Opinion: Letter to the Editor: ‘Honey Trap’ of Campaign Contributions

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: ‘Honey Trap’ of Campaign Contributions

What is the contribution “tipping point” that changes an elected official’s perspective towards favoring their donors over the needs of the community? When is that unconscious sense of gratitude for a gift turned on?

Developers have wielded considerable influence in Fairfax County politics for years. Fairfax County residents are currently dealing with long commutes, or expensive mass transit only accessible to those who live near to it. Residents are also exposed to polluted air, dangerous travel conditions for walkers and bikers, and unaffordable rent, all within the county. Why did we allow this to happen?

There were early warnings. In 2013, seven Fairfax Supervisors had to recuse themselves from a decision, because they had financial ties with the developers requesting the change. A major land-use decision was made with three votes instead of ten. Six districts (and the Chair's vote) were without representation in that decision. INOVA won the vote, but did Fairfax?

With the upcoming election for so many open Board of Supervisor seats, it’s time for Fairfax voters to step up and identify candidates that will work for us and not for developers.

We need to start by realizing who wants to be a supervisor in Fairfax.

In many districts, developers themselves are running to be supervisors. Some of the candidates, according to VPAP.ORG, have more than 30 percent of their campaign funds coming from the “real estate/construction” category. A current district supervisor, who sat through this development rampage for more than 12 years, now wants to be Chair.

But not all candidates will fall into the campaign contribution “Honey Trap.” A number of candidates have taken the pledge to not accept any money from developers – and those are the ones we should invest our trust with our vote.

I want my Supervisors to never have to recuse themselves when faced with a land-use decision. I want my Supervisors to commit to ensuring Fairfax supports all ranges of income and age in land-use plans - so those who want to grow old here can; those who want to live where they work can; those who want to move forward in life and have good opportunities, regardless of background or other social factors, can.

Just because a politician can take unlimited contributions from developers and special interests under Virginia law (unlike Maryland or DC), doesn't mean they should. Development should not be a "trickle down" economic policy in Fairfax.

Let’s elect leaders who will put the interests of Fairfax residents first.

Diana Smith