reprinted with permission from the Northern Virginia Journal
April 7, 2003
Northern Virginia Journal
Hawley takes aim at Fairfax County office
By MICHAEL NEIBAUER
Journal staff writer
Buzz Hawley's namesake is not Buzz Aldrin, though the Republican candidate for Fairfax County supervisor was born soon after the astronaut's historic July 1969 moon landing.
``If I only had a great story for that," said Hawley, whose given name is Herschel. ``I was born three months after the moon landing and I guess it was just a timely nickname that stuck."
Nevertheless, the 33-year-old attorney and lifelong Northern Virginian is looking to take one small step for the Mason District by ousting incumbent Democratic Supervisor Penelope A. Gross in the Nov. 4 election.
``We want to bring responsible leadership and accountability to the Board of Supervisors," he said Friday. ``You need to have leaders in those jobs and you need to have people who are accountable to the taxpayers."
The key issue for Hawley's campaign might look familiar. It's remarkably similar to the platform of other Republicans challenging for board seats throughout the county.
Skyrocketing housing assessments combined with out-of-control spending have led to outrageously high real estate tax bills that many homeowners cannot afford to pay, Hawley said. And the current board has shown no interest in fixing the problem until now, an election year.
``There appears to be an election-year conversion to the cause, and it's too late," he said. ``This has been going on for years and it's wrong."
The county needs a strong independent auditor, Hawley said, ``to govern how money is being spent." He acknowledges he cannot cap housing assessments because state law requires that each unit be assessed at 100 percent of its fair market value.
``But we can lower the rate," he said.
That can be accomplished by building up the commercial tax base, possibly through tax breaks for businesses, Hawley said. The county can provide reduced raises for its employees, aggressively pursue tax scofflaws and scour the $2.5 billion budget for wasteful spending.
``My community has changed," he said. ``There's an interesting mix of people who have lived here for 30 years, young families with young children and singles buying houses. They've all been hit so hard by these assessments. That's why I decided to do this."
Gross, 59, adamantly disagreed with the implication that the board has targeted the tax rate as an election-year issue. Hawley apparently didn't notice, she said, that supervisors reduced the rate 2 cents last year and plan to lower it at least another 2 cents this year.
``I know he has accused those of us on the board of doing election-year politics, but I would say we have been proactive in getting the tax rate down," Gross said. ``I guess he wasn't paying attention."
On transportation, the county ``must come up with efficient ways of dealing with traffic congestion," said Hawley, a former legislative assistant and counsel to U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10th. Synchronizing traffic signals and providing light rail or bus rapid transit through the Mason District are just a few options.
``Some members on the other side say transportation is up to the state," Hawley said. ``I think the county does share some responsibility, although the state certainly has the lion's share."
Gross pointed out that the defeated sales tax referendum included funding to bring light rail from the Pentagon to the Skyline Shopping Center on Route 7 in the Mason District. Hawley opposed the referendum.
Gross, who defeated her 1999 opponent with 52.6 percent of the vote, said she will not take Hawley's challenge lightly. She was first elected in 1995 and considers herself ``a full-time supervisor."
``I campaign harder each time," she said. ``There's more to running for supervisor and being supervisor than just taxes. It's constituent service. It's being out there in the community 24-7. That's my record."
Hawley intends to run an issue-driven, grassroots campaign, he said, one that got a $10,000 jump-start from U.S. Rep. Thomas M. Davis III, R-11th.
``I like to think our campaign will focus on what we can do," Hawley said. ``We can do better in the Mason District. I will keep it as aboveboard as I can, and I expect [Gross] to do the same."