It is Time to Deny “Do Not Ask Questions” – Mayor Merkel, a Council Majority

October 23, 2018 § 3 Comments


Jasbinder Singh

Councilmember 2010-2012 and 2014-2016

It has been six and a half years since Mayor Merkel was elected as Mayor and eight and a half years since her election as Vice Mayor and councilmember.  Slowly but surely, as she has learned how to use levers of power, Ms. Merkel has become more and more authoritarian (often behind a facade of transparency).  It is time to deny her a majority by voting out those councilmembers who have voted in lock step with her without questioning anything.  Consider the following:

  • As Vice-Mayor in her first term on the council, she had exhibited a great propensity for:
    • not having public input,
    • not looking into the details of town projects, and
    • not only not asking questions, but stopping others, me in particular, from asking questions. (Former Mayor Steve DeBenedittis’ ears still ring with her admonitions “stop him from asking questions!”)
  • Many have noticed that the minutes of council meetings no longer provide any substance. Mayor Merkel accomplished this goal in the very first council meeting of her 2012-2014 term by changing the format of the minutes.  Think about that – in the very first  She had a plan coming in.
  • By early 2013, after having met a few developers, she began to change the 2011 Downtown Master Plan to allow substantially higher densities of development and much taller buildings (see 4 articles on “Herndon’s fight for a Small Town Feel,” on By June 2014, she had completely negated the people’s consensus for development – the record shows.
  • The 2014-2016 term was defined by even bolder actions to limit transparency. In meeting after meeting, over strong objections from me, the councilmembers were denied access to reports and background documents before and after the meetings and forced to depend on the staff’s often very biased and/or limited presentations.  It is worth noting that none of the documents related to purchase and sale of the Ashwell property, including the appraisals, none of the proposals submitted by Comstock Partners (there were several versions) and none of the consultant reports, memorandums or opinions have been made public. The Town is making it difficult and costly to obtain the documents through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Consequently, the public does not know anything, notwithstanding some limited information given at the Oct 22, 2017 Town Hall meeting to discuss the Agreement with Comstock. For example, nobody knows that in its first submittal,


COMSTOCK IMPLICITLY ASKED THAT THE TOWN-OWNED LAND, WORTH ABOUT $25 MILLION, BE GIVEN TO THEM FOR FREE! (if priced in accordance with the increase in the values of apartment buildings in Herndon and Reston between 2012 and 2018).  


None of the councilmembers on Ms. Merkel’s side has raised even a whisper of objection to this monumental giveaway over the last 3 years. Herndon neither needs nor deserves such dutiful compliance by its councilmembers, because it imposes great costs on its citizens. Already, the Town’s budget has increased at a rather rapid rate of 6% between 2012 and 2018. This increase does not take into account the landgrab by Comstock mentioned above. At a time when, much larger capital and operating cost increases are in the offing, we need more debate.

Councilmembers Jennifer Baker, Grace Wolf Cunningham, and even Bill McKenna, have aided and abetted Ms. Merkel’s practices to make our government and its decisions opaque, to summarily dismiss or ignore alternative view-points, and to demean those who disagree or ask questions.

In the forthcoming election, Herndon, has an opportunity to change its direction – to elect those who (1) have the capacity to be independent, (2) bring different backgrounds and perspectives, and (3) have pledged to be inclusive and welcoming to all of the Herndon’s citizens.  I urge all voters, republicans and democrats, white and non-white, Hispanics and non-Hispanics, Asians and non-Asians to vote for the following five candidates on November 6, 2018:

  • Cesar Del Aguila
  • Pradip Dhakal
  • Signe Friedrichs
  • Sean Kennis
  • Roland Taylor

Democracy has undergone a decline because there is a regime of secrecy and people are kept out of the decision making through a system erected by largely unelected elites — The Lords of Secrecy.

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