddened to see that Ms. Fulkerson “resigned” last week. Saddened and disheartened that the populist anger that has so gripped our country seems to be very active right here in our own little community. Clearly the purchase of the Tetra property was the last straw, but I suspect that this has been simmering over a long time with many initiatives and changes causing increasing ire and angst; the new RA Headquarters, the Nature House, the Lake Anne land swap and finally Tetra. Add to that anything at all that happens in small tax district 5 and paid parking at Reston Town Center and boom! One head on a stake and sadly probably more to come.
The spite of board member John Bowman’s attempt to have the Tetra purchase reviewed by the Commonwealth Attorney even after a professional review by highly regarded StoneTurn, which found no evidence of malfeasance, was shocking in what it exposed. A well of vitriol whose depth is breathtaking to behold.
The orchestration of this separation before the new board is seated in April was also disheartening. Clearly there is a core on the current board with a mission, they needed to act while they knew that they had the numeric advantage. Which brings me to the election.
We have for the first time that I can recall a large “slate” running for the four vacancies. Two of the incumbents were previously appointed to their positions and two are running for the first time. Three of the four have past experience in the same Reston organizations, RCA – the Reston Citizens Association and Reston 2020. Since the four are using a single piece of co-branded campaign material it would appear that the old agreement that current Board Members do not endorse candidates has gone out the window. We could check the Ethics Rules on this topic but wait, no, we can’t because this board after making scene after scene about ethics found it inconvenient to actually get that task done.
My point in all of this is simple. The health of the Reston Association Board depends on a diversity of independent opinions, not groupthink that has been hobbled together by our most angry citizens. I’m not telling my fellow Reston citizens who to vote for but I hope that they’ll consider the new faces and differing opinions that are seeking election this term because that’s what will move this community forward in positive ways. To the current Board; you’ve got your pound of flesh in Ms. Fulkerson. Let’s move on.
Two new residential projects with under 100 units were added to the Reston Association last month.
The owners of Valley & Park by Toll Brothers and the Lofts at Reston by Pulte Homes will pay annual assessments and the projects will be subject to the RA deed and covenants.
The Lofts (Michael Faraday Drive) includes 32 multi-family units and 12 loft townhouse units. Prices start in the upper 600s, according to Pulte’s website. Valley & Park is a 54-unit project on 11720. The site was previously home to a six-story office building.
Both developments will have their own on-site maintenance through a cluster of condominium association, among other conditions.
The worst of the windstorm is waning, but Reston Association’s Central Services Facility staff say cleanup on RA’s pathways and common areas could take a minimum of one month.
Staff are focusing on removing trees downed on roadways and pathways and trees hanging or causing safety hazards.
In a release, Reston Association’s director of communications and community engagement wrote the following:
The association is asking members to report any downed trees that pose a safety threat. However, because of the vast amount of damage done by the storm, and the amount of work involved with cleaning up, CSF crews cannot at this time remove trees that are on the ground but do not block roads or pathways and aren’t considered a safety hazard.
Leone told Reston Now most of the cleanup involves down trees. He also said there is fence damage from a downed tree at Glade Tennis Court.
“We continue to closely monitor the situation and are doing emergency tree removal as indicated in the release,” he wrote.
For emergency situations involving downed or hanging trees on RA property, call 703-437-7658.
Photo by Gary Smith
Refunds for Metro users — Roughly 17,000 customers will get refunds for trips that took 15 minutes longer than expected on the Orange and Silver lines. Now that’s a silver lining. [Reston Patch]
Expect delays on all Metro lines — The Rush Hour Promise won’t be in effect today due to the wind storm sweeping the region. Metrorail is running every 12 minutes per line with reduced speeds above ground for safety. [Washington Metropolitan Area Authority]
Deadline for assessments extended — Reston Association members now have until March 8 to pay annual assessments. The deadline was pushed after a power outage yesterday. [Reston Association]
Focusing on body cameras — In the coming weeks, you’ll see more Fairfax County police with the special gear. The county breaks down what the program will look like. [Fairfax County Government]
Flickr pool photo via vantagehill
As Boston Properties announces a mix of new commercial tenants, the Reston Merchants Association continues to decry paid parking at Reston Town Center roughly eight months after ParkRTC scaled back its parking structure.
Seven businesses reported a downslide in revenue over the last year, losses that owners said were caused by paid parking.
Others worry that parking will drive out small businesses and cause RTC to lose its appeal and accelerate its transformation into a downtown similar to other town centers. Tenants also say customers often express gripes over paid parking.
Last June, Boston Properties, RTC’s owner, changed its paid parking structure, which originally charged for weekday parking, following major outcry from tenants and customers. Parking is free for one hour during the day and after 5 p.m. Street parking is $3 for one hour and $6 for two hours, with no charges on Sundays.
The narrative by merchants upset over paid parking stands in stark contrast to official statements from Boston Properties, which currently owns more than 4.6 million square feet in RTC. The company has successfully inked long-term leases with major tenants.
Although the company did not respond immediately to a request for comment, the company indicated RTC is a “top experiential” development in the country.
New commercial tenants have recently signed long-term leases with the company, including Balducci’s Food Lovers Market, &Pizza, Muse PaintBar and Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls.
“We have listened to the community and are thrilled to announce a combination of new national, regional, and local retailers that will continue to enhance the shopping experience. Developing best in class retailers that strengthen Reston’s connection to the Town Center is our priority,” wrote Stephanie Friedman, director of leasing at Boston Properties, in a statement announced new developments in RTC.
Aaron Gordon, owner of Red Velvet Cupcakery, said that despite changes to the structure, requiring customers to pay for parking was the “worst decision” made by RTC. He reported a 37 percent drop in income over the last two quarters of last year, as compared to 2016.
“What took decades to make us the true center of Reston has been undone by one shortsighted, money-grabbing decision. Reston Town Center is more a ghost town than town center,” Gordon said.
Ray Pugsley, owner of Potomac River Running, said business between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. is “terrible.”
“Even when doctors refer people to use, they tell us that their patients refuse to patronize Reston Town Center,” he said.
In the statement, other businesses reported the following:
- Big Bowl reported a 15 percent drop in sales compared to 2016. A major portion of the drop happened during lunch hours, when parking is not free.
- Ben and Jerry’s estimated a 10 percent decrease in sales.
- Pitango reports an 11 percent drop in sales last year, as compared to 2016.
- Edibles Incredible Desserts reported $135,000 in losses last year compared to the previous year.
- PR Partners says its new quest business is down an average of between 25 and 30 percent “as a result of paid parking.”
Welcome to the club — Reston Association added two new residential developments into the association. That’s a total of 98 units located at The Lofts at Reston Station and Valley & Park. [Reston Association]
An ode to Thomas Jefferson — Keep an eye out. Founding Farmers at Reston Station will open some time in early April. [Washingtonian]
Wind Warning in effect through 7 p.m. — The National Weather Service has issued a wind warning for Fairfax County. [National Weather Service]
Don’t forget: Reston Association assessments are due today — RA will have extended hours through today so members can make their final assessment payments. [Reston Association]
Photo by Fatimah Waseem
An acting CEO has been named a day after an announcement that Reston Association’s CEO and longtime RA staff member Cate Fulkerson is stepping down from her position.
Robert Wood will take over as the search for a permanent CEO begins. Wood, RA’s Chief Financial Officer, has been with the association a little over three years.
Prior to joining RA, he was director of accounting operations and Opower, which was acquired by Oracle, and held financial consulting roles at Deloitte, according to a press release. He is also a certified public accountant fraud examiner.
Beginning Thursday, Fulkerson will transition into “a special adviser role.”
It is still unclear why Fulkerson resigned. Sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, indicated there was a strained relationship between the current board and Fulkerson.
A spokesperson for RA declined to release any information other than what was already indicated in a press release on Monday.
“Beyond the formal release/statement issued by Reston Association yesterday, the association does not comment publicly on personnel related matters. RA Board President Sherri Hebert and CEO Cate Fulkerson are not available for further comment on this announcement,” wrote Mike Leone, RA’s director of communications and community engagement, in a statement.
At a candidate forum on Tuesday night, current at-large director John Bowman declined to comment on the issue. He said it was “inappropriate” to comment on the CEO, especially given that “conspiracy theorists in our community” may make conclusions and draw implications based on general statements.
“Let people talk when it’s inappropriate to say anything,” Bowman said.
(This story was updated at 8:52 p.m. to include Bowman’s comments).
Photo courtesy of RA
Voting in the 2018 Reston Association Board of Directors election will run from March 5 through April 2. This week, we will begin posting profiles on each of the candidates.
Featured here is Julie Bitzer, who is facing one other candidate for the three-year South Lakes District seat. 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?
January 1980, 38 years ago – Reston just felt right, my “magical Reston” the term I use with family, friends, and co-workers. And it was close to work in Tysons. A Hunters Woods Deepwood townhome was affordable as a starter home. Fourteen years later, I moved to my current home of 24 years off the 14th hole of Reston National Golf Course.
What inspired you to run for the board?
Reston had everything I wanted in a forever home. I had embraced the Bob Simon vision actualized through “Live, Work, Play” and the diversity of Restonians in age, culture, values and economics. I had open natural space and lakes, protected and accessible. I had village centers populated by small businesses within walking and biking distance. And I had a golf course threatened by developers where letting one open space slip away would open the door to more onslaughts and increased population density without promised infrastructure.
So, I put my own skin in the game as South Lakes District Director. Three years later, with still more to be done – I run to continue working for “us”.
Having active involvement as board liaison on three RA committees – Design Review Board, Covenants, and Parks & Recreation Advisory, I know where and how we can improve our member service. I’ve supported members navigating the RA process for covenants and design review, clusters’ property & trail access, boat & lake policy, and even commercial redevelopment. One “fight” as director was to ensure the County was held accountable for stream restoration off South Lakes – a long-neglected erosion and safety issue. Enduring the loss of Tall Oaks Village Center to residential development, I will fight to preserve our South Lakes Village Center, proactively working with RA’s Land Use Development team.
What are three of the biggest concerns you have for Reston?
We stand to lose our sense of community, the very spirit and essence of the Reston vision as we face external forces of growth and fiscal assessment pressure. How can we effectively reach both old and new members, and unite?
RA must deliver a tangible return on our assessment dollars, reflective of our needs and wants. We must continue to seek more efficient and optimal methods to deliver value; yet RA expenditure decisions must not be reduced to a purely monetary business case scenario. Facilities and programs supporting our community and shared experiences could be significantly impacted or eliminated depending on the election outcome – such as our neighborhood walkable pools, our camps, Walker Nature Center, and ad hoc programming by which to enjoy Reston’s amenities. We’re a non-profit, established to provide services that support a fiscally responsible best quality way of life.
I want all voices in our community to be heard and reflected on our RA board. A board made up of independent and individual thinkers, contributing to open transparent dialog.
What do you hope to accomplish by being on the board?
In our greater community, there are many opportunities to volunteer and serve. As an elected RA district director, my direct focus has been and will be on RA’s mission as a homeowner’s association, delivering valued, responsive and continually improving service cost-effectively. My priorities are –
#1 – Giving members what they value. From my conversations, it’s often about member service, making it easier to interact with RA – think Covenants, Design Review, pool & tennis passes. It’s about making sure we maintain and improve facilities – think pools/tennis/fields/trails/pavilions. To date, we have addressed facilities on an individual basis – think Hook Road or Pony Barn. We should evaluate our facilities long term future collectively against RA’s changing demographics. Tackling this comprehensive analysis in phases, we should start with all pools in 2018 as we are faced with decisions on Thoreau pool’s future beyond the 2018 swim season (to repair, replace, some want to close?)
#2 – Continuing partnerships with grass-roots, citizen-led initiatives, lending support and voice where our RA and community interests align and are impacted by County and external forces. This includes organizations like Rescue Reston for open space, Reston Citizens Association and the Coalition for a Planned Reston (CPR) with its focus on population density and infrastructure support.
#3 – Ensuring RA matures its business processes and operations controls to a standard, best practices level that is comparable to an equally-sized commercial business.
How will your personal or professional experience help you in your role with RA?
I bring four decades of corporate experience in delivering quality solutions, programs and services to the Federal Government. My sales and marketing background provide strategic and tactical skills in identifying and meeting customer requirements. My professional and graduate education provide expertise in best practices for business operations and controls. My Masters in Landscape Design supports my work with RA’s Design Review Board. Personally, I thrive in and have demonstrable skill in consensus-building, finding the win-win for all parties involved.
Find more information at facebook.com/Julie4RA.
Photo by Reston Association
Meet Reston Association Candidates Next week – There are 13 candidates running for seats on RA’s Board of Directors. Check out three opportunities to meet them. [Reston Today]
Jumping Off Ship – John Jumper is retiring from the board of directors of Leidos. The company plans to move its headquarters to a future trophy tower in Reston Town Center. [Washington Business Journal]
Vote on Renaissance Centro Project Expected Tonight – The county’s Planning Commission will vote on the Renaissance Centro project tonight. The proposal calls for replacing offices on Old Reston Avenue with 20-story condos. [Reston Now]
Enjoy “Expressions of the Soul” Today — eMotion, a local dance group with dancers ranging from ages eight to 65, will performance today at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. [Reston Community Center]
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.
Growing pains — Proposals to increase population density have been met by fierce community opposition. A Burke resident fires back, arguing that Reston’s development isn’t finished yet. [Greater Greater Washington]
Forging a new fellowship — Lake Anne Fellowship House could soon be transformed into a new 240-unit apartment building for seniors in need of affordable housing. Plans, which also include 74 townhouses, will go before the Design Review Board on March 19. [Reston Association]
Second phase of Loudoun Station begins — Reston-based Comstock is set to begin the $75 million development project as Metro service inches closer. [Washington Business Journal]
Wins in the first regional champion for girls indoor track — With dominating performances in the sprints and relays, the South Lakes High School girls’ team won the 6A North Region D indoor track and field championship in mid-February. [SLHS]
Photo by Ruth Sievers
Body Cameras Go Live This Week— Police officers in the Reston police district will be equipped with body cameras beginning this week. During the six-month pilot program, cameras will record anytime officers respond to a scene and during routine traffic stops. [NBC 4]
Maame Biney Looks Forward to Beijing 2022 — Over the weekend, Biney finished last in the 1,500-meter short-track speedskating heat. She also finished fourth in the quarterfinals for the 500-meter race. The 18-year-old made history by becoming the first black woman to make the U.S. Olympic speedskating team. [The Washington Post]
Meet Reston Association Board Candidates — There are four open seats on RA’s board of directors. E-meet the 13 candidates who are running by watching their online videos. [RA]
Hiccups on the Metro Line This Morning — Metro trains did not share a track on the Blue and Silver lines this morning. Backups were caused by a report of smoke. [The Washington Post]
Photo by Twitter user @MrErrett