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GOP Targets MWAA as Campaign Issue

Republicans elected to represent Loudoun’s at various levels blame authority’s ails on Kaine.

A group of Republicans who represent Loudoun residents at the local, state and federal level gathered in front of the old Loudoun Courthouse to decry the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, call for changes and attempt to pin the authority’s woes on Democrat, U.S. Senate candidate and former governor Tim Kaine.

U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-10), who previously pushed legislation through to expand Virginia’s representation on the MWAA’s board of directors, has now introduced legislation to completely re-work that board, heavily weighting it toward Virginia.

“Both airports, the Dulles Toll Road and the Silver Line extension are all in Virginia,” Wolf said. “Would anyone think that Virginia should have majority control over the operations of Baltimore Washington International Airport or the development of the H Street Corridor in the District? This clearly makes no sense.”

Under Wolf’s proposed legislation, the board would be cut from 13 members to nine, six of whom would be appointed by the governor of Virginia. The District of Columbia and the state of Maryland would have one seat each; the federal government would hold the last.

Kaine’s Republican opponent, George Allen, stood by Wolf’s legislation, calling on Kaine in the meantime to ask appointee Dennis Martire, who is currently battling with Gov. Bob McDonnell over his dismissal, to step down and drop his lawsuit.

“I call on Tim Kaine to publicly demand that his union official appointee, Dennis Martire, drop his lawsuit and leave the board before any more unnecessary legal costs are added to the bill that taxpayers and toll road users are already footing,” Allen said. 

Kaine issued a statement endorsing Wolf’s new MWAA bill and praising Wolf’s work exposing problems with its board of directors.

"Frank Wolf has been a key part of Rail to Dulles,” Kaine said. “We worked together to get the project off the drawing board and under construction. We worked together to secure Phase I federal funding. His proposal to fix the federal law structuring the MWAA Board makes good sense."

Kaine did not address calls to ask Martire to resign or the blame being placed on him for his MWAA appointee.

Wolf: 'This Board is Broken'

"It's been disappointing to read stories about MWAA board activities, including the latest stories today regarding excessive lobbyist payments," Kaine said. "These sideshows make it more difficult for the professional staff to do the job of operating the airports and completing the critical extension of the Silver Line to Dulles and Loudoun."

Wolf said he also is concerned about a U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General report due out this fall. A preliminary report released in May was highly critical of the board, raising concerns over its contracting practices, transparency and ethics. 

“The MWAA board in place today is not what was envisioned 25 years ago,” Wolf said. “This board is broken and broken badly.”        

Virginia Sen. Dick Black (R-13) joined the his fellow Republicans, blaming Kaine for “unlawfully” turning control of the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line project, and Dulles Toll Road fares, over to MWAA, “one of the most corrupt ineffective agencies in the entire country.”

Allen agreed that tolls were among the biggest concerns.

“For folks who live here in Loudoun County as well as Fairfax, what the airport’s authority is doing is really a burden to people who have to pay these high tolls,” he said, saying Kaine should have obtain some way to protect users from excessive rates.

Wolf raised another new concern with a recent incident at MWAA. He said an MWAA board member—believed to be Tom Davis—left the boardroom only to return and find his personal papers had been confiscated and turned over to MWAA’s counsel. The situation resulted is a series of subpoenas filed between board members and against those scrutinizing MWAA, including Wolf.

“The board is dysfunctional,” Wolf said.  “MWAA used to have a well-functioning and highly successful board.  Now it has just dissolved into bitter acrimony.”

Wolf pointed to recent stories in the media investigating the MWAA board’s activities:

Other Republicans who joined Allen, Black and Wolf at the podium included Supervisor Ken Reid (Leesburg), Del. Randy Minchew (R-10), Del. Barbara Comstock (R-34) and Del. David Ramadan (R-87).

The Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce announced Tuesday that it supports Wolf's bill to change MWAA's representation.

Kevin Chisholm August 08, 2012 at 02:30 PM
I am happy to see progress in Virginia controlling its own transportation issues and removing what is essentially political games from this highly political board. Bravo! Lets not pounce too much on Mr. Kaine on this topic since a lack of leadership for public transit for many years can be attributed very easily to both political parties. Kevin Chisholm Candidate for Virginia’s 10th Congressional District www.chisholmforcongress.com
The BSD Guy August 08, 2012 at 06:02 PM
The Republican Party, with the likes of Christine O'Donnell, Sarah Palin, Mitch McConnell, Michelle Bachmann, Eric Cantor, Steven King, Louie Gomert, and Rick Perry being led by Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh has become such a colossal joke it's difficult to look at ANY legislation they propose and wonder if it's even logical. What' s the motivation here? To counteract another SOCIALIST CONSPIRACY that's being secretly waged against the American People by the Kenyan born Communist/Socialist/Atheist/Agnostic/Anti-American/Muslim Obama and his co-conspirators like Time Kaine? And who's the hero rushing to save us from this conspiracy? Why it's none other than George Allen .... Virginia's very own home grown version of Dubya. You'll have to forgive me, Republicans, for failing to take absolutely anything you do seriously anymore, but the buffoonish cast of characters you identify with and the host of imbecilic conspiracy theories you propagate leaves me little choice - you earned this all by yourselves.
Dave August 09, 2012 at 12:42 AM
The MWAA Board is clearly a mess, and can't seem to manage anything - at best without some very questionable project management issues... and at worst, some behaviors that look an awful lot like union kickbacks. Good idea to rework the board... but blaming Kaine for the Board's behavior is disingenuous as well. There are serious questions that need to be answered about management of the Silver Line construction (great in theory, but lets keep the costs within reason), and even better, the law/policy that seems to keep MWAA or Virginia (or whoever) from creating a toll structure or a user toll for the Dulles Access Road and a user surcharge for the future Dulles Metro station... those are the users that should be paying for their share of the construction costs. Why not a $2.50/each way charge to use the Dulles Access Road, and a $2.50 special station fee to enter/exit Metro at Dulles?? That way, raises on the Dulles Toll Road could be kept to a more reasonable level...
Rob Whitfield August 09, 2012 at 02:13 PM
A distinction must be made between recent misconduct by several MWAA Board members and their "consultants" versus the collective achievements of a far larger number of dedicated professional MWAA employees, many of whom have worked at the Authority for decades. Nobody has ever questioned the ethics, integrity and professionalism of former MWAA Board President/CEO Jim Wilding and former Dulles Airport Manager Keith Meurlin or of Paul Melandrino, the current Reagan National Airport Manager, and Chris Browne, his Dulles Airport counterpart. Fewer than six "power brokers" and political hacks on the MWAA Board since 2002 have helped result in justified criticism of certain recent Board actions. Of almost 100 MWAA Board and Board Committee meetings that I have attended since 2007, all but three meetings were held at the Reagan Airport Board offices. Dulles Airport, with Fairfax and Loudoun counties, have been short changed by an "Inside the Beltway" gang from DC and Maryland plus certain Virginia appointees from Arlington County and Alexandria. Outside the Beltway Board representation has been low. Today's Editorial in the Washington Examiner makes the point that downsizing the MWAA Board is not enough: http://washingtonexaminer.com/examiner-local-editorial-downsizing-mwaa-board-is-not-enough/article/2504386?utm_source=Washington%20Examiner:%20Local%20Opinion%20-%2008/09/2012&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Washington%20Examiner:%20Local%20Opinion
Dave August 09, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Rob - I agree w/you - it's likely a few (but very visible) politically appointed bad apples that are causing the problems...
61FOX August 10, 2012 at 05:10 AM
If I recall correctly the MWAA was originally created to get the FAA out of the business of running DCA and IAD. I do not believe the airports themselves are property of the MWAA, but that they are on some kind of 99 year lease. MWAA involvement in Silver Line construction was because it pertained to IAD and an entity other than WMATA was seen as needed to do the construction of the line, or it was politically necessary to not have WMATA manage the construction. The notion that MWAA should be "run" by Virginia seems to be an ham handed attempt at a power grab. The airports are still federally owned and if Virginia wants them they should pay for them. This heavily leveraged attempt to take over assets is like the attempt to use of a relatively small amount of money that Virginia will give to the Silver Line construction in return for telling MWAA how to contract for it, control of the MWAA board, etc and if Virginia doesn't like the answers it will take it's blocks and go home. Virginia as a state doesn't have near as many blocks to take home as Fairfax county does and if the displays of political logrolling and ineptitude from the state and Loudoun county are indicative of how a "new and improved" MWAA would be run I wouldn't change the MWAA board as proposed in a million years.
Rob Whitfield August 10, 2012 at 01:05 PM
61FOX, suggest you investigate Dulles Rail facts. Even former Governor Kaine who helped create the Silver Line mess agrees that MWAA Board reforms are needed. Under Kaine, the Dulles Toll Road, valued at $3.52 billion, was given to MWAA for $0.00 with no limitations on what will happen to tolls. WMATA lacked the financial capacity to build Dulles Rail, because of gross mismanagement and refusal to raise fares to cover any capital costs. Circa 2001, "Inside the Beltway" WMATA Board members agreed that, having received federal funds to build the original 103 mile system, WMATA would not help fund any Metrorail extensions. Reagan National and Dulles International Airports plus the Dulles Airport Access Road and Dulles Toll Road right of way are leased by MWAA from the federal government under an agreement that was extended in 2003 to June 2067. A MWAA website link notes: "The Airports Authority is not taxpayer-funded but is self-supporting, using aircraft landing fees, rents and revenues from concessions to fund operating expenses." http://www.mwaa.com/263.htm MWAA Board members claim that the projected $17 billion in Dulles Toll Road user tolls that they plan to collect over the next 50 years in order to help fund Dulles Rail are not taxes. Tolls are paid with after tax funds of drivers. MWAA will set new toll rates for the period 2013 to 2015 following public hearings next month. Far higher tolls are planned to help pay off the junk bond debt MWAA is issuing.
Psydo Named September 02, 2012 at 07:24 PM
I wonder if Dick Black determined that MWAA was “one of the most corrupt ineffective agencies in the entire country” before or after his daughter-in-law had a position created for her in the Airport Manager's office through political influence. Kudos to the Airport staff, seeing the political cronyism for what it was, that eventually pressured her departure.
No Toll Increase September 21, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Whether Wolf's new bill giving Virginia a majority on a smaller MWAA board passes or not, we still have an unaccountable board committing highway robbery. They will continue to drive up the costs of commuting on the Dulles Toll Road unless Virginia takes control back. Virginia State Senator Richard Black is asking Gov. Bob McDonnell to have VDOT take the DTR back from MWAA- this is a huge step towards slowing or stopping toll increases. https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B64IfZTFiYIAeGo1dmpWVjlhMUE Toll Road users and local residents need to contact Gov. McDonnell and ask him to take our road back. He can be reached at (804) 786-2211 or http://www.governor.virginia.gov/AboutTheGovernor/contactGovernor.cfm For more information, visit www.NoTOLLincrease.org
Greg DiMuzio September 21, 2012 at 09:42 PM
Where were the republican leaders when the Loudoun County republican board of supervisors opted in to the Dulles/Loudoun metrorail project that will burden commuters and property owners for the next 50 years? The media is replete with commentary on metrorail's near bankrupt state, failing infrastructure, obsolete and sometimes dangerously inadequate rolling stock, and questionable management practices. All of these issues will cost commuters and property tax payers dearly when additional operating funds are needed from system members. The MWAA issue will be the straw that breaks the camels back.

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