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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Colin Mills: Announcing RCA’s 2013 Citizen of the Year, RestonNow, January 30, 2014

Colin Mills/File photoIt’s time once again for one of my favorite duties as RCA President: announcing our Citizen of the Year.

With so many dedicated citizens doing good work in the Reston community, I am delighted that we can honor some of those well-deserving folks. I love reading the nominations we receive, and learning about the citizen volunteers that make Reston such a special place.

RCA is all about the power of Reston’s committed citizens to achieve great things. It may be fashionable to be cynical about what individuals and citizen groups can accomplish in a world of big bureaucracies and institutions. But RCA is built on the belief that with hard work and dedication, our citizens can move mountains.

This year’s winner is a shining example of that belief in action. It gives me great pleasure to announce Kathy Kaplan as our 2013 Citizen of the Year.Kathy joins a proud tradition of RCA Citizen of the Year award dating back to 1976; people like Embry Rucker, Janet Howell, Jim Allred, Claudia Thompson-Deahl, Dave Edwards, and last year’s winner, Cate Fulkerson.  As you know if you’re familiar with this award, the criteria for selection are as follows:
1. The nominee has been a Reston resident for at least 5 years.
2. The nominee’s actions are consistent with the goals of Reston, and of RCA.
3. The nominee’s actions have contributed to the quality of life in Reston.
4. People in need of help have benefited from the nominee’s actions.
5. The nominee’s deeds were done without thought of personal benefit or recognition.
6. The nominee is not currently serving as an elected public official or a member of the Board of a major community organization (RA, RCA, or RCC).
Kathy is the sort of active, engaged citizen that every community needs. She reads the kind of long, boring official documents that most of us can’t be bothered with. Sometimes, those documents contain some interesting surprises.  For instance, in the spring of 2013, Kathy found out about plans that had the potential to do serious damage to Fairfax County libraries.

This included the infamous “Beta Plan.” You may have read about it last summer and fall.  RCA passed a resolution opposing it last August.  If you have heard about it, you can thank Kathy for you dedication perseverance, and leadership in bringing the plan to light.

Through research, conversations with knowledgeable sources, and numerous FOIA requests, Kathy uncovered a grim picture of the future of our library system. In addition to the Beta Plan – which would have slashed library staff, de-professionalized position requirements, and eliminated specialized positions for youth librarians – Kathy discovered that the library budget had been reduced by a third over the last six years.  Even worse, she discovered that the library had reduced the size of their collection by a quarter-million items since 2005, and that many books in good condition were being thrown in dumpsters and destroyed.  Not donated to book sales or given away to charities – destroyed.

As a longtime book lover, Kathy was rightly horrified at what she learned.  But she didn’t just write a letter to the editor or grumble about it under her breath. No, she swung into action. She identified county librarians and library supporters who were also concerned about the changes, and worked with them to get the word out. She wrote emails and letters to County officials, community organizations, and media outlets.  She helped get over 2,000 signatures on a petition to stop the Beta Plan. She met with County staffers and elected officials to learn more about the library issue and to show them what she had found out.

The turning point for the issue came when Kathy acquired and shared photos of library books sitting in a dumpster.  This had been alleged previously, but now there was visual evidence. These photos led Providence District Supervisor Linda Smyth to do some dumpster diving of her own; when she retrieved books in good condition that had been thrown out, the resulting outcry really focused attention on the problems in our libraries.

Thanks to the efforts of Kathy and her colleagues, the Library Board and the Board of Supervisors voted to eliminate both the book-trashing program and the Beta Plan. With continued public support, we should see the library’s funding restored in future County budgets as well. This was a tremendous win for citizen activism, and it wouldn’t have happened without  Kathy’s dedication and tireless work.

Since Kathy is a Restonian and the Reston Regional Library was one of the targets for the Beta Plan, RCA was one of the first organizations she contacted with her discoveries. When she shared what she had learned, frankly, our first reaction was disbelief. How could this be happening to such a valuable county resource? But when we followed up and discovered that what Kathy said was true, we were gratified that Kathy had done the leg work and let us know about the Beta Plan and the book-culling before it was too late to act.

If the only thing that Kathy did for Reston was her library activism, it would have been enough to make her a deserving Citizen of the Year. But Kathy is a longtime Restonian, and she has done much more for the community.  She has served as an interpretive naturalist at the Vernon Walker Nature Center, and she has taught art workshops to kids at RA camps.  She is an award-winning author and illustrator.  And she has created bronze relief sculptures for the Sept. 11 Memorial at Brown’s Chapel, and the Woodland Gardens at the Walker Center. Kathy is a woman of many talents.

We will be honoring Kathy in a ceremony at RCC Hunters Woods in the coming weeks.  I’ll share the date and time as soon as it is finalized.  I hope you’ll join us to honor a woman who showed that you can fight City Hall – and that individual citizens can make a big difference in our community.

Colin Mills is the president of Reston Citizens Association.

Prepared Statement of Fred Costello for the Board Hearing on the Draft Reston Master Plan, January 28, 2014

Testimony to BOS Concerning the Reston Master Plan Special Study Phase 1, ST09-III-UP1(A)

Report FAC/FCA-107
Frederick A. Costello
January 28, 2014
I am Frederick Costello, an At-Large member of the Reston Master Plan Task Force for Phase 1.  I have a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering.  For 37 years here in Fairfax, I have had my own business designing renewable energy systems, spacecraft, and rockets.
Terry Maynard and I are the only members of the Task Force who analyzed the plan on a quantitative basis and, over all four years, warned of its adverse implications.
DPZ’s amendment to the comprehensive plan is too ambiguous.  (1) It allows over-development.  (2) It provides target densities, not maximum densities.  (3) Therefore, it does not allow a sound estimate of infrastructure needs.
Compare what various analysts have forecast.  GMU gave DPZ low, intermediate, and high estimates of the demand for jobs and housing.  DPZ took the GMU’s highest forecast and increased it 25% to form the proposed target densities.  FCDOT used the amendment language directly, made many assumptions about the 63% of the area for which the plan offers no density specifications, and deduced that the development would be 50% greater than GMU’s highest demand.  I also used the plan and deduced that the development could easily be more than 75% greater than GMU’s highest demand.  The plan amendment is too ambiguous.  It allows over-development.  Look at how greatly different the intensities are (Figure 1).  The proposed plan is so loose that we might find, for example, that all new construction will be high-rise commercial, with the residential sections being at best place-holding, five-story, wood-frame apartment buildings.  The imbalance between residential and non-residential development also differs in the three analyses.  Imbalance means more traffic.  The plan says nothing about maintaining the jobs-household balance during the 20 years of development.
Please require DPZ to remedy the deficiencies by (1) specifying the maximum densities for 100% of the area; (2) specifying the fraction of the development that is to be residential in each area; (3) using these new specifications to calculate and report the maximum traffic and infrastructure needs; (4) including how the jobs/household balance is to be maintained during development, as was done in Arlington; and (5) performing a net-revenue analysis that includes the costs associated with the infrastructure and the housing of workers.  If these two costs are added to your Tysons net-revenue analysis, a net loss to the County is predicted, so eventually Tysons will make a tax increase necessary.
Without these five changes, the amendment is so ambiguous that it does not provide adequate guidance for successful development.

Figure 1: Needed Floor Areas Are Inconsistent Exaggerations of GMU’s Forecast of the Highest Demand – Could Lead to Over-development.

UPDATED: Reston Projects High Priority in $4 Billion Fairfax County Transportation Plan, RestonNow, January 30, 2014

Update:  Upon further review--as they say in NFL re-plays---of the list of priority projects discussed here, we find that Fairfax County is expecting to spend a very limited amount of money on the three "priority" critical trans-corridor crossings in the six-year County Investment Plan.  

The total sum the County plans to put into the three projects is less than $17MM over the next 6 years, and that's merely "Planning level funding only.  Contingent on development."  (See pp. 424-425.) This sum is from a total of $1,288 million among the County's new priority transportation projects, including $205 million going to a long list of bicycle and pedestrian improvements countywide.   In addition, another $133 million will go to cover cost overruns and underfunding of projects already underway (see p. 432).  In short, out of the $1.4 billion list of priority spending, Reston could see about one percent of the County's transportation funds for vital transportation improvements if funding is available. 

Moreover, the only County funding of these three is an already committed $300,000 to studying the Soapstone Connector, so there is no new County money committed to Reston's vital crossings through 2020.  (See Attachment 5.)  Any money added for studies on the other two crossings are dependent on funding from federal and state sources.   

Net:  No new money for Reston's most vital transportation infrastructure needs.  

We have extracted the transportation portion of the massive Board package and appended it below.

Stuck in traffic? Some major transportation improvements are on the way for Fairfax County in general and Reston in particular.
 Reston traffic
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a long priority list of more than 225 road, transit, trail and sidewalk projects that will receive funding from 2015-2020. The $4 billion in the next six years, thanks to an unprecedented infusion of tax revenue dedicated to transportation. . .
Good news for critics of changes to the Reston Master Plan, which will determine how density and development will happen close to Reston’s three upcoming Silver Line stations. Some studies have shown waits of up to five minutes at many traffic lights, giving the traffic a failing grade.
Several of the proposed projects will be aimed at helping alleviate that congestion.
Click here for the rest of this article by Karen Goff, including the prioritized list of Reston projects.

By our calculation, more than $330 million is being committed to as a "high priority" to developing the three Dulles Corridor crossovers essential to limiting the growth of congestion in Reston's urbanizing areas We would add that this is a great start to addressing some of the most challenging traffic congestion issues facing the re-development of the Dulles Corridor consistent with the draft Reston Master Plan.  But, as Yogi Berra famously said, "It ain't over 'till its over."  This is literally the truth for the overpasses & underpass needed across the corridor.  Moreover, from what we've heard in the Master Plan Task Force and elsewhere, the cost projections for these vital crossovers appear low, and they'll certainly go up over time.  We'll see. 

Nonetheless, we appreciate the County taking seriously the most vital transportation infrastructure needs of our urbanizing community in the coming investment cycle.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

RCA Honors Kathy Kaplan as Reston's 2013 Citizen of the Year

At Monday night's Board meeting, RCA officially selected Kathy Kaplan as the 2013 Citizen of the Year.  Kathy was recognized for her tireless and dedicated efforts to stop the proposed library "Beta Plan" and protect Fairfax County's libraries from cuts to funding, staff, and collections.  Below is the is the text of Kathy's nomination, submitted by Terry Maynard.

With great pleasure, honor, and admiration, I nominate Kathy W. Kaplan for RCAs 2013 Reston Citizen of the Year for her exceptional work in stopping a Fairfax County Public Library (FCPL) Strategic Plan to undermine its libraries in the name of organizational efficiency. As one of twoguinea pigs” for this strategic plan, Reston Regional Library was ground zero for this degradation. The key features of the ill- considered County library strategic plan included:
  • Reducing the County library budget by a third over the last six years;
  • Culling books throughout the system, a quarter-million of which had already been destroyed;
  • Drastically reducing the library staff, including plans to reduce the Reston staff by one-third;
  • De-professionalizing library staff requirements by replacing certified librarians with customer service specialists who may or may not be knowledgeable of library science; and
  • Eliminating Youth Services—librarians and collections—throughout the library system. 
Without Kathy’s leadership, unswerving dedication, and perseverance, the County’s libraries would likely still be on a downward spiral with the Reston Regional Library as a guinea pig” in that effort. Kathy’s extraordinary efforts were singularly consistent with Reston’s goal of providing a high quality of life for people of all backgrounds and was, in fact, an inspiration for  an August 2013 RCA Board of Directors resolution calling on the Board of Supervisors to abandon its wrong-headed FCPL Plan.
Among her activities beginning this summer and fall:
  • She identified and began to work with County librarians and other library friends deeply concerned about implementation of the County strategic plan;
  • She wrote letters and e-mails to County officials, community organizations, and media (including an interview with the Washington Post) noting the planned decimation of the libraries;
  • She encouraged residents to  sign an online petition calling for the County Library Trustees to stop and re-evaluate the Strategic Plan before implementing the beta plan” for Reston, a petition that ultimately garnered more than 2,000 signatures;
  • She  acquired and shared photographs of the books thrown in a central library operations dumpster that led Supervisor Patty Smyth to personally visit the site, bring back several current books in good condition, which she showed to senior library and County officials whom she told to stop destroying books
  • She conducted extensive research on the County library’s plan and activities, including a review of eight years of County Library Trustee minutes
  • She acquired through FOIA requests at considerable personal expense important FCPdocuments detailing the destruction of more than a 400,000 books in recent years
  • At the request of the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations (FCFCA), she drafted an FCFCA report on the FCPL Strategic Plan that detailed the Strategic Plan and its impacts; and 
  • She met with senior County staff and elected officials several times to learn more about the strategic plan and to share the results of her research.
As a result of her efforts and the efforts of those she worked with, the Library Board of Trustees recommended and the County Board of Supervisors approved on November 18, 2013, a resolution to eliminate the process that led to the trashing of hundreds of thousands of books and also throw out a controversial plan to reduce the number of librarians and children’s services in county branches. The Trustees are to come to the Board with their further recommendations early next year.

Reston Regional Library is the County’s busiest library with circulation exceeding one million items per year despite its small size and outdated facilities.  It is a focal point for community access not only to books and magazines, but to online subscription services not readily available to residents. It has a substantial children’s wing vital to exposing small children to the joys and knowledge of reading. It also emphasizes the needs of new citizens and those with handicaps.