Cook Pulls Off The Sheep’s Clothing

Earlier this month, Fairfax County At-Large School Board Member Ilryong Moon lost a special election to Kings Park Homeowners Association President, John Cook by 89 votes.  3 days before the election, The Washington Post endorsed Cook saying he “had the slight edge” “based on his ability to present a different point of view without being reactionary or doctrinaire,” and that the Board was “sometimes too devoted to consensus.” Just days ago, The Washington Post Editorial Board mentioned Cook again calling Cook a “pragmatist” and not a “socially conservative purist.”

Well, Cook has spoken.  He spoke at his swearing in ceremony.  You can watch it here. The sheepskin has come off of the wolf.

It’s amazing how easily The Washington Post Editorial Board was so thoroughly spun. This speech was dripping with the same Republican Snake Oil that we’ve been listening to for twenty years.  It is full of “you can have your cake and eat it too” promises and nice sounding sloganeering with no actual REVENUE to back it up.  It is exactly what the voters rejected on November 4, 2008.

Race Baiting to Make His Point
At 16:00 in the video, Cook goes after boarding houses calling them a “moral outrage,” and says “I’m coming after you with everything I’ve got and we’re going to SHUT YOU DOWN.”  He then says “I pledge to bring that same problem solving spirit to the countywide issues we face.”  No question that boarding houses are bad and no one wants them in their neighborhood.  However, demonizing them with law and order demagoguery was Corey Stewart’s favorite tactic until he destroyed Prince William County’s reputation with his race baiting bombast.  Illegal boarding houses a problem when they happen, but they are not the biggest or even one of the biggest problems facing the County right now.  Singling this specific issue out in a swearing in speech is anything but non-ideological and is Corey Stewart code language to the Republican base.

Speaking of race baiting… At 19:00 in the video, he said he was from Chicago and that he’d go to meetings around Braddock and that when affordable housing would come up, people would say “I’m from Chicago and I’d say Cabrini Green and they’d say yup.”  He then goes on to say that this project was “a shooting gallery, drug infested, magnet for every ill that can come to a family, a horrible place to put people to live. . . and we do not need to bring that kind of blight to Fairfax County.”

Read about Cabrini Green here. Fairfax County is not the South Side of Chicago.  Apparently, Cabrini Green was so bad that the Chicago Police would not go inside and the police blocked off streets on New Years Eve because gang members would fire their guns in the air.  What in the world is Cook talking about?  Fairfax County is one of the wealthiest, safest, crime-free jurisdictions in the world – we have a couple dozen murders per year compared to hundreds just across the river.  Fairfax County has existing Section 8 and subsidized housing all over the County.  Government-owned affordable housing does not equate to gang infested, drug infested shooting galleries and to suggest that is to employ the racial demagoguery that The Washington Post has repeatedly attacked Corey Stewart, et al. for doing.

Snake Oil On Affordable Housing
He then promises to promote affordable housing by only working with developers to require 20% of new development to be affordable.  This totally ignores the fundamental problem.  When housing prices skyrocket, it pushes out affordable options for families, existing residents grow older, school population plummets, and it wreaks havoc on infrastructure – e.g. the school system.  Developers partnerships can only work on NEW projects, not the existing housing stock.  This County is entirely built out.  The only big redevelopment projects on the books are in Springfield and Tyson’s Corner.  Fairfax County is not in the process of bulldozing all of its existing neighborhoods so working with developers doesn’t even begin to address the real problem. Plus, once this developer-built affordable housing is sold, it usually doesn’t stay affordable.  “Working with developers,” is a proven gimmick that primarily puts money into developers’ pockets.

No New Taxes
Cook then makes a “no new taxes pledge.”  This is a short sighted thoroughly discredited gimmick that only the most extreme anti-government members of the Republican Party take.  It is anything but “pragmatic” or “moderate.”

Shell Games & Spin on Transportation
Cook then promises to solve all of our transportation problems with “public-private” partnerships.  While the Public Private Partnership Act is theoretically applicable to the county, it’s never been used before, would amount to a massive policy shift tantamount to the County taking full responsibility for roads – it ain’t gonna happen – that is a General Assembly problem, not a local government problem. Again, a nice sounding Republican gimmick.

Then he says that instead of raising taxes we can grow our revenue by simply expanding the commercial tax base (as if it’s that easy).  In 2004, The Washington Post ran a three-part series SPECIFICALLY ATTACKING THIS POLICY as being the primary contributor to urban sprawl (Article 1, Article 2, and Article 3). Creating more commercial tax base is attractive because it generates revenue with little demand for government services (e.g. schools (50% of all local government expenditures), police, fire, social services, etc.).  However, by over-zoning for jobs and under-zoning for housing (or high density housing) local governments have created too many jobs and too few homes, which drives up housing demand, pushing prices to astronomical levels, and creating the demand for cheaper housing in the exurbs.  It is a nice sounding gimmick but a bankrupt public policy which only pushes infrastructure (roads/rails/schools) demands onto other government units or jurisdictions.  The Washington Post knows this because they’ve written about it.

Cook then attacks rail and promotes bus rapid transit after we just successfully pushed through Rail to Dulles and specifically rejected bus rapid transit.  This was a project specifically pushed for by The Washington Post Editorial Board.

Attacking the Legitimacy of Government
Finally, he says that “government isn’t the solution to our problems,” right in the middle of the biggest private-sector created economic collapse that is requiring a massive government bailout.  Has this “pragmatic centrist” not been paying attention for the last 6 months?

As for his “pragmatic centrism” – Where were his ideas about solving our budget crunch? Local schools are 50% of the budget and he didn’t even mention them? Fairfax County is considering cutting police, fire, jail, and social services personnel right now. Those are our problems right now, TODAY.

Any ideas Mr. Cook?

No – Because Cook is focused repackaging the typical Republican anti-tax, anti-community, anti-government ideological agenda into some new snake oil. The Republican Party has now proven that it is capable of repackaging all of its discredited ideas into a nice guy with a smile so the newspapers can promote “idelogical diversity.”  Hopefully, they and the voters won’t fall for it again.

***UPDATE***

The Washington Examiner’s editorial editor has published an opinion column criticizing this piece.  You can read it here.

You can read my response by clicking here.