Local Commentary

Editorial: Fairfax Co. Casts A Monopoly

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors engaged in a brilliant bait-and-switch tactic Tuesday to win not only a unanimous vote from among its own ranks, but a veritable standing ovation from thousands of their constituents.

Yes, greedy and incompetent little jurisdictions nibbling at the spare change in the pockets of country residents were slapped down by a sweeping new ordinance that was reminiscent of a Napoleonic usurpation of democratic values for monarchic absolutism.

Now, for the first time, the county is taking it upon itself to determine whether or not the water rates being charged by jurisdictions providing water to portions of county residents are “fair and reasonable,” even though that standard has never before been challenged under the long-standing terms of existing state law.

This will undoubtedly result in mandated reductions in the rates that some of the smaller jurisdictions – especially the City of Falls Church – can charge Fairfax residents for water. But for all the controversy and consternation about this, it will make a difference of a puny few dollars per quarter per household on average.

More importantly, however, this aspect of the ordinance was in merely a balm to engender popular support but moreover a smoke screen obfuscating what was, by far, the board’s principle objective Tuesday.

That goal was the component stipulating all new development and redevelopment in the county – all of it! – will henceforth, as of yesterday, be required and mandated to hook up to the Fairfax Water system.

This is an ominous power grab that Fairfax County citizens, if they thought about it, ought to be far more concerned about than whether or not they pay a paltry amount extra for their current water service. It amounts to nothing less than a bald-faced monopolistic demolition of competition as repugnant to the nation’s much-prized spirit of pluralism and free choice as we’ve seen in some time.

What tends to happen when monopolies succeed in eliminating all of their competition, dear citizens? Fairfax County residents who take heart in the fact that their water system will henceforth be under the control of politicians they get to vote for should think twice when those politicians, all of them, act in concert to strip future development prospects of the ability to avail themselves of competition and choice.

In terms of competition in this case, it is really only the City of Falls Church’s water system, the oldest in the region by far, that was the target of this county power grab. It’s the only one that is currently operational, up and running, and fully functional at the proverbial end of the rainbow, the sparkling gold and endless riches that future development in Tysons Corner represents.

This is what Tuesday’s action was all about: to take out the Falls Church water system. The rate differential matter was of marginal importance, except for its populist appeal. But now, nothing stands in the way of the county’s monopoly. Nothing.