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EDITORIAL: Fumblerooski on Metro

When their best plays don’t work, football teams have been known to try the fumblerooski -- a trick play that involves hiding the ball and misdirecting the defense.

The play calls for the quarterback to receive the snap from the center then deliberately leave the ball on the ground, technically fumbling it. As the backs run to the right, a lineman waits for the defense to follow, then picks up the ball and runs to the left.

So deceptive is the the play that the NCAA banned it and the NFL made it a penalty. Legal variations of the play are still sometimes used: Take a page from the playbook of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.

Driving down the field to complete the Silver Line, the county now struggles at mid-field with a depleted offense. In approving the extension of the regional Metro system into Loudoun, the county consistently misjudged the costs of getting to the end zone: $270 million to get in the game and, eventually, its share of what will likely be a multi-million dollar budget gap.

Meantime, Team Metro keeps getting sacked for a loss: serious safety problems that cost millions more to fix, declining ridership, huge cost overruns and operating costs that rise with every tick of the clock.

All of these factors increase Loudoun’s share in the system -- a situation that Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D) says the county can neither afford nor afford to abandon.

“We were given real and honest numbers about what Metro is going to cost us going forward,” Randall told members of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce last week. “The numbers are startling, and they are concerning ... It is literally impossible. We don’t have it.”

What exactly are those numbers? Where did the county fumble? Can it recover the ball and run?

Sure, the game can be confusing. But in a county that prides itself on making astute business decisions, you'd think our players could size up the playing field. That's why we elect and pay the supervisors and fund the county's hefty finance department.

It’s not fourth-and-long quite yet, but the home team has apparently exhausted its playbook. Despite her doomsday comments, Randall says she can't provide exact numbers about what Loudoun’s participation in Metro will cost the county. And the county won’t share the numbers it does have. Or doesn't have. No one really knows.

So let’s go inside the huddle: “It is literally quite impossible,” Randall tells her teammates. “We don’t have a play.”

You don’t have to be Tom Brady to know what that means. Someone on the team must step up, make a play and pay the price. That would be the fan who pays a steep price for a Super Bowl ticket: the taxpayer.

The supervisors would rather keep that play in the huddle. Their strategy is hide the ball, create misdirection and run out the clock. Fumblerooski.


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