Saturday, October 27, 2007

Thank God We Live in Chesterfield

It is always amazing to me how around every Election Cycle I am reminded how thankful I am to live here in Chesterfield. These cycles really demonstrate the reality of the citizenry in terms of the discourse of debate on the issues that the community cares deeply over. Chesterfield has never lost its focus on integrity based campaigning that promote the debate of ideas and visions in the open forum., especially at the State level.

Many people would say that it is because of the very stability of demographics and political persuasions that have made Chesterfield practice politics in such an honorable and respectful manner. However, last years election demonstrated a willingness on behalf of the residents of the County to shake some things up. I am referring to the number of votes cast for Senator James Webb in his campaign against then incumbant George Allen. Chesterfield, not unlike the 7th Congressional District in the House of Representatives has long been treated as no mans land for Democrats and yet Webb secured more votes than expected last cycle.

Our Borad of Supervisors is virtually entirely Republican as are most of representatives in our State General Assembly from the area are as well. One exception is Del. Katherine Waddell who is an Independent representing the 68th House of Delegates which is partly in the County and the City. She is in the middle of a campaign against Republican nominee Manoli Loupassi and both are currently sparing on televison and in the mail which should come to a climatic debate this Monday night. The campaigns have both been run almost entirely based on issues. Of course every campaign likes to put the spin on things but they still remain tame.

An example would be Manoli Loupassi's portrayal that Katherine Waddell opposes 65% of education dollars going into the classroom. Loupassi, a former City Councilman, gets it half right. Waddell's point is the City of Richmond gets it funding and how the City determines to use that finding through its education system is entirely up to the City. The fcatof the matter is LOupassi is proposing a state measure that would require 65% of funds be used "in the classroom" with less being used in the bureaucracy. It begs the question should we be allowing our State to dictate what local authorities have the responsibility of implementing and where was Loupasssi on the issue when he was in a position to effect policy while heading the City Council. What he is trying to address at the State level is something he failed to at the local level and I wonder if we should be rewarding himj for that proposal or taking a hard look as to why it was he could not impact the classrooms of the City while he was in office.

Loupassi hopes to take advantage of the large base of conservative voters in Chesterfield residing in the portion of Chesterfield in his district in his hopes to compliment State Republican Senators Watkins and Martin on the House side of the Assembly. The televison wars have begun so it will be interesting to see how it plays out in the last ten days.

Why am I so thankful this cycle?

Well it allows us the opportunity to acknowledge differences in an adult and compassionate way. It allows us to engage each other in responsible dialogue during the process which helps us work togther after the process has drawn its result. Why is that important? It is important when we are trying to get more poeple into the process and educate our children about it as they grow up and see the value of involvement within their communities that will eventually want to raise their families here. That was my experience gorwing up here and that is why I have chosen to raise my family here today.

The flip side? The flip side is Fairfax County. Frankly, I watch in complete amazement as the county of my birth falls of the cliff of humanity in terms of political discourse. It is shameful the way in which fellow bloggers and media sources based in that area of Virginia perpetuate and advocate a level of hate and division forwhat has to be their own political gain. This is not how the campaigns of old have been waged in Virginia, but we are living in a new era of information and for the first time everyone really (including mkyself) can have their own little soapbox.

But what should one do with that soapbox?

While it is up to the individual, I wonder the true value of those that feed division. Those who sole purpose is to attack and divide citizens. Look at Prince William County and the debate over illegal immigration. If you are opposed to "illegals" you are a racist and a hate monger, reagrdless if you are simply advocating that everyone be required to follow the law of the land. Anyone of a different view is simply engaging in "cheap demadoduery".Both Jeanmarie Devoolties Davis and Ken Cuccinelli, both Republicans seeking re-election in NVA, have been protrayed as "scum" by Raising Kaine, a popular progressive NVA based blog. The blogs portrayal of Davis's "campaign mailers from hell" and seem to on a daily basis go after these candidates personally. They are taking the attacks on people to such a level of complete disrespect that they dishonor the process. They will argue they have the right- an of course they do.

I wonder when you enage in such tactics which are borderline if not flat out unethical just what it is they are telling about ourselves. Everyone says they hate negative campaigning, but it seems to me many politicians are leveraging these blogs because they ARE a huge force in the political landscape. Many credit the liiberal blogs with bringing Webb his election last Fall. But I wonder the further we travel down this road if something isn't getting lost.

I wonder if the process is losing a sense of humanity or even rationalism. We teach are children and I am sure the people behing alot of these negative things do as well that winning at all costs and by any means necessary is not the way we want to be carrying ourselves through life. There is honor in victory and there is certainly greater honor in knowing it was accomplished in an ethical manner.

Todays politics in NVA is like watching smash mouth football where the guys in the trenches simply engage in bashing each other until finally something gives. There are people in office that I differ with from an ideological view, but the challenge is to offer constituents a different vision for the future not a campaign of smash mouth football.

In Chesterfield it is a debate of ideas. It is a debate conducted in a rational manner. Be thankful. In other areas like NVA it is being conducted by what I call the politicists. Those that seek merely to engage in the debate with the sole purpose of fueling the fire of division amongst people, those that seek thier own outcome through smear, those that enage in personal attacks without contributing anyhting to the debate,, and those that ignore any solution or resolution of issues in an effort to sustain the divide.

When visiting the blogosphere, do me a favor and read it from the perspective of the "intent" of the blogger. Was it to inspire? Was it to inform? Or was it the ramblings of a POLITICIST!!! or sole mission is to bring down the opposition by any means necessary? Just like in football, you should be able to throw a yellow flag for penalties of this nature.

The big thing is Virginia for such a long time has been "penalty" free, but that appears to be changing in Fairfax and NVA.


Anonymous said...

Could you imagine if Ed Barber was in NOVA?
Even with those events it was fairly civil in the media and on the blogs in Chesterfield.
It cannot be a coincidence that those bloggers are from Fairfax, the most liberal of the counties now up in NOVA.
Just like at the national level, your either with them or against them and if you oppose them then they treat you as if you are an enemy.
They recognize thier enemies as Bush and Conservatives, whom they label whackjobs and extremists, and do not see Al Queda as a threat or enemy of their way of life.
It appears though thier mothods will win out there and both Ken Cuccinelli and Davis may just lose re-election. What does that say about people from Fairfax?

Anonymous said...

I do not understand why it is that we need the Assembly to write legislation capping assessments to 5% a year increases. Is that not up to the individual localities?
Why should we let Richmond control our property values? I understand that people are concerned over the property tax issue, but did not local government respond ny lowering the rate?
I cannot believe this rhetorci from a Republican. I thought it was Republicans who sought less control of government and less governmental influence.
Manouli Loupassi should trash this and work toward getting increased funding for our roads and work towards solving the transportation crisis in Virginia.
He may also want to refine his focus on education because he comes from an area wiith the worst schools in the region. he can blame the School Board all he wants but the responsibility was also his and the Mayors.
This Republican is not buying it.

J.Scott said...

Thats a pretty good point!!!

There are mebers of the GA who are already proposing this 5% cap and I think it is in Committee so I do not think that this really is some "plan" of Mr. Loupassi.

It makes a great mailer though I guess.

I still have not made my mind up on this one. I would like to see a Republican represent the 68th to counter the trending NVA districts going too far liberal for my tastes like Fairfax. There are alot of competetive races across the State, but they have all but ignored this one on the blogs given there is no Democrat running.

My concern lies around doing what is right which may not be necessarily politically expedient at times but should be undertaken regardless. I am not sure if the mess in the City can be put at Mr. Loupassi door, but he was a contributing factor nonetheless that must be considered.

The Battery Park flooding and drainage as well as the issues of audits are a big concern and I have yet to hear Mr. Loupassi address those instances during his time on the Council.

It may hinge for me Monday night. Not sure if public will be able to ask questions, but they should be able to in this process.

Anonymous said...

Capping asessments at 5%? What has that got to do with the problem? I thought the assessment was the reflection of its market value.

The real problem is the tax rate which is conveniently used to hide tax increases unless and until the taxing body is called on the carpet for it. Revenue neutral tax rates are the buzz words we should all be shouting about. Then if the governing body needs more to accomplish its goals, let them justify it to the citizens in each and every budget cycle.

Having the government, instead of the free market, decide the value of your home is liberal nonsense.

bonairtaxpayer said...

State law already rolls back the tax rate if the property values go up with big assessments. And then the cities and counties can just vote to raise the rate again. Happens all the time. What does Loupassi think will be so different about his cap proposal? They can still just raise the rate.

The only difference is, instead of the rate applying equally to everyone based on their property value, some people will be capped, some won't. It will be arbitrary.

Quick example: someone moves into a blighted property in an otherwise really fancy neighborhood. They pay $300,000 but everyone else is in a $600,000 house. They fix it up, but their rate can only go up 5%. So next year, their house gets re-assessed for $600,000 but they only pay property tax on $315,000. When the locality inevitably raises the rate, people in the $600k houses will be feeling it twice as much.

A cap is the government interfering in the private sector. I'd hate to think that someone doesn't want to move to a nicer house because of some sort of property tax concern. Capping assessments is a sop to the wealthy who are financially able to stay put in a nice house. Everyone else - those who have to move, those who rent, etc, will eventually be subsidizing the rich with higher taxes.

That may not be very Republican of me to look at it that way, but I don't think government should be set up to benefit any class of citizens against another, whether it is the wealthy or not.

Anonymous said...

Forgive my lack of understanding on this issue, but will someone please explain to me the import of the "advertised" tax rate that the county submits to the taxpayers with its budget process?

Anonymous said...

The tax rate issue is something that has been distorted this cycle. I have gotten countless mailers from the Friends of Dan Gecker stating that Donald Sowder "raised" taxes.
Excuse me but the tax rate was 1.04 and was lowered to .97. Just because some people wanted a .94 cent rate does not mean Sowder raised taxes. He endorsed and was part of the compromise to lower the rate to .97.
This is out right pandering to the tax and assessment issue by Geckers people and is certainly an unfair characterization.

Anonymous said...

Are you serious? When I pay my tax bill, I look at how much more I have to pay this year versus last year. There is nothing distorting about that. Assessments and rates are meaningless as I dont have to pay either figure, only the tax bill they are used to compile. If it goes up, then that is because the county is charging me more. More equates to increase no matter how you dice it. If the supervisors needed to spend more (inflation, whatever) let them justify it and stand by it, not run from it. There is no shame in saying "I supported" an increase in teacher pay, or a new firehouse, or right-of-way for a new road.

Anonymous said...

The tax rate was reduced. That is a fact. You did not specify about much more your house is valued at no versus two or three years ago.
I have a hard time feeling sympathy for the people who walked away last year after selling there homes before the decline in the housing market making at the selling points they got and the rate of return on their homes.
Its about values. You pay more because the assessment was increased on it, thats why your tax bill is higher. It does not matter what the County needs for the budget or where it will go in it, it matters what the assessment is on your home and the the underlying tax rate.
Had the tax rate remained at 1.04 you WOULD have paid more than you did, so please stow it with "the county is charging me more" stuff.
Your bill was higher because the market has be re-assesssed higher.
You will be the same to complain when your value falls in five years unless you live in a brand new development or area as all the new homes flood the market and saturate it. Its supply and demand.
When we get the oversupply of homes, prices will drop. When there less buying activity prices will drop. Thats the free markets.
There are two houses next to each other on my block, one sold early last year for 358K (assessed at 294K) the other is now for sale for 319K and has been for two months.These two homes are virtaully identical with like assessments.
You tell me in the end whose return is going to be better on their investment regardless of the taxes they paid.

Bill Garnett said...

J. Scott,

Your assessment of Chesterfield County, is bright and cheery, and as you admit, is nuanced in your comparison with your earlier life in Northern Virginia. However, the good life in Chesterfield is not uniformly experienced. And if you can argue that the county has not been controlled in the recent past and even now by one party, and that that party has been beholden to developer interests, I would like to hear that argument.

Having developers underpin so much of local politics isn’t necessarily bad, however I propose that these developers are not mainly interested in the quality of life of Chesterfield residents. They are interests in profits.

So it is the profits of developers, many from out of state, that is the basis of governance in the county. That is good? I don’t think so.

But more importantly, at the local level few of those who actually take the time to go to the polls have a clue about whom they are voting for. Challenge me on this if you must but I have canvassed so many residents over the years that I’ve been back to the area to know that there is barely any real citizen understanding of local politics or local issues. And I will also submit that it is far too early for blogs to take any real credit for swaying local elections – certainly not in Chesterfield.

You are certainly not naïve that real decisions, even in the supposed sunshine of county political decisions, actually more often take place in the country clubs of the moneyed and the powerful. This has produced a county with five Republican supervisors, hardly representative of the demographics of the county. And when the representation is so skewed, I would hardly hold that up as being laudable.

There is really no shared appreciation for the continued move westward into the county of low-income populations and the flight of higher income white families to Amelia and Powhatan. There is little attention to the disparity in the school systems between low income and high-income neighborhoods. There is little thought given to the quality of life components – and more shopping centers have little to do with quality of life. And most importantly, there is far too little being done to insure that there will be good high paying jobs for the next generation in the county.

The fact of the matter is that there are 307,000 residents in the county but the levers of power and governance are welded by a scant few dozen individuals who have coalesced into a self perpetuating machine. So much for, “the reality of the citizenry in terms of the discourse of debate on the issues that the community cares deeply over.”

AlterofFreedom said...

The quote cited is referring to the "need" for such dialogue between forces. The goal is reach an "inspiration"level beyond that of our backyards as demonstrated in the Roseland debate with the last minute debates. Other than the developers requirement for notification, where was the County, where was the Supervisor or Planning Commissioner long before the final vote.

Did they not seek out the interests of the district before casting judgement or are they simply moving with "staff" examinations and recommendations.

As to turnout at the polls, it is aweful to be sure. It will remain so until citizens begin to "feel" the true impacts of ignoring local politics. Chesterfield is enterring the 2nd Quarter to use a football analogy. It will not be until later in the game and when it just might be too late before citizens engage with urgency.

To your view on the "good life". My view is directed toward the civil way in which we approach politics here, those of us who do anyway, and that level of quality of respect and decency we pay to those with different views in the discourse of debate.

For example, we do not have blogs like "Good-Bye Ken" like in Fairfax whose sole purpose is to spin everything against an individual leader. There is no debate there, its about people congrigating for the purpose not of inspiration or solutions but one based on the worst thing of all; hate.

We do not see issues at our polling stations nor do we see physical altercations at PTA meetings. It was not a brush painted on the "life" of most of us but one from a campaign perspective.

Chestefield has issues to be sure, which is why these election cycles are so important. People need to understand the impacts of growth and the results of not being involved. It seems to me those are not involved are often the first to cry foul.

Of course developers have an interest in profits and rightfully so. Many of these developers however are from our County, but of course there are the Centex and Ryan Homes of the world here as well. I have little problem with the developers per say. They are not the ones setting the playing field. OUR BOARD OF SUPERVISORS is.

Developers are playing by the very rules of the game that government is setting. If you want a different outcome you cannot look at to the developers to be altruistic, you must look toward the leadership of the County.

Who do you want setting the Quality of Life standards from a growth perspective?

In all fairness we are making the same mistakes as NVA. We fail to learn from other localities all to often in our mad dash for growth and certainly MONEY.

As the fourth biggest locality, is our goal to be the best in Virginia or is it to be the third or the second largest locality by 2020. I only raise this issue because there seems to be this political under-current that if we grow larger and larger we will get more of the pie from the State Government in terms of funding things like roads and transportation. I think thats a dangerous road to travel down.

I understand your view and it is well positioned. I to am appauled that it takes a Marriage Amendment proposition to drive people to the polls in mass and yet few pay real attention to the realities right before their eyes:

Our kids are educated in trailers.

Our roads are getting more and more congested.

Our parks and green spaces are over-burdened by population density.

Our economy has little support of high paying jobs.

We are experiencing the biggest commercial "retail" sprawl in our County history.

We may have a potential Water Quality Issue by 2020

and the list goes on.

So things are not all "bright and cheery" and there is work to be done.

But that work starts with us, as individuals ,taking responsibility for our County and its future.


Anonymous said...

I have seen the level of attack machines working in State legislature as this year. The nlogs you refer, while practicing free speech, are a simply a model of skirting campaign finance and ethics. Most of these well funded blogs are run by people who have worked campaigns and have an agenda. Not Larry Sabato (NLS) and Raising Kaine (RK) both have significant experience in working the angles of campaigns on behalf of the Democrats.
This is not objective journalism and one has to realize this on one gravitiates there.
You will not get the "sexist" label coming from the left as these guys go after two Republican women and yet want us to support Hillary Clinton. As if here womanisque qualities are okay for her but not for Davis or Vogel on the Republican side. They have attacked these woman and their families routinely throughout this election period and then cry foul when somone challenges the record of those they support.
The Democrats have as many women running for office this cycle in most areas but always manage on these blogs to never address the same level of framework on those they endorse as those they oppose.
These blogs are simply mechanism of the campaigns and in fact those like Raising Kaine even raise money as a PAC on the site. You are not going to find anyhting other than the Democrats are great and the Republicans are evil. The goal is to increase the ranks of those through fear, hate, disunion, and distrust. They propogate that all Republicans are homophobes, racists, child haters (ie the SCHIP) and elitists proliteriats. They fail to see Virginians as individuals and attempt to class or group them as they see fit in order to advance their causes (ie illegal immigration). It makes little difference that Gov. Kaine supported the transportation package and abuser fees as they go after attacking only the Republicans who supported the measure in the process.
This blogs actually called John Welch(R) from the Va beach area a "cancer that needs to be cut-off(VaDems)". Nice.
These blogs are becoming very powerful in the process and before long there will be a time where some legal tennants will be tested as these new platforms test the extremes of creative speech. Some of these bloggers left the rhelm of real journalism in large part because of the ethical constraints it seems because they demonstrate an inability to verify and resource much of what they put up the blogs and spin it in away to outrage the reader. In short , they are incitors of hate and of distrust and they use this for political ends.
J. Scott Fairfax County is not the area it once was and a large part of that population is tied to the big government complex of Washington so it is no surprise that what was once a conservative bedroom community has now become a more liberal one. It is not the area it was even twenty years ago and there is a lesson to be learned there for all who seek to grow localities beyond means. The result can be a large portion of the population very disenchanted with life and the quality of it and those that would seek to exploit that.
And thats were Raising Kaine and others copme in.
When candidates try to distance themselves or those in office like Gov. Kaine do, one should examine where the invites go to alot of these functions being funded by taxpayers. The ones that Gov. Kaine on taxpayer dime gets to travel to across the State to endorse Democratic candidates at fundraisers, bbbq events, or forums. You always seem to have these insider bloggers with better access to them than the real media.
I wonder why that is?

James said...

Goodbye Faisil Gill blog- another example of an attack blog against an incumbant calling him a virtual terrorist and muslim advocate.

Bill Garnett said...

TO: Anonymous,

You state, “These blogs are becoming very powerful in the process and before long there will be a time where some legal tennants (sp) will be tested as these new platforms test the extremes of creative speech. Some of these bloggers left the rhelm (sp) of real journalism in large part because of the ethical constraints it seems because they demonstrate an inability to verify and resource much of what they put up the blogs and spin it in away to outrage the reader. In short , they are incitors (sp) of hate and of distrust and they use this for political ends.”

I think you doest protest too much. The handful of blogs – and in a state of seven million, there are now only a handful of political blogs -- I argue, have a very small effect. They are echo chambers that play to relatively small audiences.

However, I do see one real danger, and that is the ability to post anonymously, such as you do. And I find it disturbing that anonymous posters feel so free to throw insinuations and accusations. How are you much different from the hooded KKK of our past? I'd suggest that all on this board and similar boards have the courage to come out in the bright light of day and be accountable for their statements.

I cannot imagine Patrick Henry would so conveniently hide behind alias and anonymity. And he was under threat of being drawn and quartered.

Bill Garnett

Alter of Freedom said...

Bill G:

Again, as always it seems, you make very valid points.
I have thought often about the ability to post anonymously, but in the end I still want to get a heart beat about what peoples thoughts and views are.

We do not ask one another to where a "I supported" sticker but an "I voted". We vote anonymously for the most part and people have always been very withdrawn in revealing political views. That has almost been a tradition in the South; religion and politics are alot alike in that respect.
I have found that the younger generation are alot more comfortbale giving up their names. I get contacted by college students away at school from Chesterfield alot through email about whats happening.
I think those of older generations reflect upon things like McCarthyism flash backs about freely firing off statements of political persuasions. I certainly can respect that, even if it is a little bit before my time.
I only seek to keep the boards clear of foul language, outwardly hate speech, and the such.
What made Patrick Henry a hero was exactly what you premise, his ability to stand up and speech his mind without thought to or without regard to any consequence. makes you wonder why we do not have Patrick henry Day as a State Holiday, makes you wonder why we have to have one Presidents Day and not celebrate Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln in our classrooms with our young people so that come to realize the significance of the acts of those who came before them.
I think much of our youth has lost that connection and I find that shameful.

J. Scott

Anonymous said...

To Anonoymous:
As to your comments regarding the blogs, I had an opportunity to visit them again today and review them from the standpoint you stated.
You are certainly accurate in the fact that their portrayal of events is entirely partisan. These blogs are endorsing and raising money for campaigns.
To say that these "have a very small effect"---posted by Bill G. is misplaced. These blogs, and in particular Raising Kaine were responsible for bringing down George Allen in Northern Virginia. The effort of these blogs, which have an alliance to organize, are powerful mechanisms that allow campaigns to use without formally attaching themselves with. Its the old plausible deniability syndrome of politics.
You only have to look at how much money these blogs affliated with Political Action Committees are raising and take a look at the abuser fee poll where some one hundred thousand people responsed concerning the transportation effort. These blogs are but a part of the overall movement of the DPVA at the grassroots level. They are leaps and bounds ahead of those on the Republican side. Even George Allen and Eric Cantor have blogs now to combat the power of the other side.
It is true though that we are social beings. We like to associate with like people for the most part so it makes sense that if your a liberal you will post and enjoy different blogs than say if you were conservative. The problem I see is there is very little debate. Dissentors to the post are often attacked as conservatives can attest to when it ventures to comment on those blogs and offer a different perspective. And yet may debate is not their purpose at all. These blogs may simply be an extension of the My Space or Facebook social places on the net where people get together. Only problem is opposites at these sites do not attract.

The respect only exists to the extent that you think and feel like they do. The more powerful they get and the more money they raise the more they alienate themsleves from an ability to compromise and the more they adhore those that do compromise, even in their own ranks.

I am sorry to say, but these blogs ARE very powerful forces in Virginia politics today are are being leveraged to the do the biddings of people who chose to work behind the scenes and often ANONYMOUSLY as well.