A clear sign of strong leadership is whether or not an elected official is willing to stand up to their own political party when their party’s policies negatively impact their constituents.
When it comes to tolling in Northern Virginia, Democrats, including congressional candidate and State Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33) haven’t been willing to put real pressure on the McAuliffe administration’s new I-66 tolls or his lack of action on the Dulles Greenway. Northern Virginia constituents pay $6 each way every day on the Greenway, only now to face up to $40 tolls on I-66. Instead of taking on Gov. Terry McAuliffe, they hold press conferences acting like McAuliffe isn’t the problem and that these policies aren’t his policies.
This last week, McAuliffe sent his Deputy Transportation Secretary Nick Donahue to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) to defend their new tolls on I-66 and try to kill a resolution calling for them to be lowered. I authored that resolution, which had unanimous bipartisan support from the Loudoun County Board.
What happened at this meeting? Donahue faced very few tough questions from the Democratic commissioners, and our resolution got killed on a 8-to-11 vote. One of the Democrats opposing the resolution said she thought the high tolls would be good policy if it forced more people onto transit; this sentiment was echoed by others. But still, if we could have flipped a couple votes, the resolution could have passed.
So, where was Sen. Jennifer Wexton for this vote? Absent.
She missed a chance to question the administration and to pressure them to change the policy. Republicans didn’t lose by one vote, but without her there, it was inevitable that swing-vote Democrats wouldn’t back the resolution. In times like these and with issues like these, we need strong leadership that shows up to stand up against their own party’s policies.
The people best able to persuade McAuliffe, or for that matter Gov.-Elect Northam, are members of their own party. Jennifer Wexton has a close relationship with both of them, so why hasn’t she been able to get them to consider lowering the I-66 tolls? Why hasn’t she been able to get the Commonwealth to crackdown on the high tolls on the Dulles Greenway?
Northern Virginians deserve better than elected officials who are present for press conferences and absent with actions.
Ron Meyer represents the Broad Run District for the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors.