SCC Rules in Favor of S/C/C/ Greenway

Two years ago, Del. David Ramadan compelled the State Corporation Commission to “investigate” tolls on the Greenway. The nature of the investigation is kind of hard to discern, but it appears to have been authorized under Code ยง56-542(D). That’s the section that authorizes the SCC to set tolls in the first place. The first part of the section authorizes the SCC to set a schedule of tolls that is

…reasonable to the user in relation to the benefit obtained, not likely to materially discourage use of the roadway and provide the operator no more than a reasonable rate of return as determined by the Commission.

Okay, so SCC sets the rates according to the above criteria. Now the second part of that same section authorizes SCC to investigate and to order the substitution of a new schedule of tolls that is

… reasonable to the user in relation to the benefit obtained and which will not materially discourage use of the roadway by the public and which will provide the operator no more than a reasonable return as determined by the Commission.

No, that’s not the same section. That’s two different parts of the same paragraph. The first requires the SCC to set tolls by three criteria. After investigation, however, the SCC is allowed to change tolls so that they match the same three criteria. And, golly(!), after investigating the tolls they set already by those criteria, SCC has found that those tolls do, in fact, meet those criteria (and so they stay exactly the same as they are now).

This was the obvious and inevitable conclusion of any such “investigation” from the start. This whole thing (two years of it!) has been a complete waste of time and money. Del. Ramadan (like candidate Meyer) has gone out of his way to irritate the Greenway’s operators, when he should have been passing legislation to help them institute distance-based billing. Now, as he completes his last term in office, Ramadan leaves a final example of waste and political theater, at taxpayer expense (and lost opportunity, at his constituents’ expense).

I’ll say again that he made a memorable speech when he announced his departure from the house. It is sad, then, in more than one way, that this failure is his closing moment as a legislator.

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When the Fox Rules Against You, Appeal to the Fox

Outgoing Dulles Broad Run Starfish district supervisor Shawn Williams (whom I think of as a pretty good guy whose party let him down), sent out a newsletter today. It included a description of efforts made by outgoing delegate David Ramadan and the Loudoun board of supervisors to lower tolls on the Greenway. Here’s what Sup. Williams said:

Last month, Delegate David Ramadan, who represents Virginia’s 87th District, and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors took new steps in the ongoing effort to lower Greenway tolls. Both Ramadan and Loudoun County filed legal briefs with the State Corporation Commission in appeal of its Hearing Examiner’s findings, which did not result in a change to Greenway tolls.

The Board of Supervisors, along with Delegate David Ramadan, who represents Virginia’s 87th District, has taken steps to address this legal issue. In December of 2012, Delegate Ramadan filed a complaint with the State Corporation Commission and in January of 2013 the commission approved an investigation of the Greenway tolls. The complaint argued that the commission should set tolls at a level (1) “which is reasonable to the user in relation to the benefit obtained;” (2) “which will not materially discourage use of the roadway by the public;” and (3) which will provide the operator no more than a reasonable return as determined by the commission.” Loudoun County supports Ramadan’s approach as a party to this legal action.

The case initially went to a Hearing Examiner appointed by the State Corporation Commission, who did not rule in our favor. However, both the Board of Supervisors and Delegate Ramadan filed legal briefs with the State Corporation Commission in appeal of its Hearing Examiner’s findings, which did not result in a change to Greenway tolls because we believe this ruling was in error. Following the filing of the legal briefs onMarch 30th of this year, the full State Corporation Commission is expected to hear the case in the coming months.

I think most Ashburn area commuters would agree that the Greenway is discouraging use of their road due to high tolls. Clear evidence of this fact can be found in the daily traffic jams on Waxpool Road and Route 28. , the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has classified portions of Waxpool Road and Route 28, which serve as the main alternative to the Greenway for commuters from the Ashburn area, with a Level of Service of ‘F.’ Subsequently, VDOT and Loudoun County have been forced to expend significant funds for traffic improvements and maintenance on the alternative corridors that could have been unnecessary if the Greenway’s fee structure were more reasonable.

Now that’s all well and good, as it looks like our electeds are fighting for us. Except… the decision to set tolls where they are was authorized–as it must be, under the Code of Virginia–by the State Corporation Commission. That’s the same State Corporation Commission that is reading all those legal briefs Williams talks about. In effect, with the fox guarding the hen-house, our electeds have have taken their complaints to the fox. Ramadan is not a lawyer, but I am and Williams is. The two of us who are know what the chances of getting a judge to rule against himself or herself is, and the chances of the SCC ruling against itself are probably about the same.

The solution, which the SCC has pointed out before, is to change the law. Right now, existing law requires the SCC to agree to a rate schedule that guarantees the Greenway a reasonable profit (and, with Republicans running the legislature, one would dearly love to ask them what Ayn Rand would have said about a law that guarantees a private company’s profits). Without a change in the law that governs the SCC’s rulings, the tolls on the Greenway are never going down. Likewise, as every Loudouner knows, distance pricing would be a major step in the right direction. Again, the SCC itself has said it is powerless to impose distance pricing, because of existing law.

David Ramadan has tried to make “fighting” the Greenway a feature of his two terms in office. But it’s a fight he has always known he can’t win, because the real solution would require a change in existing law. Shawn Williams and the rest of the Loudoun supervisors can’t change existing law. Who can? The legislature that includes David Ramadan as one of its members can. The General Assembly could mandate distance pricing. The General Assembly could grant the SCC more flexibility in its oversight of the Greenway. But neither Ramadan nor any other delegate whose constituents pay the Greenway’s tolls has tried to change those laws. (Jim LeMunyon, while famously calling the Greenway tolls “taxes,” tried to give local government the power to veto toll increases, a transparent ploy to make them take the blame for it when they had to choose between allowing higher tolls or raising local taxes, which he has since abandoned after everybody started laughing.)

Filing a legal brief is about all a local elected can do. But one of David Ramadan’s enduring failures as a legislator will always be that he claimed to want lower tolls on the Greenway, yet never used the power that he alone, as a member of the legislature, had to get them for us. Instead, he fought an irrelevant battle he could never win, where the only prize was the credit he gave himself for having fought it.

CONFIRMED: Ramadan Quits

UPDATE: 3:45 p.m. April 15, 2015

In a statement at his Web site, outgoing Delegate David Ramadan, with nothing left to lose, politically, sent a message that Barbara Comstock needs to get:

I take pride in serving in a bi-partisan manner and representing all of my constituents… while holding on to my conservative principals.

What a stunning contrast in a single day. A state delegate returning to private life reminds us that bipartisanship is a virtue, while a state delegate who got elected to Congress mocks tens of thousands of her constituents for being Democrats.

I’d prefer a Democrat, but of these two, I think the wrong one made it to Washington.

UPDATE: 12:20 p.m. April 15, 2015

David Ramadan is making a touching speech about his youth in Lebanon, and how it taught him to love the American dream, and his personal experiences pursuing that dream. Citing the time and expense of another election, and the negative impact his service has had on his business, and in spite of his confidence that he would win, he has decided not to seek re-election.

Original post: The Washington Post cites two anonymous sources as confirming what we reported yesterday: Delegate David Ramadan has begun telling fellow Republicans he will not run for re-election this year.

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“Ramadan was facing a competitive challenge from Democrat Jewan ‘Jack’ Tiwari, a Northern Virginia real estate broker.” – The Washington Post

The Post reports no reason for Ramadan’s departure. Perhaps the delegate will tell us himself, assuming he makes an announcement during the reconvened session that will start at 11:30 a.m. Of course, whatever he says the reason is, he will be ignored and corrected by bloggers and other amateur psychics who will be crawling all over each other to reach their keyboards and tell us his “real” reasons. If you know where to look for such drivel, you can find his “reasons” being posted online already.

I’ve never liked Mr. Ramadan’s agenda, but I’ve never found evidence that he’s a liar. And, when a politician decides to leave office, they lose the one thing some people believe is a politician’s greatest incentive to lie: the chance to get re-elected. So, this time, just for the sake of the drill, if nothing else, let’s give the man a chance to give us his reasons. He really may just tell us.

David Ramadan Dropping Out

We don’t repeat pure rumor here at FirewallNoVa, but this comes to us from two independent sources, one of which reports that Republican higher-ups are already scrambling to find a replacement for Delegate David Ramadan. Nothing addressing this on his various social media pages, but our better source sounds particularly reliable, so we’ll keep an eye on it for you.3I2XXinB

 

Note the implication: if the GOP is beating the bushes to find a replacement, it means Del. Ramadan caught them by surprise. This wasn’t a planned exit. On a personal note, we hope that’s not a consequence of any sort of family emergency. But, whatever it was, it means Jack Tiwari just moved a lot closer to winning.

Jack Tiwari Challenges Ramadan for House 87

The Loudoun Times-Mirror reports that Jewan “Jack” Tiwari, a Manassas realtor, is seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge David “There should be no restrictions on guns!” Ramadan.

Ramadan, you will remember, is the guy who keeps calling for pointless, taxpayer-funded “investigations” of the Greenway toll structure, when the SCC is already bound by law to uphold the rates it approved itself. (Still waiting for him to pass a bill to, you know, change the law; maybe his membership in a majority isn’t all that valuable to his constituents… maybe his majority isn’t.)

In addition to having owned his own business, Tiwari is president of the American-Nepal Society, Washington DC. His Facebook page says he speaks five languages.

As Ramadan barely held his seat last time (by 187 votes over John Bell), this young man’s campaign appears to be worth watching.

 

UPDATE: Jack’s Web page is up. Ramadan is cooked.

Lazaro Out. Ramadan Rising?

After our item on him last week, multiple sources tell us that Bob Lazaro will not be running for Dick Black’s seat. Reasons conflict, so we won’t speculate.

Meanwhile, although unsupported by reliable info, speculation does abound that David Ramadan will step up if the increasingly frail Senator Black decides he’s had enough. This would clear the way for John Bell to try one more time for a seat in the Virginia house of delegates.

Black’s seat is obviously one the Democrats badly want. Ramadan would make it hard to get. If no credible Dem nominee appears before the end of this year, and Ramadan does run, expect the Republicans to keep it for quite a while.