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May 24, 2012 by Blue Ridge Leader filed under Dear Editor, Opinion No Comments

I have read all the documents on the site and listened to the arguments. This sounds like Obamacare where you have to sign the deal before you can see what is in the deal. I don’t see how any supervisor who votes for this Metro deal can run again as a fiscal conservative.

Data Quality. The information is not a proper business case and it has not been independently validated. The documents lack realistic ridership projections, no pros and cons, no risks, no worst case cost estimates, and no impacts to taxpayers or car traffic, and no explanation for the deltas with previous claims and models.

Coherence. How can the Board vote to lower property tax rates and then a few months later approve an unbudgeted and unfunded discretionary project? You are undercutting your management credibility.

Transparency. Impacts to taxpayers have not been calculated and properly disseminated to Loudoun county residents. If you sent a flyer out to residents stating that taxes must go up or this “investment” equates to one or two schools or the 2% gas tax will go to rail and have to be backfilled, or that existing road projects will be deferred, then you would see that taxpayers would not support this project especially while in this economic climate. But put it on a referendum in November with an estimated tax impact and prove us skeptics wrong. You can use the IG report or union issue to delay making any deals. The deal is not really “only good until you walk out of the showroom”. MWAA needs our checking account a lot more than we need their few miles of track.

Exposure. You are committing Loudoun to a non-revocable agreement that permanently funds a portion of MWAA’s total budget – America’s most expensive and poorly run transit system (just like everything run out of DC). You will leave Loudoun vulnerable by having no contractual recourse that guarantees spending limits or service level guarantees. Why do you want to be a lifetime MWAA shareholder when you have no idea what MWAA’s billions of unfunded liabilities amount to and in addition you have no veto power over future design, personnel, and operational decisions?

Corruption. The IG report (thank you Frank Wolf) formally documents Metro’s lack of good governance practices and integrity – and that is only the preliminary report. Why would you consider entering into a permanent pact at this time with what we know today, not to mention what might be in the final IG report? If you cut a deal now, aren’t you implicitly saying that you do not take government corruption and accountability seriously?

Conflict of Interest. Who are the developers and land owners that would benefit from opting in, how have they been involved in studies, email campaigns, and marketing this project. Which supervisors, if any, have received monetary and in kind contributions from property owners who stand to financially gain?

What’s the Downside. You haven’t answered a basic business question which is what happens if we opt out? Eastern Loudoun residents will still be able to use Metro stations between Wiehle and 28 and MWAA can still build the 606 station on their property. Doing nothing looks like a great deal to me.

Priorities. Where is the list of Loudoun’s school and infrastructure project priorities and what falls off if you opt in? You seem to lack focus. While you are debating a Metro station on Loudoun County Parkway you can’t seem to finish the south end of the parkway even though you have approved a major commercial center and massive residential development between Arcola and Braddock Road. And now part of the unfinished section has to be elevated over a wetland which is no doubt an unbudgeted expense.

Environment/Congestion. We know that Dulles Toll Road fares will significantly increase to fund Metro thanks to Tim Kaine’s failure to properly fund transportation, his number one campaign promise in 2005. This will force cars off of the toll road onto secondary roads thereby increasing commute time and impacting the environment which is already on the national bad list in terms of air quality. How will you explain even more congestion to the 95% who won’t be using Metro?

Metro Capacity. Metro’s design and capacity problem is well known. Two tracks cannot adequately handle peak volume today and no one is going to bore another tunnel under the Potomac. WMATA’s rerouting proposal actually calls for adding more Orange Line trains during peak hours. The Orange Line commute today is slow and adding the Silver Line will make it worse. I predict the service will be so bad that people using the Silver and Orange Line will abandon Metro and go back to cars because it will be faster.

Unnecessary Conflict. Why are you setting us all up for a perpetual battle between education and rail? You know that Loudoun is far more interested in schools. Have you already forgotten the last School Board battle over modest school cuts? I am amazed that the Loudoun education/political establishment hasn’t put 2 and 2 together and aggressively opposed this project; then again VEA-NEA are probably simpatico with construction and other unions in Metro.

Bus Option. I see that Chairman York is a bus denier. Perhaps he should take a fact finding trip with my son who rides the bus from Sycolin to Tysons for $3 each way. We call that a great deal. And bus service is true mass transit because it helps more people and more income levels while rail is just a subway for a select (and might I add usually well paid) few that commute to Arlington and DC. Clearly bus service is a viable option. It can be easily reconfigured, has predictable costs, and would service far more of our large county.

Reputation. Our country is officially bankrupt and a national political movement has organically risen up to try and stave off economic disaster which threatens our children. NoVa lives in an artificial income bubble that benefits from rampant federal spending, which will eventually come to a screeching halt. Since Loudoun is such a wealthy county that means we should be setting the example for fiscal prudence: that means minimal short term debt, sticking to clear priorities, and maintaining a rainy day fund. Taking out a 20+ year debt service which doubles the construction cost is irresponsible.

Given the lack of reliable data and analysis, I have to conclude that four supervisors believe Barack Obama’s economic forecasts and now they have a burning hole in their pocket to buy a shiny toy; or perhaps they have always wanted to build a version of Walt Disney’s Epcot planned community fantasy; or maybe this is just the latest example, like education spending and electronic whiteboards, where Loudoun just can’t help itself from touting statistics and bragging rights over Fairfax. We moved from Fairfax to Loudoun to escape liberal and fiscally irresponsible government and I prefer to not move again.

The only supervisor who is looking out for the taxpayer’s interest, who has mastered the details, conducted his own due diligence and can articulate his position in a reasoned fact based manner is Ken Reid. I suggest that you bring the quality of your own arguments up to his level before voting and dispense with the illogical rants and (I hate this overused word but it applies here) bullying, that was on display in the May 3 meeting.

We elected this Board of Supervisors to make hard choices and we gave you a mandate to finish a complex infrastructure build out due to mismanaged growth and while in a stagnant economy. You have enough on your plate. Forget your dream of being photographed at a ribbon cutting ceremony and be the common sense executives that we know you are and vote no.

Thad and Doreen Hunter

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