Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is Chesterfield in Decline?

Its been almost a month since the election that resulted in the changing of the guard of leadership. As the political rhetoric has waned and those invoking such tones that succeeded in bids for election prepare to enter the trial by fire known as County politics it begs a very simple question that was nevered answered by any of these newly elected officials during the campaign season;

Is Chesterfield County in Decline?

I only ask this basic question because as some would have us believe the election was all about "change" and would like to persuade us that a thirty percent voter turnout is somehow a "mandate" for new direction.

But where is this new "direction" bound to lead us? Of course not a single candidate for office could articulate any true new vision for the County in a micro sense but took the road toward addressing the macro issues of the impacts of growth and schools that have resulted from the commercial and residential growth rates in the County. When I say "addressing" I mean to say they pointed the political finger and who they sought to blame for those impacts, offering up very little in the way of substance or solution. It was an election season that may have been less about ideas or solutions but rather one simply solely based on change. And I do not mean philosophical change either. I mean it may have been change for change sake and if that is the case our County could been for more pains.

So now that Chesterfield voted for this change, exactly what "change" do these newly elected officials seek to bring to our community? I ask this in large part because growth was made as the most central issue to most campaigns that much of the other issues before the County today went largely unaddressed with hardly even a question. In fact, a few campaigns made the growth issue the catalyst for change.

I wonder just how many of these officials dug deep enough to learn the exact state of affairs in the County and its economic vitality? When you look across the river at Henrico County and see that residents of that area returned a Board of Supervisors to leadership with a bit tenious record at best when compared with those here in Chesterfield. I wonder if the incumbants either got caught in a firestorm for change or rather were unable to articulately defend the record of the County before the voters.

It has been my opinion that the incumbant campaigns were remarkably mismanaged and they fell into the trappings of a gameplan laid out by the challengers as well as a reliance on the old notion that the County would also lean Republican as it has so many times in the past. Incumbants allowed the tone and the focus to be in an area that benefited the challengers thus finding themselves playing defense the last four weeks going into the election day and managed to miss opportunities with the policy agenda leading into the election to reasonable address its constiuents in a caring manner.

You never play defense with the cards so stacked in your favor. Why? Simple. Chesterfield is simply not in the state that the challengers portrayed by any means. Does the County have some critical issues before it? Certainly. But the County is not having to address any issue that every County in the region is not experiencing as well. The entire region is experiencing these issues , which is why you will hear more about regional cooperation in the coming years. No one has the revenues to adequetely address all the needs each area has with regard to transportation and roads and now that it appears the new Board will not endorse such measures as impact fees or raising cash proffers Chesterfield will have to make some very hard spending choices in the coming year if they are to deliver true change and it begs the question just why it was Chesterfield County that saw this result with the election and other localities did not? Chalk that up to poor communication and little transparency on policy.

But back to the question. Is Chesterfield in decline? The viewpoint an incumbant should have been focusing on is the trends we have been experiencing.

Chesterfield County is up in virtually every economic indicator from 1996 to 2006. With over 292K residents we have seen our population increase 1.8% every year the last six years. Over 2005 and 2006 we saw an increase of 2,923 new residents. The greater Richmond region only grew 1.3% and Virginia as a whole only 1.2% in the same period.

From 2000 to 2006 our labor force has grown 15% and the 2005/06 period grew 3.9% by adding 4,435 new jobs to the Chesterfield economy. Compared with 1997 our labor force has grown some 22% in ten years. and our current unemployment rate is a mere 2.7%. Has anyone seen the rate for places in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky or even Maryland? The County currently has .7 jobs per person in a county of just under 300K.

If there is an issue it must be in wages. Chesterfield residents on avergae earn roughly $702 a week which is increasing but lags both the Richmond region ($799) and Virginia ($822). We need to find ways and attract those business models in the service and medical industries that will bring higher paying jobs to the County to increase this figure.

Where is or was the challengers plan for attracting new business, real business and not retail which accounts for 19% of the jobs in the County, other than to point to commercial development. And some of the rhetoric during the campaigns should have been challenged by the incumbants regarding this idea that the County has too much commercial development.

Commercial development accounts for only 13% of the acreage in the County and of that number some 62% of it is industrial (8,500 acreas) 16% of it retail (2,200 acreas) and 9% (1,300 acreas) is office development. That leaves 87% of our county acreage being of the Residential variety. My guess is these politicians were confusing communities as commercial endeavors, which by the way added 1,200 jobs to our economy in 2005/06.

Even though we have been lagging in wages when compared to other areas of the State, the growing economy has trigger an increase in overall individual income. From 1995 to 2004 averages increased some 6.3% per year through the period. Per capita income also saw an increase of some 47% from 1995 to 2004.

Chesterfield has also seen its gross tax sales (receipts) increase 4.5% from 2000 to 2006. In 2006 alone the County experienced 3.4 billion in taxable sales from retail and services. That number is above average for the entire State.

In terms of housing, the County has just had a run of tremondous growth. What the challengers in the election failed to mention was those entities they attack so much for developing the County or contributing to campaigns accounted for some 35 million in tax revenues in the construction industry alone. Currently, and again it was not mentioned in the campaigns of course, permits for commercial purposes are down over 2005. 1999 was the highwater mark at 900 permist issued but by 2006 that number had fallen to 700 and it appears as though 2007 will be even less. A fair question may have been where the new Board expects to make up or generate the revenue lost due to the decline in permits that will certainly continue over the next two years why the housing and credit markets work themselves out?

While the victors early this month make the respective "pledges" in the local papers, I wonder just how many of them realize exactly what economic shape the County is truly in? By every indication they have inherited a County that is beating virtually every economic indicator and on balance is a locality that certainly ranks among the top three in the entire State. I just cannot help but think that the growth issue that was the "sword" of this months election may have had a primary role in vitality of the economic condition that has been left for them to manage.

Then again the elected officials are no longer challengers but are all incumbants beginning in January and it may be a different story come the Spring when they will be forced to dispense with the "change" agenda and work to advance solutions.

Fact is these officials are entering offcie at a time when the economic conditions of the greater economy may work against them. The previous years are certainly some very hard numbers to face up to if things begin to unravel nationally.

Is Chesterfield in Decline? With numbers like these, You be the judge.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Is it our Minds or Our Hearts?

We sometimes feel as though there is little we can do. We sometimes feel as though much of everything that is going on is happening to other people. We seem to be moving in the direction where we seek isolation from others, even neighbors, and seek to live our lives as independently as possible. We still allow those that would seek to divide us into nice little groups control policy in our country or at the very least have the most influence. We also still appear content to view the world and our own country from a postion of reason brought about by our minds and certainly not our hearts.

Why have I come to this rationalization?

On Wednesday, November 14th I lost my grandmother, Helen Grace Roberts (1912-2007), as she left us to continue her journey of 95 years in the heavens. She will join the many that have gone before her including my grandfather who passed some twenty five years ago and her youngest daughter (my aunt) who passed earlier this year. In the last weeks of her life I was graciously afforded the opportunity to reflect upon a life that was truly remarkable.

Many of us see or hear what is going on around the world these days almost instantanouesly. It seems though the easier the ability to connect with the world with technology the less connected we truly are. Helen Grace Roberts was born in an era where the events were dissimilated by people, not by agencies. People would rely on one another as citizens, not only for information, but for everything out of a sense of pride and trust. Hearing her life's tale over the years I realize we as a people have lost that sense of trust. We do not see things the same way those born before the Great Depression and I wonder if it is the fact that we feel we have seen more and have done more in our lives or the view that we are more progressive.

Today, there is talk about the War in Iraq, immigration, price of oil, credit markets in flux and a bottoming housing market. It reminded my grandmother in one of our recent conversations of what the country experienced in the late 1920's sitting right between the two great world wars. Much of her life she experienced the same things we have been experiencing today in that she witnessed the assimilation of many immigrants into our culture from Europe, experienced Black Tuesday and collapse of credit markets and the Great Depression. At 8 years old, my grandmother witnessed the suffrage lines for the ratification of the 1920 amendment granting suffrage to women. She graciously informed me that not all women in her day that became eligible to vote actually wanted the responsibility. Many women believed that they had the freedom to remain in the house and out of the affairs of men such as voting at the time and in fact many husbands did not want wives to participate regardless of the new right. My grandmother raised three daughters during some of the most historic times in our nations history and never held a single job outside the home in 95 years. She was married to my grandfather at age 14.

By the time my grandmother was 18 years old, she had would learn of the formation of the Republic of China, the admission of New Mexico and Arizona as the 47 and 48th state, see the creation of the Bull Moose Party, learn the tale of the RMS Titanic, witness the planting of the first cherry trees in Washington delivered by the Mayor of Tokyo, watch soldiers leave and return during World War 1, be taken to a Teddy Roosevelt stunp speech opposing Wm Howard Taft, see the first women vote in America and feel the effects of the Great Depression. My first 18 years seem boring in comparison, though there was the ends of Vietnam, the gas crisis of the 70's, the hostage crisis in Iran, Beirut, and the biggest movement of my youth the rise of real conservatism with Ronald Reagan. (not the brand practiced today I might add)

I reminded my grandmother earlier this year that in the year of her birth, 1912, both Fenway Park in Boston and Tiger Stadium in Detroit were built and open for baseball and she told me the story that was told to her years later about how the Red Sox beat the NY Giants in the 1912 World Series. She also would let me know that in that year the Girl Scouts was created and she stressed that she was born the same year as Julia Child. Always she would point to the advancement of women in our nation.

I had to point out that Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson were also born in 1912 but golf never seem to interest my grandmother much. I think it was because it was in her day a very elitist activity and its construct was everything that was wrong with society in her day. She never believed too much in privledge and believed you earned your own way by who you were and not what family you may have had the luxury of being born into.

Given the era in which my grandmother was raised and what she witnessed growing up around Washington DC it was no surprise for me growing up to learn she was a Democrat. I asked her earlier this year if she believed growing up that a women would ever have the chance of winning the Presidency and she responded very matter of factly that it matter very little to her that the President would be a women but rather it would be the right women or right person for the country. I was amazed. Her was a 95 year old women still putting faith in the American people to elect the right person. At 95 she echoes the view of so many of that era that place more significance on what is good for the country. They see things from a different pair of glasses compared to those of us it seems born say after the baby boomers. Our values seem to have gotten somewhat skewed in that we tend to seek to put ourselves before much of anything else. Looking back at my grandmothers life I wonder what kind of country we would have today if that generation had done the same.

Throughout life she would put the importance of life in the hands of family and faith. No matter what our country would face in her life, she would always fall back on her faith in God, family and our country.

Being raised myself in a very different time we rarely would see eye to eye on political matters, at least until I had my children and I began to shift from the right back to the middle in terms of ideolgy. Often times we think we believe something, until the issue hits home. We see this all the time on various issues. My grandmother lived in the era of social stigmas like out of wedlock pregnancy, the eras of segregation, and the era of feminism and came out the other side with a profound sense of American perspective. On balance no issue today is any different to be honest, but merely a different struggle that if we used history as our guide on balance we would be better served. The issues of womens suffrage, womens rights, the civil rights movement, todays gay rights and the continuuation of the womens rights with regard to abortion have one very common denomenator; they all involve people that we know, work with, or have in our communities.

If my grandmother instilled one thing in me it was that it is not that by which divides us that defines us as a People but those things we have in common. When you seek to find that which is different or that which divides us you are using your MIND and when you realize the things that make us who we truly are as a People it is our Hearts that define us.

My grandmother always led with her heart. No matter what the issue or no matter what the lesson; the answer always came by way of the heart.

I promised her Wednesday on her last day with us here that I would continue that example for my children that she set for me and would seek to extend a hand or an hear to those who may not be of like Mind but of like Heart.

In the end, in all the humility of a life that witnessed so much; Helen Grace Roberts knew the truth in the biggest lesson; we are all just people, people trying to feel at peace with ourselves and with our world.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Reality of the Future: Impact Fees and Transportation Districts

The election may have come and gone but the issues remain. The County has a new crop of leaders heading into office in 2008 at a crucial time in Chesterfield history. This election cycle was certainly full of criticisms, but in all honesty what it truly lacked were clear and concise visions concerning the solutions that constituents are demanding.

A case in point is the issue of so-called "impact fees". The current Board of Supervisors seem to be in favor of issuing impact fees on zonings not covered under the cash proffer system, which would have resulted in fees being levied on residents who applied for building permits on lots that were zoned previous to 1992. Many localities across the Commonwealth had requested the General Assembly give local governments the ability to use such fees as a means of assisting them with funding road projects and services. Earlier this year, the State Legislature gave localities the right to impose such fees.

The typical lot in Chesterfield under the guidelines of impact fees would provide some $5,800 to offset the road impacts. This is similar to the portion of the Cash Proffer which is $15,600 that goes directly toward roads in the County in the form of about $8,900 of the total proffer. These proffers are predominately paid by developers at the time of zoning and issue of building permits.

The issue now remains whether Impact Fees are dead and buried.

The Board of Supervisors that seem to endorse such fees has been changed out and the new Supervisors seem less inclined to support such measures. Dan Gecker, current Chairman of the Planning Commission and next Supervisor for the Midlothian District, is against the implementation of impact fees. His view is that such fees would place an unnecessary burden on the 700 or so resdients that such fees would be charged upon building out their properties. Gecker led the Planning Commission in its recent vote to oppose such fees after a public hearing where residents voiced opposition to being charged when they have been paying property taxes on the properties since the outset.

There is a public hearing scheduled for November 28th, but given the fact that only one of the current Supervisors will serve in 2008 there is question to the effectiveness of any debate on the issue. The current Board will be unable to change anything due to laws governing them in the last few months of office when a majority of the Board will not be returning.

Many of the challengers campaigns this cycle seem to echo the same sentiment as Dan Gecker, who at a public forum the week before the election stated emphatically that the Cash Proffer System is "broken" and that he would not endorse impact fees in the future. Gecker has voted in the past not to increase cash proffers on developers as well from the current rate of $15,600 when there was a proposal to raise such proffers to over 22,000. So it begs the question exactly how developers will be held more accountable as was proposed in many challenger campaigns when no one seems to want to come out in favor of either impact fees or raising cash proffers on developers.

So where does that leave us?

I think we are about to enter new territory in Chesterfield. This new territory has already begun rather quietly as a matter of fact in the form of Community Development Authorities or CDA's. These authorities are already working instruments with the two biggest being Roseland and Magnolia Green. Roseland being developed at Woolridge and Rt. 288 will under the CDA be able to build out roads, utilities,schools,and parks at the outset even before the residential components are built. In fact, the Roseland plan will extend Woolridge Road from Swift Creek to Rt. 288 by having the developers build the road as well as having Woolridge connect with CenterPoint Parkway near St. Francis Hospital. Fact is this would be accomplished at the start and is something that the County itself would not be able to accomplish on its own thru its own funding. Magnolia Green is yet another example of things where the developer is meeting the needs of the County by building an elementary school within its plan themselves as part of their project. So in effect alot of the criticisms waged against developers per say this election cycle are and were rather unwarrented in many respects by many of the challengers.

Another CDA is also Watkins Center which has issued bonds to provide the funding required to buildout access roads connecting to 288. These bonds will be paid a rate of return of 5.4% by the County to the institutional investors who have purchased the bonds. In the current economic conditions that appears to be a very attractive rate of return.

Another direction we may see the County go is by the way of Transportation Districts. Why? In my opinion I see no real other direction for them politically to go should they not implement impact fees which would bring in some 50 million or raise cash proffer requirements at the same time following a Board that has lowered property taxes. Of course, you will hear the arguement that the assessments rose so much that even with the reduction the County actually is still bringing in more revenue than before.

That said. I want to take a few momments and look to the north. Northern Virginia has experienced tremondous growth that began even before Chesterfield. For example in just the last five years Loudon County has grown from 169Kin 2000 to 270K residents by 2005. fairfax County has had a growth rate even greater than that.The property tax scenario is quite similar to Chesterfield where Loudon is now .96 and Fairfax is around .89 but the median price of a home is about 540K, much higher than Chesterfield. This results in considerable more revenue coupled with what they get from the State for their transportation needs. They get the lion share.

And yet given the growth, are property taxes and proffers on developers all they have in terms of the ability to increase revenues? Sadly the answer is no. In Chesterfield we seem content to stop there in an attempt to be a pro-growth, pro-business, and low-tax County and yet no one is communicating a vison as to how the County will remain those things in the current crisis. You see Loudon and Fairfax faced the same dilemma during the build out phases ot its growth cycles and were required to implement various means to provide the revenue to sustain services.

Examples of such initiatives are in the area of districts set aside with special taxes. The Rt. 28 Transportation Improvement District is one example where a special tax is levied against commercial industries at a rate of .20 per $100 assessed property value that are operating within the district which spans both Loudon and Fairfax. Various Community Center Districts have been established like Reston, which levies a special tax of .047 per $100 assessed value on both residential and commercial properties as well as McLean where residents get hit with .028 per $100 assessed value. These special taxes are in addition to the stated county property taxes paid by residents and business.

There are also other instruments like Watershed Districts like Lake Barcroft where residents pay an additonal .0925 per $100 assessed value for improving the watershed in which these homes are located. I liken this to what may be coming inthe future with regard to the Upper Swift Creek watershed area and future developing of waterside projects that may impact water quality. Furthermore, Loudon has additional taxes on certain Sewer Districts to offset the expenses of maintaining those systems.

Another issue is that of the Transportation Authorities. The NVTA was originally established in 2002 as a mechanism to help address the needs of the area in terms of transportation. However, the Authority now has been granted the ability to levy fees to raise revenues for regional transportation issues in large part due to the State Transportation Bill passed by the General Assembly. What does the NVTA plan to implement?

How about these little gems; tax of .40 per $100 assessed value on home sales, tax on car rentals booked, increaed hotel tax by 2%, annual $10 charge for transportation as part of annual inspection for auto, 1% increase in car registration dedicated to transportation, a 5% tax on all auto repairs paid to the NVTA, and an annual $10 Regional Transportation fee to all residents living in the defined area.

So, when we talk about impact fees not being the solution and we talk about not increasing cash proffers ,one of the only ways we will be able to adequately address the transportation crisis is through measures very similar to the model in which Northern Virginia has given us. The CDA model is great for the new developments as growth will pay for growth, but in order to offset the 6.4 million we get from the State for roads other measures will have to be taken. This will not be easy stuff for the public at large to reconcile but in the end it certainly may be coming.

The new Board should revisit the Transportation Summit of 2006 and hit the ground running on addressing the transportation crisis. Many of he new Supervisors may have been the facilitators of the rhetoricof change, but come 2008 they will be held accountable to communicating solutions that will stear Chesterfield for the next ten years. The learning curve for both the politicians and the community could be a painful one if one looks at other localities who failed to act and make the very difficult descisions.

Frank Hall on "forging sound public policy"

Frank Hall (D) representing the 69th District in the General Assembly House of Delegates has a very interesting piece in the latest issue of the Chesterfield Observer regarding the role before the newly elected legislature in Richmond.

Frank Hall has served the greater Richmond area for some thirty years and though he is affiliated with the Democrats has always garnered much local support from moderate Republicans. Earler this week he won re-election in the 69th by securing 65% of the vote over his Republican opponent, who probably put in the best campaign result against Hall in many years. That said a mere 16% of the registered voters in the 69th turned out to cast votes on Tuesday resulting in a 844 to 449 victory for Hall. Thats only 1,274 out of 7,837.

By now much of us already know the result that came about up in Northen Virginia and Fairfax County in particular, where Democrats upset Republican incumbants as Fairfax trends further toward establishing itself as one it not the most influential Democratic county in Virginia politics. Fairfax to a large extent is what has contributed to the Democratic Party securing the Senate in the General Assembly. Its neighbors still are hanging on the a mix of Republicans and Democrat leaders with Stafford and Prince William more closely aligned with Republicans and Loudon closer to the Democrats in both State and local positions. That said though, Fran Hall does not and has never stiken me as the same sort of Democrat as those we see coming up through the ranks of the Party and running in these Northern Virginia races.

Frank Hall stated in the Observer that he believes "the last thing constituents want to see and hear from their elected represemtatives is more partisan finger pointing or passing the blame. The old saying may be true: all this talk may be cheap. But for our inaction, we are about to pay a very high price- a permanent erosion in the people's faith in representative government" . Amen Mr. Hall.

We have seen our legislature get caught up in too much "gotta politics" and too much focus on bitter social issues that keep our leader from solving in the most basic necessities of the day; transportation. Partisanship is swelled over issues that are meant to divide our "house" and the result is we have no currency at the end of day with one another to make serious headway on the real issues that are impacting our Commonwealth.

If you think that a Marriage Amendment or Smoking Bans are more important than solving our very basic needs that will secure our future quality of life like our transportation crisis, solving our educational areas of opportunity, dealing with the aging populations, upgrading our infrastructure, dealing with illegal immigration and securing continues growth in higher paying jobs than I am sorry to have to say you are on the outside looking in. The marriage and smoking issues are meant to be divisive in such a manner to deflect our attention from our leaders inability to solve issues in bi-partisan manners which is what Virginians want out of the General Assembly.

Frank Hall believes that "a legislative body works best when it consists of individuals of good will who recognize their differences-political as well as regional-and yet are willing to work together to hammer out viable compromises that address the needs of all Virginians." I just hope that those in the position of influence whom Hall refers to as "highly motivated special interest" will heed Mr. Halls words.

It makes no difference to me whether Frank Hall is a Democrat or not because not only do his words but his actions in the House of Delegates ring true. He conducts his leadership first and foremost in attempts at "forging sound public policy" in the interests of all Virginians.

I just hope these new Fairfax Democrats as so inclined to agree with Frank Hall.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Some Supervisor Recap

This election cycle has been put to bed, though the particpants will likely be partying late into the night across the county and over in the City at the Loupassi residence, who thanks to Chesterfield voters will be the next Delegate to represent the 68th in the General Assembly.

Dan Gecker in Midlothian did what he needed to do and won virtually every district. Turnout in the District was 11,682 which is 31% of electorate compared with some 21,907 that voted in the 2006 cycle across the District. Gecker managed to increase his % over the 2006 campaign in large part due to the growth issue. His saw increased support in 503 Midlothian, 504-Robious and 507-Salisbury which bit into where incumbant Don Sowder had secured his victory last year. Gecker earned 6,624 votes to Sowder's 5,058.

While it was no surprise to this blogger, Marleen Durfee and a grassroots with a Utube campaign took the Matoaca seat rather handily from to very familiar names in Chesterfield, Mark Tubbs (R) and Bill Hastings (D). Hastings did very well and won Ettrick, Matoaca and Beach areas but could not expand on those while Mark Tubbs won the areas of WintersStore, Winterpock, and Evergreen.
Ms. Durfee however, would take the larger voting areas and secure her victory by winning some 7 polling areas and in some cases rather handily. Som eof her larger areas were Woolridge,Tomahawk, and Bailey Bridge where she earned over 600votes in each area.

This was the one race that I think the outcome was unexpected. The incumbant, Kelly Miller (R) lost to his challenger Mr. Holland (D) and only managed to secure 3 polling areas in the District. Miller, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, would win Buelah, Falling Creek, and St. Lukes. Both candidates were even in Salem Church, but Holland would win 8 polling areas over Miller to become the new Supervisor of the Dale District.

Clover Hill:
Art Warren in a romp

In one of the better races in terms of true grit campaigning (thats knockin on every door folks) Dorothy Jaeckle(R) succeeded in her bid against Ree Hart (D). I will follow with the polling data later.


Chesterfield County has gone from a Board of Supervisors of 5 Republicans to a new Board now as of 2008 one with 2 Republicans (Warren, Jaeckle) 2 Independents (Gecker, Durfee) and one Democrat (Holland)

I don't know about you but it sure would be nice to have at least 1 AT-Large member going into 2008 but who knows maybe by 2010 with the census coming we will be increasing our number of Board members to at least 7 maybe 8 from 5.

Right now, each memeber represents about 60,000 residents but of that number the polling shows only about 18,000 residents per member actually vote in any given election cycle.

Early Indication in Chesterfield Supervisor Races

9:15Pm :

Enough of the polling areas have been factored in to determine the winners for the seats on the Board of Supervisors below:

Matoaca has a 26% turnout rate and will elect (I) Ms. Durfee

Bermuda with just around 22% will elect (R) Dorthy Jaeckle

Clover Hill: 19% turnout will re-elect Warren (R)

Dale: 19% turnout will elect (D) Holland

Midlothian: just over 30% turnout electing (I) Dan Gecker

Midlothian School Board: Patty Carpenter projected as winner

** Dolan defeated in School Board race

Manoli Loupassi will take in the 68th on the back of polling areas from Chesterfield. Waddel at 915PM was ahead in the City 49%-47% but needed to blow him out there in order to win after Loupassi had Chesterfield wrapped up by 730PM.

Sheriff: Profitt will take the Sheriff race with just under 70% of the vote

Both Sen. Watkins and Sen. Martin will win re-election to the State Senate.

Odds are the State Senate will be a newly elected Democrat majority by 915PM they needed to win three more seats in three races that are still very close to take Majority
Result: Chesterfield County loses here.....more on this fall out later

Absentee Ballet Requests Up in Chesterfield

Chesterfield County is seeinga double digit growth from four years ago in terms of the number of Absentee Ballots requested for voting today.

Other jurisdictions, like Fairfax County, with heavily politicized campaigns for State Senate and House races for the General Assembly appear to be flat to lower in terms of the ballots.

This could be an early indicator of the turnout expected in the Board of Supervisor races across Chesterfield County. Usually when the absentee ballot requests and voting is higher than normal so is the overall votes cast in any given election cycle.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Reality of the Challenger: Dan Gecker

We have a little bit of history here that we can use. The candidates seeking the Supervisor position for Midlothian will face off for the second time in a year. In 2006, Don Sowder the incumbant earned 11,741 votes to Dan Geckers 10,166 who back then running as a Democrat.

The challenge for Dan Gecker will be to overcome where his campaign misfired in 2006.

One of the major factors in his favor this cycle is there are no real issues outside of these elections themselves to draw out those who otherwise may plan to vote. In 2006, there was the hotly contested Senate race between George Allen (R) and James Webb (D) as well as the proposed Marriage Amendment that drew Republicans to the polls in the District.

The Gecker campaign may just be banking on lesser turnout in the three highly Republican areas; 503-Midlothian, 507-Salisbury, 510-Sycamore and 514-Watkins. That said however, one can not underestimate to role that Roseland, Watkins Center and the commercial growth west of Sycamore Square may have at the polls on Tuesday.

If you look at the 2006 results, the challenger must leverage the areas where he secured a potential base for this cycle:

Dan Gecker secured:

501- Huguenot (+60)
502- Crestwood (+225)
513 Beaufont (+12)
515-Davis (+200)

He must leverage these and not lose ground here if he is to offset some of the areas Sowder secured rather handily in 2006.

Don Sowder:

503- Midlothian (+600)
504- Robious (+100)
505-Bon Air (+200)
506-Greenfield (+10)
507- Salisbury (+300)
508- Belgrade (+150)
509-Cranbeck (+70)
510-Sycamore (+300)
511- Black Heath (+150)
514- Watkins (+250)

Don Sowder needs to consolidate his gains in the larger areas that have proven to be historically Republican if he is to hold onto his seat on the Board.

Dan Gecker's campaign seems to have focused on the corridor extending from his Crestwood base into Bon Air and up Huguenot as well as along Robious that would expose his message to Greenfield and Cranbeck voters. It seems as if he is playing these areas in a manner to offset the votes in the heavily 2006 Republican areas.

Whether or not this apparent tactic is successsful depends almost entirely on turnout. If turnout is higher than expected it turns out into a numbers game where the areas of Midlothian, Salisbury, Sycamore and Watkins have the advantage. If turnout is lower and there is enough apathy amongst voters than that would certainly benefit the Gecker campaign.

Another important thing to remember is there was a significantnumber of voters who voted in Midlothian last cycle in the Senate race but did NOT cast a ballot for Supervisor. For whatever reason these folks determined not to vote in the race last year. Will they return this time around and influence the turnout? The answer remains to be seen.

Canvassing seems to point that the race for the areas Gecker needs, especially in the Greenfield and Cranbeck areas along Robious Road that the race is tight, but with the unanswered questions regarding the erosion questions of Old Indian Road in Greenfield subdivisions and Settlers Landing along with the extention of Cranbeck Road for the future site of a Costco Store many residents are still undecided. There not many direct "growth"issues in this area that need to be addressed but these are two things that both campaigns missed in terms of an opportunity to take clear possession of the votes. It has been my experience that if folks are undecided at this point the eve before the election, they tend to vote their formed conscience, which in this case in this area normally means they will lean Republican. There is of course no real data on this and it is purely my opinion of voter personality from listening to citizens.

The simple fact is the challenger has to make the case for change and in Midlothian where allegiances run high you better have communicate a defined vision if you hope to reach the undecideds at the polls.

The challenger could in fact make in roads into Sowders top areas of 2006 and that certainly would help his cause as well in his bid to unseat the incumbant. I think however it is most likely that Gecker will gain some votes in 504-Robious, 505-Bon Air, 508-Belgrade, 509-Cranbeck and 506-Greenfield and performed better in these areas than in did in 2006 as a percentage.

Chesterfield Supervisor (Midlothian)

With the election set for Tuesday, the biggest question those of us concerned over the direction the County will take over the next few years is what are we to do with the Board of Supervisors?

Some will tell you that it is time that this entire Board be flipped. That of course is a possibility given this year that two of the current Republicans, Dickie King and Renny Humphrey, holding seats on the Board are not seeking re-election this cycle. Though these two individuals will no longer be representing their respective districts come January, I think that it is important to note thier valued service to this community as a whole and the efforts that set forth to make Chesterfield simply the best place to live in Virginia.

The races throughout the County for Supervisor have been very heated. We are confronted with a time in our history where we seem to playing catch-up with the overwhelming demand seeking the lifestyle we share here in Chesterfield. The last few Board of Supervisors have built it and PEOPLE have come. The question now remains not whether Chesterfield is going to grow further as some would promote, but rather how do we look at the growth that has occurred and manage it in such a way not to give up any of the quality of life assests that we have so enjoyed for so many years.

There are people who will focus on the negatives and that is certainly an acceptable position to take regarding the future. We do have some ground to cover and we have to begin the process of preparing the County for the next phase that IS already planned in the current policy of zoning approvals. Much of the growth we are to experience in the next ten to twenty years is already in the system. By this I mean the residential communities that are set to break ground in 2008 and develop the sites over the next twenty years. We all are familiar with the names by now, Magnolia Green, Branner Station, and Roseland (which is in differment at the present time ) and some other projects. The impacts on the County for these developments will effect everything from schools, road congestion and more retail to support the increase in population in those areas where retail may be under exposed to serving the growing locality.

My prediction and this again is soley mine is that we will see an increase by about 10 to 12 thousand students in County schools in the next fifteen years. I draw that conclusion based on the size of the homes being proposed in the above mentioned areas, but alos given the fact that we are sitting at a time when our families have on average 1.4 children on the low end and the fact that we are not really sure just what the impact will be with the expansion of Fort Lee over the next few years. The impact on schools will be significant if for no other reason than if you review what has happened in the last fifteen years and witnessed the overcrowding of our schools throughout this period during the latest growth stages there is certainly enough evidence to point toward the same result happening again.

If we BUILD it, they WILL come. Fact is most of the zonings are already in place for the next phase of gowth and that being the case we should be looking for people that are skilled enough to incorporate the results of the next phases of growth in a manner that benefits the whole.

I want to point out to many new residents that are experiencing many of these impacts for the first time that this is nothing new to Chesterfield. The lack of true accountability has created this. I attended Chesterfield County Schools in the 80's and THERE WERE TRAILERS THEN!!!
Trailers are not something new to Chesterfield. The County has been using them for some thirty years now. They have done so in large extent because there was never a real priority not to.

The point at which we begin to realize that on Tuesday we will not be impacting the next few years per say as much as we will ten and twenty out is significant in my mind. I am not placing blame for our current growing pains on the current Board because to do so is very near sighted, however I do put the responsibility of looking at creating solutions with the growth to lessen the impacts or results of such zonings on the community. This is why I have paid so much attention to impact fees and an increase in cash proffers. These are things that this Board could have done in the short term in order to begin to move in a more fiscally responsible manner for the future.

That said, I have failed to see one solution brought forward by candidates on this front. In the abscence of another bond referrendum, which could be argued is a cop out by politicians inability to make hard descisions on issues an appeasing the status quo on taxes, I fail to see a single plan how any of these candidates see us meeting the funding demands of the next ten years with regard to schools, roads and above all services.

Case in point: Many support the Meadowville Technology Park's connected access to I-295 but no one seems to want to demonstrate how they are going to pay for it or where in the budget the money is going to come from and where it is going to be taken from.

That withstanding, we are still forced to make a determination Tuesday. It comes down to where you feel your vote would move the debate further and in what specific area you feel is the most pressing.


This district race is a difficult one. You have two individuals who care deeply for the district. The incumbant, Don Sowder defeated his opponent last Fall in a special election and has represented the district admirably. Mr. Sowder is not a career politician seeking higher or other office and he has conducted himself as such while on the Board. Some of his accomplishments for Midlothian would be finalizing Watkins Center, though of course this was begun before his term in office and the revitilization of the Village of Bon Air currently underway. Sowder has been active in trying to keep the Villages unique charm and integrity intact with all the growth going on around them.

I believe Sowder will push to Revitilization of the Cloverleaf Mall area for development (bought by County before Sowder's term), will vote in support of implementing impact fees on properties zoned before the 1989 Cash Proffer System was created, believe he would use the Trasnportation Summit guidelines as a means of addressing the transportation issues at the same time trying to force the State to increase funding for road by working with Republican State Senators Watkins and Martin(should he win re-election) on this point but alos look at set asides and looking at supplemental funding. Sowder, a Republican mind you, also has spoken to the possibility of raising some of the business license taxes as well to help fund some of the requirements. Sowder has supported the school construction but as also addressed that it still is not sufficient to meet the demand of the county moving forward and school safety funding was increased during the last budget to address the growing concern in this area.

Dan Gecker, the challenger, has been working as the district Planning Commissioner since Ed Barbers tenure and was unsuccessful last Fall in his bid for the Supervisor seat for Midlothian. That election cycle was a draw in large part because of the Allen/Webb race at the top of the ticket and turnout may have been higher last fall than it will be Tuesday this year. None the less, Gecker did very well last year losing by about 1,600 votes in a predominately Republican district. Gecker has had considerable experience and influence in the growth debates as Chairman of the Planning Commissioner. This role has given Gecker increased visibility with regard to planning. It has to be pointed out that the PC and the Boardof Supervisors seem to be on different pages with regard to zoning approvals.

Gecker was a supporter of the Branner Station zoning recently and believes that the developer will mitigate many of the impacts by providing much of the infrastrcuture themselves within the zoning approval. Mr. Sowder abstained from a vote on the Board regarding Branner Station sighting the need for more study on the impacts to the greater community, however the re-zoning ultimately was approved by the Board. In the Roseland zoning, Gecker opposed the zoning case in large part due to last minute changes by the developer to meet staff questions and concerns as well as that of the community. This case was differed until late November thus Sowder has yet to vote on the issue.

Gecker has played a vital role in the process, but believes the current Board has neglected to set forth policy that would make "growth pay for growth" within the planning for the County. Currently, revenues are coming in at a ratio of 81/19 where the larger portion is out of the pockets of the citizen and not the business community. Gecker has not articulated a level at which he sees would be better suited. many localities the size of Chesterfield use a 70/30 formula throughout the Southeast.

Another issue before these two gentleman is the fact that Henrico County with less students in its schools but local contributions are 48% versus Chesterfields local contributions of 43% of spending as reported by the RTD (05/20/07). Henrico as about ten thousand students less than Chesterfield. Henrico like Arlington County also pays for maintaining its own roads and does not rely on the State for funding. So it begs a few questions as to why Chesterfield is unable to both adequetely address schools and roads when our neighbor across the river has. At the forum at Midlothian High School last Thursday, gecker did not seem in favor of Chesterfield taking over its funding for roads entirely and either did Sowder. Both would seek to leverage influence at the State level for more assistance. The probelm is we are the fourth largest locality and before us comes NVA and Hampton Roads where much of the oney is going.

If the General Assembly were to go Democrat on Tuesday in the State Senate, Chesterfield funding may also take a big political hit. Our influence in the Senate would be in the minority. This is why Chesterfield needs its own proposed solutions for its roads. The elected Supervisor would have to consider Transportation Districts, Special Improvement Districts, Transportation Authorities, impact fees (Gecker is opposed to these fees and voted against them as the PC voted them done last month) or earmarking 1 or 2 cents of the property tax ($.97) to roads.

The proerty tax in Chesterfield was lowered from $1.04 to $.97 this year in part because properties had to be brought up to market values as required by the State during assessments. Fact is our assessments have been lower than other localities across the state in comparison. The result of the increased assessments was higher tax bills on residents which in turn forced a push to lower the rate to offset the increase. Sowder supported the .97 cent level which was a compromise while Gecker supported a rate of .95. maybe what we should have done here was take the .97 and earmark the extra 2 cents in the compromise to roads and transportation. Regardless, the tax reduction was the lowest reduction in county history. gecker has often made the point that Sowder in effect by not voting for the .95 cent rate "raised" the taxes on residents.

Another aspect of the debate is the failure to address some of the other impacts on the County that will result from the zoning approvals that both candidates will endorse. It seems to me that the potential of another growth spurt that will result in the next fifteen years WILL require additional fire stations, police sub-stations and even libraries funded by the County. I have not heard much concerning funding for these things. People also need to realize that promoting growth at this level also brings in other concerns like access to pre-schools (most of which are on wait lists today) and the construction requirements of chruches and the land that must be available for construction. These are certainly little twists on the planning debates but are things that impact residents the most, not whether we have another Walmart or Target.

Another question I have is what will happen to the area around Chesterfield Towne Centre when Watkins Center is open for business. I know B&K is moving over to the mall where the movie theatre was that is now going up to Watkins. Target and Kohls plan to move up to Watkins which will leave the shopping center with Ukrops in it virtually empty given the fact that Payless has already left. Free market aside, what is the plan for addressing the continuation of retail sprawl westward. Mataoca and Clover Hill should brace for the same effect out Rt. 360 in three to five years. Gecker has spoken concerning this sprawl in the past but what can be done to curb it?

If you reside inMidlothian, I think the biggest thing we should be focusing on the managing what we already have here in addition to mitgating the impacts that the larger developments may have on the existing infrastructure. We have experienced much of our growth already in the last ten years, not to say that there are not stilllarge tracts of land available but the greater grwoth rate in terms of commercial/residential activity is moving elsewhere in the County.

If you are voting out of concern for the district than I think that Mr. Sowder has certainly delivered on the committments that he made last Fall and would certainly be able to continue to represent Midothian. An example of this was Mr. Sowders vote to remove the funding from the School Board that was set for pre-k funding because Midlothian would not see any benefit from that funding whereas other areas may have outside the district.

However, if you believe the greater issue is facing growth and planning in the county at large than Mr. Gecker may be better positioned to address those areas and may be the best option for your vote based on his specialization.

In the end, it comes down to where you believe your Supervisor should be concentrating his representation. Should he represent his District first or should be represent the greater community of Chesterfield?

Kind of makes you wonder why it is we do not have "at-large" members on the Board of Supervisors?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Voting As A Citizen

With the November elections a few days away, Virginians across the State will be determining some 140 seats in the Virginia General Assembly, as well as many local positions that will impact our daily lives. Too many, this impact goes unnoticed on a daily basis as determined by the trends in voter turnouts across the State in years when there are no Presidential or Congressional seats on the ballot. In fact, many as we all know are talking about an election that is one year away in 2008 and have neglected consideration for the election that is a mere two days away.

It begs a real question. Is it the local elections for Board of Supervisors, School Board, Sheriff and others that impact our reality in terms of quality of life or the national ones? I am not talking taxes people. I am talking about our ability to live our lives and raise our children the way we want in the community atmosphere of our choice.

This question is lost on most voters. Why? It is due in large part in my opinion to the role of media. Access to media sources has never been easier, but when you have three to five major networks solely concentrated on national issues and national politics it is easy to be convinced that some how all of this becomes the reality of which you live. Does the Anna Nicole Smith's and the Paris Hiltons really impact your life? Does the countless hours committed to the ups and down of Hollywood insiders really contribute anything to our daily lives other than brief entertainism (my word). What does it say that about us as citizens when the bulk of the media will conentrate on these things given the fact they are playing the ratings game. Are these things really what citizens want?Sadly the answer may just be yes.

The bigger question is why we as citizens seem do disinterested in the positive elements of society. The stories of the heroism are downplayed with such political slant its appauling. I recall this latest non-issue with many so called news sources regarding a Congressional Medal of Honor awardee. Sadly, because this honor may have been earned on a field of battle on some map somewhere in a conflict that parts of our population do not support the award goes largely unreported reagrding the fallen hero. It was obvious to me that certain networks could not fit the story in between OJ Simpsons recent legal troubles and the continual evilification (my word) of Blackwater. The trickle down effects of the complete partisan posturing of media sources has created and perpuated the movement of focus on things that are not meant to inform but are meant to convince. We are living in a time where it is truly less about news and substantive information as much as it is about politics. Politics not Civics has hijacked the national consciousness. Afterall, politics is nothing more than the art of campaigning. It was never intended to be involved in leading and that distinction gets lost when your twenty four hour news sources are involved in "campaigning" various agendas.

Throughout this election season, we all have observed the candidates involved in the primary process for the right to run in the Presidential election next year and most people are more familiar with those on both sides seeking the nomination than they are whose running their respective local governments. What does that say about us a citizens? Do we really think that Mit Romney or Barrack Obama are going to fix our issues here in Chesterfield? Do we think that they will make sure that our children are educated to the level that are prepared to enter this global economy that our national leaders have determined is the worlds destiny? Are they going to address our potential water quality issue? The answer is no. So why is it that we focus more attention on how well or poorly last week Hillary Clinton did in the debate? Why is it many of us could not get out to the debate Thursday night in Midlothian? Was it because Virginia Tech was playing Boston College on television?

I find it interesting that most people will determine their allegiance in large part to the national debate and let it run down ballot without question. Do local level candidates mirror that of the national ones? It been my contention that they do not. In fact most Democrats in Virginia at the State level would be considered moderate/conservative on balance when compared with those at the Congressional level or those debating for the nomination of the Democratic Party in the primaries.We have to take candidates on an individual basis at the local level and the biggest obstacle to doing that is time.

Time is the greatest resource there is. The problem is many of us simply do not have the "time" to get engaged in local level issues. This is not a criticism per say, but simply a reality that most of us have work, family, and church realated activities going on on a regular basis and what time we do end up with seems to gravitate toward television as the source for both entertainment and information. Informed voting requires committment and that committment requires the time that many of us simply are in short supply of. This is why I believe people feel that national debates are more important than local issues. Solutions or discourse regarding national issues are more readily available in easier formats like cable news and require less of our time. Voting as an informed voter at the local level seems to have been replaced with voting by way of a prayer.

Prayer? Yes. When you cast a vote for a candidate that you are unfamiliar with or are maing a determination based on Party affiliation you are doing just that, praying that person will represent you.

It is my hope that as Citizens, voters will examine the position of the candidates on a full range of issues, as well as character, personal integrity, career performance and basic philosophical, idealogical positions. We must dertermine to consider both the moral and the philosophical realities of the vote we cast as it relates to our community. We must continue in the process even after the vote is cast and we must pledge to deliver the right of voting into the hearts and minds of our children but showing them the VALUE of this right.

As crazy as it can be, Election Day is a Family affair in the that my wife and I take our three children to the polls where they see the process and watch us vote and afterward we traditionally go out for lunch together as a family. The importance of voting is certainly something that is taught by parents. To a large extent if our parents were not voters there is certainly a greater chance that we would not value the voting process as adults and not participate.

It may sound harsh, but in my view it is a CITIZEN that VOTES and it is a RESIDENT that does not. Which are you?

Friday, November 2, 2007

School Board: Midlothian District

During the first portion of the public forum at Midlothian High School on Thursday night the time was dedicated to the two candidates for the Midlothian School Board. Niether candidate in this race is the incumbant as the current School Board official from Midlothian, Dr. James R. Schroeder is not seeking re-election.

The two candidates are: Patty Carpenter
Erik Finkbeiner

One of the striking realities of this race in my opinion is you have two candidates coming at the issues from two very different perspectives. First, Patty Carpenter, seems to place much of the focus on the children and the collaborative effort between parents, teachers and the community with regard to the education system. Second, Erik Finkbeiner, is certainly a very articulate speaker and well versed on the issues facing the education system and seems to approach it from a policy perspective.

Mr. Finkbeiner demonstrated Thursday night his ability and knowledge of leveraging his experiences in local and State policy matters that impact the educational system of Chesterfield. He has over twenty years experience in government and working with state and local budgets. His childeren attend Midlothian schools and he has been very active at the local level as well and is a graduate of Clover Hill High School.

Mrs. Carpenter brings activism to the table. She has been involved for the last five years in all aspects of the education systems including her role with the Task Force for Redistricting as well as chairing the Bond Referendum of 2004. She has been involved with the PTA serving both as Vice President and President and was a co-chair for Homeowners for Quality Schools. She is a sunstitute teacher with CCPS and her children attend school in MIdlothian as well.

In evaluating these candidates I think its important to consider what one believes are the biggest areas of opportunities facing our educational system today. One of the issues that stood out Thursday night was the issue of security coupled with the problems of educating our children in trailers. Both concede that it is our teachers that impact the quality of the education the most, but there are aspects of the trailer situation tied with security that must be addressed. The lack of accessible communication between the office and the trailers is an important aspect of this debate. Mr. Finkbeiner addressed his priority geared towards Teacher Quality and Salary structure to be competitive in the market to hire and retain qualified teachers while Mrs. Carpernter identified her top priority as addressing the relationships between parents, teachers and the School Board in determining programs that may be implemented that would assist particualr schools in their drive for greater quality of education. Carpenter also addressed the need for audits of funding allocations within the budget to maximize the levels of funding that get directed into the classroom.

Niether candidate would endorse the function of taxing authority by the School Board as a means of providing funding and believe that issue resides with the BOS. Niether it seems believes that the BOS should have exercised its descison to remove 750k from the School Board budget because of its opposition to the funding of pre-k programs.The candidates did not get into the issue of pre-k funding during the forum but did touch on the topic of intelligent design in the classrooms. It appears as though niether would endorse the use of intelligent design in science class but would be willing to hear from the community as to whether it would like it via an elective religious studies class. I think the State has the standards of curriculum and authority and it may have to fcae this issue before the School Board does in the near future. There is certainly some legal issues that have to be waded through here for sure.

I think the biggest thing that came out of the firum was that there is currently an apparent lack of understanding and collaboration between the BOS, the PC and the SB with regard to growth and schools. Inorder for any planning to be successful you need to plan for the future educational needs of the children that will certainly come with any growth pattern. We have some of the highest rated schools in the State and two high schools in the Midlothian District have achieved a level of excellance rivaled in few places across the Commonwealth.

I would have liked to see the candidates get further into alternative schools and funding for non-traditional studies as well as what each of them would invision for the use of Clover Hill High School after the new high school comes on line. I would have also like to hear some specific areas in the SB budget that could have been addressed as well as what they see as the pressing needs for school construction. Should current schools be upgraded or expanded or newer schools built? Do they support another bond offering to pay for those schools that developments do not subsidize? Whats do they believe the role of the business community should be in the future educational opportunities of our children and how they felt we could better prepare our youth for the journey before them.

Either of these candidates would certainly benefit Midlothian. One has to determine what they see as the bigger issues facing the County in the next few years and make a determination as to which candidate they feel is skilled enough to address those opportunities with solid solutions and work with the other members of the Board as well as BOS and PC to meet that end. I think we have experienced to much political posturing in Midlothian the last few years in large part to the issues involving the former Supervisor and his departure. We need to look toward the future and the future is one of unity not divison, or at least it should be.

Visits both of these candiate websites: www.carpenterschoolboard.com


The Chesterfield Race for Sheriff

Okay. I want to set forth that I have never really understood why it is we should be electing or need to "elect" a County Sheriff. Its a long standing tradition given the fact that we have not always had both a Sheriffs Department and a Police Department sharing the load of Public Safety along with the Fire Department. By the way niether of the latter have "elected" head officials.

I understand of course that this dedicated Sheriff position across the Commonwealth is actually constitutional in nature and are required by the laws of the State, which funds the Sheriffs across the Commonwealth via State funding resources. In a sense, it appears as though they are more State employees than truly County employees, but they are an integral part of our community.

Most of us are probably unaware of that fact. The Sheriff Department in part is not represented in the County budget per say in large part due to the fact it is covered via funding from the Genral Assembly through I believe the State Compensation Board. Counties are permitted to employ and get funded for a number of deputies based on a population formula and much of the tab regarding employment, operations and insurance/liability coverages is covered by the State and not the County. Should a County desire additonal deputies it may petition for more funding from the State, however most likely the County will be forced to pay for any deputies it seeks over the number determined by the formula on its own. The County Police Department is fully funded through resident tax dollars. If you recall, Chesterfiedl went the Police route some years back preceeding our aggressive growth strategy. The Sheriff has been around since 1749. Thats right 1749.

I must admit that right now in the current political climate the issue of illegal imigration is a hot button issue. It is one being bounced around both Congress and the State General Assembly. Chesterfield estimates are that illegals impact the County to the tune of 2.1 million dollars in 2006.

**Reminder: Public Hearing regarding the issue of Illegal Immigration is N0v. 14, 2007 before the current Board of Supervisors. Depending on the result of the election, should there be a shift in leadership no vote on this will be able to be cast in any manner until after the new Board takes office. ****

I only mention this because after speaking with many residents there is a misconception somehow that the Sheriff position will somehow have some real immediate impacts on the realtionship between crime and illegal immigration as an issue. Most of us think of law enforcement when we hear things regarding the issue, however until our laws and ordinances become clearer there will be little for the Sheriff to do outside performing in accordance to the current State mandates. Call Governor Kaine's office if you want to know why it is our State income tax dollars should be going to house, feed , provide health services and rehabilitate illegal aliens in our County jails throughout the Commonwealth. I wonder just how much that is per day per illegal inmate?

Fact is the County Sheriff Department only turns over 6 to 10 illegals in the County system to Federal authorities a month in large part because the political and legal climate precludes them from arresting those they suspect to be illegal in the first place.. In fact, many illegals get arrested on charges other than legal status, are brought to jail, brought before a judge , bonded out etc..and then knowingly released back into the community regardless of status awaiting court or returned to jail awaiting court.. The Sheriff deputies are caught in the middle in the current system and cannot do anthing but follow the system of procedures of the Courts.

This cycle and election for Sheriff should not be about Illegal Immigration. I only say that because the State must get its act together first before this manner will really be able to be addressed by the localities. So, in my opinion it is rather a dead issue as far as this election goes other than to make sure that the Sheriff will do everything within the confines of the current legal system to make sure that the criminal element of the illegal population (other than being here that is) are turned over to ICE and not returned to the community.

What I am finding is just like at the Supervisor level there needs a bit more transparency in the Department. The Sheriffs Department routinely undergoes various audits by the APA and county government as well as standards guidelines via the Career Development Program of the Compensation Board, but many are proposing a need for more internal audits to address fiduiciary concerns.

The things I am considering are these questions below, independent of illegal immigration.

My questions are:
*Whats the status of our training and development of career officers with regard to continuing education credits or levels by our deputies

*What is the expense incurred by which the Deputies are engaged in bilingual education and cultural awareness within the community and at what cost levels

*What is the status of the Departments hiring and promotion standards and level of cohesiveness of current operations (an issue raised by Kendrick Hall)

*Is the level of communication between the Operations Division and the Support Division aligned to promote the alignment of all Deputies and staff (Employee Satisfaction Index)

*Is the new jail meeting the needs and requirements of the community in terms of housing of inmates and release standards met (issue raised by Perry DeMay)

*Are we engaging in a Master Deputy training program to bring staff up through the ranks

* Is the operation a true reflection of the county; men, women and minorities with equal opportunity and merit increases based on performance

* Are we integrating the Sheriffs Department , Police and Fire as first responders in the event of emergency or evacuation plans due to man made or natural disasters

These are just a few of the questions I will be seking answers to in the next few days regarding the Sheriffs Department.

Another blog, http://www.marchtoadifferentdrummer.blogspot.com/ has an interesting post regarding the internal nature and issues under the current leadership and not only does it deserve a focus but also frankly a response.

The candidates for Sheriff are: Anthony "Perry" DeMay
Dennis S. Proffitt
Kendrick A. Hall

Do not ask me what these gentleman's political affliations are becasue I DO NOT CARE!!!

I do not believe that in a position like Sheriff we should consider, or at least I should, whether someone is with one Party or another as a basis of this descision. All to often in positions like this we go to the polls a cast a vote along party lines without really knowing the issues or even knowing anything about the men seeking the position.

My intent is not to insult anyone here. It is completely up to the individual how one determines their candidate of choice, but I wonder when we are talking about law enforcement officers does it really matter which Party they claim or rather is it their ability to lead a group of dedicated faithful civil servants with respect that matter most.

I had an opportunity at the Midolthian High School Forum on Thursday night where the School Board and Supervisor candidates held their last forum to have a brief conversation with candidate Perry DeMay. Mr. Demay was the only candidate for Sheriff at the forum meeting residents from Midlothian and listening to concerns before the forum began. In observing Mr. Demay I cannot help but feel that if he reaches out to the Deputies and staff in the same manner as he did residents last night than they would be greatly served by is level of professionalism.

Mr. DeMay's positions on training and development of staff and recogniton and promotions, internal auditing of current operations and finance demonstrates the manner in which he would lead the Department. At times in order for one to judge a persons ability to lead you have to look at where they have come and where the have been held to task for running operations within very strained budgets. This requires prioritizing. If you have seen the dramatic transforamtion of Pocohontas State Park that began some ten years ago, you will see by far the ability of Mr. DeMay as Chief Park Ranger to lead successfully. There has been some crticizing by the RTD for mone I think, posturing really, regarding fundamentally whats a "park" have to do with running a Department, but what is missed is its about relationships with people in this environment. The way in which our jail is managed and inmates are treated will mirror the way the operational and support staff are treated by the Sheriff.

In all honesty, I think Mr. DeMay demonstrates this largely because of his former roles as a Deputy in both City of Richmond and Chesterfield. He has been in the trenches sorta speak working under the hierarchy of the Department and has seen first hand the areas in terms of realationships to need addressing. As the county continues to grow, so to will the responsibilities and demands on the Sheriffs Department. The Department will require a leader that will balance the needs of its operations with that of the greater community and continue the tradition of some of the highest ratings in the State.

If you think that illegal immigration can be successfully impacted by the Sheriff alone, I think we all would agree that Kendrick Hall has been the most outspoken on the issue and has the most experience in this area and he would benefit the County immensely. At this point though I feel we may be about four or five years away from true comprehensive reform on the issue, which will be impacted by the results of the election for State Senate of the General Assembly. If the Republicans lose control of the State Senate and some are predicting just that you can forget reform on this issue.

Therefore, today I am leaning toward Perry DeMay for Sheriff. I plan to continue the examination, but feel it is more about relationship building with the staff and the community that is missing most today and he might just be the man to effectively bridge that gap.