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I think we all can agree: What we need in Herndon is a town council that is hardworking, analytical and able to give real direction — which reflects the will of the people — to staff.

Unfortunately, recent events have shown we have a case of the tail wagging the dog in Herndon; town staff effectively directs the council and Planning Commission, and their plans are rubberstamped without serious review and analysis.

In the case of the Metro Area Plan, the entire Planning Commission and four members of the council were prepared to pass almost any plan put before them. In the case of traffic improvements on Dranesville Road, Park Avenue and Monroe Street — in the face of overwhelming community opposition to the plan — these same council members actually tried to deny the community an opportunity to present its side of the issues in a public hearing.

In my opinion, the only current council members running for office in 2012 who have shown they are willing and able to be independent representatives — those who actually listen to their constituents and do not have predetermined, sometimes partisan agendas — are Jasbinder Singh and Connie Haines Hutchinson.

I think we also can agree our town is too small for partisan politics. It is particularly disturbing that Lisa Merkel has proposed a "team" concept of local government by campaigning jointly with four other candidates. If enough of them get elected, we truly will have a “Rubber Stamp Council,” with no opportunity for real debate on specific issues. All of the council seats are at-large, so they should be representing the whole town, not voting as a block and not pushing a specific agenda.

The job of a council member requires an exceptional amount of work for little compensation, and they should all be commended for their service to our town. But if we don’t take back the reigns and have a council that leads (not follows) with council members that think and act independently, we will become a town of disenfranchised, dissatisfied residents led by town staff without direction.

Let’s vote ‘no’ to rubber stamps and preordained conclusions on May 1.

Doug Shuster, Herndon