Thursday, May 29, 2008

Cash Proffer Raised, Barely

The issue before the Board of Supervisors Wednesday evening and into Thursday morning regarding the proposed increase represented an opportunity for the current Board to make some changes in a proffer that has remained fixed for the last three or four years at 15,600.

Developers and Home Builders were out in force to make sure that the proffer was not increased from the current levels and represented virtually 80% of all speakers being heard before the Board on the issue. As stated in the previous post, the Home Building industry came with the talking points we have covered here for the last two years.

Only this time, the developers threw in the national mortgage crisis and falling home values into the pot along with the issue of "affordibility". Developers making this arguement always seems very disingenious. They have control of the product in which they determine to bring to market in any given area, but also know that they can sell new homes with many high end upgrades which result in greater profits. The market seems to be preferring homes in the range of 350 to 450K which is exactly what the home builders have been building for the last few years relative to other value ranges. These folks threw affordibility out the window years ago.

After hours of discussion, the current Board offered two proposal motions. One put forth by Midlothian Supervisor Daniel Gecker (I)opting for an increase in the proffer by about 3K and one offered up by Supervisor Holland (D) which would take the proffer to 20,500.

Mind you many of the developers argued that the Board should not act on this proposal and in fact Bermuda Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle (R) proposed a motion to defer the proffer matter for 90 days to give the Board and the Delegation of State legislature as well as representatives from the home building sector to meet and have discussions on the matter before voting on the proffer issue. Her motion failed.

Supervisor Jaeckle was certainly moved by many of the comments regarding Speaker Howell in the General Assembly's request for Counties to refrain from raising any proffers until after the 2009 Assembly session. Apparently, the remainder of the Board was less inclined to adhere to either Speaker Howell or Jaeckle's request.

In the end, Mr. Gecker's motion would pass with the support of Jaeckle(R) and Supervisor Warren (R). Marlene Durfee (I) of Matoaca District supported Holland's proposed increase.

The Gecker motion was certainly one based in appeasement. Gecker, who has criticized the Cash Proffer System in the past, no doubt understood that the status quo would not suffice given the gaps and shortfall in the funding for County services and his proposal appears to be yet another half-measure.

Now do not get me wrong. I have been supportive of raising the proffer as many of you know, but to acknowledge that the proffer level must be increased and then motion to raise those levels to such level that will not meet the requirements of funding the services they are intended does nothing but lesson the gap and shortfall but does nothing to solve the issue. The County staff has determined that the level required to meet the demand of services in the long run is much higher, though Gecker motion did meet the proposed model rate for the upcoming year. It is apparent that while the amount is less than what some, like myself, would have sought, Gecker may be hedging that he can get the Proffer Policy revised and then revist the amount next year.

Durfee and Holland spoke elequently regarding the position they see the Board is in. Durfee, even after the Gecker motion passed, made it a point to address the public by informing them that there is no way that the motion will put the County in a position to meet the requirements of services and also informed everyone that Governor Kaine at the Transportation meeting early in the day was clear the State would not be freeing up additonal money for roads to localities. Chesterfield is set to get 6.25 million a year but that could potentially change if the General Assembly passes a new Transportation bill. Durfee pointed out that the County already cannot meet the number required and stated that the dollars lost to the County for the Roseland case alone would be 25 million if the proffer level was not raised higher.

I have been critical of Durfee in the past, but this night she was impressive while others appeared out of their depth.

Gecker, Warren and Jaeckle obviously sought to find some middle ground on the issue and while seeking to get a little more proffers out of the developers the motion was not one that realistically would infringe to much on the home building industry. It basically amounts to closing costs on a new home. Yet, while it will not hurt the developers much it fails to adequetely address the true needs with regard to revenue shortfall that the County will experience.

As far as the developers are concerned I heard alot that frankly was quite amazing. In the future we will hear I fear how the Proffer System should be changed so that its fee is different for differing styles or parts of the County. The arguement was made that higher priced homes should have a higher proffer than lower priced homes. Currently, the Proffer is the same for all new zonings regardless of size of the unit.

Hello. These arguements totally discount the following:

1. It does not cost the County more money to have Police respond to a larger home.
2. It does not cost more money for the County to have Fire/EMS to respond to a larger home.
3. We all have equal access to Libraries
4. We all use the County roadways
5. We all have equal access to County School System
6. Its does not cost the County more for Water/Sewer Service

Why then should homeowners who purchase a higher priced home pay a higher proffer fee? The access to services ia equal and the burden should be shared equally regardless of unit price. If the County determines this amount to be 23K then it should cost that amount for all units in terms of proffering.

Afterall, the higher priced homes are already going to be contributing more in Property Taxes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cash Proffers up Before Board, Again!

Well we seem to re-entering what I like to call the local government "twilight zone". It seems that the issue of impact fees and the Cash Proffer Policy continually come up year after year and come before the Board of Supervisors.

I recall the very same premise as to why we should not have these proffers raised on developers repeat year after year as if the more times the Home Building Association states them before the Board the more accurate they become.

In fact, this time the Association actually took out a half page ad in the Chesterfield Observer to promote its agenda to see proffers be maintained at current levels. Truth be told they would prefer not to have to pay them all together.

We must come to grips with the fact that on the one hand we cannot complain about Washington and insist on lobby reform and then not recognize the simply fact that the Home Building Association is doing nothing more than the bidding for developers before our Board of Supervisors. They are play economically based fear tactics upon citizens by claiming that such increases will result in:

Rising Home Prices as the proffer will be passed onto the consumer resulting in increased prices

Rising Tax Asssessments as the cost of the new home will increase, so shall the listing price and inevitably the assessment will be higher for property taxes.

Mind you we are already seeing home prices decline with the present inventory of New Homes, so it begs the question if the prices are already declining and the assessments are stabilizing what would the real cost to home buyers be if an addtional 8K was added to the proffer?

Would not the homes going forward be priced less than New Home starts in 2006/07? If the developers hope to sell these homes, they will certainly have some serious costs analysis done to determine the right home designs to be undertaken in the current market regardless of the cash proffer requirement.

Do we or do we not already have an excess inventory of new homes?

It would seem to me that if the current Board, made up of four new Supervisors, plans on actually delivering on the changes that they promised last Fall the proffer policy should be the beginning of implementing this change in local governance.

If I recall correctly, both Daniel Gecker and Marlene Durfee, ran a campaign targeting Republican incumbants pro-developer policies claiming that developers were not paying their fair share. Though one Republican incumbant retired in the Matoaca District, Durfee ran a campaign against three others based largely on the issue of growth policy and Gecker defeated Donald Sowder (R) in Midlothian in large part based on countless mailers describing the relationship between developers and Sowders positions on the issues.

Where then will these two Supervisors come down on Cash Proffers this time?

I have spoken with dozens of folks here in Midlothian and while our patience is beginning to run thin with the lack of definitive action on impact fees, Upper Swift Creek Plan, Roseland case, and Comprehensive Planning we now get an opportunity with cash proffers to see just how really serious these new Supervisors are about the change they proposed last Fall.

If they fail do raise the level, which is being raised virtually across the State by other localities, we will provided some real insight into the reality the Board will truly be bringing us and its intent for our future.

Added: Tuesday 11:00 PM

After countless emails and a few phone call you would have thought I would have opened pandoras box on this post. I find it striking just how limited some folks field of vision is on this issue and frankly how ill-informed many are with regard to the differecnes between impact fees and proffers as they are implemented across the State.

To be sure not all Virginia Counties use a proffer system, Henrico County I believe does not for one, but then Henrico has determined to generate much of its revenues from commercial development when compared to Chesterfield which has certainly permitted it to have lower property tax rates and since Henrico receives no money from the State for its roads much of that of course goes to roads and services. We can talk about budget differences at a later time.Now, there may be an arguement to be made as to how Henrico without a proffer system can accomplish what Chesterflied cannot, but I think the greater focus is why it is the homes are virtually set at the same median price point regardless of fees.

You see one thing the developers and the Home Building Association would have you think is without the proffers in place that the home starts prices would be lower if we had an impact fee structure. That is of course assuming that developers would lower the cost of each unit themselves. That is quite a leap of faith. In a free market structure, developers will price housing at such a point where they are confident they can sell it or at what the market will bear in terms of price. Hence, free market economy.

Case in point: Centex and other national builders sell some of the same model homes throughout the State but in different markets. Each County or market has differing fee structures or none in place so it begs the question how is it the developers come by way of the pricing structure for the homes they place in each market given they are the same model. Simple. Its less the proffers as much as it is the underlying land prices and zoning process costs for the development in the first place. Acreage and lot prices are drastically different from market to market or even County to County. Thats why the same model being built in Henrico costs more than Chesterfield even with a proffer in place in Chesterfield. Chesterfield County for years represented a high growth constituency with high adjusted gross income models but with reasonable land value pricing for developers. Compare say to Loudon County or Fairfax.

Another aspect that developers will argue is that the proffer burdens home buyers with added surtax of 15,600 built into the home price because of the proffer which in turn will cause a homeowners tax assessments to rise even though this amount is not truly reflective of the value of the actual structure in place. This may be true but what would happen if the proffers were low or did not keep up with the costs of services or any other inflationary condition?

Well then every tax payer in Chesterfield would pay. You see if a developer pays a proffer for a development and spreads that fee across the units being built then the proffer figure was calculated based on the amount or costs of services that those units would place upon such things as police, fire, school, water, sewer, and yes roads and infrastructure. So the builder passes this along to the buyer because afterall the buyer will be the one requiring the above services. What is being said is that it will cost the County 15,600 to offset services directed for that unit or to create the capability to service that unit once it comes on line.

What if we lost the ability to charge a proffer or the amount of 15,600 was not enough? Well, the difference would be made up by all of us. Our taxes would have to be diverted from other uses and be directed at infrastructure services to offset the shortfalls created by not having to proffer or not having the proffer keep up with the actual costs of creating services.

Developers will have us believe that the proffer contributes to higher home prices when in fact it is the actions of consumers that contribute to high home prices. You do not see these developers building sub-200K home starts now do you? They are building homes to meet the demands of the consumer regardless of the proffer in place. You can bet that if the economy continues to grow very slowly over the next five years you will see the New Home pricing being reduced by these developers as it shift to meet the demands of the market.

Developers see proffers as a business burden. They feel as though proffers are nothing more than governmental interference in free markets but in the end they are still afforded the opportunity to deliver a product (the supplier) to the marketplace (the demand) at a point in which they determine through cost benefit analysis. The proffer system has not contributed to the excess inventory on the market today and no case can be made that it has. The developers are responsible for the product and the number in inventory and not local government nor the consumer.

Chesterfield in 2007 collected 5,323,634 in proffers. Of that figure:
62.7 went to Schools
13.7 to Roads
10.1 Parks and Rec
6.9 Fire/Rescue
6.6 Library

And by the way some of these developers, at least the national publicly traded ones are experiencing the following proffers elsewhere:

Prince William County 37K
Loudon County 47K

In comparison 15,600 seems relatively manageable to me folks.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Its the Economy Stupid?

Yeah I get it. But do our young people?

I got into a little discussion at the coffee shop this morning with some younger folks who were discussing the state of the economy and the upcoming General Election and for all the points and rationales I learned a bitter lesson.

Our young people today either have no real sense of reality or have been blindsided by the best public relations campaign ever perpetuated upon an electorate.

Thankfully, this discussion really had nothing to do with personalities but more with economic tidbits and just everyday things people are may be hearing on TV. What I learned was we have somehow managed to move into the direction where our politcians and platforms are becoming our educators and thats very scary.

Why? These very educated young folks have no real barometer to base the very criticisms being placed upon the current state of our economy and have no grasp as to the reality of the ecomomic data outside the rhelm of politcis and of course "spin" that is being thrown upon them by the wrong sources. Frankly, Fox or MSNBC ought not be "educating" anyone on economics except how to run a network "entertainment" company for the bottom line.

A couple points came about.

The Mortgage Crisis is George Bush's fault. Really? Were they aware that the mortage rate upon Bush taking office in 2000 was higher than it is today and in fact back in the mid 90's it was 9% and back in 1983 it was 12%. Today its around 6%. Was it a particular Bush policy that created all the defaults and foreclosures? No one could point to one such policy but it was expressed that Bush's overall economic policy has failed.

Failed? By what measure I asked? ( Again Devil's Advocate is my strong suit, ask my wife)
Mortgages, Gas Prices, and Inflation. Impressive. They got the code words that get spun across the mainstream media on a daily basis but failed to get the real ecomomic indicators used in forecasting but I endeavored to work with those.

Gas prices? Reminding myself I just filled up for 3.67 a gallon I asked why it was they thought that gas was so high. Bush and the War was the concensus. Really? To be sure there some truth to it but what about the global demand strain(the ga-billion Chinese and India coming on line) and the speculators in oil that add about thirty or so dollars to the price of a barrel and then there is the issue of taxes we have in place directly on each gallon.

Taxes? I asked if they knew the tax rate on gas. They did not. I informed them its roughly 37 cents per gallon (18.5 or so to the Feds and 18 or so to States some lower) hence the gas tax rebate idea being bounced around lately. Also, I asked what they thought gas would be by September and consenuc was north of 4 bucks.

I reminded them that gas in the following countries, Norway (6.82), Belgium (6.16) England (5.96) Italy (5.80) Japan (5.25) Hong KOng (6.25) were all higher than the US. Compared to the world our prices are still cheaper than non-exporting oil countries. I mean who can compete with .12 cents a gallon in Venezuela or .78 cents in Kuwait?

I also ask them their coffee preferences. I then followed up by simply making the point they just spent more on that Grande White Chocolate Mocha then a gallon of gas costs. How can the economy be in such bad shape and yet all of us were willing to drop four bucks on our coffee. I doubt coffee in 1980 was four bucks, though you could probably then only get it at a 7/11 I think.

Mortgage rates and Gas knocked out. Now there is Inflation?

First of all I have to admit I was astonished that these folks had no clue as to what real inflation is or feels like. Apparently its simply rising prices and cost of living but compared to what I wonder? Inflation over the course of the last eight years is still lower than it was in late 70's throughout mid-80's. In fact inflation has not risen on a yearly average over 3.39%. In 1980 it was 13.5% after our first major gas crisis. In 1979 it was 11.22 under Jimmy Carter.

Were they actually saying that 2008 feels like 1980? Of course not. They were not even alive then to experience real inflation or to even feel what a really bad economy truly feels like.

I was provided some insight as to just what it is that the younger generation is seeing, whether real or not, compared to their lives and experiences maybe 2008 is not the best of times but is our economy really as bad as the pundits (politically motivated ones) would have us believe.

So we have rates at very low levels, remember we had 9% in 1995 for mortgages and our inflation levels historically are fine (say 3.8% projected)and our gas prices when balanced within the context of the global economy seem relatively lower than most countries.

So what is it about this economy that make people believe that it is so bad? Is it unemployment? Those as well are better than the historical average. So what is it?

Well sadly, I think it just simply that the opposition has a better public relations team out there doing their bidding.

And we did not even get a chance to talk about Wall Street and the Stock Markets.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Democrats Less Democratic Every Day

Every school teacher in America right now is certainly thankful most schools will out before the process of the Democrat primary is settled. How will they be able to explain this process? Wait thats right we do not like to cover Civics that much anymore in our public schools. I wonder why?

Mr. Turner, my seventh grade Civics teacher, where ever you are I know this process being undertaken by the Democrats is turning your stomach. Everything we were taught, and by the way thank you, has somehow been usurped or hijacked by a class of Elitists that think that it is their responsibility to enlighten the little people (the voter) as to what really should happen in a democracy.

Is it just me or should we be using American Civics and not Roman History as the barometer to figure out what is happening to our Democratic process in America.

It matters little to me whether you are a career politcian, speech writer, lobbyist, pundit or anchor for the mainstream media outlet but if you believe this process is acceptable based on our traditions as a people you must by defintion be an Elitist. To some how feel that is acceptable for people to have a "super" vote or in this case a determiner that is somehow greater completely undermines our voting rights in my view.

I realize we will get a full dose of how these so-called Superdelegates are simply a measure of a private entity (the Democrat Party) structure that was set up well within the rights of the Party System to assist in the determination of a nominee to represent the Party in an given election. Please. It is simply a political layer set-up to ensure an outcome that those controlling the Party apparatus can use to manipulate the outcome to their liking. Translation: it does not matter what the blue collar, non-college educated folk believe or vote for even if it ends up levels equating to the largest popular vote ever in the Party.

None of this is a commentary on either Obama or Clinton but these camps signed on to this mess in the first place so at best their judgement in my view is suspect. If either of these camps allow Delegates to go unseated I would find that shameful and not only would remove the blue shirt, but burn it as well. And I am not even from Michigan or Florida.

Its is the system of Superdelegates that the Democrat Party has set up coupled with the Party's continual refusal to seat LEGITIMATE delegates from Michigan and Florida at the Convention that should demonstrate that there is very little "democratic" traditions left in the Old Blue Party. Only Elitists and Pundits can manage to mince words to justify such a system and then have the audacity to tell a State in the Union that it will not seat its delegates because it did not follow some kind of rules or guidelines that were set up by an undemocraticly selected committee within the Party apparatus.

How is it we live in the purest and best Democracy i its truest sense and yet we as Americans allow this to happen. If you are a Virginian like I am you have to know Washington, Jefferson, Wilson, Tyler, Madison and even Patrick Henry are rolling over in their graves. The HOuse that many of these men built is beginning to crumble right before our eyes when we sit back and allow a select few, about what 400 or so, have some kind of special pass to select a nominee based on any determination they feel suits their needs at any given time without accountability.

I am curious does a Superdelegate vote twice? I mean if you are a citizen in a State conducting a Primary can you go and vote at the polls and then later on get to vote again as a Party Superdelegate if the Party needs to use that mechanism. And if your are a Senator and a Superdelegate and a particular candidate wins your State with a clear majority (ie Sen. Byrd of WV) then the standing Senator can vote for the candidate who lost by 40 points in his own State.

Is this the twilight zone or America?

Citizens need to wake up to the reality that the Party has been hijack by George and Howard and a gang of Elists that feel it is their duty to select nominees they feel could challenge whether or not the voters are aligned with the same candidate. Why. Could it be history. Are these Elitists attempting to midigate some historical events that have occurred as the result of a popular candiate being nominated without any real chance of winning the Electoral College?

So, why wast or time and money? I mean if these Elitists can simply override the voters on a whim based on some highly asute logic that us little peole cannot comprehend why not just simply select the nominee themselves and save us the trouble? Well, simply put they would prefer to do that but know these Primaries are real big business.

Think of this for a moment. In a time where this economy is supposed to be so horrible and American families are suffering like no other time how is it that each of these candidates in the Democrat Party keep raking in 25+ million a month in contributions. By all accounts both camps have raised some 200 million dollars....I wonder what bills we have earmarked in the Congress are around 200 million? Wow if we put that money into the SCHIP program maybe we could get all children healthcare?

We have seen these people (some call them leaders) turn every aspect of our lives into a "for profit" institution and now of course politics is certainly no different. Afterall, with all that seed money many TV ads can be bought on networks who profit from this long Primary season and why is it now all of our Senators are virtually all millionaires when the salary levels paid by tax payers are nowhere near those levels. How do arrive in Washington not a millionaire and then become one by serving the people.

Again, Mr. Turner did I miss that day in Civics when you covered this aspect of civil service.

Superdelegates? In a Party that is supposed to represent so much more, how is it that we sit idoly by and allow such a system to exist. How can sit back and say that voters in Florida and Michigan do not count because the elected bodies of government (ELECTED BY THE PEOPLE) of these States chose to move the Primary dates up which is and was well within their rights. Why is it these actions peeved these Elitists so much? Was it because these States in their actions were perceived as challenging the Elitists power over the process?

Power over the process. Why is it that the Party feels compelled to have Superdelegates to have ultimate power over the process?

Whatever happens in this Election it is these Elitists that are the real danger to the Party and ultimately America. Whatever your view of the President of the United States, one always has the opportunity to voice ones opposition at the ballot box but what to do about that Superdelegate? Fact is, you can do nothing. Thats right. These Superdelegates in reality are accountable to no one and thus are the farthest thing from the vison and brillance of our Founding Fathers.

If for no other reason than the mechansim of Superdelegates, the Democrats are no longer the true Democratic Party it used to be and has managed to take the power out of the peoples hands and place it in the hands of a few---the few I will ever coin Elitists.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

New GI Bill and Jim Webb

The new GI Bill legislation (S.22)proposed by Senator Jim Webb (D-VA) has met its first hurdle in the House of Represenatives (HR5740)this week by passing 256-166 with the support of 32 Republicans in that body endorsing the legislation.

Some 159 House Republicans determined not to support the legislation in its present form. Many seek to add some refinement to the current legislation.

It seems, however, that the air of politics seems to have no shame in Washington as Democrats and Republicans fight for ground before the upcoming General Election. There is another bill also being carried around Washington concerning military veterans since 9/11 that has the support of the likes of John McCain, Lindsay Graham and the White House that has been trying to make it onto the floor of Senate. Of course, Democrats in the Senate will have none of that. They seek to bring Sen. Webb's (S.22) proposed legislation before the Senate and get his bill passed no doubt in time before the General Election. Now that a version in the House has passed it appears as though the Democrats will get that wish and potentially succeed in its political coup of the issue.

Why now? Why all of a sudden? Have Democrats and Republicans experienced a "light-bulb" moment that requires that right now this matter be addressed? If that light has gone off it is very interesting timing indeed. Very few in the Senate and House for that matter seemed to very concerned about the welfare of our military serviceman while in Iraq during the last three years as both Democrats and Republicans fought over the legitimacy of the Iraq and the War on Terror. Whether it be re-authorization bills or armour for our vehicles, politicians could not seem to get over that any kind of funding for the war or those fighting it was an "endorsement" of the Bush policy on the War. The result was complete gridlock. In the end, the Democrats simply wanted out of Iraq though they have failed since 2006 "change" election to accomplish that task.

Now, in May of a Presidential season we have a bill that is a complete attempt by both sides to erase the last three years of partisan positioning on the War and pass a piece of legislation to benefit those that have served our great country since 9/11. These folks deserve such benefits as proposed by both bills currently being proposed.

Before I go any further, let me first point out that I believe Sen. Webb to be a very honorable, principled and dedicated servant of the people and supported him in 2006 and continue to support him now.

I only make this point because we live in a time where if you should disagree with a policy or piece of legislation of a particular side you come under attack on all sides as being somehow "hatemonger, unpatriotic, racist" and on and on. Its shameful actually. The dialogue has been reduced or marginalized to such an extent and great divide is being perpetuated upon all of America.

That said I cannot help but feel and see the "politics" behind this issue. The Democrats by all counts seem to have the Republicans on all cards except one this Presidential season and that one represents the stranglehold Republicans have always had on Foriegn Policy, Military, and International matters. This GI Bill legislation while with many merits also serves as a vehicle for Democrats to cut into or erase some of the gains that Republicans have been making in this arena over the last twenty years or so. Some say its last card in the deck for Republicans and since the Democrats are facing an experienced American hero in John McCain a measure was required to offset some of that disparity.

Who better to bring this bill before the Senate and America than Sen. Jim Webb. Though is it is apparent that those endorsing McCain's bill sought out to reach a compromise bill, the Democrats seem hard pressed to get Webb's bill before the entire Congress while at the same time killing any hope for the competing bill to be heard. Of course there will be denies of any wrong-doing here by those on the left, but regardless of the merits of the S.22 it is certainly happening under the radar.

The bill attempts to address what has long been a perceived Democrat weakness in terms of support for our military. Much of this has to do with the reduction of our military to very low levels by President Clinton in the 1990's. Before any hard charging liberals attack me for this statement, they should know the facts before raging any "talking point" accusations against this blogger given those of us who actually were in uniform in the mid-90's and experienced this firsthand know the ramification of a misguided policy. Serviceman were virtually shown the door and presented with their GI benefit papers and informed that it was strictly a manner of "downsizing". History has proven this was a mistake.

So flash now to 2008, as the Democrats vow to make inroads into Republican strengths by introducing what they feel is a bill the likes of FDR New Deal for the military. Knowing what I know and having experienced these benefits and how they are administered I can tell you that though this bill has its merits it falls short of being anything like the "new deal".

Why? One area is it fails to address real transferability of benefits. What does this mean? It means that if you are a career enlisted and you manage to retire from the military at the age of say 50 why would you want or need the college tuition benefit offered in the GI Bill? Fact is you would not. But what you would like to be able to do is transfer that benefit to your children when they enter college. Why is this so hard for Webb and other Democrats to understand? If a serviceman were to serve 12 years or more under the competing legislation in the Senate, the tuition benefit would be 100% transferable to a spouse or child. 50% benefits can be tranfered for serving less time in the military. If you plan on making the military a career, which I though we wanted to have happen for a stable military with low turnover exactly what is the tuition benefit seek to accomplish when a serviceman will not be attending an In-State public university while on duty. One point here. The Armed Forces already has programs for military to take college courses while in the military to further their careers.

So it seesmto me this bill is designed to not only reward for loyal service but also encourage lower retention if you restrict the servive members benefits to just him/herself and not the family and it would require him to leave the military. If you are inlcined to believe that this GI benefit would not "encourage" people to leave the military I can only assume you have never served nor ever had a child enlist.

One of the biggest pitches given a new recruit is the college benefit after serving your enlistment. It is a a huge peice of the recuiters arsenal.

Now none of this critcism is to say that military servicemen and families should not get a GI Bill. I think all Americans believe we should be taking care of our veterans via both educational and medical benefits--I do not think there is any agruement on this point. But I think the manner in which we provide the benefits is critical to not only our future military but also the future of the families who have served our nation. Transferability of beenfits is a must in my book if you want members of the military, especially enlisted to serve for more than just four or six years.

And remember there is a quasi-class issue in the military. Officers and enlisted do not exactly have the same benefit opportunities. An officer leaving the military most likely already has a degree from a four year university so do we simply write of that service in terms of benefit. Why cannot that officer have the ability to transfer the benefit he/she has rightfully earned to a spouse or child?

Webb's bill and the Democrats have either no answer for that or have know whay of being able to pay for that. That brings me to the language of the bill and its intent. Given the pretense above, is it the intent of the Democrats not to have to pay these educational benefits to officers and their families because somehow they may either not deserve them or becuase of the economic or socail station not require them? I understand that the enlisted may have a greater need upon leaving the military, but what of the thousands of Warrant Officers or Master Sgts that have served in the military for fifteen, twenty or twenty-five years? Should not the children of these folks be benefited by their father/mothers service if they should chose not to use the benefits themselves. If something were happen to these military servicemen would not the government pay life insurance benefits to the families? So why not the GI benefits?

Sen. Webb has been quoted as saying that "transferability" is an "unproven concept" and yet it seems to me that he and his platform for family and the tenents of his new book would seem to endorse such a measure. Webb, however, is the perfect front man for this Democrat proposed legislation this election season. His service to our nation is unquestionable and it cannot be lost that he to is a Vietnam veteran like John McCain.

I would think and hope that these two men could meet and work out a compromise bill that would truly meet the needs of all military families, those staying in and those leaving the military, but also because both of these men have to be able to see the very irony that it is two Vietnam Vets who are in a position to make the best changes possible for the future of our military. These men were not honored in this manner to the extent that WWII veterans were and they should be able to work out a compromise bill that would address all the concerns that they realize are truly relavent and not simply a half-measure pushed through Congress for political expediency in an Election year.

If only after three years of service we are wlling to provide full scholarship to any public university and provide a housing stipend as well, should we not also reward and honor those that opt to remain in our military and honor the committment of the families that support those individuals.

Mr. Webb it is not fully but it is also about retention. The rhetoric in Washington this week reminds me of 1993 as measures were implemented and mandated to reduce our military. What better way to accomplish that task then reward people who leave greater than those who would stay. We have experienced this before and at a time when Democrats continue to tell our nation that we cannot sustain such world deployments and our military ranks cannot match the committments around the world we seek to yet again offer a means by which to further reduce the ranks.

To be sure, our military should and needs to be honored and rewarded with a New GI Bill. The problem is that S.22 is not enough and while some Democrats may see it as a "New Deal" policy I believe while good intentioned it is a half-measure meant to meet a politicial end and not a truly a better benefit proposal for veterans.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bears in Chesterfield?

Call me crazy but I know a bear when I see one---I think. Driving westbound out Rt 711 (Robious Road) right at the Chesterfield and Powhatan County lines I first noticed in the early morning hours this morning in the little drizzle of rain about four or five dear darting across Rt. 77 about forty or so yards ahead of me moving from the river side of the road across Rt. 711 and into the woods.

What I did not expect to see about thirty seconds later was a bear roaming the field on the same side where the deers had crossed the road. If you have ever traveled Rt.711 you know there is virtually no place to pull over as the road rides up right along fence lines and treelines but it was a sight. The Bear could not have been more than a few years old and was mostly likely in search of food but have never seen any this far east.

I wish i had my digital camera along this morning as I headed out west and knew that the picture phone would not make the distance the bear was. My only guess is the bear was heading to the creek area that the bridge right at Winterfield covers Rt.711. The remarkable thing is now there are homes at Founder Bridge and below the County line all along Rt. 711 that five years ago probably were not there.

Bears in Chesterfield.

My global warming friends will certainly say as they always do that this just proves the impacts of global climate change. Afterall, its not such a leap from polar bears and the ice cap to brown/black bears in Chesterfield (snark).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

New Rants and Raves

We have added some new Rants and Raves for some sites that we enjoy and have removed some that have are no longer rollin on the blogroll these days.

We are adding:

Scott Nolan's blog
Richmond Democrat:

Republican Caucas:

another two non-political that are great:

If anyone has a blog or a site they feel we and our bloggers would enjoy please post it in the comment section.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Real Estate Numbers Beginning to Tell the Story

While the citizens of Chesterfield County await the outcomes of such proposals as Roseland and a modified Upper Swift Creek Plan that will come before the Board (again as it would have it) in the coming months some First Quarter real estate data has been released by George Mason University's Center for Regional Analysis that is very interesting.

Residential Sales in the four Metro Richmond localities-Hanover, Henrico, the City of Richmond and Chesterfield County are down some 33% versus the first three months of 2007 and pending closings are down 25%. Chesterfield experienced 1,847 residential sales and pending closings in this period while Henrico experienced 1,624.

While Henrico County may have experienced a few less sales it is important to note that its average closing price was 7,000 higher than that of Chesterfield County. Henrico's sales were off 33% from a year earlier.

While we speak to the future in terms of many of these large zoning proposals before the Board in the coming months, one must be reminded about the excess in real estate inventories that already exists in the County. Another factor is the increasing number of foreclosures hitting the Courthouse steps this Spring as compared to last year.

There was a recent piece in the RTD that spoke to the learning curve that is being experienced by the newly elected Supervisors on the Board and these numbers cannot be good news as it appears as though these First Quarter's economic numbers and indicators may not be the best way to start off 2008. Admittedly, these numbers are not a true reflection of the current Board as much as they are a forecast of what may be on the horizon.

Lets hope that these members are brushing up on Econ 101.

Community Meeting (Midlo District)

There will be a Community Meeting on Monday May 19th regarding the 2008 General Assembly Session Briefing at the Winfree Memorial Baptist Church located at 13617 Midlothian Tnpk inthe Midlothian District of Chesterfield County.

Midlothian Supervisor Dan Gecker (I)
State Senator John Watkins (R) *as listed on Chesterfield County Government website will provide constituents with a briefing on the General Assembly 2008 Session.

7PM is the Start.