Some cons and cons
By John H. Hilton
Well, this was predictable. Before the first ounce of concrete was poured at the sites of Loudoun’s Silver Line Metro infrastructure, I warned everyone with whom I spoke that Metro is in deep water and very soon we county taxpayers (one way or another) will be asked to pay more than our share to bail out this public/private partnership which is a failure of the most colossal proportions. Now, the Council of Governments (COG) in the DC area and the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority are weighing options to rescue this thing, and just as I warned, the DC and Maryland folks think that Virginians like you and I should pay 51% of the bailout cost in the form of higher taxes. DC would pay 23% and Maryland a paltry 26%. I warned! I warned repeatedly that Loudoun County, because of its wealth and sound fiscal condition could be taken to the cleaners by allowing ourselves to become part of the immediate Washington, DC transit system. We are not DC, or Bethesda, or Silver Spring, or Arlington, Falls Church, Tyson’s Corner- we are not even Reston or Herndon. This affiliation does not suit us!
And now if DC, Maryland and some inside the beltway Virginia officials have their way, we will be harmed. The Metro system has been so grotesquely mismanaged it seems almost as if purposeful, a train wreck, excuse the pun. Its fiscal and executive mismanagement have hit colossal proportions. This is a public spectacle, and what is required now is a public execution. The entire system should be privatized or nationalized, at this point I care not which. But we should all thank our lucky stars that Delegate David LaRock is serving on the NOVA Transportation Authority this year. He and others of like mind will never tolerate this COG proposal for a regional level tax. But I would go farther if I had the final say on this matter: I would say NO Loudoun money for Metro period! The Board of Supervisors only approved the Silver Line because it would be funded by special tax districts which included selective neighborhoods and businesses which directly benefitted from its’ presence- certain zip codes in Sterling and Ashburn. We taxpayers were promised that no county general fund dollars could possibly be spent on the system. Well what do you all think now?
A former notable Fairfax politician openly admitted that Metro is not very sound transportation, but it is good for business. How do you like that? We should all spend billions of dollars on a transportation system that is not a good transportation system! But it is good for business; whose business? In Leesburg, where I live, no business benefits from Metro. How about Lansdowne? Nope, sorry! No benefits there. Western Loudoun businesses obviously do not benefit from Metro, nor could they. And how about Ashburn and Sterling? I know many businesses and their owners in Eastern Loudoun. There has been tremendous growth and jobs have been created. And they all have one thing in common; they are doing quite well with the transportation system we already have. So, I do not buy this notion that Metro for all its’ negatives, is ultimately good for business in Loudoun County. On the contrary; our being saddled with any share of responsibility at all is bad for everyone in our county, businesses included. Ladies and Gentlemen, the competent are being asked to bail out the incompetent; the sound to bail out the unsound. I get the idea that the tail is wagging the dog here.
Loudoun County needs to withdraw from ALL commitments to the Metro system, come what may. I welcome any attempt at punitive action by anyone, for nothing could be worse than the hand grenade which has already been tossed in our lap. Our county happens to be governed by reasonable men and women from both political parties. We have superb business leaders and planners. We have outstanding, conscientious and sensible citizens. This is a time for us to be self-interested and let the Metro-loving politicians and bureaucrats in the rest of the region stew in their own juice.
John H. Hilton is a business writer and regular contributor to The Loudoun Tribune. A native northern Virginian, John is a veteran top-producing sales industry leader with expertise in insurance, real estate and financial services.