Fellow Prince William County Citizens:
In our 14 years of involvement in county land use issues and almost 20 years living here, pursuing balanced growth land use policies and protecting Prince William County’s Rural Crescent have always been bipartisan issues, including protecting citizens against tax-negative residential development that chokes our roads, overcrowds our schools, raises our taxes, lowers property values, and damages our environment. Thank goodness for that.
Specifically, regarding the Rural Crescent, thank county officials like Sharon Pandak, a Democrat and county lawyer who helped create the Rural Crescent in 1998, former politicians like Republican Supervisors John Stirrup and Mike May, current politicians like Democratic Supervisor Frank Principi and Republican Supervisors Jeanine Lawson, Peter Candland, and Maureen Caddigan, all of whom have frequently and consistently spoken out and voted in favor of the Rural Crescent. They have done so against the wishes of unprincipled residential developers, big landowners, and allies on the Board of County Supervisors (Republican Supervisors Corey Stewart, Marty Nohe, and former Democratic Supervisor John Jenkins) who have had no qualms about sticking you with the most overcrowded roads and schools in Virginia and then raising your taxes to pay for the very things that are tormenting you. Also thank the citizens groups, composed of both Republicans and Democrats, who, on their own time and pro bono, have applied pressure and kept attention focused on balanced growth land use and preserving the Rural Crescent.
But now, sadly and to our great disappointment, the bipartisanship has apparently ended.
As if they’ve received marching orders from a higher authority, none of the eight Democrats running for the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) in the 5 November elections has agreed to sign the Preserve the Rural Crescent/Friends of the Rural Crescent (PRC/FORCE) pledge to protect the Rural Crescent or in any way unequivocally and publicly promised to support it. On the other hand, five of the six Republican candidates running for the BOCS — John Gray (at-large, chairman), Yesli Vega (Coles District), Douglas Taggart (Potomac District), and incumbents Jeanine Lawson (Brentsville District) and Peter Candland (Gainesville District) — have publicly and clearly expressed support for preserving the Rural Crescent.
- Democratic candidate for at-large chairman of the BOCS, Ann Wheeler, unapologetically supports the far-western north-south Bi-County Parkway (BCP), which: runs right through the Rural Crescent to Dulles Airport and thus will be the end of any honest semblance of a rural preservation area, solves no known commuter or other traffic problem, and is a big juicy kiss to residential developers who wish to open up the Rural Crescent to high-density residential development. Ann has raised $185K, three times that of her Republican opponent John Gray. Over $103K (56%) of her money raised is from major Democratic donors, her family, organized labor, and developers. (See http://vpap.org for more info. All campaign finance figures above and below are as of 31 Aug 2019.)
- Democratic BOCS Supervisor Frank Principi (Woodbridge District), who supports the Rural Crescent and limits on residential growth, was ousted by his own party. It seems that the Democratic Party may have caught him off guard by running a quiet but well-organized primary campaign against him that succeeded by only 97 votes. His replacement as the Democratic candidate, Margaret Franklin, will apparently run unopposed in the general election. Margaret has raised $61K; just under $27K (44%) is from major Democratic donors, organized labor, and developers.
- The Democratic candidate for Coles District Supervisor, Raheel Sheikh, when asked if he supported the Rural Crescent, not only refused to offer support, but also told PRC/FORCE: “I represent everyone and feel no need to take sides on anything.” In other words: I refuse to tell you what I stand for so you can make an informed decision about me, but you should just vote for me anyway. My policies and views are not your concern as a voter. … It appears that Raheel is uninterested in the democratic process of being transparent and accountable to voters. Interestingly, of Raheel’s campaign donations we were able to map, about 55% are from outside the county or state. Perhaps that’s why he seems to see himself as unaccountable to local voters.
- The Democratic candidate for Gainesville District is Danny Funderburk, who works for one of the largest developers (construction site development) in northern Virginia, William A. Hazel, Inc. It’s an understatement to say that electing a developer to the BOCS, which controls land use in the county, is like putting a fox in charge of guarding the hen house. Danny has raised almost $14K, of which over $7.5K (54%) is from developers.
- In addition to Ann Wheeler, Margaret Franklin, Raheel Sheikh, and Danny Funderburk noted above, the remaining four Democrats and one Republican candidate for the BOCS who have been unwilling to publicly support the Rural Crescent or significant limits on residential growth are: Democrat Ken Boddye and the Republican incumbent Ruth Anderson (Occoquan), Democrat Victor Angry (Neabsco), who like Margaret Franklin in Woodbridge is apparently running unopposed, Democrat Maggie Hansford (Brentsville), and Democrat Andrea Bailey (Potomac). Andrea Bailey has raised $120K, five times the amount of her Republican opponent Dennis Taggart; over $63K (53%) is from Democratic donors, organized labor, and developers. Victor Angry has raised almost $27K; $24K from developers and Democratic donors. Republican Ruth Anderson has raised $103K, of which $73K (71%) is from developers, Republican donors, and organized labor. (Nothing special to report that we noticed about Ken Boddye or Maggie Hansford’s fundraising.)
- It may also be of interest that although we live in Brentsville District and have been active in land use issues there and elsewhere in the county for 14 years, we had never heard of Maggie Hansford before this election campaign several months ago. The opposite was true of her opponent Jeanine Lawson before she was elected Brentsville supervisor; Jeanine was in the trenches fighting on the right side of many land use battles for years before she was elected supervisor. In other words, when it comes to land use and related issues — the BOCS’ main responsibility and area of influence — Maggie Hansford has been invisible.
If you think Prince William County is poorly governed, overtaxed, and underserved now — and to some extent we agree — wait until a Democratic majority takes control of the BOCS after 5 November, a Democratic majority that has no commitment whatsoever to the Rural Crescent, balanced growth land use policy, and limiting residential development, especially tax-negative residential development. Then the most overcrowded school district in the state will become even more overcrowded at all levels, traffic-choked commuter roads will become even more congested, to the point of gridlock, and at the same time that the government services for which you pay taxes are declining rapidly, your property taxes will increase rapidly. This will be the new Prince William County that the official Democratic Party apparently supports: More beholden than ever to big northern Virginia residential developers, who love to flush the high-density, high-volume, tax-negative residential development that no other northern Virginia localities want into Prince William County, our county, degrading the quality of life for everyone except developers, big landowners, and their political allies.
Ralph & Kathy Stephenson
Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth
Only in the bright light of public scrutiny can the common good be secured,
while in darkness and obscurity the interests of the powerful and affluent prevail.