Reston, VA

Monday Morning Notes

Cornerstones Chats with Town of Herndon Candidates — The Reston-based nonprofit organization interviewed candidates for the Herndon Town Council and Mayor. Interviews were conducted by Stephen Smith Cobbs, a member on the Board of Directors and a pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Herndon. [Cornerstones]

Volunteers Build Reston Girl with Leukemia a Playset — Volunteers from Dominion Team Energy team u with the ROC Solid Foundation to build a four-year-old Reston girl with leukemia a playset in her backyard. [WJLA]

Around Town: Judge to Hold Trial on Plans to Remove Lee Statue — “A lawsuit seeking to prevent Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam from removing an enormous statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Richmond is scheduled to go to trial Monday.” [WTOP]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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Campaign contributions to the Town of Herndon’s mayoral and town council races have been relatively sparse with Election Day just over a month away.

Campaign finance reports filed with the Virginia Department of Elections on Sept. 15 show that Sheila Olem and Roland Taylor, the two candidates seeking to replace outgoing Mayor Lisa Merkel, have received $925 and $957, respectively, in total contributions since January.

According to her latest campaign finance report, which covers the period from July 1 to Aug. 31, Olem received a $250 donation from Fairfax City Councilmember Janice Miller on Aug. 1. She also loaned $500 to her campaign in July and has gotten $175 in small cash donations since January.

Taylor, a public servant in local law enforcement, is responsible for all of the financial donations to his campaign.

By contrast, Merkel, who announced in January that she will step down at the conclusion of her fourth term as Herndon’s mayor, received more than $17,500 in contributions for all three of her reelection campaigns, topping $20,000 in both 2014 and 2016, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

Olem, who currently serves as Herndon’s vice mayor, attributes the sluggish rate of donations to the town’s mayoral contest to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, which is driven by close contact between people and, as a result, has limited candidates’ ability to interact with voters in-person.

Olem says she tries to keep supporters updated through email and Facebook, but she is aware that not everyone uses social media, and emails will not reach people unless they are on her campaign’s mailing list.

“That’s the most difficult part of it, and I don’t think that’s good for the voters,” Olem said. “I usually have several events, and then people will come and chat with me, and they’ll give donations. It’s just really hard this time.”

Sean Regan leads candidates for the Herndon Town Council in terms of campaign contributions.

A member of Herndon’s Planning Commission since 2012, Regan is one of 10 people vying for a seat on Herndon’s six-member town council.

The $6,710 in campaign contributions that Regan has reported to the state since January is more than twice as much as what any other candidate has accumulated, though much of that money comes out of his own pocket.

In addition to receiving $700 in cash donations, Regan has given $6,000 to his campaign in the form of a $2,000 direct donation and two separate $2,000 loans.

While Regan has the highest cumulative total of contributions, rival town council candidate Stevan Porter has attracted the most donors, receiving $2,583 from 18 different contributors as of Aug. 31.

Financial support for Porter’s campaign has mostly come from individual donors, but the IT professional and paramedic has also reported two separate $100 in-kind contributions from the Libertarian National Committee for the use of an eCanvasser campaign management system.

Total contributions to the other Herndon Town Council candidates’ campaign include:

Naila Alam, Bessie Denton, Pradip Dhakal, and Syed Iftikhar have not reported any campaign contributions as of Virginia’s Sept. 15 filing deadline for candidates who will be on the ballot for this November’s election. Denton and Iftikhar withdrew their candidacy after the results of the local Democratic caucus.

Virginia law requires that candidates seeking public office disclose all campaign contributions and expenditures to the state.

Full campaign finance reports for Herndon’s mayoral and town council candidates are available on the Virginia Department of Elections website.

Image via Town of Herndon

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Reston Now is running statements of candidates running for mayor of the Town of Herndon. With longtime Mayor Lisa Merkel stepping down, two candidates are running for her position. Featured here is Sheila Olem, the town’s current vice mayor, who is running against Roland Taylor.

What is the top challenge the town faces currently and how do you aim to address it? 

The COVID pandemic is our biggest challenge for staff and council, as well as our local businesses until a vaccine is available.  We have been addressing this crisis since March and it looks like we may have another year. Town Manager, Bill Ashton, has been the General in charge of our town staff, our troops, since the shut down in March.  Having a professional town manager that is charged with the day to day operations is a gift in good times.  During this crisis it has been a blessing.  My background in public health has helped me understand the “why” of our new normal.

What would your top three priorities be as mayor? 

  1. Continuing our leadership as the environmentally focused leader in urban Northern Virginia.
  2. Continuing and improving our great town services and quality of life for residents, visitors, and businesses.
  3. Bringing home county, state, and other regional dollars to benefit our town.

How does your background uniquely position you for mayor? 

For over twenty years I have been involved land use issues and served on numerous committees, including the Dulles Toll Road Task Force (2000-01), Hunter Mill Task Force (2005),  Herndon’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA)  (2000 -07), and the Virginia Municipal League’s (VML) General Laws Policy Committee.  Having a good working relationship with our County elected officials is an asset when projects such as the New Fire Station in Herndon and the need for funding to build an Arts facility in our redevelopment area of the downtown.  I have had a working relationship with every Dranesville Supervisor since 1990, three Republicans and one Democrat.  My goal is to do the best for Herndon and work with all elected officials.  As a homeowner and business owner in town since 1990, I have also worked with staff on numerous occasions for building and business permitting. Improving our process is always on the table. Legislating and bringing home dollars is the job.

The Town of Herndon is poised for transformation as Metro and the redevelopment of downtown Herndon is underway.  What is your current assessment of progress made so far? 

The size fits with our community’s desire to keep a hometown feel in our downtown.  The current project has been underway since 2009. My tenure on council started in July of 2010 so I have been there for this long process.  It has been thoughtful, vetted by the community with focus groups, public hearings etc.  Once complete the project will generate tax revenue for the town, new customers for existing businesses and the new residents will see why we enjoy having a walkable vibrant community. 

How do you hope to continue ensuring the development occurs in a timely and productive manner?  

I support the current project; we do have a meeting to determine the final finances of the project.  We have been planning and investing for this project for the past ten years.  Once the final agreement papers are signed and ground breaks the project will be completed in twenty-four months!

Photo via Sheila Olem

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Reston Now is running statements of candidates running for mayor of the Town of Herndon. With longtime Mayor Lisa Merkel stepping down, two candidates are running for her position. Featured here is Roland Taylor, who is running against Sheila Olem, the town’s current vice mayor.

As your mayor, I will be focused daily working to lowering your taxes, utilities, and fees. Herndon needs a commonsense candidate, with no bias divisive partisan political agenda. Local level government works best without bias parties involved. Roland has no compromises from campaign contributions from developers, real estate companies, or political parties. No parties should put local Town elections on their ballots.

My wife Kathy and I have lived in Herndon with our four children for 16 years. Their youngest graduated from Herndon High in 2019, and now we are eager to take the next step in their service to our community.

My twenty-year career as a public servant in local law enforcement provides me extensive experience working with citizens and government leaders. As a United Nations’ senior rule of law leader and while supporting the U.S. Department of State in international locations, Roland gained experience living and working with diverse international populations, respecting all cultures and focusing on human rights and protecting endangered population groups.

Now as a federal government program manager, Roland has eighteen plus years of extensive experience with managing large budgets and personnel supporting federal government contracts both domestic and international. For over ten years he has been a certified project management professional and experienced in risk management. 

Based on Roland’s law enforcement background and his Masters in Criminal Justice Administration, from Loyola University in New Orleans, he has served as both an Associate and Adjunct Professor of transnational and organized crime for two universities. Roland understands public safety.

As both a parent and grandparent, Roland Taylor wishes to continue giving back and offers his service to the Herndon community as its Mayor. Roland has never avoided a crisis when help and leadership were required. Herndon requires proven executive management and leadership during the COVID-19 crisis and our recovery. I am that candidate and asks for your support and vote on or before November 3rd, 2020.

Top Three Priorities as Mayor

Density Zoning

Town of Herndon, voters have to decide why they selected to live in Herndon and if that quality of lifestyle will continue with a higher density rezoning model the current Town Council is supporting. With rapid growth, there are equal impacts on increased traffic congestion and school overcrowding. We need a diverse Council and not yes votes across the board, as with current party ticket slates. There are some very big projects on the table that will have long term impacts on Herndon. Real conversations have to be had, with all views expressed and listened to in a respective manner. Developers and realtors should not lead the discussions with crony politicians, that are accepting their biased contributions to their campaigns. 

Meals Tax Impacts

In the 2016 General Election, Fairfax County put a Meals Tax on the ballot, and it was defeated countywide. All three Town of Herndon precincts voted “no” to the Meals Tax, however, in April of 2019, my opponent and all seeking re-election to Council, voted to increase Herndon’s Meals Tax, without putting to the Town Citizens for their vote. Long ago the Town put a Meals Tax on the books, to protect the Town from a County Meals Tax. Clearly, the citizens have expressed their desire against a Meals Tax in 2016 and our elected officials ignored the citizens. This was very disappointing and another reason, I am running for Mayor. 

Be assured, I am opposed to Meals Tax as it unfairly affects Seniors, low-income and middle-income families, and negatively impacts tourism. It causes decreased tipping, devastating waiters who rely on tips to make a living, which has already been badly impacted by COVID-19. Sadly, many restaurants only make 3-4% in profit, and the Meals Tax hurts our small business owners.  I am a strong small business supporter and these measures are putting our local businesses at a competitive disadvantage.

COVID Economy Impacts

Due to COVID-19 and its negative impacts on our economy, all levels of government will be required to make budget cuts as all the prior budget forecasts were incorrect. We know after COVID-19, many business models will change. Office space may reduce, lowering commuters, and impact lunch traffic. These and others will reduce taxes paid and Town revenues.

The next two years will be difficult and requires someone with extensive government and business experience like Roland’s, to lead Herndon to recovery. This requires selecting the best candidate for leadership, and not just voting down a party ticket. Roland sincerely asks for your support and vote as the Town of Herndon’s next Mayor on Nov. 3, 2020.

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