Saturday, May 12, 2012

Is GMU Now the Local Source of Obama-Economics?

"Trust me I work for the developers 
and I want to help them you." S.F.

Letter sent to the faculty of the GMU Economics Department
Is GMU Now the Local Source of Obama-Economics?
Will someone at George Mason please help us before we decide on Metro?
This is the headline of the week;
“Loudoun County Could Lose Billions Without theSilver Line, Study Says"
Is something fishy going on here? Is GMU now the source of a local version of Obama-Economics, all fluff and no meat? When did GMU faculty start offering guaranteed winning lottery tickets payable sometime in the distant future to local municipal governments? Did someone pardon Bernie Madoff and set him up doing business in the area or what?
I am a resident of Loudoun County, I am furious, 
and I would like some answers, please. As you may know, Loudoun is under intense pressure to make a decision that involves huge amounts of money, sums that would cause state and federal branches to take pause. This is serious stuff. Enter stage right, compliments of the local rail station land owners, one of your own, the esteemed Dr. Stephen Fuller. Versions of this headline are everywhere and the pressure on Loudoun Supervisors to cash in on this promise is intense.
So I ask you people of the Economics Department of GMU, the peers of Dr. Fuller, ‘Is this a bona fide study’ or a hack job? Would you bank your economic future on this as Fuller is suggesting the taxpayers of Loudoun should do? Fuller himself says that question is a “No brainer.” I guess he thinks the answer to that is more obvious than I do.
Here is some background. Loudoun has in hand a study from the Robert Charles Lesser Co. (RCLCO), a 210 page presentation, 400 pages of appendices. For some reason the RCLCO people made these statements that are difficult to reconcile with the Fuller claims, 

"Nonetheless, RCLCO has not found any credible evidence to indicate that the extension of rail transit brings new development to an entire region.” RCLCO
  “This greater intensity of development at station areas will come at the expense of slower development elsewhere in the county...” RCLCO (Development shifted but not increased).

In a letter dated February 10th, 2012, Dr. Fuller began his lobbying in a letter to Loudoun Chairman, Scott York. He had this to say,  “All the forecasts for the County’s future economic growth include the provision of Metrorail service.” He continues saying, “In the absence of Metrorail service beyond Dulles Airport, these projections are very different. The “with” and “without” differences are more than significant and easily demonstrate what a great public investment this Metrorail extension is.” Stephen FullerI’m not a PhD, but if all the studies you have considered Metrorail service beyond Dulles Airport, how do you define the outcome projections in “without” scenario? I’ll attach a copy of the letter and the questions I sent to Fuller in response to this letter. I’m not holding my breath waiting for a reply. 
Now I’d like to see if I can persuade you folks to feel some of my pain. Your
GMU vision statement says this:
GMU will -Nurture and support a highly qualified and entrepreneurial faculty that is excellent at teaching, active in pure and applied research, capable of providing a broad range of intellectual and cultural insights, and responsive to the needs of students and their communities.
GMU will -Maintain an international reputation for superior education and public services that affirms its role as the intellectual and cultural nexus among Northern Virginia, the nation and the world.

The GMU Mission Statement sets the bar pretty high. Will you keep it there?
I will say that Fuller did disclose one of his potential conflicts. His bio page reads like a list of who’s who of businesses and entities that might be in line to directly benefit if Loudoun takes his advice. Likewise, GMU appears to also have
Close ties to Cardinal Bank who services the borrowing needs of Comstock Development, a Dulles Rail (proposed) station land owner/developer. GMU should work together with decision makers and businesses in the community, but when it comes to influencing important decisions, credibility is everything. There is a distinct difference between cronyism and corruption, but neither is becoming to an institution that values its good name.

This is a link to Dr. Stephen Fuller’s 14 page “study” from which the spectacular claims that fill local newspaper headlines are taken.

I see little in the way of source material, no explanation of assumptions, no methods, no mention of peer review, nothing that would allow others to verify or refute his opinions.

I personally verified that Dr. Fuller did not take into account the ravages that are pending as Dulles Toll Road tolls, the funding source of Dulles Rail, increase so drastically that it will push our local roads past the limit. I doubt Dr. Fuller took into consideration the effect of tax districts that might be established if Loudoun opts in. For that matter, the study has no mention of costs whatsoever, so it is safe to assume that opportunity costs of tying up vast amounts of capital and the effect it will have on the local economy, has not been considered either.

The proponents of the Silver Line have failed to provide a clear and unambiguous picture of the cost to Loudoun County. The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors has been placed in an awkward position of being pro-business and supporting critical infrastructure while facing a muddled and inequitable role as a participant in the Metro system. Will you help them?

Fuller said developers made a $15,000 contribution for his research to George Mason University. "Well, if you don't like the message you shoot the messenger," Fuller said. "Isn't that always the case?" I don’t want to shoot the messenger, but I sure would like to know if GMU is willing to stand behind his message.

Will someone at George Mason please help us before we decide on Metro?Will you look at Fuller’s study and provide an expert opinion on whether this study and its results should overshadow our other forecasts. Or is this a bad joke that needs to be exposed and discredited before its testimony has its intended effect? It just makes sense to resolve this in-house.

David LaRock

Loudoun County Resident

and proud father of a GMU graduate

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