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Fairfax wants to pick airports board members

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Photo - The under-construction Silver Line. (Examiner file photo)
The under-construction Silver Line. (Examiner file photo)
Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley

Fairfax leaders want to be able to appoint their own representatives to the airports board that oversees the $6 billion Dulles Rail project.

County officials wrote to Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., to ask him to push a rule through Congress that would allow Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington counties to have a say in who gets on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board, which has been criticized by Wolf and others as "dysfunctional" and unresponsive to local leaders' concerns about the Silver Line's costs.

Wolf is sponsoring legislation that would decrease the number of seats on the board to nine and give a majority to Virginia, to be appointed by the governor. Another law, which gives Virginia two extra seats, was already passed by Congress last year and is set to take effect as soon as next week if D.C. gives its approval.

"Changing the number of Board Members representing Virginia does not, in itself, ensure that they will be responsive to the public," wrote Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Sharon Bulova. "We urge that local governments where the MWAA facilities are located (Fairfax, Loudoun and Arlington Counties) be involved in the appointment process and appoint a portion of these representatives."

But spokesmen for Wolf and Virginia's Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, weren't keen on Fairfax's idea, even though the letter enjoyed bipartisan support in the county.

"That's not realistic," said Wolf spokesman Dan Scandling. "I think it would make it much more complicated. ... They can make recommendations to the governor."

Scandling pointed out that all of Virginia's past appointees to the airports board have hailed from Northern Virginia.

A spokesman for McDonnell indicated the governor would also not support Fairfax's push for power.

"Appointments made by the governor are not made in a vacuum," said McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell. "The governor always considers the direct impact of boards and commissions on particular localities in finding leaders in those areas that can serve and advocate for local concerns while also focusing on the needs and interests of the commonwealth as a whole."

The Fairfax board also suggested using criteria for selecting board members, such as experience in mass transit or business.

"Just because you're a candidate for office or because you're politically connected doesn't necessarily make you the best candidate," Bulova wrote.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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