Representatives from five area government boards came together Aug. 31 to discuss transportation challenges, economic development and workforce needs as part of the Northern Virginia Elected Leaders Summit.
Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall represented Loudoun. Speaking as part of the panel, Randall advocated for cooperation between private and public sectors, as well as increasing outreach to outside perspectives.
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairperson at Large Sharon Bulova, Prince William County Chair Corey Stewart, City of Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg and Arlington County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette were also present as part of the five-member discussion group.
While cordial, the participants did vocally disagree on several issues. While Bulova, Silberberg, Randall and Fisette discussed the significance of Metro, Stewart said “Metro is not the backbone of the region” and officials should instead focus on infrastructure improvement and investments in roads. Fisette countered by saying Metro was the backbone of the region and the area would be “at a standstill” without it.
Major infrastructure suggestions included upgrades to the Rosslyn Tunnel and American Legion Bridge, as well as a possible new bridge across the Potomac into Maryland. Randall advocated for considering a new bridge, but said it would have to go hand-in-hand with the interests and backing of the business community. She said in order to construct a new bridge, business leaders from Virginia would have to show the benefits to their colleagues in Maryland.
Fisette disagreed, saying that the new bridge was most likely not necessary and instead advocated for an increased focus on the Rosslyn Tunnel.
Members of the panel also disagreed about the performance of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Fisette asserted that no one is doing more to help the Commonwealth grow economically. Stewart, a Republican candidate for governor in 2017, vocally disagreed. He followed by discussing the needs for lower corporate taxes and for the government to listen better to its constituents.
When discussing ways to improve economic development, Randall stressed the need for outside opinions in perspectives. She said there needs to be new outreaches to age groups like Baby Boomers and Millennials.
She also said the area needs to work on finding ways to attract foreign tourism. She referenced a trip to Asia where she said the tourism departments there told her people were afraid to come to America in large part because of a perception of gun violence.
In a more lighthearted question to close the event, members were asked about McAuliffe’s advocacy for a new stadium in Virginia for the Washington Redskins. Stewart was against it in Prince William County, while Bulova, Silberberg and Fisette all said yes, if it was in Loudoun.
“I think we’re not there in that conversation yet,” Randall said. “I think the question is a little premature for me to be able to give an answer.”