Before looking ahead we should review where our nation is today.
November’s election followed the most vicious and divisive Presidential campaign in memory, mine going back to 1928, when the issue was candidate Al Smith’s Catholicism.
Today we face far greater problems, among them instability in the Middle East, Russian and Chinese ambitions, an unstable Europe, U.S. federal debt and deficits, extreme financial inequality among our citizens, climate change, and divisive Congressional partisanship.
This year’s election fractured the country, into disparate segments of society as well as between political parties. The result? A President-elect chosen by the electoral college but having only a minority of the popular vote. A skilled populist vote getter, Donald Trump lacks government experience, and relies on instinct, rather than analysis of relevant facts, in making decisions. He refuses to release his tax returns, or disclose details of his business interests as others have done.
His choices for cabinet and other senior jobs are dominated by billionaires and retired military generals, with some nepotism thrown in. No proposed appointees are familiar with the disadvantaged groups who elected him, and few have government experience. Some have said that the agencies they may head should be eliminated. Others have business connections with Russia, as has Mr. Trump.
Trump has pledged to “drain the swamp” of government in Washington. Senior career government officials are alarmed over the effect this will have on their work and careers. They see it as “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”
The administration I joined in 1985 was very different. President Reagan had been a governor; Vice President George H. W. Bush had headed the CIA and been an emissary to China; Secretary of State George Schultz was a former Secretary of Treasury and an economist with years in senior positions; Secretary of the Treasury Jim Baker had previously been White House Chief of Staff; Caspar Weinberger had held elective office in California and several federal positions before becoming Secretary of Defense.
In 1985, as a newly appointed ex-businessman, I found the career professionals in the Senior Executive Service invaluable teachers on government processes, and how to work across the aisle to get things done.
With this background of experience I fear that Donald Trump, as President, represents a great risk to the America that my generation fought for, and some died for, in the 1940s, and which we later helped build to greatness through careers in business, science, education and government.
What can we all now do to protect the nation that our kids will inherit? First, we must defend the free press, to keep us informed, and to counter the “fake news” that permeates social media. Then, starting with the confirmation process, we must urge senators, especially patriotic Republicans, to reject unsuitable nominees for federal government and Supreme Court appointments.
Only with a watchdog Congress can our nation be protected from disaster until the 2018 elections give voters a chance to begin to remedy the errors of last November. An unhappy but realistic former Presidential appointee showed me this Emily Dickenson poem. Its first verse:
Hope is a thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.
Hope and watchfulness are the best allies we have to ensure America’s future for our children. We must all stay connected and involved as that future unfolds.
As a citizen-member of the Loudoun County Comprehensive Plan Stakeholders Committee, I recently had the singular honor and privilege of meeting several hundred of my friends and colleagues, all fellow Loudoun residents, at four of the six community forums held by Envision Loudoun. This is the project name given to an initiative by the county supervisors to rewrite the county comprehensive plan for the first time since 1999. The county comprehensive plan guides virtually every aspect of county land use and development, including zoning, transportation, commercial development, residential development, parks and greenspace development, protection measures for western Loudoun, bike and hiking trails and a myriad of other associated issues.
The citizen discussions at these meetings were insightful, inclusive and free-ranging. However over the course of the four meetings I attended, a few common, major themes emerged and rose to the threshold of what I would call a consensus in this remarkably diverse county.
First, our citizens are concerned by the quantity of growth—probably no surprise to anyone—but they are equally concerned about the quality of that growth. There was a great deal of discussion in my groups about specific development projects that, in their view, significantly damage the unique aesthetic of Loudoun County.
The second major issue I discerned was transportation congestion, again probably not a surprise to anyone. But it was the depth of common-sense understanding of this issue by our citizens that caught my attention. Many citizens expressed strong feelings about new development overwhelming existing and even planned infrastructure. They acknowledged growth was going to occur, but they were notably frustrated by projects begun and completed with what they characterized as almost no regard to the burdens those projects would place on our major transportation arteries.
Several projects coming before the board in the next few months will serve to showcase these precise concerns expressed by our citizens in near unanimity. The one most pressing is a proposal to build 640 new residential units at One Loudoun at the intersection of Route 7 and Route 28.
For those of us who commute down Route 7 and Route 28 in the morning, there is simply no way 640 new residential units at that critical road juncture will not add significant traffic to a county transportation node already overwhelmed. If the transportation algorithm being used by county staff doesn’t show that, they really need to get a new slide rule.
I commute to Old Town Alexandria every day, and the two worst stretches of my commute, by far, are Route 7 and Route 28. This many new units at that location will have a major impact on the daily quality of life of residents in Broad Run, Algonkian, Ashburn, Dulles, Sterling and Leesburg districts. In fact, since Brambleton residents heading for route 28 and Catoctin residents in and around Leesburg heading for route 7 will also be affected, the Blue Ridge and Catoctin Districts also have a serious stake in the game.
We on the Comprehensive Plan Stakeholders Committee are honored to be asked to contribute to this county’s future, and we take our jobs very seriously. But Board of Supervisors approval of projects such as this, in the face of what is clearly a common consensus in the county by its citizens regarding the desired direction of future development, would be at best ill-advised and at worst render the Envision Loudoun project meaningless. I would respectfully suggest the BOS place on hold any controversial development projects until it has time to hear and digest the findings of the 26-member citizens group it commissioned to consider precisely these kinds of issues.
The author is an at-large representative on the Comprehensive Plan Stakeholders committee, past candidate for Ashburn supervisor and former chairman of the Loudoun County Democratic Committee.
Transparency is usually the word one hears from those seeking office or who are in office. However, the selection of of a new council member at Leesburg Town Council lacked transparency and makes one wonder why we bother to vote or why anyone would want to run for office in the future.
This is the second time in the past two years where there was a requirement to fill the seat of an unexpired elected official. This time, after Kelly Burk was elected mayor, her seat on council was vacant. I would have thought that the procedure to fill that seat would be easy; look to those who took the time to obtain signatures, raise money and who actually ran for council as candidates. But no, the council decided to find a convoluted way to come up with a person who had no experience on council and was not voted upon by the voters of Leesburg.
We have again put someone on council who did not run in the last election and who was not voted upon by the voters of Leesburg . All this occurred behind closed doors.
I urge the council to (1) change whatever has to be changed to do away with the myth that the council is non-partisan or (2) change the time we vote back to May and (3) establish procedures for filling unexpired terms.
Anthony V. Fasolo
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