Here’s a newer definition: The Republicans, who until recently were in charge of all three branches of the federal government, cause an international economic meltdown and financial crisis of epic proportions. Then, local GOP politicians point their fingers at Democratic incumbents in well run counties and towns and accuse them of causing the budget shortfalls now showing up in localities across the country. That is either real chutzpah or a shocking lack of understanding of basic economics and ignorance of the principles of good governance.
That was the tactic Keith Fimian used in his campaign against former Fairfax Chairman, Gerry Connolly. And The Chronicle called him out in this statement:
Fairfax County government has won awards for its management and Fairfax residents know that they have a very effective county government and school system and strongly support it. This has made it difficult for Fimian to find an example of governmental failure to pin on Connolly. His most recent clever solution to this problem has been to blame Connolly for the projected 2010 budget deficit of $430 million. He has been sending out regular press releases to area newspapers citing the projected deficit and blaming Connolly. All this even before the Board of Supervisors has held their first meeting to address the problem.But that blunt talk has not deterred other Republicans from using the same losing line in their latest campaign attacks. Take Pat Herrity, who is reprising the unsuccessful Fimian accusation in his campaign against Sharon Bulova for the Chairman’s seat. Now, here’s what the Washington Post said about it.
Blaming Connolly for the budget challenge that the county faces best illustrates Fimian’s total lack of understanding of the critical issues facing the county, state, and federal governments. It would appear that he doesn’t realize that virtually every local government in metropolitan Washington is struggling with the same issue. For example, last year Fairfax County was able to close a significant budget shortfall and maintain essential programs with only a three-cent increase in the property tax rate, which, for the average taxpayer, represented no actual increase in taxes as a result of the decrease of the average assessment. By contrast, Republican-controlled Prince William County raised their tax rate by 27 percent.
It's that fiscal crisis -- a $650 million hole in a $3.4 billion fiscal 2010 budget -- that has dominated the campaign. Both candidates agree that the property tax rate must be raised and that deep cuts will still be impossible to avoid. But Mr. Herrity contends that Ms. Bulova and her Democratic colleagues increased spending recklessly in recent years and didn't do enough to gird for the current crisis.In fact, Bulova has been a highly competent chair of the Budget Committee. She was first elected to the Board of Supervisors in 1987. In that time, her accomplishments include serving as chairman of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, where she has been a member since 1988. She helped bring the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) to Fairfax. Mark Warner appointed her to the Governor’s Commission on Rail Enhancement in 2004. As a member and former chair of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and member of the Council of Government, she has been involved in finding regional solutions to quality of life and economic development issues facing Fairfax and the entire metropolitan region.
There's some truth to this. Although the property tax rate was actually reduced as home values skyrocketed, the amount of taxes homeowners paid doubled in the past seven years. But the spending wasn't profligate -- about three-fourths of the increased revenue went to education and public safety. Some of the money also went to a reserve fund Ms. Bulova wisely created in the 1990s. It's hard to fault her for failing to foresee an unprecedented financial collapse that has left localities across the region reeling. And, if Ms. Bulova deserves some criticism for not anticipating the downturn, then she also deserves some credit for overseeing a long period of robust growth
As the Washington Post endorsement also notes, Sharon is a consensus builder. She is the type of moderate, business oriented, leader who has managed, over a span of more than 20 years, to work with members of the business community, environmentalists, labor leaders, and Fairfax residents to create one of the best communities in the region in which to live.
Pat Herrity, meanwhile, is an abrasive ideologue who has been in office since 2007 and so far has a slim record of accomplishment. That’s not to say he won’t be an effective leader someday. But right now is neither the time nor the place to “shake things up.” That’s only because the problems Fairfax is facing are caused by the same economic crisis that is roiling every municipality in the nation. And the truth is Fairfax is in far better shape than most of its neighbors, regardless of the party affiliations of their leaders, because Fairfax has had good stewards.
Republicans want to claim that Sharon has not shown substance because she doesn’t have a laundry list of ideas on her website. She doesn’t need them. She has years of accomplishment. Meanwhile, Herrity has a website full of radical ideas, most of which are bad ones that have already failed elsewhere. For me there’s only one choice. And it’s a substantive one.
On Tuesday, February 3 – that’s next Tuesday – make sure you vote for Sharon Bulova if you live in Fairfax County.