The previous Loudoun Board of Supervisors went on record opposing the perennial push by Virginia’s road paving and homebuilding lobby to spent billions of taxpayer dollars on an Outer Beltway (also known as the Washington Bypass, the Western Transportation Corridor, the Tricounty Parkway, the Bicounty Parkway, the North-South Corridor of Statewide Significance . . .). This perennially ill-conceived plan would open up the rural transition area of Loudoun to development, dump unsupportable volumes of traffic onto Route 7 south of Leesburg, and do nothing to alleviate the area commuters’ needs for better east-west connections, where virtually all commuting traffic goes.
The all-Republican Board that came in last year made it its top priority to give the road lobby all it wanted. They reversed the previous Board’s opposition to the North-South Corridor; they reversed the previous Board’s actions which limited to four lanes any future expansion of Belmont Ridge Road and related pieces of the planned project. Meanwhile one member of the state Commonwealth Transportation Board (he had been a prominent state Republican official for 20 years) who raised a well-founded objections to the project was forced off the board, and last month wrote an impassioned denunciation of the governor’s heavy-handed efforts to build this unneeded road, the lack of transparency and outright deception involved in it, and the way the CTB was being turned into a rubber stamp.
Yesterday, Loudoun Supervisors Chairman York (R-At Large) dispatched his aide Robin Bartok to the Leesburg Town Council to issue one of the cheapest and crudest political threats in local politics in recent memory. The Leesburg council was preparing to vote to oppose the project; Bartok read a letter from York unmistakably threatening to take away funding for other needed road projects in Leesburg unless the council buckles under and drops its opposition to the useless N-S Corridor. Referring to the funds allocated by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, on whose board York sits, Bartok told the Town Council:
“The chairman asked me to ask you ‘Do you support roads and that’s a really important question because if you oppose this road it appears that you don’t support roads and I think NVTA will keep that in mind when allocating its 30 percent.’ They’re going to be looking at the communities that are supporting roads and supporting what the county supports.”
In other words: if you refuse a useless road backed by powerful state Republican interests, we’ll take away all your needed roads too.
Mayor Kristen Umstattd, who is one local politician with some spine left, denounced York’s threats as “blackmail” and a dishonorable attempt to undermine representative government. But the council was successfully cowed, and voted by 4-2 to put off a decision. We hope a few more council members locate their spines in the meanwhile and tell York what he can do with his cheap threats and carrying water for outside lobbies who gave half a million bucks to him and his fellow Loudoun GOP candidates, rather than working for the people he’s supposed to represent.