Debatable Points in Fairfax Chairman's Race
With apologies to H.L. Mencken, there are lies, damn lies and debates.
In their series of joint appearances across Fairfax County this fall, Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly (D) and challenger Gary H. Baise (R) each rely their own menu of "facts" to animate their basic message. For Connolly, Fairfax is the "envy of the nation," the land of high SAT scores and low crime rates. For Baise, it is county at risk, choking on traffic and profligate government spending.
The casualties are context, nuance and the truth.
Connolly is proud of the crime rate, which in 2006 reached lows not seen since the 1970s. There were about 1700 crimes per 100,000 residents, representing an overall drop of about 6.9 percent over 2005. What he fails to mention is the significant increases in robbery and burglary, up 18.4 percent and 17.6 percent respectively.
SAT scores are another favorite note. The combined verbal and match score of 1108 is nearly 100 points above national averages--- just as they have been for years before Connolly took office in Fairfax. What does he have to do with it, other than sending a large county check to the school district every year? He doesn't say.
Connolly, running for his second term as chairman, tells audiences that under his leadership the county tax rate has been cut from $1.23 to .89 cents per $100 of assessed value. True enough. But the cuts were never sufficiently deep to offset years of soaring residential valuations, meaning that the average household real estate tax payment has gone from $2,887 to an estimated $4,846 for the fiscal year that ended June 30.
"You would think he gets credit for everything wonderful in this county," said Baise. "Everything is rosy in his world."
But the Falls Church trial lawyer has done some of his own his own dubious cutting and pasting.
On several occasions he has cited an analysis of the Fairfax County budget produced by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy, a conservative Springfield think tank. It says that county spending grew by $1 billion more than annual increases in population and consumer prices over the last four years.
The study is one of this supports for the charge that Fairfax is on "a spending frenzy."
But county officials point out that many spending and policy issues do not neatly correspond to consumer price and population growth. School enrollment, the need for additional police officers and bulding inspectors, and new libraries were all necessities.
Report also fails to recognize the escalating costs of goods and services such as fuel, which increased 107 pct to over $20 million a year during this period.
"Such an analysis is a grossly simplistic way of viewing the county budget and one that discounts the requirements of public service," said in a memo prepared for the Board of Supervisors by County Executive Anthony H. Griffin.
October 8, 2007; 4:35 PM ET
Categories: Bill Turque , Debates , Fairfax County Chairman's Race 2007
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