Ahead of the Town of Vienna’s election this year, Tysons Reporter asked the candidates to answer the following questions and also submit a short biography. Each candidate had an opportunity to answer the same questions in their own words. We are publishing the Q&As this week in the order we received the responses.
Featured here is Howard Springsteen, who is running for the mayor’s seat.
Bio: With 11 years on the Vienna Town Council, 30 years of public administration and extensive community involvement, I bring a record of accomplishment and a promise of action and not just talk. I am proud of my reputation for demanding accountability and transparency and for being responsive to citizen concerns.
Nearby, Tysons is urbanizing. How do you think the Town of Vienna’s identity should change in response to Tysons’ growth?
The pressures of being a town in the shadow of Tysons Corner are very real, with implications on commercial rents, traffic, parking, housing prices, and demand for town services. But we are not Tysons, and we need to manage and control our own destiny in terms of residential building and commercial development.
Vienna residents have made clear that the protection of its residential neighborhoods is a top priority and key to maintaining a “small-town” feel. However, we also need to have realistic conversations the economic vitality of our commercial districts. These are complex and important conversations. As mayor, I pledge that my door will be open to all in the Vienna community as we work through this very difficult issue of how we set a direction for the future of Vienna.
As mayor, would you pledge to A) declare a climate emergency and B) support a council vote for the Town of Vienna to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045?
The town’s Conservation and Sustainability Commission produced a study in this area and has put some great options on the table for consideration. The study identified three areas of energy use — electricity, natural gas and vehicle fuel — and suggested achievable goals to reduce both consumption and cost. I want to include these goals into the town’s next comprehensive plan, which will be updated later this year.
We have already taken significant action to improve energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. The Vienna Community Center received its Gold LEED certification. We will see similar design features in the new police station. We have made progress replacing florescent lighting with LED and incorporating energy efficiency into purchasing decisions.
I look forward to working with the town staff to see how we can bring additional energy reduction goals to the town and work toward carbon neutrality by 2045.
What are your solutions to Maple Avenue congestion and cut-thru traffic in neighborhoods?
Maple Avenue is a major transportation corridor with up to 35 percent of cars just passing through town. One of my top priorities is to keep traffic off our side streets — that means using modern technologies to time lights so that traffic moves along Maple Avenue.
We need to continue to use a combination of traditional traffic calming measures, police enforcement and innovative technologies to keep up the battle against aggressive driving. And that needs to be coupled with pedestrian safety measures, particularly sidewalk construction around schools. And finally, we need to understand the implications of new development on traffic flows and ensure that we are not adding to gridlock on Maple Avenue.
How would you work with Natalia Monkou to boost economic development in the town?
I was one of the first councilmembers to advocate for an economic development manager. I did not take the decisions to add to the town’s payroll lightly, but believed very strongly that it was a worthwhile investment in our future.
Ms. Monkou was brought on-board in December 2019. Her work with our businesses and advice to the town manager as well as the mayor and town council in response to the coronavirus crisis has been invaluable.
I will continue to support her efforts and work for the funding and resources that she needs to do her job. She is currently working closely with the business community to come up with options to assist and help them get through these trying times. I look forward to her advice and counsel as we address the crisis, and over the longer-term, take action to make this town more business friendly.
What are your ideal height and building sizes for developments in the Maple Avenue Ordinance?
My record speaks for itself — I have not pivoted because of an election. I support projects that protect and improve the quality of life in Vienna. The allowable heights and densities in the current MAC do neither of these things. That is why I have consistently voted against MAC projects and for extending the
I have advocated for buildings with:
- varying heights and densities that do not overload our infrastructures and traffic, and buffer zones that adequately protect the abutting neighborhoods
- adequate parking to prevent crowding of other businesses or spillover into neighborhoods
This is not an anti-development stance — it is a pro-Vienna stance. I stand by my record — new buildings should fit into Vienna and not overshadow existing properties. We must have adequate buffers between commercial and residential development.
Some residents are concerned about town officials’ transparency and the public’s ability to comment on proposals. Do you think this is an issue? How will you ensure people understand what is going on and are able to engage on topics that matter to them?
Transparency in governance is critical. Vienna advertises all council meetings and work sessions in advance and broadcasts all council sessions both on the web and cable TV. The town publishes a monthly newsletter and posts daily on the town’s website and on social media.
The public has always been able to and does comment on proposals. I have seen numerous occasions in my 11 years on the council where both oral and written statements have resulted in changes to proposals being considered.
However, I do understand that many have concerns about transparency in governance — we need to address that concern and explore additional channels of communication and community engagement and create additional opportunities for provide input. As mayor, I will lead the council in efforts to set high-quality standards, provide clear guidance and demand transparency and accountability.
Image via Town of Vienna