Herndon’s town politics have taken an ugly turn in the current election cycle. The same people who claim to be passionate about small town Herndon and care about the Town’s constituents and its reputation are corrupting the election process by developing an implicit political party, bringing in droves of outside funding from national political party donors and real estate developers, and desperately giving away our Town to developers.
“There’s no I in T-E-A-M.” Silly saying from your high school sports team? Yes, but it also tells the story of why Lisa Merkel’s campaign for re-election as Herndon Town Mayor is so wrong for the Town of Herndon. Merkel has formed an unofficial party and is sucking the independence out of our Town Council. She has hand selected a slate of six candidates to campaign with her as part of her team approach for the second time - disregarding the Town of Herndon’s Charter, which dictates that all candidates running for election to the Herndon Town Council must run as Independents, and throwing aside a large part of her constituency’s disapproval with this approach in the Town’s 2012 elections.
The Town Charter states: “Candidates for town offices shall not be identified on the ballot by political affiliation.”
Definition of a Political Party: “a political party is a political organization that seeks to influence, or entirely control, government policy, usually by nominating their own candidates and trying to seat them in political office. Parties often espouse an ideology or vision, expressed in a party program, bolstered by a written platform with specific goals.”
Call it the Merkel Party or whatever you’d like, the spirit of the law of the Town of Herndon is compromised. Merkel wants to dominate and control the Town’s agenda with a majority that is beholden to her party for their election to the Town Council. The independence of our Town Council is at stake and the strength of our Town government is jeopardized.
If we want candidates that think for themselves and act on behalf of us the constituents, it is critical that we vote against the Merkel Party and vote against party politics in the Town of Herndon.
I’m a bit of an idealist (I was in the Peace Corps if that gives you an idea) and I always tend to think that people are trying to do the right thing, even if they are sometimes misguided. That’s why, when I had such different ideas about the Herndon Metro Area from Merkel and her team, I always assumed that it was just a difference of opinion on the role of urbanization in Herndon. Now we find out that Merkel’s team has over $5,000 in real estate developer funding for her campaign, much of it from outside of the Town of Herndon, and even more money from Democratic Party campaign funds. Now I understand that these are the people that influence Merkel, not her constituents.
Merkel is very proud of her accomplishments with the Metro Area but a few points to remember:
• The Merkel Party is so hell bent on massive Metro Area urban development that they tried to push through a plan where traffic would have been four times greater than could possibly be managed by the proposed plan.
• The Merkel Party’s Herndon Metro Area Plan would be more densely developed than the largest planned Tysons Corner development.
• The Merkel Party is so desperate to please developers that they plan to use $3.5 million of your taxpayer money to pay for Metrorail Sewer System improvements as per the recently passed Town of Herndon Budget.
• The Merkel Party is giving away billions of dollars of value from the new zoning and increased density in the Metro area and asking the developers for nothing in return – there is no policy for getting proffers for development as in Tysons.
Growth in the Town of Herndon is imminent. If the Town manages that growth with a fair and consistent growth policy, we can grow smartly while maintaining our green and relatively uncongested Town. If Merkel understood this she wouldn’t feel the desperation to accept developer money in order to stay in office – and she might actually take the time to listen to her constituents instead of her teammates and their real estate developer cheerleaders.
Merkel brings party politics, unwelcome campaign financing and a desperate growth strategy to Herndon. I hope the Town will vote against Merkel and her slate so that we can bring some sense back to Town politics.
Doug Shuster, Herndon