Here's a copy of my column that ran Saturday in the Potomac News:
By Charles Reichley
November 4, 2006
On November 7, we choose a new Chair for the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Republican Sean Connaughton did a great job, but now we face new challenges. Taxes have increased faster than income. Overdevelopment strains our schools, roads, and resources. The board has just started standing up to excessive development.
We need a Chair who will lead that fight. We need a chair with legislative experience, not experience doing what clients want. Corey Stewart has that experience, and Sharon Pandak does not. Corey will fight to control development, protect property owners, and reign in the excessive growth of government.
I’ve watched Prince William grow from a quiet town to a bustling population center, and suffered as we all have with overcrowd schools, traffic gridlock not just for commuters but simply driving across town, and ever-increasing tax assessments as the county pays for problems caused by overdevelopment.
Corey Stewart has been fighting much of the development that plagues us. People have a right to use their property, but government’s duty is to protect the rights of existing property owners as well. For too long all of us have paid the price while a few benefited. Corey will make development pay its fair share. Corey will work with local legislators to change State law, giving us the power to control development while protecting the rights of property owners.
Corey has led the fight against excessive growth in local government. The Chair directs county staff to prepare a budget based on expected revenue. Corey will request the staff to prioritize spending limiting property tax increases to the rate of inflation. This will give the board the information needed to control spending and make informed choices.
Pandak’s record contains disturbing warnings for property owners. As county attorney, her idea to control government spending was to underpay owners for their property. When government takes your land, it has to pay “fair market value”. People trusted the county, and Sharon abused that trust.
As the Washington Post reported in 1991, the county was “buying rights of way at bargain prices”. Rather than offer the county-appraised value, Pandak’s office would often “begin negotiating with an offer beneath that price and may refuse access to the appraisal”. Many offers were less than the tax assessment. The county right-of-way agent, Nina Mathews, resigned over the deceptive practice. She says letters Sharon’s office sent were “worded to deceive”, implying offers were the appraised value.
This year, Sharon lobbied against a law keeping the government from taking your land and giving it to developers. She called the effort to protect property owners a “draconian reaction that unreasonably limits use of the condemnation power by localities”. Corey supports the bill, and as Chair will protect homeowners from unreasonable taking of their property, and ensure a fair price is offered.
Corey has the experience and the ideas to move Prince William forward. Prince William needs Corey Stewart for Board Chair.