Wednesday, Apr. 22
EDITORIAL: Baking soda
How much will the Silver Line cost Loudoun taxpayers?
That’s a legitimate question that public officials would rather not answer. Or can’t.
One Loudoun citizen thinks fellow taxpayers ought to know. She filed a Freedom of Information Act request seeking the Capital Funding Agreement (CFA) and other documents the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority has provided to county government.
Initially, the county’s FOIA officer invoked an exception to the open documents law that suggested the documents are protected.
“The requested record, the proposed CFA, is being withheld because the custodian has exercised his discretion to withhold the record in accordance with Va. Code Section 2.2-3705.1, paragraph 12,” wrote Jennifer Grimmell, the county’s FOIA officer. “The public record withheld is a copy of an unexecuted draft of a proposed Capital Funding Agreement for FY2016 - FY2021 which is currently subject to negotiation.”
No charge, she wrote.
Grimmel’s response was a spurious interpretation of both the situation and FOIA exemptions that are discretionary. Accordingly, the citizen again pressed the county for release of the documents, citing a more accurate accounting of facts. Grimmell’s next response was to provide a published advertisement of WMATA’s required notice of public hearings.
That was like spreading baking soda over an offensive smell.
We editorialized weeks ago that the Silver Line is runaway train. While it is a vital cog in the economic development of the county, the potential for corruption is enormous. The $5.9 million public works project is already beset with extensive cost overruns and delays. Loudoun is investing heavily in the line – an estimated $20 million to $25 million annually – just to pay for operational costs.
One problem is that we don’t fully know who’s making decisions. Another is the extent to which the public can participate in the process, to have input before agreements are negotiated and passed.
Watchdog groups suggest a third problem. They contend that county staff – the custodian? – have also withheld the WMATA documents from the county’s Board of Supervisors.
You don’t have to be a chemist to know there’s an unmistakable odor coming from the process to fund Metro. Taxpayers and watchdogs are asking legitimate questions. There’s too much at stake for public officials to cover the smell with baking soda.
Wednesday, Feb. 25
EDITORIAL: The perfect flip-flop
Wednesday, Feb. 18
EDITORIAL: The reporter and the chicken thief
Wednesday, Apr. 15
EDITORIAL: Riding side-saddle into the future
Wednesday, Apr. 8
EDITORIAL: Runaway train
Wednesday, Apr. 1
EDITORIAL: When law enforcement is more than a matter of faith
Wednesday, Mar. 25
The women in the room
Wednesday, Mar. 18
EDITORIAL: The tragic flaw
Wednesday, Mar. 11
EDITORIAL: Conduct the public’s business in public
Wednesday, Mar. 4
EDITORIAL: Diversity must come out from the shadows
Wednesday, Feb. 4
EDITORIAL: How would you spend $2 billion