Vienna Connection reports on Delegate Keam's Legislative Outlook
Outlook for 2011
Elected officials point to budget, transportation.ByÂ Donna Manz, Â The Connection Monday, January 24, 2011 Many of the most newsworthy issues of 2011 are dÃ©jÃ vu from 2010. Tysons redevelopment, transportation and the Fairfax County budget top the list of concerns facing local residents and their elected officials. What are the most significant and pressing challenges and issues that Vienna-area elected officials expect to address in 2011? Here's a sampling …
Mayor M. Jane Seeman, Town of ViennaThe year 2010 brought many changes to the Town Hall, Mayor Seeman said. A new Public Information Officer, the retirement of Town Council member George Lovelace and the appointment of Dan Dellinger to finish out Lovelace's term rounded out the face changes.
Seeman noted the town lost Ketterman's Jewelry but saw many new businesses open. Vienna became home to new niche food establishments and a Vienna-based cooking school. A specialty grocery chain is planning on opening a store in Vienna but has not publicly announced its lease.
"I believe Vienna weathered the recession and economic downturn fairly well," Seeman said. "We did not lay off any employees, and we kept all Town services with a modest increase in the tax rate."
Town Manager John Schoeberlein retires effective May 1. "The biggest challenge for Council is to find his replacement and keep the budget process moving forward," said Seeman.
The Town is working on systems that will keep its citizens up to date on Town events more quickly and efficiently. Enhancing communication networks, electronically and conventionally, is always a goal of Council, the mayor said, and the Town is taking advantage of the technological resources available to it. The Town of Vienna is on Facebook and news and emergency alerts are entered there.
The Town has been consistent on Tysons development, Seeman said. Vienna was successful in its bid for lower density and remains committed to better traffic management and to mass transportation along Vienna's Rt. 123 corridor to Tysons Corner. The Town Council is steadfast in its commitment to protect Vienna citizens from carrying a larger burden of Tysons Corner improvements, said Seeman.
Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34)Petersen's priorities for the 2011 General Assembly session include reforming the "drive-by foreclosure" system in Virginia by improving notice requirements, requiring recorded assignments and punishing lenders who use fraudulent documents. This, Petersen said, is his number one issue. Other priorities include indexing transportation taxes to raise more money for Northern Virginia and requiring LEED [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, a green building rating system] certification for state buildings.
As in the past, Petersen continues to have various local initiatives for the Town of Vienna and Fairfax City, he said.
Keam's first year as Delegate coincided with the beginning of the biennial budget process and the General Assembly spent most of the 2010 session on balancing the budget. "Since we had to cut over $4 billion in important government programs, no one was seriously proposing many new spending measures, including any solutions for addressing the transportation mess," Keam said. "Because the legislature took such fiscally responsible steps in a bipartisan way, the Commonwealth remains operating in a surplus.
Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill)The Board of Supervisors is facing a difficult budget across the spectrum, Hudgins said, but noted the emerging importance of a couple of initiatives facing the County. "I'm looking forward to better communication between the Board and County schools," said Hudgins. An area in which a closer working relationship will pay off is in that of safe routes to schools, routes where students can walk or bike safely in terms of traffic and of other issues affecting the welfare of children. "We, the Board and the schools, need to coordinate this," said Hudgins. "An important part of being able to walk or ride safely is that it gets kids outside, helping them to be healthy. We don't want our kids to be unhealthy students."
I believe the most important task for us now is to consider making much-needed investments in infrastructure, including a real solution for the traffic gridlock in Northern Virginia. I hope Governor McDonnell will propose some solid plans for fixing transportation beyond simple short-term political fixes like the ABC privatization idea. I look forward to working with him and others on transportation in the upcoming session.
I also plan to continue pushing for my legislative priorities of promoting job creation and economic development, fixing traffic and transportation problems, school reforms, government efficiency and transparency, and specific requests from constituents and the Town of Vienna.
One of my bills I'm hoping will move this year is to provide our military service members and veterans with an easier time getting civilian jobs when they return to Virginia. I will announce this and other bills as I introduce them on the first day of session, on January 12, 2011."
Next to the County budget, the implementation of the Tysons redevelopment plan ranks as a top-level priority. "It's a major plan for the County and transportation is going to be a key element of the plan," said Hudgins. Applications for building construction are already coming in and construction in Tysons is expected to begin within the next two years. "We have to have our transportation commitment clear," Hudgins said. That includes funding and construction commitments from developers and the County.
To support rail service, mass transit needs to include bus service, particularly shuttle buses, around Tysons and Reston, she said.
Although frequently overlooked by the community, the challenge of providing services to homeless children should not be overlooked by the Board of Supervisors. "We need to be able to be out there for the most vulnerable in our community," said Hudgins.
Supervisor Linda Q. Smyth, (D-Providence)The Providence District, which includes Dunn Loring and Merrifield, is the district hardest-hit by HOT lane construction, Smyth said. Many of the Dunn Loring area's main arterials — Rt. 123, Rt. 7, I-66, Rt. 29 and Gallows Road — lie within Smyth's district. Oak Street Bridge opened after being disassembled last year but the Idylwood Bridge is still closed.
Smyth said that VDOT has been responsive to residents' complaints. VDOT responded to the concerns expressed by those living near HOT lanes by building higher-than-typical sound walls along the HOT lanes in the Providence District.
One "big project hanging out there," Smyth said, is the Gallows Road/Lee Highway intersection redesign. Gallows Road and Lee Highway, approaching their intersection, are to be widened with multiple turn lanes.
Bids are expected to go out in 2011, and the projected start-date of the project is summer, 2011.
Supervisors expect a shortfall in the 2011 Fairfax County budget, although not of the magnitude of 2010. "We're waiting to see what Tony [Fairfax County Executive Anthony Griffin] brings in to the Board on Feb. 22," said Smyth. She described the budget as one pie of which everyone has a proportionate piece.
"How do we fund what we need to fund and balance that with what people are able to pay?"