Friday, December 15, 2006

Task Force a Light of Hope

The task Force made up of Citizens of Chesterfield demonstrated how people working together can create a plan to work for the community. The Task force proposed boundary changes for the new elementary school to open next Fall (Elizabeth Scott) in the Bermuda district. The changes will alleviate some crowding issues in all elementary schools serving the district. Could this be the model for Chesterfield. Get folks who are not running for office or raising money to run to determine the vision of the county and debate the issues and compromise on a suitable plan to benefit the county. I think we are on to something. Let the people solve it and the Board sign it.

Gecker to stay on Commission

Dan Gecker (D) who was defeated by Don Sowder for the Midothian Distrcit Board Of Supervisors in November will continue to remain on the Planning Commission throughout 2007. Mr. Gecker has yet to announce he will contest Sowder again next November when Sowder finishes completing the remaining year Ed Barber had on the Board.
Gecker should remain busy on the Commsiion with the number of new projects coming before the Commission and the Board for that matter going into 2007. The biggest may be the watershed issue of Upper Swift Creek. This watershed includes most of northwestern Chesterfield and continued development in this area could potentially threaten Swift Creek resoervoirs ability to provide suitable drinking water for County residents. This area remains one of the fastes growing areas in the county if not the Richmond area and continued development, either residential or commercial , requires roads which impact runoff. We say this during the last major storms. Gecker has the opportunity to do what the members of the Board of Supervisors have chosen not to and that is realistically attempt to control growth. Gecker could be a voice of reason on the Commisson with regard to limiting rezoning and slowing growth until the counties infrastrcuture catches up with it. Maybe the Board should look at the statewide issue of roads and the focus on NOVA because those areas failed ten years ago to plan out its future and beyond ten years.

Shewmake races for endorsement in 68th

Will Shewmake has entered the race for the Republican nomination for dlegate to the General Assmbly for the 68th. The 68th includes mostly Chesterfield with some parts of western Richmond. Chesterfield has tended to vote mostly Republican in the past but the races in the most recent lections have seen some inroads by Democrats. Shewmake was a former Planning Commissioner for Chesterfield and resides in Midlothian. He sought the Midlothian district's Board of Supervisor spot but lost the republican nomination to Don Sowder. Many within the community while not happy with the current course of the Board with regard to various issues currenlt before it, may be glad that Shewmake did not win that race with Sowder so he can now represent Chesterfield in the House of Delegates. Katherine Wadell, an Independent, took the 68th from Brad Marrs and is believed to be running for re-election.
Mr. Shewmake had breakfast with supporters at Joes Inn in Bon Air recently and presented himself as simply a hard-working man of the community who feels Chesterfield has very little voice in the House. I tend to agree. Having breakfast at Joes, a place anyone with family in Bon Air knows offers big portions with tremendous value correlates well with Will Shemake in that his vision is to deliver big for Chesterfield. Shewmake will face Manoli Loupassi for the Republican nomination. Stay tuned.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Cash Proffer Safe in Chesterfield

If you read the Transportation Summit blog you will be well aware that one of the things localities could chose to do is raise the cash proffer fees for home builders. The proffer is the fee the builder pays per lot to compensate the locality for the constructions impact on local services, roads , emergency services, social services and you name it. The proposal was to raise the fee level to maximum of $22,600 from the $7,000- $15,000 or so range it is currently. The measure was hoped to offset increases in transportation woes with regard to roads.
The Cash Proffer increase was denied. Fact is Home Builders had this one in the bag. All the caimpaign rhetoric went right out the window. Chesterfield County schools taught me in civics class in middle school that all politics is indeed local. Local? I get it. Major national construction companies buy up land in a locality for the purpose of having it rezoned for development, lobby the Planning Commission, the Board, etc get approval, build out the development and contribute just enough to local caimpaigns to keep any measure that would "burden" their business from existing. The only thing in this that makes the politics local is that it is our fellow residents sitting on the Commission and the Board selling our community short.
Chesterfield as some great local builders. The increase they say would burden them. This is where the logic goes a little fuzzy. It would seem to me that the majority of the lots being built are being completed in major dvelopments by the big guns. We know the names. The publicly traded builders building all over the country. Richmond has been flooded over the last few years with these projects because we lag behind the country in such fees. It is cost effective to build here. It amazes me how our Board is concerned with the business of this industries bottom line and not the betterment of our community. So the county gets up to $15,600 for a lot that sells in Tarrington in Mr. Sowder district of Midlothian for $300,000 and the county gets about 5%. The builder places a home on the lot that sells for $750,000 and sells it. What we should be asking is how these companies are getting to that new construction price. They already back in the proffer anyway as a cost of business but what is the avergae rate of return on investment in Chesterfield County for a new home being built in the county at the current proffer level. Thats the question. My guess is Chesterfield's rate of return is higher than the national average. That is not to say that the builders are at fault. They are not. They are doing business in the environment that is set. The fault lies with our Board and Commission.
Back to the local builder. If what the board says is true and the increase is bad for business or bad for the local economy then consider this: If the major construction companies are forced to pay higher proffers and decide not to build or slow its exposure to an area then would that not help the Board in its so-called endeavor to "limit" or "control" growth. If thats what they truly wish, could they not solve some of the transportation issues with the increase, reduce the number of lot constrcution at the same time and allow the county to catch back up before flooding the county roads with more residents and having to build more schools. Remember, the construction companies can still build. It is there choice. These companies should have to run the numbers and make that determination. And if they chose to pass, well than doesn't that open the door for the small local builders to fill the void. And if less growth is better, then would not home prices continue to rise since the availabilty of new homes would be lessoned and that local builder would be able to garner a higher sale price for its work. I think Chesterfield County schools taught me something about Supply and Demand as well.
Don Sowder, you had an opportunity to make it right and be the voice of those who elected you to office who seek controlled rational growth for the county. You failed to seize it. Lets watch how Mr. Gecker and the Planning Commission go about business in 07, I think we will see a re-match for the seat on the Board in Midlothian.
When residents in a district are turning homes at such profits as they have in the last three years, it truly begs the question would a cash proffer to the builder really impact all of us in the County when put up against no action at all with regard to our roads. No one really perceives the proffer as a tax except the business interests that the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors is surrendering to. Exactly how many seats on that Board will be contested in 08? Quite a few I suspect.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Transportation Summit

Following the Transportation Summit on Nov. 20th , Chesterfiled has been provided with some varying avenues to explore funding for over 300 million in road improvements. The neccessary funds in reality the county will require will be much more. Other juristictions or localities dealing twith same issue as Chesterfield have required much more than 300 million to address the concerns the Board is attempting to address.
All voters should be aware that though County Board is completely Republican it is not likely to convince members of the Genearl Assembly any time soon to open the budgets for new improvements. Afterall, given the fact this was a huge issue for Gov. Kaine in his election it would seem apparent that Republicans in the Assembly are not set on delivering this to him regardless if it is the right thing for Virginia. I am not being partisan, but its a shame when on such an important issue as this and only one Delegate from Chesterfield attends. This demonstrates a complete disregard for the real issues facing Virginians and those of us in Chesterfield are attempting to remedy. When politcians at the local level cannot even garner the ear of those of same Party at the State level it tells just how disconnected the folks in the Assembly are. As they continue to allow VDOT to bandaid roads; they use "maintain" as its current role since there is no funding available for new construction. Duribng this cycle or until voters flip the Assembly, County governments are left with seeking alternatives to funding.
The most heated debate will service over the proposal to raise cash proffers. Currently sitting at $15,600 the cash proffer could be raised to north of $22,000 with the difference used to offset neccessary funding for improvements and construction.
The Board as well as the Planning Commission will have to work together if proffers are to be used as a means of funding. Dan Gecker on the Planning Commission and former candidate for Board of Supervisors is not likely to support any increase in the proffer fees nor any requirement that would burden developers would increased costs. All site planning goes through the Planning Commission. Politically not seeing this option taking root.
That leaves us in the County, as in you and me, flipping the bill most likely by way of real estate taxes. BPOL appears dead. The Board is not ready to embrace this as an option as it is perceived as anti-business growth. Its a tough issue that needs some balance. The Board will have to use a mix of things to get it right.
I feel a bond referendum for roads coming. Bonds are the politcians easy way of appeasement. Let the citizens vote to issue bonds to pay for it and we won't have to actually compromise or create any tru strategic planning for all this. Bonds are the go-to option and do not require consent from the State. Two more flat tires and dozen or so alignments and resolution will not be any clearer.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Walmart Immigration Profits revisted

Sometimes you just have to wonder why one of our largest retailers manages to annoy Americans in just about every angle conceivable for a public company. We know of its issues with labor, then the healthcare benefits issue, the much lauded issue of China and manipulation of absurd trade deals with regard to the products it stocks and how they are produced, but now Walmart plans to go banking.
Banking? What do you mean? Well Walmart is heading down to Mexico to begin banking operations. This is not uncommon mind you. Locally in Richmond, we know of Ukrops Supermarkets First Market Bank relationship. But Mexico. Not exactly a growth story. Wrong. The people running Walmart while ethically challenged at times it seems sees an opportunity and is going to pounce on it.
Some may ask, so what? Well that sucking sound Ross Perot spoke of regarding NAFTA is nothing compared to the amounts of money flowing from the illegal workforce in this country through Mexico on to parts of Central America. Illegals, and they are illegals and not the "undocumented workers" some folks up 95 would like to believe send virtually all of their earned income out of our communities and back home.
Think about that. Imagine taking 95% of your income out of your community to benefit another somewhere else let alone in another country while demanding say healthcare, schooling for your children, and just about any social service program you can think be provided with no question, say for free.
How does Walmart come into play. If you ever seen the line at Walmart where it reads Customer Service, trust me when I tell you it for Western Union. Western Union is the conduit for the transfer of money via wire out of your communities to Mexico. Walmart recognizes the revenue being generated by these transactions. Walmart smells opportunity. Walmart opens banking first in Mexico then in Central American countries and capitalizes on this....Western Union out....Walmart takes over the entire transaction. Genius?
I not a big fan of Walmart. This will not help. Walmart will be able to charge for the transaction, probably based on %, then charge of fee for the recipient. All this may seem trivial, but this industry is a huge growth segment. Mexico really only has three players in terms of banks. Walmart will brand this and leverage this game.

Maybe Washington when it talks about Immigration should shift its focus away from soundbites on security, jobs and walls and concentrate on those that provide the means for the situation to exist in the first place. How would things be for illegals if the governments began regulating this little practice. Anyone can wire money. Hows about requiring all Americans to document "legal prescence" like we do at DMV before allowing a transaction. That might be a start.

Take illegals ability away and force them to follow the rules out of neccessity not out of some sense of obligation that most Americans feel that they should have toward America since they are able to work here.
Walmart intends to capatilize on this growth business and probably will successfully since Washington has been unable to muster a will to curb illegal immigration. Lets not forget that Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton presided on the Board of this Arkansas institution and has aptly dodged her relationship with Walmart because of various lawsuits facing the company over wages, health benefits and simply just flat out discrimination.
Walmart and banking? Theres no question Walmart could....the question is whether they should.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Thought About The Seventh

During some post election reflection I cannot help but wonder why the Democratic Party failed to truly support candidates in the House races of Virginia. My first thought was that the pundits got so caught up in the possibility of actually unseating George Allen in the Senate race that all the energy was focused to that end. Or was it that the Democrats simply just did not believe that they could take seats away from the likes of Eric Cantor or Virgil Goode for that matter. I cannot recall over the last ten years or so a single race where Eric Cantor had to hit the streets. Even back in his delegate days I do not recall Cantor ever being in the kind of race where going into election day his team was the slighest bit nervous at the polls. And yet, did the Democrats misjudge these districts, in particular the Seventh. Maybe, maybe not. Cantor won decidedly with 63% of the vote. His opponent did manage to almost break even with Cantor in Caroline, Rappahannock, and City of Richmond areas. What sticks out is his opponent managed 34% with very limited exposure. By limited I mean, try counting the number of signs from Chesterfield to Page County...thats right Page County is part of the Seventh. With limited resources Jim Nachman(D) ran a race where when he was out in front of voters he did well. No one I have spoken to witnessed a single sign in Hanover..result Cantor 73.5%. With what we are now seeing with the exit poll data and alot of the "ethics" data I can not help but feel Democrats dropped the ball. We see the results in Ohio and Indianna house races and across the country where incumbants were upset, but the fact remains in each of these races the incumbants were challenged. The Democratic apparatus failed to get behind Nachman or Weeds effectively in an election where the incumbants could have been vulnerable. Not to say that these seats would have been flipped, but it would have made for great debate had Cantor been held accountable for not only his record but his associations and dealings with Tom Delay of course and Jack Abramoff. Other races were lost in traditonally strong Republican districts by all accounts because of support for the war in Iraq by the incumbant. In the race for the Seventh we had a difference on the war issue, immigration policy, caimpaign finance (fraud) reform, child left behind, and some pretty big questions with regard to ethical behavior. Exactly how is Mr. cantor raising all that money for the Battleground. I never knew Mr. Cantor was one of the biggest money raisers in the Republican Party, in part due to a network that has some very questionable foundations. So why was their no real fight put up by the National Democrats? It just seems like Republicans dodged a bullet on this one and Democrats lost an opportunity to set the stage for the next election by beginning the fight in 2006.
Readers Focus on Congressional Results

My submission to Editor: Richmon Times Dispatch printed Monday edition

When the new face of Congress sweeps over Washington we all should pay close attention to the committee chairmans. Citizens-Democrats and Republicans- should heed the profound words of one of Virginia's greatest statesmen, Woodrow Wilson, when he said:

"The voter, moreover, feels that his want of confidence in Congress is justified by what he hears of the power of corrupt lobbyists to turn legislation to their own issues; he is not altogether unwarranted in the conclusion that these are evils inherent in the very nature of Congress; there can be no doubt that the power of the lobbyiost consists in great part, if not altogther, in the facility afforded him by the committee system."