The correct answer at the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce’s candidates’ forum? More business.

While questions posed to the 16 candidates for the county Board of Supervisors Wednesday focused on everything from full-day kindergarten to the bi-county parkway, candidates’ answers consistently circled back to how to grow Loudoun’s economy. Specifically, how to draw more companies and boost the county’s tax base.

Each sitting supervisor running for re-election used their 60-second windows at the microphone to highlight what the current board has done in its term to attract more business.

Republican incumbent Geary M. Higgins touted a few stats, including that the board’s efforts have added or kept 10,000 jobs within Loudoun’s borders, and he said the county’s commercial and industrial tax base is the highest it’s ever been, making up about 25 percent of the overall tax base.

“The thing this board is doing is growing its commercial base. That’s what we promised to do,” said Higgins, who represents the Catoctin District.

His opponent, Democrat Craig Green said, yes, the county has “gotten some wins,” but it needs to do a better job of “developing a 21st century job market.”

Republican incumbent Matthew Letourneau, who represents the Dulles District, called the county’s program that provides financial incentives to businesses that relocate to Loudoun “a huge success,” but he said it’s not just a blank check.

The board is strategic about which companies receive cash to move here, he added. “For those who’ve received incentives, it was the differentiator.”

His opponent Democrat Anjan Chimaladinne said the program was no different than surrounding counties’. Instead, supervisors’ should focus on building a good transportation infrastructure, providing more funding to schools and leveraging the opportunities provided by Dulles Airport and the Metro rail—all of which will naturally draw new business.

The two candidates for the Leesburg District seat got in a tiff over who was more business-friendly. Republican Will Estrada accused Democrat Kristen Umstattd of rejecting business opportunities for Leesburg when she, as the town’s mayor, opposed the Village at Leesburg development.

“We need someone who will focus on bringing that business investment here to Loudoun County,” he said.

Umstattd clarified that she voted against the Village at Leesburg’s residential component “that pretty much gutted our opportunity to bring Class A office space to that corridor along Rt. 7.”

She agrees business is critical, she said. “Without it, we are putting more of a tax burden on our residents and that is something none of us want to see.”

At one point, an argument between Republican incumbent Eugene Delgaudio and his Democratic opponent Koran T. Saines upstaged any talk of business and had moderator Mindy Williams Carlin playing referee.

The longtime supervisor brought up Saines’ driving offenses, which included charges of drunken driving in November 2003 and in April 2007. After the Democrat suggested commuter buses as an alternative to building the bicounty parkway, Delgaudio responded, “My opponent would really know about buses since he lost his license for a year…”

Saines tried to respond but, following the forum’s ground rules, Carlin asked that the microphones be turned off. She later said with a sigh, “So, this has been a feisty panel.”

Saines told Leesburg Today after the forum that he did not have his driver’s license revoked.

A question on how to pay for full-day kindergarten—which has become this election season’s political football—brought some surprising answers from incumbents. Candidates agreed it’s time for Loudoun to extend kindergarteners’ school day, but they disagreed how to pay it.

Republican incumbents Ralph Buona (Ashburn) and Suzanne M. Volpe (Algonkian) said the county does have room in its six-year Capital Improvement Program to cover the cost—estimated at more than $35 million to expand it to half the county’s kindergartners—but the Loudoun County School Board needs to first make it a priority over other capital needs.

“In reality we do have the funding capability, but without the School Board having a plan and implanting it, handing a check over doesn’t get it done,” Volpe said.

Republican candidate for the Broad Run District Ron Meyer agreed that it’s a School Board decision, but it’s up to the supervisors to fund it.

“The only thing we can do to help full-day kindergarten along is draw more business,” he added. “That’s key.”

The candidates who took part in the forum were: Republican incumbent Suzanne M. Volpe and Democrat Andrew Resnick, Algonkian; Republican incumbent Ralph M. Buona and Democrat Mike Turner, Ashburn; Republican Tony Buffington and independent Richard Jimmerson, Blue Ridge; Republican Ron Meyer and Democrat Al Nevarez, Broad Run; Republican incumbent Geary M. Higgins and Democrat Craig Green, Catoctin; Republican incumbent Matt Letourneau and Democrat Anjan Chimaladinne, Dulles; Republican Will Estrada and Democrat Kristen Umstattd, Leesburg; Republican incumbent Eugene Delgaudio and Democrat Koran T. Saines, Sterling.

The chamber will host a forum featuring the four candidates for the chairman of the Board of Supervisors Oct. 22. See details at loudounchamber.org.

 

By Danielle Nadler Leesburg Today

http://www.leesburgtoday.com/business/supervisors-candidates-talk-business-at-feisty-chamber-forum/article_148a3fee-6d25-11e5-8cb3-e3d256a059ad.html