Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Preliminary Notes on Inequality and Urbanism, Paul Krugman, The Conscience of a Liberal, New York Times, May 27, 2015

Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman, now of Oxford University, offers some preliminary thoughts on inequality-driven urbanism and its implications.  While he focuses on the implications for people moving into booming urban areas, it seems the same could be said of neighborhoods and larger areas becoming urban.  His thoughts raise interesting questions about the urbanizing of Reston, Tysons, and other areas in the Metropolitan Washington area. 

Here is how he begins:
Tim Wu has an interesting piece about the phenomenon of vacant storefronts in booming New York neighborhoods, which by coincidence dovetails with a number of conversations I’ve been having here at the Said Business School in Oxford, where several people are interested in the changing economic geography of London and its links to globalization.
The empty-store phenomenon is interesting, and cries out for a bit of modeling, which I won’t do right now. But it’s part of a broader story of big money moving in to desirable neighborhoods, and in the process destroying what makes them desirable. (Emphasis added.)  And this in turn has me thinking, blurrily — this is just a start — about the relationship between inequality and urbanism. Not as a diatribe — I think it’s a fairly complex issue — but just as an interesting thing, especially if you’re in the process of moving into a big city.
Some thoughts . . .
Click here to read the particulars.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Seattle Public Library Central Library: Economic Benefits Assessment, July 2005

This comprehensive study of the economic impact of the newly constructed Central Library in Seattle highlights the diverse and substantial economic and other benefits of the new library just a year after it was completed.  As a "central library," it most closely resembles the role that "regional libraries" should play in Fairfax County, including the one to be built in Reston's Town Center North.

Unlike the analyses of the economic impact of public libraries by other cities either hoping to preserve their role in the community or to show the benefits of prospective new libraries, this analysis reports the actual results of one year's operation of a major new public library.  We expect that these impacts have only grown over the last decade.  The following are the "key findings" of the report:

For a county that sees itself to be a center of creativity, high technology, entrepreneurship, and economic growth--all of which Seattle truly represents--there are important lessons in this study for Fairfax County to learn and adapt in its consideration of the construction of the new Reston Regional Library.

The full text of the assessment is provided below.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Reston: Three for One, and One For All?, Reston Connection May 20, 2015

The Reston Connection provides a good overview of the three parties--Fairfax County, Reston Association, and Rescue Reston--pursuing an appeal on the Board of Zoning Appeal's (BZA's) nonsensical ruling on the RNGC planning and zoning case.  Here is an excerpt from the article:

Board of Supervisors, Rescue Reston and Reston Association all filed legal appeals of the Board of Zoning Appeals April ruling regarding Reston National Golf Course.

Reston Golf Management wants to build homes here. The Board of Supervisors and Reston Association will appeal last month’s Board of Zoning Appeals ruling in Fairfax County Circuit Court.
Reston Golf Management wants to build homes here. The Board of Supervisors and Reston Association will appeal last month’s Board of Zoning Appeals ruling in Fairfax County Circuit Court. Photo by Ken Moore.
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, Rescue Reston and Reston Association last week filed legal appeals of the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

Reston Golf Management seeks to redevelop the 166-acre Reston National Golf Course property, while Reston Association and Rescue Reston want to preserve the golf course as open space.

“We each [RA, County, Rescue Reston] have different specific pieces we may appeal, but appeal we must,” said Rescue Reston’s Connie Hartke. “As we said last week: ‘Letting the BZA ruling stand unchallenged will disadvantage, now and in the future, the County and the Reston community from being able to regulate and control redevelopment requests for the 166-acre golf course property and potentially other properties in Reston within the RPC/PRC District.” . . .

Click here for the rest of this article.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Letter to Trustee Michael Donovan Regarding MOUs Between Library Board and Library Friend

 This is re-posted from the Fairfax Library Advocates blog.

The following letter was sent to Mr. Michael Donovan, the Chairman of the Trustee Committee looking at MOUs between the Trustees and the Friends, on May 9th.   We will post Mr. Donovan's reply when it is received.

Dear Mr. Donovan:

Thank you for your continuing service on the Fairfax County Library Board of Trustees (Trustees).  I appreciate the work you and your fellow Trustees do to protect and strengthen our libraries.    

I am writing, however, to express deep concern over the direction of the proposal you appear to be making in your note of April 26th to the various Friends of the Libraries groups (Friends).  As presented, this proposal will significantly restrict the ability of volunteers to assist our hard working professional staff in making the Fairfax Library system an institution in which we can all take pride.  

My first concern is one of procedure.  You state, "After first coordinating this spreadsheet with the Library Staff, it is time to coordinate the spreadsheet with each of the Friends Groups."  This is, of course, backwards.  The relationship in question is between the Trustees and the Friends.  In fulfillment of section 42.1-33 of the Virginia Code, the Fairfax County website states, "In Fairfax County, the Board of Supervisors created the   Library Board of Trustees which is responsible for library functions, policy and direction.  As with the State Board, the local   Board appoints a Director of Libraries to administer the Board's policies and objectives."   You and your fellow Trustees set policy.  As the issue at hand is between the Trustees and Friends, the Trustees need to first discuss any concerns they have with the Friends.   Coordination with Library staff may appropriate, of course, but at the proper time -  after discussions with the Friends.  
Next, in your e-mail you state "the current MOU is inadequate."   You do not, however, say why the current MOU is inadequate.  How exactly is the present MOU deficient?   Has the current MOU caused significant legal or operational problems?   If so, may I ask how have you (the Trustees) have tried to address such problems short of tearing up existing guidelines?  The phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" comes to mind.   

Third, I understand your note is a preliminary document but it has official status under State law (Sunshine Laws).   Since you include a "from the Friends" section it might be helpful to include mention of some of the things the Friends do.  For example:
--    The Friends contribute thousands of hours of volunteer services; 
--    The Friends contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Libraries; 
--    The Friends contribute administrative and material support, including everything from keeping the grass mowed to providing the chairs staff sit on;
--    The Friends sponsor many programs, such as the Children's Reading Program; and
--    The Friends undertake advocacy in support of the Library.  
Finally, from our discussions with Chairman Bulova and others I am aware the attempt to capture every conceivable action that can be billed to the Friends can be traced back to the Library Administration rather than the Trustees.  (They missed assessing a charge for any water a Friend might consume from a library water fountain - a potential source of revenue, especially during the hot summer months.)   Nevertheless, out of curiosity, how would all of this be assessed?  Who will be doing the accounting?  Who will decide if a Friends group uses a hour and 15 minutes of staff time or just an hour?   As one Friend has asked, "Will we be charged a usage fee on equipment we have donated?"  If a volunteer provides a service on behalf of the staff will they have to charge themselves?  

Mr. Donovan, my years in diplomacy taught me the necessity of speaking clearly and directly so I will respectfully be blunt.  The current framework for a new MOU will place an undue and unwarranted burden on the Friends groups.  It appears the purpose of this exercise, beyond an unfortunate expression of ingratitude, is to weaken the Friends, perhaps to drive a few out of existence.  

I speak only for myself, but have spoken to many others who share my concerns.  I know your interest in a dialogue is sincere.  If you believe it necessary to review the MOUs then tear up the spreadsheets, let us know why you believe the current MOUs are outdated and let's engage in a productive discussion.  As long as we share the mutual goal of strengthening a great institution and allowing citizens to contribute to that institution in productive and meaningful ways, I am certain we will be able to find common ground quickly.  

Many thanks and best regards, Dennis

Ambassador Dennis K. Hays (ret.)
Chairman, Fairfax Library Advocates
Board Member, Friends of the Reston Regional Library
Friend of Independent Cuban Libraries 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Fairfax County Plan for Realignment of County & INOVA Properties in Town Center North

The County and INOVA have reached an agreement on a one-for-one square footage reallocation of their properties owned in the Town Center North area to create a more coherent plan of ownership consistent with the vision outlined in the new Reston Master Plan.  As depicted in the image below, the County will own the properties on the left (west) and bottom (south) while INOVA will own the shaded properties on the right (east) opposite the Spectrum Center.

The County plans to use a public-private partnership approach--an approach that allows virtually no public insight, much less input, into the negotiations  for what is developed.  The County plans to develop Blocks 7 & 8 (the library and Rucker shelter areas) first, stating it will issue a request for proposal this spring. 

The plan for Blocks 7&8 state:  "Specifically, the library, shelter and human services building are
anticipated to be replaced and integrated into the RTCN mixed-use development. The new public
facilities will include a 90,000 square-foot recreation center in Phase 2 and a 2.6-acre central green, which
will serve as a focal point for community activity and recreation." 

We would note that, given the planned residential and commercial density for TCN, this area ought to have more than 20 acres of new park space as shown below under the County's own Urban Park Guideline, not 2.6 acres.

The full text of the memorandum and graphics is appended below.

Realigned County and INVOA properties in Reston Town Center North.  Blocks 1, 3, 5, 7, and 8 (west and south) will be owned by the County while Blocks 2, 4, 6, & 8 will be owned by INOVA opposite the Spectrum Center.