An open letter to Prince William Board of Supervisors Chairman Stewart:
In 2006 you strongly opposed Brentswood (the predecessor of the pending Stone Haven and Prince William Station residential developments.) You pointed out then and for a year or so afterward that "when we approve large developments, we are essentially approving a tax increase" and that the county's housing boom has "hurt the average person." But not long thereafter you reversed course 180 degrees and began relentlessly championing residential developer causes, including Avendale and Stone Haven, as well as a major change in direction beginning 2009-10 by the Board of County Supervisors on land use that seemed to allow development virtually "anywhere, anytime" and allowed fast-tracked approval of developer land use requests.
You also talked in 2007 about how you'd been "socking it to the development community." But not long thereafter you began aggressively seeking developer money. At last count you'd received $759,841 from them. And now, per a story on InsideNoVa.com on Dec. 11 “Prince William leader floats idea of eliminating real-estate tax cap,” you not only have apparently lost interest in restraining tax rates, but are blaming county budget shortfalls, particularly school shortfalls, on county taxpayers' reluctance (and inability in many cases) to pay higher taxes. In so doing, you have truly retreated to one of the last refuges of political scoundrels: “If only the taxpayers were more generous and the government had more and more money, everything would be so much better” -- and we wouldn't have overcrowded schools. Apparently, taxpayers paying 30 to 40 percent of their income in federal, state and local taxes and fees is not enough for you. I'm sure it's very frustrating to you that taxpayers are hesitant to give you more money so you can cover up your own policy mistakes of the last five to six years, keep giving indirect subsidies to residential developers, and in turn receive more and more campaign funding from developers to further your faltering statewide political ambitions.
Your political "principles" change so quickly and so radically that you're giving me political whiplash. Let's hope that your next change is either in the right political direction once and for all or to the political exits.
Ralph Stephenson is a member of Prince William Citizens for Balanced Growth.