See Post #508, from January 9, 2020 and earlier, on splitting the vote and political suicide. My numbers were a little off. But not much.
For those of you who have lost track of time under the stay-at-home order, today is Election Day this year in the Town of Vienna. You may vote at the Community Center, or you may drop off your absentee ballot in the absentee ballot drop-off box at the Fairfax Government Center.
Source: Facebook page for ViennaVotes.
If you ordered an absentee ballot, and now have decided to vote in person, take that ballot with you when you go to the Community Center to vote.
The County will be doing what it can to make this safe, including the standard social distancing measures, giving each person a new pen (instead of re-using), and having the persons running the polls in masks and gloves. For your part, you’d be well-advised to wear a mask. As I understand it, the County cannot require that, and will not provide disposable courtesy masks on-site.
FYI, the turnout so far (from returned absentee ballots) is slightly higher than the turnout from the 2019 election. Based on that, my guess is that there isn’t going to be much of a crowd if you want to vote in person. In all likelihood, more-or-less anyone who has wanted to vote, already has.
Which makes this last bit almost superflous: I already offered my endorsement, and why (Post #658): Majdi, Dahl, Patariu, and Wright.
Let me just give an ongoing example of why I’ve voted for them.
If you’ve read this site, you know I really objected to MAC zoning. The Town is now preparing to eliminate MAC zoning. And yet, I am not celebrating. Why? Because they aren’t really doing any such thing.
They’ve left it, in all but name, in the Comprehensive Plan, they’ve hired a consultant to rewrite the zoning in accord with the Comprehensive Plan. Town staff are now having closed monthly meetings with local builders, regarding the rewrite of the Town building codes.
Basically, Town staff are in the process of making MAC-like construction by-right construction along Maple. The only thing that has changed is that this is all being done by Town Staff, out of the public eye.
And the only person who has even so much as questioned any of that, on Town Council, has been Majdi. (Ah, and I guess Patel, a bit.)
I hope you can see the logic here. Townspeople were, on average, so irked at MAC that they voted some Town Council members out. Several other pro-MAC Town Council members decided not to run for re-election, both last year and this year. The result is that just one of the original pro-MAC Town Council is still in the running: Councilmember Colbert, now running for Mayor. And despite that fairly clear set of will-of-the-people moments, Town staff , with cooperation of some current Town Council members, continue to press the MAC agenda. They’re simply keeping it out of the public view.
And exactly one (ah, maybe two, I think I Councilmember Patel also raised her voice) members of current Town Council even bothered to question any aspect of that.
Majdi dared to question it, in public. And for behavior like that, he’s been ostracized on Town Council. Whereas I think we need more of that, and less of the Town’s work done behind closed doors, in private meetings with developers, and so on.
Our Planning Commission, under former chair Gelb, added a clause to their by-laws, that private meetings with developers have to be reported, in Planning Commission meetings, after-the fact. Current Town Council can’t even see its way to doing that. Instead, meetings between Town Staff who are developing regulations, and the builders who will benefit from those regulations, have been made a regular part of the process. Cozy, I guess that’s the term. If you think that’s going to lead to a pro-resident set of regulations, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d like to sell you. All that, with only one voice objecting.
So, for that at least, he’s got my vote.
I gathered these signs in after last year’s Town elections. At that point, they had been up so long that they were blending in with the landscape. Worse, metal fatigue was setting in. A lot of them were hanging on by a thread, as the metal “legs” gave out.
My plan was to rehab those, and then replace them myself. I carefully noted the address of every place where I took a sign. I bought new metal “legs”. And I now have a stack of about 100 signs, ready to go.
But times change. For one, the election is under two weeks away. For another, it’s not like I can ring your doorbell and ask if you want your sign back. For a third, I really don’t have the energy to go running all over the Town of Vienna. And finally, it’s not even clear that the Town is going to keep MAC zoning on the books. Which would make the signs themselves fundamentally obsolete.
So, I’m not going to deliver them out. Starting tomorrow (4/24/2020), I’m going to put a stack of these at the end of my driveway (226 Glen Ave SW). If you want your sign back, please come pick one up, starting tomorrow. I’ll keep the stack filled until all the signs that I have are gone.
At that point, I’m not going to gather them back in again. Once you’re done with it, please dispose of it as you see fit. And thank you for displaying these, last year, and again this year.
I apologize, but the world is a different place now. No way I could have anticipated that when I gathered them all in.
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.
First, it looks like the Governor is trying to get all May elections postponed until November. I think that’s the correct thing to do, all things considered.
Second, there still seems to be considerable confusion in Town over campaign finance laws. Twice in the past two days I’ve seen or hear of things that lead me to believe that many people in Town still either don’t understand what the law is, or are deliberately misrepresenting what the law is.
I heard that, sometime in the past couple of days, somebody claimed that a sign was illegal because it had some candidates names, but no “Paid by …” line noting the source of funding. That’s wrong. And we all know that’s wrong, because we’ve never had “paid by” lines on the yard signs before. And I also see that, this year, one candidate actually does have a “paid by” line on her signs. That’s also wrong, if she’s trying to convince people she’s complying with the CFDA. But as long as we all recognize that’s just a bit of let’s-pretend, I think that’s harmless.
If you actually want to comply with the CFDA, you have to have duly-constituted and registered Virginia Political Action Committee. I know because I did that last year, to make sure I understood the process. And detailed what the CFDA does and does not do, on this website.
Looks like it’s time for a refresher course on the Virginia CFDA.
In a nutshell, no campaign finance disclosure laws apply to Town of Vienna elections. That’s the way it has always been, ever since Virginia pass the Campaign Finance Disclosure Act. (CFDA). The only change this year is that they’ve added a clause that says, if you spend $25,000 or more, as a candidate, in a Town election, then yeah, in that case, you have to obey the CFDA.
So, briefly, with citations as to source:
There are none. So let’s start with the basics. No campaign finance laws apply to Town of Vienna elections. I wish they did (Post #272, from May of last year.) Not unless the Town Council slipped in a piece of last-minute legislation. Or a candidate is planning to spend more than $25 grand, which I think is way beyond unlikely.
So if somebody tells you that (e.g.) some sign is illegal because it doesn’t comply with Virginia law, they just haven’t read the law. Or they are trying to pull a fast one on you. If somebody puts a “paid for” line on their signs, they’re either trying to convince you of something that’s not so, or they’re planning to shell out more than $25,000 in their election bid.
But that last one is easy enough to check. If somebody’s complying the the CFDA, and that “paid by” line has any legal meaning, they have to have a Virginia PAC. No PAC? Then a “paid for” line is just an additional bit of election-year nonsense. It’s easy enough to search all the active Virginia-registered PACs, right at this link. Have a look for yourself, if you care.
It’s a simple test. Got a PAC? No? Then any “paid for” line you see is the politician’s variant on “guaranteed not to turn pink in the can“.
So let’s all go read the law, because boy am I tired of having to explain this. And, interestingly, it changed since the last time I looked at it:
The provisions of this chapter shall apply to all elections held in Virginia, ... except nominations and elections for ... (iii) town office in a town with a population of less than 25,000, ....
Emphasis mine. But they’ve added a new exception since last year. If you spend in excess of $25,000 on the election, you’ve got to abide by the CFDA:
The provisions of this chapter shall be applicable to a candidate for a town office in a town with a population of less than 25,000 if (a) such candidate accepts contributions or makes expenditures in excess of $25,000 within the candidate's election cycle
And then it goes on to say, or if the Town votes to put itself under the CFDA. Herndon actually did that about 7 years ago. But not, to my knowledge, the Town of Vienna. Last time my wife brought this up at a Town Council meeting (Post #507). That was met with roughly the same reaction as a fart in an elevator: Dead silence and dirty looks.
Why do I know the law? Because I bothered to go through all the steps to form a legally-registered Virginia PAC (Post #272). I needed to know, first hand, exactly how burdensome it was, before I suggested that the Town vote to put itself under the CFDA. I even wrote up a guide to doing all the steps required to form a legally-registered Virginia PAC. I offered to make that guide freely available to anyone who wanted it if the Town ever voted to put itself under the CFDA,. My wife got up in (one, several, I forget) Town Council meetings and pleaded with the Town to put itself, for reals, under the CFDA.
Which is also why I find people who don’t know the law, but throw it around to intimidate people, or mimic it to impress the gullible, I find that irksome.
Actually complying with the CDFA requires some significant effort. There are a lot of legally-required reports that must be filed, for example. I went through that, myself, forming a PAC, because I did not want to recommend that the Town put itself under the CFDA if that process was impossible to comply with.
But the short and simple answer is, the CFDA simply does not apply to Town of Vienna elections. This year. Just the same as it didn’t apply in any prior Town election.
Unless you plan to spend $25,000 or more. That’s the only change for this year.
I take this all back. My wife just found a story in today’s news stating that Department of Elections will allow anyone to use a mail-in ballot, in light of the epidemic. Use Reason 2A. Those are now official instructions from the Commonwealth.
Skip the rest of this. Continue reading Post #556: RESCINDED: Mail-in absentee ballot, can anything be done?
The Commonwealth publishes the list of all candidates who have successfully filed to run for office. The list is now available for Vienna, posted on the Fairfax County website at this link (.pdf). Here’s the file in a .pdf reader:
In the 2019 election I made a plea not to split the anti-MAC vote (Post #259). That is, don’t field more candidates than there are open seats. This is the 2020 version of that post. Continue reading Post #508: Revisiting #3: Don’t split the vote
This brief posting points out two simple changes the Town of Vienna could make to ensure greater election transparency and greater voter participation. The Town Council could vote to have the Virginia Campaign Finance Disclosure Act (CDFA) apply to Town of Vienna elections. And it could vote to move Town elections to coincide with the November general election.
This was a joint meeting of Town Council and Planning Commission to consider a motion to rescind the rezoning of 380 Maple West (37 condos plus retail, Wade Hampton and Maple).
The meeting lasted nearly six hours. I went there, but could not stomach it, so I left before it started. My wife lasted until about 1 AM. I recorded the Town’s live stream, but even now I don’t have the stomach to watch the entire thing.
In all that time, near as I can tell, they never did make or consider a motion to rescind the zoning.
Instead, the meeting ended with a vague direction for Town Staff to negotiate with the builder about maybe possibly not narrowing Wade Hampton to 32 feet (Post #301), and perhaps keeping the street parking that is there (Post #238r).
All told, what can I say in response to that? I am reminded of a quote from Tom Lehrer: “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.”
And, as with the bait-and-switch with the Marco Polo proposal, there was not even a hint that the Town would ask how this happened in the first place. How is it that Town staff unilaterally decided to narrow the road, to the benefit of a developer. Asking such questions is apparently — vulgar or something. It’s just not done in the Town of Vienna. Do Town staff retain the power to do those sorts of things in the future? Did they go rogue? Did the Mayor order it? Did they just consider it business as usual? Was the Town Manager aware of these actions at the time they occurred? Guess we’ll never find out.
The two newcomers I supported in the last election put in a less-than-stellar performance. Literally phoned it in, in one case. Clearly not as prepared as possible in the other. The net effect was arguably a lack of effectiveness in the meeting. I retain an abiding faith that they will get the lay of the land and that if there is a next time, they’ll be more effective next time.
At any rate, between 444 Maple West and this one, the Town has more-or-less doubled the number of people living in my neighborhood. The most stress-free way for all of them to get to I-66 and Metro in the morning will be by coming down my street. (Which is, by the way, a whopping 20′ wide. But who’s counting.) This graphic is a little outdated (the 40 should now be 37), but it gives you the gist of what’s happened so far. And they are just getting started.
Ah, well, what’s a little collateral damage, right?
So, crazily enough, I moved within the Town of Vienna, a dozen years ago, so I could have a house in a quiet residential district within easy walking distance of Maple. Paid a hefty premium to do that. In hindsight, that was not one of my smarter investments.