2020 Town elections, my endorsements

Posted on April 23, 2020

It now appears that the Town elections will take place as originally scheduled, on May 5th.  You still have a few days to request an absentee ballot.  Your request must be received by the registrar by 5 PM 4/28/2020.  5/12/2020  (The change in date is due to the 14-day delay just announced by the Governor.) Anyone may vote absentee, in this election, due to the pandemic.

I’ve been asked to state whom I am going to vote for, and why.

I’m voting for David Patariu for Town Council, and for the folks he’s running with.  That includes Pasha Majdi for mayor, and Chris Wright and Andrea Dahl for Town Council.  Their website is here.

Why is that? 

David Patariu

First, whenever I’ve been in a meeting with Patariu, he’s always been the smartest guy in the room.  And I don’t say that lightly.  We need that now.  We don’t need nice-nice, or familiar, or comforting.  We need people who are fully capable of dealing with the economic fallout from the pandemic.  I want to see the smartest, most capable people we can get, sitting in those Town Council seats.

Second, unlike so much of what has gone on with Town Council the past couple of years, everything Patariu says makes good logical sense.  I’m not saying he’s always right.  I am saying that he comes from a basis of reason, and logic, so at least I can at least understand why he says what he says. 

That would be a nice change from what has come out of Town Council regarding MAC zoning.  Do you really need examples?

  • We’re going to fund a great big parking garage on Maple, and then, after we fund it, we’re going to do a study to see how much parking we need, on Maple.
  • We committed to putting the power lines underground along Maple.  And now, half-a-decade after the Town made that commitment in its Comprehensive Plan, we’re funding the study to see how many tens of millions of dollars that will cost.
  • The huge benefit from MAC is the creation of pleasant “gathering spaces” … that are 20′ from a noisy, polluted 33,000-vehicle-per-day arterial road that nobody in their right mind would hang out next to, if they had any choice whatsoever.
  • We need buildings bigger that a football field … to preserve the small-town feel of Vienna.

If you read this website, you know I could go on.  And on.

The Town could get by with that sort of half-baked fuzzy-think when all that was at stake was profits for Maple Avenue landowners and developers.   And disturbing the peace and quiet of a few neighborhoods.  But in a pandemic and post-pandemic world, I don’t think that baloney-your-way-through-it approach is going to work any more.

(And that hasn’t stopped, either.  You might think, with all the chaos and uncertainty that is going on right now, that maybemaybe … the Town might defer rewriting all the zoning in Vienna, until some of that has shaken out?  Because, you know, do we really need that happening now?  And do we really need to spend that money now?  Hah.  Not a a chance.  That’s all still full-speed-ahead, including the quarter-million-dollar discretionary expenditure to fund it.)

That old guard is never going to change.  If you want something different, the only thing you can do is vote them out of their seats, in favor of someone who might see things differently.

And so the third reason I like Patariu is that he very much is NOT part of the old guard that has been running Vienna for the past few decades.  The old guard that is going to continue with business as usual, at any cost.  He’s an outsider, and that’s exactly what we need now.

Some Town Council members like to wag their fingers and say, oh, people need to be seasoned and experienced by serving on Town Boards and Commissions, before they deserve to run for Town Council.  Yeah.  And who, exactly, appoints people to those Boards and Commissions?  Oh, Town Council does.  So that boils down to saying “we get to appoint our successors, and don’t you dare question that”.  And once you get that, you understand exactly how Town government got to be an echo chamber.

My understanding is that at least one of current Town Council member had a fit when Patariu was appointed to Planning Commission.  He was appointed over the strong objections of the old guard.  That, by itself, is an endorsement.  If his mere presence on a Town Board was enough to set those folks off, then that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

Fourth, he’s the son of a New York City cop, and he’s a lawyer for a big corporation.  So he’s not nice-nice to your face.  He says what he thinks, he expects you to do the same, and then he reasons with you.  Some people don’t like that.  Me, I think that’s the only way to go.  That’s the only way to have all viewpoints aired, and the only way to arrive at good decisions.  If you can’t say what you think, how on earth do you expect decisions to reflect all viewpoints?

In any case, just read what the guy says.  He speaks and writes in complete sentences.  He’s clear about where he’s coming from, and why.

He’ll consider making changes that the Town’s Old Guard will never do. Look at his position on turning eight acres of Town Property on Beulah back into the park that it once was.  There’s no mumble-mouth about it, no hedging bets, no soft-soap maybes.  He states his position, he states why he holds it, and even if you disagree, at least you understand what he’s saying.  I’ll settle for that.

Pasha Majdi

First, may I do a small public service?  He pronounces his last name with a short a.  Majdi, rhymes with badge-me, not Majdi, rhymes with lodge-me.  Four generations of his family have lived in Vienna, he’s been on Town Council for years, and … they still mispronounce his name at Town Council meetings.  And he’s such a decent guy that he won’t correct them in public.

Pasha Majdi has been the consistent and sometimes lone voice of reason on Maple Avenue development and MAC zoning.  He voted against it originally, because, among other things, the Town had refused to see what developing that road would do to the already awful traffic there.  And when the most recent traffic study used ludicrous numbers for the bank that’s up the street from where he lives, he simply called them out on it.  And he was right on the facts.

I don’t agree with everything he says.  For example, I don’t think microtransit will succeed in Vienna, because we’re too bougie to take public transit.  That said, when he talks, I understand where he’s coming from and why.  He’s obviously smart, he’s young, and he’s been ostracized by the powers-that-be on Town Council for some time now.

The fact that Councilmembers Noble and Colbert performed a stage-managed bit of public character assassination on Majdi is just icing on the cake.  I mean, not only was there an initial round (Noble) of that.  But even after the Town’s lawyer had passed reasonable judgement of no harm done, we were treated to a second, lengthy round of that (Colbert).  Colbert at least had the benefit of appearing uncomfortable doing that.  But I figure, they hate the guy enough to do that to him, in public, for no particular reason — he’s got my vote.

Finally, at the last Town Council meeting, apparently he was the only person to show up in person, and wear a mask.  As the CDC now strongly recommends.  In person, I’m not so keen on.  Wearing a mask, if in person, yeah, that’s both correct, and models correct behavior for the rest of the Town.  So, he appears to understand the current pandemic, and the current CDC guidance.  While others are still going on with business as usual.

If you read this website, you understand that I think we need a mandatory public mask ordinance in Fairfax.  So, of all the people on Town Council, he appears to grasp the gravity of the situation, and the things we need to do to be personally responsible given the circumstances.

Chris Wright and Andrea Dahl

I barely know them, so my endorsement here is tepid.

Wright was the guy who got the bright idea of buying “Grab and Go” banners for Vienna businesses.  While putting the first names of these four candidates on the bottom.  I appreciate the thinking there, I appreciate trying to get a win-win for both Vienna businesses and the candidates.  And I appreciate the fact that he clearly irked the Old Guard here, in a major way, by doing that.

Dahl is a near-total cypher to me.  My understanding is that she has a long history of volunteering with various civic organizations, including but not limited to the Scouts.   But as far as I’m concerned, she gets my endorsement solely for the company she keeps.  I don’t know enough about her to offer any other endorsement.

Honorable mentions.

Chuck Anderson has my apology for not voting for him.  I owe him a major debt, as he is the one who organized the first effective political resistance to MAC-zoning-as-written.  He’s sharp, he started and runs a successful business.  He has his head screwed on straight regarding development and density.  But I was simply adopted by Patariu and Majdi as being of-a-mind with them.  In an alternative universe where there were fewer candidates on the Majdi slate, he’d have my vote.

I already stated on this website that I’d cheerfully vote for Ed Somers for mayor, because he knows how to run a meeting.  I attended quite a few Transportation Safety Commission meetings over the past half-year or so, and it was just a pleasure to watch this guy work.  To watch him keep everything order, come to a clear summary of each action item, highlight what they knew and what they needed to know, and so on.  It was like a tutorial on how a meeting should be run.  Honestly, even he doesn’t get a seat on Town Council, they need to give him a job of “facilitator” and have him run Town Council meetings anyway.

Finally, my third alternate is Ray Brill.  He’s sharp, he’s had a lot of experience.  But mostly, I get the feeling that what you see is what you get, full stop.  He came by my house, campaigning, before the coronavirus hit.  And he stepped up, at the ugliest time of the development of the 380 Maple Avenue property, to act as mediator between developer and neighborhood.  That wasn’t a success, but it was well worth trying, and surely he gets some cred for doing that.

I’ve been attending Town meetings for some time, so I’ve watched Howard Springsteen, Linda Colbert, and Roy Baldwin at various times, under various circumstances.  All of them are dedicated to the welfare of the Town.  Springsteen has, I think, truly repented of his earliest endorsements of MAC development.  Baldwin was often a soft-spoken voice of reason on the Board of Architectural Review.  But I feel that all of them are, for better or worse, part of the Old Guard here.  (I mean, I don’t know, I’m not one of the in-group, but that’s my impression).  And as much as they are sincere, smart, and capable, that’s not what I’m looking for in a candidate, for this election.

Why would anyone want these jobs?

Finally, in my opinion, anybody who would run for these jobs, at this time, is not exactly playing with a full deck.  I guess being a government honcho might be fun, in good times.  Meaning, when everybody gets a raise every year, nobody needs to be fired, and you not only have enough money to pay for all your projects, you can squirrel away some for a rainy day.

Sure, in the best of circumstances, even though it takes a vast amount of time, and pays more-or-less nothing, I can see where being in a position of power in a local government might appeal to some.

But now?   I’m not seeing it.  If this whole pandemic thing works out really, really well, then times will be hard.  And if it doesn’t, times will be hard.

And if that’s not enough, the record-breaking $34.5 million in debt issued by the Town this year pretty much maxed out their credit.  The Town isn’t going to be borrowing money for big, splashy capital projects for some years to come.  And paying that back depends on the tax on restaurant (and take-out) meals, which may not be the best possible revenue source going forward, all things considered.

I’ve mentioned several times, on this website, that I believe that the Federal Reserve’s unprecedented decision to buy municipal bonds signals that they expect widespread municipal bankruptcies across America.  And sure, Vienna has $30M in reserves, at least in theory.  And sure, because of the high levels of stable Federal employment, we’ve been nearly recession-proof.

But I get the feeling that the next few years is going to put all of that to the test.  I wouldn’t want those jobs for all the tea in China.  I salute anybody who has the courage to want to serve in those seats, at this time.