Democrat Juli Briskman is challenging incumbent Suzanne Volpe (R) in the Algonkian District Board of Supervisors race.
Volpe, who is seeking a third term, was the only candidate of 19 seeking a supervisor seat to not respond to the Times-Mirror candidate questionnaire. When reached by phone, Volpe said her campaign decided she didn't need to respond.
Here are Briskman's responses to the Times-Mirror questionnaire.
What would be your top three priorities if elected?
I will focus on fully funding our schools so that our students and teachers have the resources they need to succeed. This means working on a needs-based approach to budgeting as opposed to allowing a slavish commitment to an equalized tax rate that forces our teachers to subsist on the lowest pay scale in the region. Additionally, in Algonkian District several of our schools are in need of renovation, so I will fight to make sure our students have the same learning environments as the rest of the county
Affordable housing is a critical need in the county and in my district. I will focus on funding the housing trust fund so that we can work with developers to improve access to affordable and workforce housing in the county and my district. This will require a laser focus on two areas in my district that are slated for redevelopment in the Comprehensive Plan.
Lastly, I will focus on creating a legislative agenda that more closely reflects the values of our county. This means supporting gun sense legislation, paid family leave, improved access to affordable childcare and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. The agenda should also support our first responders who have been fighting for presumption of care for work-related cancers.
How are you going to balance the different viewpoints and priorities between the east and west for the overall benefit of the county?
The rural areas of our County are part of our heritage and a key part of what makes Loudoun beautiful and unique. We need to establish trust with our rural neighbors that we do not intend to encroach upon that heritage. Building more residences in transitional areas and around metro stations does not assume encroachment to the west, in fact it can help avoid such encroachment. However, more density in the eastern portions of the county should only be considered if it is clearly beneficial to our residents. This means making sure that redevelopment comes with compromise and amenities that allow residents to feel good about new or redevelopment. In short, the Board must make sure that it is listening to stakeholders on both sides of the issues presented.
Do you support building another bridge from Loudoun County across the Potomac River? Explain.
The Potomac River crossing issue will require open communication between community members and stakeholders in both Loudoun County and Maryland, and I promise to make sure the concerns of the public are heard in respect to this issue. However, no more money should be allocated to studying or planning for a bridge until Maryland is ready to talk.
The 2019 Comprehensive Plan has been approved. Explain one thing you would have done differently?
I would have left zoning out of the document to allow this plan to be a “vision” as originally intended. Also, the Suburban Policy Area did not receive enough attention, nor did the revitalization areas in my district. I am also concerned that the energy plan and transportation plans have not been truly integrated into this process. We have an energy plan that has not been updated for ten years! In my district, we have several projects in our Transportation Plan that have not been funded in the Capital Improvement Plan. I will fight for those projects to be funded in my district.
Outgoing Vice Chairman Ralph Buona gave the Board of Supervisors a "B+" in his assessment of the current board. How would you grade the current board and why?
I give this board a C-. Chair Randall and the other supervisors worked hard to get things done, such as the Comprehensive Plan, which was well overdue! Having said that, this board failed on several key issues due to it’s partisan makeup, such as:
Reviewing ordinances that could have protected our western neighbors from bullets flying through their homes and landing on playsets;
Supporting the ERA in Richmond;
Supporting our firefighters, teachers and county employees with pay increases they deserve;
Supporting our firefighters and their healthcare concerns raised in Richmond;
Supporting our school system with mental health counselors;
Fully funding the school budgets;
Addressing the unmet housing needs as many of our teachers and first responders cannot afford to live in the county they serve, much less those getting paid something closer to minimum wage.
Explain if you agree or disagree with the board's decision to not add elementary school resource officers into the fiscal 2020 budget.
I agree with the board’s decision for two reasons. The first is that I believe the proposal was a last minute political move and occurred without much thought on the issue. Second, I do not believe we should be funding all efforts to “harden” our schools. These funds would be better utilized for other programs, such as mental health counselors and full-time parent liaison officers, who also work to protect our children in their schools.
Loudoun has grown significantly in recent decades. Should there be additional hard caps on housing?
I believe the comprehensive plan is a good foundation to start looking at these issues and I am satisfied with the reduction of housing as a compromise in the Transitional Policy Area. The first order of business for the new board will be to work on our unmet housing needs strategy. In this process we can further examine the number of housing units in the county.
One of the major tasks for the next board will be overhauling the county's zoning ordinance. Explain one area the future board should consider revising.
The Board should work with industry and stakeholders to achieve more flexibility in zoning regulations that could allow for more affordable housing. Increased investment in the Housing Trust fund allocated through our tax rate will allow us to increase the number of units. The county must follow the lead of other metropolitan jurisdictions and dedicate tax dollars to this fund. The county also should look at overall policies to increase the number of people eligible for current programs.
Loudoun has done well economically in recent years. What will be your top priority to continue economic growth?
We have done well with economic development in the past several years. However, my top priority would be working on economic development in my district. We have two shopping centers slated for redevelopment in the Comprehensive Plan. I want to make sure this occurs in a way that allows local businesses to thrive. In Algonkian District and other potential development areas, I want to make sure we have more Class A office space so that larger organizations would consider moving to Loudoun County. However, we must acknowledge that landing such projects will also be dependent on energy efficient office space and cooperation with labor groups to build those spaces. Without these foundational values of working for the environment and for workers, we will not land forward-thinking businesses.
In a time filled with partisan rhetoric, please give a compliment to your opponent or opponents.
I believe Supervisor Volpe cares deeply for her family and the community she lives in.