MWAA’s Double Standard

Rob Whitfield, a member of the Dulles Corridor Users Group, raises a good point regarding Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) governance. Earlier this year, the board refused to seat two new members appointed by Gov. Bob McDonnell in accordance with federal legislation that expanded Virginia’s representation on the board. MWAA officials justified their defiance by noting that the authority’s bi-state compact between Virginia and Washington, D.C., had not yet been ratified by both Virginia and D.C.

Why, then, asked Whitfield in an op-ed published in the Washington Examiner, did not MWAA seek similar ratification “when former Gov. Tim Kaine unilaterally decided to transfer control of the Dulles Toll Road and responsibility for building Dulles Rail to MWAA in December 2005, an action that significantly amended provisions of the 1986 congressional act, which created the bistate MWAA compact?”

It’s blatant inconsistencies like this that make many outsiders regard the current MWAA board as a self-dealing clique eager to amass power and authority with no accountability. Controversial decisions to build a super-expensive METRO station at Dulles airport, since revoked, and to mandate a Project Labor Agreement for Phase 2 of the Rail-to-Dulles project have come to light. What other decisions have been made, what other practices have been tolerated?

MWAA runs Virginia’s two largest airports as well as the Dulles Toll Road. The more the board resists accountability, the more outsiders wonder what it has to hide.


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16 responses to “MWAA’s Double Standard”

  1. DJRippert Avatar

    Jim Bacon has now officially moved into the theater of the absurd. In this latest screech against the MWAA Bacon quotes Rob Whitfield’s piece in the Examiner (note to Jim: I believe the link is broken).

    Mr. Whitfield is the head of an organization called The Dulles Corridor Users Group. The group’s website appears to be an electronic newsletter with no obvious information as to the nature of size of its membership. However, the group does have a facebook page which has a single paragraph description. Five people have indicated that they “like” this group on Facebook. The Facebook description catalogs the usual list of sins regarding the Dulles Toll Road. However, the most interesting part of the description is:

    “The group is also asking for the demolition of the toll plazas and for future operation of the former Toll Road as a free public highway.”.

    Presumably, any maintenance to the road or future construction will be paid for by the state’s frozen gas tax. User pays indeed, Mr Bacon.

    Mr. Whitfield’s article is a bit confused to say the least.

    He cites the MWAA’s unwillingness to seat Virginia’s two new representatives to the MWAA board without ratification by the Virginia General Assembly. How Mr. Whitfield finds this odd is mysterious. The Virginia General Assembly clearly does need to ratify these appointments as was evident when the Virginia General Assembly took up the measure and failed to ratify the appointments – at least, on an emergency basis. If General Assembly approval was not required then why did the General Assembly vote on the matter?

    Mr. Whitfield’s argument seems to be another in a long line of arguments from apologists for the Richmond political elite. The MWAA felt that seating the two new board members required an action from the General Assembly. The General Assembly agreed and voted on the matter. The General Assembly determined that the two new positions should not be seated on an emergency basis. Mr. Whitfield apparently believes that the MWAA should have ignored the elected General Assembly and added the two new board members without the GA’s approval.

    Mr. Whitfield then stretches an already thin argument by claiming a parallel between the MWAA’s accepting responsibility for the Dulles Toll Road and the decision to respect Virginia’s elected state legislature when seating new members. This is where Mr. Whitfield claims the decision to give authority for the Toll Road to the MWAA as being a “unilateral” decision of Tim Kaine. In fact, the privatization of the Dulles Toll Rd was conducted in a bidding process run by VDOT. Five bidders submitted proposals to VDOT to privatize the road and make payments to Virginia to be used for transportation. MWAA made a proposal and VDOT accepted the MWAA proposal. This all happened in 2005 when Tim Kaine was governor. And Bob McDonnell was Attorney General. A copy of the announcement of that decision, dated MArch 27, 2006, can be read at this link -

    The provision to build rail to Dulles (and, in fact, to Loudoun County) was clearly explained in this 2006 agreement.

    Let’s review:

    1. The MWAA thinks Virginia’s General Assembly needs to confirm the appointment of Virginia’s two new MWAA board members. Apparently, the General Assembly thinks so too since it voted to NOT seat the two new board members on an emergency basis. Presumably, they will be seated on July 1 – which is the non-emergency schedule.

    2. The MWAA felt that a multi-year, multi-bidder process run by VDOT to privatize a toll road entirely within the Commonwealth of Virginia could be run by Virginia with the decision made by Virginia. Apparently, Virginia agreed since they ran the process and made the award.

    Jim Bacon’s article is the worst kind of Richmond – apologist propaganda. Rather than taking the political elite in Richmond to task for doing things he doesn’t like, he tries instead to make the MWAA the villain.

    Those two board members would be seated today if the General Assembly voted to seat them. But the GA didn’t do that. Therefore, they are not seated.

    The Republicans in Virginia could have blocked VDOT’s Dulles Toll Rd privatization plan. But they didn’t. If the plan were illegal under Virginia law, the Attorney General at that time (Bob McDonnell) could have sued to stop the process. But he didn’t.

    What is it about Richmond-apologists and their “blame everybody but those responsible” attitude.

    As I’ve said for years, Jim – the political elite in our state’s capital are the performers from The Clown Show in Richmond. Please stop assigning the results of their buffoonery on others.

  2. Don, Guess what. Rob Whitfield isn’t from Richmond. He’s from Northern Virginia. So are the legislators leading the crusade for more transparency and accountability from MWAA. Last time I checked, the Washington Examiner was in Washington, not Richmond. Ask anyone in Richmond about MWAA and their eyes go blank. I had a lunch conversation with a former president of the Virginia Chamber of Commerce today and he hadn’t been following the MWAA controversy at all. Outside of the governor’s office, it’s just not on the radar screen down here.

    You are tilting at windmills. This has nothing to do with the “Richmond” elite. This is a Northern Virginia issue. And the reason I follow it is because Bacon’s Rebellion has a statewide purview. Unlike most Richmonders, I care about what happens in all corners of the state.

    If you want to defend MWAA, go right ahead. You’ve made the point that MWAA has done a fine job. That’s a legitimate argument to make. You think MWAA is within its rights to deny seating to McDonnell’s two appointees. A case can be made. But this “Richmond elite” business is a pure silliness.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Jim, Jim, Jim …

      I’ve spent my whole life living in the Washington area. Do you know how many people I have met who tell me that they “hate Washington”? Or, that those “people in Washington” are all crooks? Beltway bandits? Inside the beltway bozos? The Washington elite?

      I have little regard for the Washington elite myself. I just don’t confuse the complaints against “Washington” with complaints against the plain old residents of the Washington area – like me.

      Nancy Pelosi is part of the “Washington elite”, she’s from California. Eric Cantor is part of the “Washington elite”, he’s from your hometown in Henrico County.

      “Washington elite” is an attitude. It is a disease. It can be caught by any power mad person who is elected and sent to Washington or who decides to aid and abet those who are elected and sent to DC.

      The same is true for “Richmond” and the “Richmond elite”. That’s also an attitude and a disease. It infects those who swirl around the state capital aggrandizing power, spinning the truth, selling influence and soliciting special treatment for special interests.

      Washington-apologists live in Manhattan, Hollywood, Austin and other cities and towns across the USA. Richmond-apologists live in Great Falls, Lynchburg, Reston and every other burg and hamlet in the Commonwealth.

      Even right thinking outsiders can catch the disease. Newt Gingrich is a hall of fame Washington elitist. George Allen became a Richmond elitist before converting to Washington elitism.

      Jim, if you are going to live in a capital city, you need thick skin.

      1. Don, That clarifies your meaning somewhat. But you’re dissing my reputation, man. I’m the Bacon’s Rebellion rebel, man! I’m not part of any elite! I want to overthrow the whole status quo!

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          Hell no! No Metro!
          Hell no! No Metro!

  3. Rob Whitfield lives in Reston. He was born in the U.K., first moved to New York City, then to McLean and lastly to Reston. He is a commercial real estate appraiser by vocation, but is running this group advocating for employers and employees using the DTR. He dislikes the Clown Show about as much as DJR, but also believes MWAA is out to screw the average resident of NoVA. He attends virtually every MWAA board meeting. He thinks those who are gaining large increases in density due to Dulles Rail ought to pay the bulk of the costs, along with rail passengers.

    1. DJRippert Avatar


      All I ask is that people look for the root cause of our problems. The Commonwealth of Virginia gave MWAA the toll road and responsibility for Rail to Dulles. It was VDOT’s toll road before Tim Kaine and the GA decided to make it MWAA’s toll road. The specific goal was to use the DTR tolls to pay for transportation projects in Virginia. That’s what the MWAA is doing. How many other options, beyond raising tolls, do they have? I guess they could increase the gate fees at the airports as well.

      Tim Kaine appointed Denis Martire, a long time union organizer, to the MWAA board.

      Our General Assembly voted against seating the two new Virginia appointments to the MWAA board on an emergency basis.

      Our general assembly was supposed to fund transportation largely from the tax collected on gasoline. However, they have left that tax frozen, in cents per gallon, since 1986. Surprise, surprise – we have a transportation funding crisis.

      Richmond is the problem.

  4. MWAA has fought being made subject to the state open meeting and FOIA laws. That’s wrong. MWAA refused to post the redacted version of the agreement with Dulles Transit Partners until civic groups thrashed them in public. MWAA has scheduled community meetings at times not designed for good attendance (the last week in August; meetings starting at 5 pm). It has held a number of meetings on rail where no public questions were allowed. It’s not the operations group that causes the problems; it’s the decision-making process. The MWAA board does not operate like a public body should.
    The entire transportation system in Virginia is broken. We fund projects based on lobbying and not engineering studies. We subsidize overweight trucks. We refuse to publish how much gas tax is collected by jurisdiction. We have a CTB based on 1922 congressional districts. We don’t have an adequate public facilities law. We have VDOT operating local streets. We have cities and counties ignoring their statutory duties when they approve land use applications that cannot be accommodated. These are the root causes of the transportation mess. Unless and until we fix these, you can raise the gas tax to almost any level and transportation will not improve. We operate a slush fund and not a transportation funding system that operates for the public good.
    There is very little justification for making DTR users pay the costs for Dulles Rail. The fault lies with local Fairfax County officials (Gerry Connolly in particular) who agreed with this funding mechanism that was adopted by the CTB. What if Connolly had fought Tim Kaine? I don’t think Kaine approved the transfer except with the agreement of Connolly. Rail will not gain many new transit users. The EIS showed that most of the rail riders are already taking transit. Rail is about density. My builder friends tell me that a FAR of 2.0 is pretty high for Virginia. The landowners within 1/4 mile can effectively build to a 10.0. And the bulk of the costs for the rail line that enables this level of construction is being borne by DTR users.
    I think we need to index the gas tax. I also think that, unless we make major reforms to the entire system, higher tax revenues will not improve travel for the average Virginian and especially not for anyone in NoVA.

  5. Keep in mind that Fairfax County business interests worked against Chap Petersen and Steve Shannon when they fought for a change in the school funding formula that would have given FCPS more money than Warner’s bill would have. These two were holding out for a better deal, but the Fairfax Chamber was fighting for the tax increase on any terms. I still think the reason why is that the Chamber will advocate any position desired by anyone who gives it money. Some of the development community believes that, if they can cause more money to flow from Fairfax County, rural legislators will never vote for allowing Fairfax County to impose adequate public facility regulation. I’ve never heard this confirmed, but I’ve never heard a convincing denial either. Who are the bad guys? The people who take our money or the local people who work to give away our money?

  6. I’m not sure I understand why the rural counties give a rat’s butt what NoVa does as long as it does not nick them.

    I think Republicans are the ones who are against Adequate Public Facilities myself.

    1. DJRippert Avatar


      I think the current General Assembly session is turning into a watershed event in Virginia politics. The 20 – 20 stalemate in the state Senate over the anti – PLA bill is a case in point. EVERY Democratic Senator voted against the bill. While that includes the reliably liberal crowd from NoVa and Virginia’s other urban areas it also includes the Democrats from rural Virginia.

      Union support seems like an urban and suburban thing to me. Yet, every Democratic Senator voted for a bill that clearly supports unions.

      Have the Democrats decided that they can win in Virginia by being the voice of urban and suburban VA?

  7. Or are Virginia Dems joined at the hip with the unions?

    Check union contributions to Democratic Party candidates in Virginia, lately, Don?

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Been looking at VPAP.ORG. You might be right on this one, Jimmy. AFSCME has donated $4.3M to Virginia candidates since 1996 – 100% to Democrats.

      Contrast that to Dominion. They have spent a staggering $4M since just 2005. Their spread? 42% Democratic, 55% Republican. I guess they just buy everybody.

      I guess the unions should have made it a point to buy at least one Republican so they’d get past that 20-20 tie deal.

      Of course, it’s impossible to know who is donating to whom.

      Here are the top donors for just the last year …

      The top 6 (good for about $25M) are various Parties, PACs and Caucuses.

      If you know how to unravel who is behind those dollars, let me know.

      All in all – pretty sad. Unlimited, opaque campaign donations. Obvious examples of politicians voting in line with the donations.

      Time for campaign financing reform.

      Maybe the most important problem to solve of all of them.

  8. so what is more important transparency and accountability of the unions being in bed with the Dems?

    ya’ll are proving why we have the problems we have. we’d rather engage in partisan wars than focus on better governance.

    the PLA thing is going to blow over at some point and the MWAA will be back to business as usual and those concerned about the PLA won’t care.

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      I thought the same thing, LarryG. Just partisan politics. But Ole Bacon is right. It’s not partisan. Pure special interest pandering by the Democrats. They are bought and paid for by the unions and they vote that way.

      Pretty sad, all in all.

  9. so you don’t think there is at least a potential for crony capitalism (I actually hate that phrase)….?

    if you wander VPAP – you surely will notice that there is significant “laundering” going on where both the Dems and GOP have their “leadership” funds where all manner of money finds it’s way and then the GOP/DEM folks decide where to send it (and I’m sure they have “suggestions” from the original donors).

    the whole thing stinks to high heaven… ONLY THIS YEAR has the idea of insider trading penetrated the brains of those who say they worry about corporate money/influence?

    how about a phone call.. and then a second one to a broker… ??

    no actual money changes hands between the principles.. just information …valuable information….

    our system has been this way for a long, long time. Veteran legislators KNOW that citizens are CHUMPS.

    they have trouble hiding their disdain..except of course at election time .

    we citizens are like kids caught in a decade-long divorce between the parents.

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