Strange Bedfellows: The New Virginia Politics of Growth
Outside the General Assembly building in Richmond this morning, more than 140 slow growth advocates, mostly from the outer ring of Washington suburbs, gathered to press for more local control over development. Egging them on and pledging support were the governor of Virginia and a collection of legislators who ordinarily do not appear on the same stage.
The woman standing next to me in the crowd, a slow-growth activist from Loudoun County, nudged her neighbor as Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William) was introduced to the audience: "Is that the same Marshall who does all that anti-abortion stuff?" Oh, yes, came the answer. "Wow," said the Loudoun woman. "That's pretty strange."
Indeed, Marshall, one of Virginia's most avid and outspoken hardliners on abortion and other social issues, took an equally strong stand on curbing growth and making developers pay fees to cover the impact of their real estate ventures on surrounding communities.
And immediately after Marshall spoke, along came his ideological opposite, Delegate Brian Moran, the Alexandria Democrat, who noted the irony of the moment: "Moran and Marshall together--this is a historic occasion."
Will the legislature really give counties and communities new power to make developers pay for the impact of their building projects? Will Republicans shift gears and cede authority to local governments, something they have long resisted, despite their party's theoretical commitment to devolving power to the lowest possible level of government? All of that remains to be seen, and so far, the House is showing little interest in changing its stripes.
But Gov. Tim Kaine has the upper hand at the moment, and his appearance at today's rally was both conciliatory and confident. He's launching another round of the successful Town Hall shows that he put together after his election in November, and he'll use the sessions to put additional pressure on the legislature to move forward on transportation and land use in the next few weeks. This governor is moving quickly and decisively to come out of Mark Warner's shadow and establish himself as a credible force in the eyes of both Virginia residents and the Republican-dominated legislature.
By Marc Fisher |
February 7, 2006; 11:48 AM ET
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