For good reason, many people – myself included – are extremely frustrated with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) these days. For instance, the Fairfax Times has called MWAA’s decision to opt for a far-more-expensive ($300 million more) tunnel at Dulles Airport “highway robbery.” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova and other local officials (e.g., Loudoun County Board member Scott York, Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton) wrote a letter to MWAA complaining that MWAA’s board “bypassed its funding partners and gave no consideration to the fiscal impact of this decision on Fairfax County, Loudoun County, the Commonwealth, and those who use the Dulles Toll Road.” And, they declared, “To state our position very clearly, we cannot and will not fund the additional cost of the tunnel alternative in Dulles Airport when an alternative, which is much less expensive and can be constructed with less risk and in a shorter period of time, exists as an aerial alignment at the North Garage.” On and on it goes, with the question at this point being, what next?
Enter our old friend Frank Wolf and his legislation “to allow members of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to be replaced more easily and to give the Commonwealth of Virginia greater representation on the panel, now a 13-member regional board.” In addition, “Wolf also wants to make sure that board members leave when their terms expire instead of the present practice of serving until a replacement is appointed.”
My first reaction? Good; right now, MWAA is totally unaccountable and seemingly out of control, it’s long past time that they were reined in. My second reaction, after thinking about this for a few seconds and emailing a few knowledgeable people? Not so positive, to put it mildly. A few key problems with Wolf’s approach:
1. The provision in Wolf’s legislation, allowing the Governor to replace sitting board members on a whim or whatever, is a big mistake. If passed, this would theoretically allow Gov. Mcdonnell, if he so desires, to kick all the Democrats off MWAA and replace them with Republicans. Then, the newly-appointed Republicans could do what they really want to do here — reverse the decision to use a “Project Labor Agreement” on phase II, putting hundreds of union workers out of work. In short, Mcdonnell/Wolf are using MWAA’s underground station decision and rising project costs to screw labor.
2. Under Wolf’s plan, local control by those who pay much of the cost of Metro in Virginia would be lost. In Maryland, for instance, the state pays the full freight for Metro. Not so in Virginia, where local jurisdictions and special taxing districts shoulder much of the burden. Now, Wolf wants to not only make the localities (Loudoun, Fairfax, etc.) pay, but also shift authority away from them to the state level? Last I checked, that was called “taxation without representation,” and I believe we had a little revolution about that a couple hundred years ago? 🙂
Other than that, Frank Wolf’s approach is brilliant! (snark) Seriously, stuff like this makes me hope that candidates like John Douglass (D) help give the 10th CD new Congressional representation in 2012. It’s long, long overdue.