Up until now, being a Republican Loudoun County supervisor has been a remarkably undemanding job. Short hours, no acrimonious debates, no need to listen to constituents and their annoying problems, thinking strictly optional (especially so in Ken Reid’s case).
All you have to do is vote along with your eight fellow Republican supervisors 9–0 on whatever prearranged goodies come up from the local GOP machine (getting rid of annoying regulations on developers; allowing big box stores without a special exception; appointing prepicked slates of campaign contributors and commercial real estate reps to the water, zoning review, and government “reform” boards; killing off programs to protect Loudoun’s scenic and cultural heritage; approving electronic billboards for your friends).
But the upcoming vote on whether to back out of Loudoun’s previous commitments to fund the Metrorail extension to Dulles and Loudoun has put them in an uncomfortably tight spot. The local GOP machine is split down the middle on the project, which means our profiles-in-courage supervisors face the unprecedented prospect of being certain to infuriate one or another group of their loyal and generous masters no matter which way they vote. This has induced an almost comical paralysis among our elected leaders, which will only get worse in the coming weeks.
The chamber of commerce types who were particularly friendly and generous to Chairman Scott York (R-At Large) and Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn) during the election are strongly in favor of Metro, on traditional it’s- good-for-business grounds. They have hired teams of fresh faced teenagers to hand out green tee-shirts in support of the project and been taking out big ads in favor of the project.
Some commercial developers who stand to gain directly from the proposed new Metro stations are also in favor.
But the much larger road-happy faction of the commercial development industry opposes the project, hoping to divert the money to roads (such as the Outer Beltway) that will open new swaths of the county to their brand of helter-skelter development.
And then the totally deranged anti-government/anti-tax Republicans (of which we seem to have our fair share here) have been jumping on the issue with their inflatable pig on a trailer that has been seen parked illegally around the county and their thinly veiled xenophobic campaign (Supervisor Suzanne Volpe, R-Algonkian, has had a hand in getting this bunch going) saying that Metro will bring “undesirable” types to our county.
Finally, because Loudoun is invariably the test kitchen for all sorts of national GOP ideological sloganeering and campaigning, given its proximity to our nation’s capital, the Metro issue has been seized on by various outside groups with various very outside agendas . . . we have Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli’s efforts to turn the entire project into a chance to burnish his very-right-wing union busting credentials, for one, with an eye towards the next state gubernatorial nomination. And the county has also recently been bombarded with robocalls from national right wing groups such as “Americans for Prosperity” who oppose public transit in every shape and form (yes, there’s nothing like government programs that actually work and perform a useful function to send libertarian billionaires around the bend).
Hoping to postpone the day of reckoning, the board has been trying valiantly to put off their vote as long as possible. All that has done though is to heat up the issue even more. Right now inside handicapping places the board as 5–4 opposed to Metro.
It will be fascinating to see how our elected officials try to wriggle out of this one, whichever way they end up deciding.