News and notes from Reston (tm).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Let's Call it Snowgate: Was an RA E-mail Promoting Weekend Snow Removal a Tacit Endorsement of 3 RA Board Candidates?

2536103901_432783be9d.jpgOnly in Reston could a call for volunteer snow removal become an imbroglio involving the election of Reston Association Board candidates. I mean, really?

You may remember that the Reston Association sent out an e-mail over the weekend encouraging volunteers to help dig out schools and sidewalks so kids could go back to school. It was a great idea, it really played up the good things about living in Reston -- the scads of people willing to help out a common cause -- and it made for some cute photos that filthy "web loggers" like us could make fun of. But there was this one line in the official RA e-mail:

(While the organizers, including Mike Collins, Kevin Danaher, and David Robinson, are Reston Association members, this project is not an RA sponsored event.)
The three aren't just Reston Association members -- all three are running for the three open seats on the RA Board, all of which are contested. Further, none of the three are running against each other.

Another one of the candidates is crying foul. Others have argued that this has basically tipped the RA's hand by showing what it considers to be its hand-picked slate of candidates. On the surface, it's hard to dispute that's exactly what this looks like.

Maybe the RA just goofed. Getting volunteers together was a good idea, and there's nothing that says that involved Reston residents -- who are exactly the kind of people who should be running for the RA Board -- shouldn't be able to reach out and ask the RA to help them get the word out about an event of this nature. If these three considered this part of their election strategy, that just makes them savvy campaigners. You really can't blame them for trying to get their names out.

But the RA needs to do its job and ensure that the process remains fair. At a minimum, they absolutely should have identified the three as RA Board candidates -- calling them "RA members" appears to the cynical to be a deliberate attempt to keep from pointing this very fact out. In its defense, the RA may have discussed how to identify these three people and thought that this would be the most fair way of handling it, as to avoid the appearance of a blatant endorsement. Unfortunately, it just made them look more underhanded in some people's eyes instead.

Perhaps the RA should not have promoted the event through official channels at all. Lord knows there are filthy "web logs" that will do that dirty work for pretty much anyone who asks.

In the interest of fairness, we'll publish any rebuttal or explanation these candidates or the RA wants to offer. In fact, we'd welcome it. Because without an explanation, this really makes the RA look conniving. Or incompetent. We'll leave it to others to decide which.

Update: From the comments, the most plausible explanation we've heard thus far.
I got an e-mail from the Lake Anne PTA a couple hours before I received RA's and that line was already in the first e-mail. I think the organizers themselves wrote it and the people who dispersed the message just left it in resulting in a sort of oversight. It seems a lot of the people who were out to help really just wanted to volunteer and help get their kids to school but the event seemed to be led by current RA board member Richard Chew and the three candidates. Maybe these aren't RA's hand-picked candidates but some of the current board members' preferred candidates?
We'll buy this less cynical theory. But the skepticism out there -- and not just on this filthy "web log" -- is a reminder that everyone involved needs to be more careful.

23 comments:

  1. My opinion is that it makes the RA Board look both conniving and incompetent. But that is letting them off easy. There are individuals on the board who are not above pulling the puppet strings - please don't vote in the puppets.

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  2. I can guarentee that it was one of 2 things: either an over edit or oversight...

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  3. Restonian: I could not agree with your comment more: "there's nothing that says that involved Reston residents -- who are exactly the kind of people who should be running for the RA Board -- shouldn't be able to reach out and ask the RA to help them get the word out about an event of this nature. If these three considered this part of their election strategy, that just makes them savvy campaigners."

    We do need involved citizens,people who are willing to pick up the shove, if you will.

    But are you trying to say that these three individuals got together (they just happen to be best friends and all three running for board seats in three different districts??) and reached out to RA to help them get the word out? C'mon get real. The question is....which RA board member(s) reached out to them and asked them to run, and what other "support" will they be getting? where is the so called election campaign committee on this?

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  4. I got an e-mail from the Lake Anne PTA a couple hours before I received RA's and that line was already in the first e-mail. I think the organizers themselves wrote it and the people who dispersed the message just left it in resulting in a sort of oversight. It seems a lot of the people who were out to help really just wanted to volunteer and help get their kids to school but the event seemed to be led by current RA board member Richard Chew and the three candidates. Maybe these aren't RA's hand-picked candidates but some of the current board members' preferred candidates?

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  5. anon 12:55

    I got the same email from the Buzz Aldrin PTA. But who do you think sent it out to the PTA's in the first place? Maybe one of the PTA's would post the origin of the original email.

    I agree with you, those are RA Board member's Richard Chew's three preferred candidates (evidenced by the links on his facebook page) and he tried to pull one over. He is just trying to stack the deck in his favor, no surprise there. Most people don't even care about the RA election - they just wanted to help out and get the schools opened. But Richard did go a little far in his email denials - he hath protest too much.

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  6. I'm sure all three can hardly wait to become fodder for the likes of this loving community. I pity the poor soul that actually gets elected.

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  7. Here is a link to RA's press release. Photos of all ten candidates and their candidate statements are here:

    https://reston.org/PressRoom/NewsReleases/2010Elections/Default.aspx?qenc=HzT9ACzZbNs%3d&fqenc=nvONwrgxjZ6OQkc3FhDSlQ%3d%3d

    RA should send a letter out to the list of residents who received the "snow job" letter with information on ALL the candidates. I think that would go a long way towards setting things straight.

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  8. Anon:2:18 That's a complete waste of RA resources, our resources...get over it! Go do something wonderful for your community and get your name in the paper as Jane/John Doe, RA Candidate, collecting food for the hungry, but please, please, please, don't insist that our RA resources be so foolishly wasted.

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  9. Anon 2:39

    I should have been more specific. RA should send an email. To the same list as they sent to before. How much does it cost to send a mass email?

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  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  11. It's always great to see people trash other *BY NAME* while posting anonymously, very nice.

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  12. Free the People - from the Republic of Reston and their hand picked slate of candidates

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  13. Mrs Fulkerson,

    I've become aware of a acute need at FACETS for food for the homeless during this sever winter weather we've been having. If Mr Mathews agrees could we please put out a email asking Reston Citizens to look in there cupboards for any unneeded caned goods Particularly in need is :Pop-top soups and pastas- Crackers - single serve packs - Peanut butter & jelly- Canned tuna & chicken Bottled water, Juice boxes, Granola bars/healthy snacks, Cereal, Canned fruits & vegetables, Spaghetti and sauce.

    So often people have extra items taking up space but not used for one reason or another. They eventually get outdated and have to be discarded. This will be a good way to clean out the cupboard of such items and help someone less fortunate.

    Please ask the other candidates and if in agreement to also put their names on the request. I am available to help spend time receive the caned goods but only have a small car. Could we also ask if there are any with vans willing to transport the canned goods to FACETS?

    This will be a good way to give all candidates a positive association with a worthwhile task in Reston as well as possibly some may want to help with the receiving and at the same time to meet some citizen voters. Please feel free to contact me regarding any working out of the details.

    Sincerely,

    Rod Koozmin

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  14. Oh My Goodness People! Do a good thing for no reason other than the thing NEEDS DOING!! What is wrong with you people! Can we say crass politician!

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  15. The real problem here is that the email sent out by Reston Ass and other groups makes it sound like the idea of enlisting volunteers to dig out bus stops and sidewalks was the brainchild of these 3 candidates. In actuality it came from FCPS. They issued a press release requesting volunteers (available on their website) and asked PTA's and principles to enlist volunteers. I have one child who attends Herndon Middle and we received emails and phone calls from the school to participate in the dig out -- none of these mentioned the 3 Reston candidates. However, in Reston the 3 candidates and those supporting them made it sound like they were the ones making the request. They took advantage of the situation to promote themselves and attached their name to an effort being promoted by the FCPS. The shame is that the Reston ASS went along with it. It's a no brainer that an association should not send out an email mentioning 3 candidates names. They could have sent out a request to participate in the big dig without the names (after all it was a FCPS request)! This was no innocent mistake and at least one current board member was behind this blatant attempt to mislead/influence voters.

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  16. People will be able to figure it out...if you suddenly begin to have your name associated with "do good" projects I think that people and the election process will reveal the sincerity of each candidate.

    So I would ask this: What is the community history of participation of each candidate? Have they been involved prior to this? Or have they suddenly lost their minds thinking that they want to be a part of what is sure to be a routine trashing here and else where because they answered the call of public service?

    Maybe it was pre-meditated--again I say--Get over it! Go run your own campaign based on the good you believe you will do for this community, not by making accusations about your opponents.

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  17. I have to say that after reading all this I am starting to think that all this ruckus is a bit much. I mean, who knows, maybe there's some conspiracy, but most likely it's just people not really thinking this out enough before posting. Even so, the idea that seeing someone in such a newsletter is going to make me vote for him or her is a bit silly. If I'm one of the very few who do vote at all, I'm probably going to be fairly well-informed and will have formed an opinion by looking at the various statements, videos, etc., even looked at blogs like this. I don't get to vote this time around because my rep is not up for reelection. But to be honest, Rod, all the hullabaloo over this to me paints a negative picture of someone who complains a bit too much. Fine to point out a possible inequity, but at a certain point the complaint and the proposed remedies become ridiculous. Personally I'd rather here more about what a candidate will supposedly do for me, not about how they think they got treated unfairly by someone else. Just sayin'...

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  18. Broke in Charter Oak (BiCO)February 18, 2010 at 7:50 AM

    People honestly wonder why so many of we newcomers have absolutely no interest in getting involved in the Reston community? When I first moved here the brou-ha-ha of the moment was about a proposed indoor recreational facility near Baron Cameron Avenue and whether we should promote year-round fitness (outside of health clubs) or preserve our open space. I was immediately soured on this issue from the get-go when I saw how downright rudely many in the anti-recreational center camp were treating their opposition---almost trying to "silence" them. The phrase "pack mentality" came to mind as people nearly pounded their chests and flung feces at each other like apes. I actually came to eventually SUPPORT the facility without knowing much about the details just because I was turned off by how vicious many in the "anti" group were behaving. If they had been more calm and collected about their endeavor, then they could have earned my respect from newcomers like myself; you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar, no?

    The next mass panic in Reston? The prospect of making our community more transit-friendly and how that would ruin the "historic character" (whatever that means) of Reston once the Silver Line arrives. The master planning process and the Land Use College sessions were intended for everyone merely to LEARN more about the issues facing our community, learn about planning technicalities, ask questions, and try to be helpful in creating the vision for the future of our community. One session I attended prominently featured immaturity from at least several "old-timers" who rolled their eyes, sighed, and made faces when other people spoke. One gentleman (if he can even be called that) made a scene in the background and stormed out of a session I had attended at Lake Anne ES. Now there are groups like Reston 2020 coming forward, presumably with the noble intentions of making sure the county just doesn't "steamroll" over the community, but once again I get irked by how groups like this pretend to speak for ALL Restonians and assume we all support equivalent maximum building heights, all support minimum open space percentages on new developments, all oppose any redevelopment of existing properties, etc., etc. I don't seem to recall ever being polled about this. Contrary to popular belief there are more than you'd think in Reston who do NOT automatically assume Cathy Hudgins, Robin Smyers, and the county planning folks are the Three Stooges---clueless and destined to lead our community to failure. Why do so few in Reston have any faith or confidence in our leadership?

    Now I see how the Reston Association itself used this recent plea for snow-clearing help to grandstand and practically endorse three board candidates, and I'm once again soured on this community. Why must you Restonians be so "cliquey" and let politics devour EVERYTHING? The only bright points I've enjoyed since moving here? Helping out at the last library book sale, volunteering briefly with Reston Interfaith, and becoming active in my church. Otherwise it seems like nearly everything else in Reston is nothing more than a political shell-game and a crap-shoot of people trying to figure out who's Ph.D. is superior to the other's. Why are there so many attempts to make this community so divided when it has the potential to be a great place to live if people would stop trying to create tensions at every juncture? Reston could easily be the best place to live in America if people would stop with the plastic facade smiles to your face coupled with political scheming behind your back. There's a city roughly 20 miles to our east that may be more to your liking for such pettiness and political grandstanding.

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  19. Milton Mathews Apoligy to the Elections Committee: As many of you know, there are e-mails and probably other forms of communications circulating which call into question whether it was a wise decision on the part of RA to disseminate information about a community-wide call for volunteers to assist with snow removal on sidewalks, pathways and, in some cases near bus stops, located adjacent to several schools in Reston. The first point I need to make is that the decision to disseminate the information was mine and not that of RA’s Board of Directors. And, given that the members of the Board of Directors are my bosses, I take absolutely no position on whom those individuals will be, with the only exception being the vote I cast as a Member of the Reston Association. When I was asked if RA would send out the information about the call for volunteers, my first question was whether RA would be the only source attempting to get the word out to the community. I was assured that efforts by many others were already underway to get the word out. Yes, I was very conscious of the fact that the information to be disseminated acknowledged that among the organizers were three candidates for the RA Board of Directors. However, given the nature of the volunteer work and what I believe were many benefits to the community, I do not second guess my decision to disseminate the information via RA’s various communication channels. On a personal note, I actually shoveled snow and ice at Armstrong Elementary School shoulder to shoulder with individuals I was meeting for the first time. I have repeatedly stated that I want the Reston Association to be a valued and reliable resource to the community, even if there is a matter in which we are not the direct service provider. I believe getting the word out about the call for volunteers was a service to the community, notwithstanding the fact that three of the organizers of the effort are candidates for the RA Board of Directors. To members of the Election Committee, I apologize if my decision has created a stressful situation for you. Milton W. Matthews Chief Executive Officer Reston Association 703-437-9580 www.reston.org RA Vision: Leading the model community where all can live, work, and play.

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  20. BiCO:

    You wrote

    "Why are there so many attempts to make this community so divided when it has the potential to be a great place to live if people would stop trying to create tensions at every juncture?"

    Hmmn, maybe you answer your own question when you write such hyperbole as

    "people nearly pounded their chests and flung feces at each other like apes."

    or

    "Why must you Restonians be so "cliquey" and let politics devour EVERYTHING?"

    The irony. The irony. And by the way, that should be "we Restonians", since you too live in Reston.

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  21. Has anyone considered that were it not for this blog post and all the comments 99% of Reston wouldn't know who those three candidates are or for what office that are running. In fact I think it's all a well executed conspiracy by the Restonian who must have a dog,(or 3!), in this fight! Oh evil Restonian puppet master!

    (I know way too many !!)

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  22. jee, Bico, I love how you complain about feeling excluded from the community, and then make comments about "you Restonians." Make up your mind!

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  23. Kevin Danaher has always volunteered at Lake Anne School and for other things. It is in his nature. I have known him for a while. Shoveling snow is hard and thank you people who did it. Kevin is just an all around good guy!!! He always helps.

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