Monday, July 7, 2008

Republicrats- your out there, I know it!

As Virginians we have a long traditon of leading from the front. In recent years however, the historic sword that Virginia once yielded has wained. We have seen the very mature of our own politics change over the course of the last forty years. Some would say that the traditional roots of this great Commonwealth are being turned upside down.

In large part, it has been a transition from a rural and more agricultural Commonwealth to one of the best States in the Union for the business community as well as a swings in our growth patterns ranging from rural communities to city redevelopments and then back to suburbia. The widespread growth of suburbia and the growth in jobs and the economy have place a burden on the tradition of our political strcutures. The growth of our cities and a more direct dependence on our government that has resulted continually strains our State government resulting in increasingly more required programs for funding. Very few out in rural Virginia have ever looked to government for very much. The culture is one based on local community and a self-reliance on a work ethic that contributes to their providence. The cities have developed along without any real sense of community and many Virginians have left those areas in search often times of a higher quality of life. The swing that this creates contributes to changes in the political landscape of the entire Commonwealth.

Lets face it. On percentage many people remain fixed in their allegencies. When these swings result in large population changes, say Loudoun County or Chesterfield County in recent years, the result is a population from varying backgrounds and origins with at times considerable differences with the established local community traditions. For example, the greater Richmond area has seen tremondous growth as a result of increased taxes and property taxes of many Northestern States like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts ect and many have relocated to the Commonwealth.

Afterall, our housing is traditionally bigger and of course cheaper. Many who have relocated here before the latest down cycle of real estate where afforded the opportunity to sell their homes up North and buy a house here that was much bigger and for less money and considerable less property taxes. In Florida this is often called the "snowbird" effect on retirees. This result in changing political demographics to be sure.

An example of this would be the change in population of Northern Virginia. This is a direct result of economic development but also to a greater extent the increase in the size of the Federal government. Over the last thirty years, Northern Virginia has grown significantly in unison with the growth of Federal agencies which has resulted in relocation to the Commonwealth by hundreds of thousands of federal employees over the years. It is not hard to see why it is the face of that regions politics has changed and continues to move in a more liberal direction. On balance, government workers across the board tend to be more inclined to support Democrat policy over Republican. In large part this is out of the belief that government is or has to be the solution in guiding the American experience.

This change or shift in dynamic has resulted in the Commonwealth's move away from its more traditonal position in the American political landscape. Some would have us believe that this shift is one of progress, but there can be no progress if we ignore or better yet silence our rural roots with regard to State politics.

It is amazing though how Virginia gives one pause to question one's internal struggles with political ideology. You see, regardless of what people may think we make it work here in Virginia and always have. We are a different kind of people who for the most part collectively understand that we are part of something greater than ourselves. The pundits may place any label, "purple" seems to be the latest, but it is merely a superficial label bent on superficial understanding of what it means to be a Virginian. Many of these pundits are late to the game and fail to recognize that Virginians have a knack of seeing what is required, regardless of Party. call it intuition but Virginians understand that for a Governor regardless of Party to govern Virginia he/she must do so from the center. This undertanding has is what has lead to many Virginians of either Party to support the likes of Warner and Kaine as Governor. Many fiscal conservatives understand this and will move in that direction regardless of the social conservative that the Party may promote. This at the Federal level was shown to the country upon the election of Jim Webb to the Senate. He defeated his opponent in large part due to the will of independents and fiscal conservatives and not the liberal base of his own Party.

So it begs the question. What is happening on the ground today in the Commonwealth? Are we really morphing into something new or are we simply keeping our conservative tradition intact but moving away from the focus of the social conservatives and more of a concentration on taxes and government?

I have always been a big fan of local politics. The grassroots. The place where real change happens and not the smoke and mirrors like Richmond and Washington. This is the place where movements are planted and grown. And this is where we really need to make the true value determinations concerning how our government is leading us and how they are not. None of us, well maybe the politicos, can grasp the inner sanctum of Washington. Most of us do not believe in politics but we do believe in the will of the people and though we may not have any faith in government we certainly have faith in ourselves. Grassroots movements leverage this belief for a greater cause.

The problem is when people mobilize and contribute to a movement the expectation is there will be a visible result from the efforts set forth. For the most part they are dissappointed. many of us here in Chesterfield feel that exact way with the Board of Supervisors. You get involved and walk the neighboorhood and talk of the change required and then get people to the polls and low and behold little changes even after sweeping changes to the Board itself. There is a disconnect between government and the people and if it exists at the local level you get bet the divide increases with each step up in body from the Assembly to the Congress in Washington.

It is obvious to me that things need to change. Its no so much a Party change as it is an accountability change. Leaders must be made to recognize they are servants, temporary at that, of the people and need to be held to levels of accountability that are fair and above all transparent. Leaders have to on the front lines "earning" our support each and every session and not simply sit there "vote-banking" support from groups simply because they are from a particular Party and we as voters think they are predisposed to vote a certain way.

We need to recognize that our officials are simple mirroring our disconnected attitudes toward them. Without a sense of accoutability, they are set in the ways of leadership long before that win office. They already have a preconceived notion of how they will govern versus shaping that governance through the will of the people. We want them to be experts on planning, finances, schools, roads, water quality etc but we fail to seek that they be approachable and capable of a personal relationship between themselves and the community.

In truth we need to stop electing professional politicians at the local level as a matter of personna but rather leaders who understand our community from within it and not from the outside of a government looking in. It is easiest at the local level to focus on the core values of a leader than say one in Washington. Maybe the prism seems smaller, but all you have to do is place your quality of life on a daily basis and ask yourself who has the greater impact; who will effect your water, your child's education, the safety of your children, response times to an emergency, your property tax and assessment --your Governor, your State Delegate, Senator, Congressman/Senator or that lowly little known or talked about member of the Board of Supervisors or School Board.

If you ask yourself that question regularly I think you will realize that many of our solutions we require that impact us the most in our daily lives can be addressed here in Chesterfield by our own leaders. If you think the nation or Richmond is going in the wrong direction, the first place to start is our local leaders to make sure we maintain our County to the level of our standard.

A start would be to begin working toward a equal share of the burden between the business community and citizens. It should not be the role of government to perform the function of subsidizing the business community by placing greater burden on citizens nor should it be the burden of the citizens to have tax dollars contributing to the recruitment or economic generation and development of the business community. That role should be left to the private sector.

There will always be arguements of how the government is best suited to spend tax revenues, but if you believe in limited government or less government and lower taxes than we need to start addressing the size and scope of our government and whether or not there are aspects we can transfer to privatization over the next ten years.

Question? How much tax revenue are we using to fund our planning efforts as they are structured today? How much money have we spent on studies and consulting for Swift Creek or Cloverleaf Mall? We need to start look at the ways our local government is functioning--

Forget Democrat or Republican---we need to become Republicrats at the local level and work with both entities and take what is good and of value from each side and make it work for us in our daily lives. Each of us have value in this process and no one should be shut out. What we need and require is a fresh exchange of ideas and dialogue and it starts with each one of us.

27 comments:

Wayne of Hanover said...

You found one. Have voted for the GOP in the White House for years but have voted for Mark Warner, Jim Webb and Tim Kaine. Kilgore was too radical from the right for even consideration and now Gilmore could be the same way for Senator.

I agree there is too much status quo at the local level. Chesterfield is mirroring other areas like Fairfax that have come before it in the growth pains. Sprawl has been a direct result, both commercialand residential, in large part due to an overly aggressive strategy of attracting too much development.

Growth does not pay for growth, taxpayers pay for it in one way or another. Your proffer levels are drastically lower even after you raised them, but will the level of service be greatly improved or is the County simple "maintaining" current levels are greater expense.

Anonymous said...

Amen! Sir, nice post

James said...

I agree Alter. We need to sit and have a few beers pal.

Chesterfield needs a new, diverse, younger long term oriented Party or movement.

We supported Independents last fall only to find out they are wolves in sheep clothing. Both are are truly Democrats and not real independents and leverage that label because Democrats had a history of not be electable in Chesterfield other than Barber.

Niether group in Chesterfield is getting it right and we need now to begin to shape things for 2012 across the entire County. We need to push for more Supervisors and greater representation as well as shrinking our local government. We should at the very least add one at large Supervisor to start with if they cannot manage to redraw districts.

Politics as usual and we all continue to suffer for it.

Chesterfield Forum said...

In an answerer to James: Please explain why you say the two independents are Democrats in sheep’s clothing? Please be specific. I see nothing that so far has put them in any party base. I would have hoped the Board would have made some changes faster then they have, but it will take awhile for this wagon known as Chesterfield to turn. As far as the smaller government, I have spoken with a couple of the supervisors in the last few days about this exact subject. Believe it or not that is what they are working on as we speak.
As for an At Large supervisor, I think that is a very bad idea! All it would do is produce a monster who would think they are in control, because “they were elected by all the people”. A better idea of seven districts, which I have supported for 30 years, would work.
As we have seen on the national level, government works best when you have to compromise. For more then 10 years one party has been in control of Chesterfield. That is why we are where we are today. Nature likes balance and government does too. This new board will draw the seven districts needed, if the political parties don’t screw up the process. There are “natural” dividing lines, it should be fairly simple to accomplish.

Luclk Lane said...

Chesterfield has woefull representation In the House of Delegates. Gerrymandering has resulted in Chesterfield being split with surrounding localities.

This has resulted in representation that is adverse to the County's interests. All three delegates continue to insist roads are in NOVA and Beach problem. They always vote with rural Delegates.

Anonymous said...

More districts are badly needed and all five supervisors supported the concept during their campaigns. As for the new party…Where can I RSVP? Count me in.
When Larry Miller, who is supposed to be the republican’s republican (I think the term is RINO) stands at the podium supporting any tax increase, (yes, proffers are a tax) and defending “the mouth of the west” who has never been a republican, It’s time to re-examine.

ChesterfieldForum said...

Luclk Lane: It's not just the House of Delegates; we are not well served by our State Senators either! Look at what Watkins tried to do for us in the last session with SB768. He would have cost the citizens of Chesterfield MILLIONS in new taxes. He used to be a good representative, but now that we gave him $16,000,000 for his Watkins Center Development, he is more interested in protecting his developer/builder buddies. For years I have spoken to him about a transportation hub in Watkins Center. At the last minute he pulled it from the zoning. At a public meeting a couple of months ago I asked him why, at least he gave me an honest answerer, not necessarily the correct answerer! He said he pulled it because if he gave the land as a proffer, he couldn’t get a tax break for it! So he is not interested in doing something for the public good unless his palm is greased. I have lost a lot of respect for Watkins in the last year. I hope some one will run against him next time, but it will be a long wait. He sneaked in on reelection last year before he stuck the Chesterfield Citizens in the back with SB768, better known as the Watkins Tax Bill.

Gail said...

I dissagree with the assertion that "one party has controlled Chesterfield for ten years".

Chesterfield has been controlled by 20% of the electorate or chose to participate in the process. Look at the number of votes and the apathy that exists.

20% of the will of the people has guided Chesterfield for ten years and not Republicans.

And does not the Chairman position now act in the manner in which you advance an "at-large" Supervisor would. Instead if you had to compromise and only add one Supervisor it should be an at-large one who would end these 3-2 votes that always arise historically and would add an element that certainly could change dynamics. Maybe sum would see a 3-3 issue arising which is why the six districts and one at-large may make sense.

And I would love to learn just what program this Board plan on cutting. Alter seems to have a point regarding the "business" of the County and the millions we provide "economic development" which is not the role of government but indeed the free markets. Government can structure the environment to be "friendly" but in the end when we manage to have no proffers for commercial development on balance there seem to be little in the give and tack. We have a great market here if you look at Midlothian and Matoaca AGI numbers approaching almost 100K per household. Commercial entities want to gte at that market regardless and will do so. They will find such markets and we do not need to be funding "business attraction" with tax revenues.

Anonymous said...

The issue with our delegates may certainly be reolved with the next census. If democrats control the Assembly, which is likely, you will find many of these long-time republican districts in Chestefield and Powhatan to wither away before the storm as democrats will seek to splice and dice those areas up. Expect a little more City area in many of these areas of Chesterfield.

Mike said...

Alter- What exactly is your idea of a Republicrat? Can we not find representation in the two party system that we already have? Would such a move not create more gridlock at a time when we just cannot afford it? I seem to get your point but what is your basis or the ideology behind such that would guide such a movement? thank you for addressing.

Lucks Lane said...

Cutting Costs-

There is a lot of fat in the school board at the administrator level. It has been documented that we have a class of administrators whose pay exceeds the area average in addition to the post retirement health benes.
The board can also control costs by getting new fiscal staff. The current staff cannot account for a 500,000 invoice for professional services.
Finally, fire KPMG as the county auditor. They audit the Richmond school board and missed all of the fiscal problems there.

Anonymous said...

Lucks raises a valid point. The consult relationships need to be looked at across the board.

When the School Board anticipates and proposal a plan going out to 2015 and they bank on a school costing 50 million and then it costs 76 million than there are certainly issues. I wonder just how competitive the process is for this contracts for school construction in the first place.

Our schools rank very high in the nation and I find it interesting that the School Board always gets attacked and the Board of Supervisors manages to always get off the hook. The Supervisors release the funds for the schools to the SB. Remember the defunding attempt for some school programs by the Board last year in regard to pre-k?
It just so happens that the School Board may be better equipped to manage its services and bottom lines a bit better than the Supervisors have. So lets look at things in a bit of perspective. It is the descisons of the Supervisors that limit the SB from achieving its goals set forth in its vision and planning. It is the Supervisors who are the reason the schools are overcrowded and not the SB. The SB has to make due with the field before them and they have made more inroads towards success than say the Supervisors have with regard to levels of service in the County.
It seems to me that this Board ought to get its own house in order and look at the other areas of government that can be cut instead of always look at schools first. I undertand it takes the bigger chunk of the revenues, but that does not always mean that it is the area that requires the more immediate attention.

School need to be a major priority I agree. As to the point about how "independents" have failed its in the fact that thye have no real plan or proposal to curb the impacts on schools and are hiding behind the past. As Alter of Freedom suggests they need to be "out in front" and lead on these issues by working with the SB and taking steps to curb impacts on schools in the interim. The system will add roughly another 1K students a year beginning in 2009, though this year given the housing market will be much lower, and by 2010 through 2012 look for that number to increase as the new developments come on line.
I think most people just want the kind of committment that oour schools will be trailerless at some point. Think of how much could be done if we simply shift our attention to fees and business taxes and such and simply brought them in line with other areas and the same time we decrease the size of our local government and administrative expenses.Many of these "independents" campaigned against incumbants by coming down hard against developers. How have they acted any different than their predecessors? Have they really solved the Upper Swift Creek issue? Are they continuing to remained unresolved with addressing transportation funding? Are they working collectively with the General Assembly? I think that the Watkins bill illustrates there is a divide between the visons.

Conservative Voice said...

There are certainly some issues coming down the pipe that everyone tends to miss or neglect when local government takes oversight of the impacts of such an aggressive growth policy.

Most of the CIP (Capital Improvent Plan) is planning to meet the requirements of servicing the needs of a population that is really not even here yet. Certainly this requires an aggressive approach but it is the result or requirement of the enitre planning and zoning process. County taxpayers will see funding of such levels as 333 million for the County plans outside of Schools and Utility planning.

333 million. The overall CIP is 818 million.

A few of the major requirements are such things as renovating/expansion of government facilties; The General District CH gets close to 10 million, Smith-Wagner building for Dept. of Social Services gets 7.4 million, Lane Ramsey building 8.2 million, Libraries like Central get 11 million, Chester Library and Community Arts Ctr 14 million, Magnolia Green Library 3 million (developers may have provided land), Robious Road Library 15.6 million.
Now we have libraries at Bon Air and at Coalfield which basically box the Robious corridor and I wonder why it is we require new very expensive libraries when it would seem to me that use by citizens is lower than in the past given our access to technology. Why not exapand or retrofit the other two instead of building an entirely new library.
The Meadowdale Interchange will be 20+ million to sporn business interest into the industrial complex, new Fire and resue stations will be required in places along the Rt 288 area costing 7 million and a new Emergency 911 phone system will cost the County 3 million and our service agrrement with Riverside Regional will be 15.5 million.

Proffers will only accout at the present rate some 5% of the funding, with the General Fund and other funding coming in around 38%.Debt will pay for the remaining 56%.

Schools will require greater expenses moving forward. Its not just the new Clover Hill but Bermuda High has been approved later by 2014. Midlo High will be expanded by 13 million, Midlo Middle will be expanded by 8 million. These are direct requirements resulting from excessive residential development in the Midlothian corridor.

What the politcians keep saying about growth paying nfor itself is the biggest falsehood of all. We as citizens will pay for this growth. 90% of the CIP is about increasing the size of government buildings and expansions to meet the needs of a growing population--see the cycle. They approve all these zonings and then have to increase government right along with it or so they plan to anyway.

I do not get why it is officials see 15% of the funding required for libraries. Across he country we are seeing a decline in the public library. I am not proposing we close libraries but it would seem to me that a new, high tech large Central Library would be sufficient to service the needs of the County, instead of placing these venues scattered throughout the county. I think people would much rather have more fire/ems stations as a direct ratio to population than libraries given our access to technology. I do support facilities for our older population who seem to be the largest group accessing libraries in large part to the disconnect to technology but cannot support some 30 million be allocated for overall libary services in the CIP.

The above are simply but a few of the examples of expenditures that will occurr as this CIP is implemented.

There is certainly alot of requirements but I think some very hard questions must be asked and the first is how much of these expenditures are a direct result from a spiraling zoning and planning process that continues to place us behind the eight ball.

20 million going to the Interchange I wonder if could not be put to better use on our secondary roads that even the Board has suggested are a safety issue. They will argue the merits of course of the business park and that 20 million really will not do much for roads per say, but we hear that alot. If we add up all the amounts where we hear that the numbers really will not impact services I wonder how much that pie really is.

Anonymous said...

Amen.
I feel like its a shell game being played upon us in the community. I guess they think we will not notice or care.
We have a contract with the Board until 2012, whether we chose to renew will be entirely up to us.

Anonymous said...

How about this one...
In years that there is a budget surplus ( 12 mil this year, 15 mil last two years)The county administrators all get a 20k bonus.
The school administration doesn't.
That is a lot of money that could be better spent.

Lucks Lane said...

STEAMMED-

How many administrators got a 20K bonus?

Did everyone see how easy it was for the County and School Board to come with easy budget cuts. There are unmet needs at the schools, but there is alot of cushiness built in.

AND-

Why did the police pay become an issue this year while it was not addressed in the times of plenty and easy increases in real estate tax revenue?

I think a CPA would think there are some more underlying fiscal issues left by our retired superstar county administrator.

John of Bon Air said...

The issue facing the County and as a matter of fact the Board is one of "retainment and training".

Look I am supportive of our schools to some extent but we must aslo realize that for the most part the unions intersts for teachers often run contrary to that needs and services of our children. I firmly believe that qualified and "performing" teachers should be rewarded with bonus structures. I also believe that it should be the policy of our County that Teachers/Educators receive a lower property tax rate for their service. I believe Police officers and EMS /Fire should as well. Given surplus issues this would really not impact the County bottom line that much but would result in a more competetive recruitment measure for the School system.
Many of our officers, firman, and teachers are leaving for places like Hanover and other localities in large part to the benefit structure. It cannot simply be about baseline pay but there also must be a reward structure condusive to performing at a high level. Think big picture. What about that teacher of the year or police officer of the year? Why can we not reward those excelling with greater financial reward without unions trying to battle against it every step of the way.
What are the incentives for teachers to leave the school system and teach at private schools?
Training could be addressed by the training center I think incorporated in the CIP as mentioned up thread, but there needs to be a greater emphasis on performance based promoting and bonus structures for these employees.
County adminstrators salaries and bonus structures have now reached the same level it seems as CEO /CFO salaries of corporate America. The excuse will be given that it is about attracting the right people for the positon and using consulting companies to search and find candidates and the salary levels are required in the current market, but I wonder then why it is so easy to downplay the same role of teachers and police in the same market in terms of pay. Is it because there has to be levels across the board and there are alot more teachers and officers than administrators? Or is it that unions and such demand that there be equal levels of pay. Seems to be a more performance based program is in order but many within the employee roles would not support it because at current standards they are "guaranteed" increases without performance based iniatives. No matter what the level of performance as they remain on the rolls of the County earnings increase some what. Throw in performance equation and many get weary of it, but I think it is neccessary moving forward and a strong leader could make the arguement against the special interest.

That leader still has not arrived.

Alter of Freedom said...

There have been some great points made here throughout this thread that I will attempt to address in further posts.

The points regarding the Capital Improvement Plan is a vital discussion that requires the inputs of the community and not such the inter workings of committees within local government itself.

I fully understand and support a pro-active government approach, but I wonder exactly where the outcry is for certain expenditures? When on balance we are entering a slippery slope with regard to State funding for roads, I fail to understand the neccesity for some of the expenditures at the present time. I undertand that the PLan is a six year mechanism allowing the funds to be carried over throughout the life of the plan, but wonder just how an item line focus for each consideration would stand up before the greater public. Usually, the Plan comes up for public hearing in March of the fiscal year and in recent years there has really been a drop-off when there are not topics like illegal immigrants, proffers, or property tax issues. Recently the UpperSwift Creek Plan hearing did draw modest response from the community, but I feel as though collectively we allow the Board to push an agenda continually on how revenues are being spent without real transparency or challenge.

We as citizens are there to challenge how the revenues are acquired (fees,taxes,proffers,impact fee etc)but disengage when it is about "how" the revenues are to allocated.

I am not in support of the capital expenditures to grow the size of government nor provide for administrative buildings or facilities beyond what is required at the bare minimum. Our taxes should not be spent to grow the infrastructure of administrative government but should be used to alleviate the ills of our quality of life infrastructures like roads, bridges, schools, reservoirs, police, fire, and ems.

If government reaches levels to be in one of the County's largest employers we are in real trouble. The reason being is government rarely unilaterally downsizes itself. In fact, it almost always is insensitive to economic downturns unlike the private sector. The government relies on maintaining its levels or increasing them through public finance (ie your taxes). They know the funds will be there every year to support government. In fact, when you look at the Capital Improvement Plan, it is more times than not governmental departments requesting funding for expenditures and though there is a committee established for oversight of all proposals it too is often manned by governmental officials.

I also find the level of transparency to be lacking in terms of "consulting" fees and "construction contracts" enterred into on behalf of the community by the government. There has to be greater explaination with regard to the resources being spent on school construction versus what other localities are spending throughout the Southeast. How many of our schools are being built by the same firms? How many are being designed by the same firms? These are important questions.

Many newly elected officials used the relationship between the previous Board and the developer community as a sword against incumbants last Fall. The Board was portrayed as easy on developers and pro-growth at the expense of the community. Many of the issues that have arisen thus far before the Board have merely been carry-overs but reducing the property tax rate before higher tax assessments really was merely a political pen stroke affair and in reality was hardly a savings to residents but in itself the Board appeared to be doing the greater good. They have shelved impact fees pending Richmond's agenda next session and raised proffers shy of the proposed increase. Our Planning Commission apears to be odds with the current Board, which at the same time is slowly attempting to mend fences with the School Board over a tendacy to mendle in terms of oversight by the Board in the past.

We should hold this Board to a level of expectation of progress on the issues that swept them into office. Is growth smarter? Are the addressing the needs of response times? Are the re areas of the County not being maintained at equal levels of service in times of emergency? Have we responded with swift action to protect and preserve of water quality? Are we exploring a government infrastructure that is moving "green" in efficiency? Are we undergoing internal audits of performance at the departmental level and increasing efficiencies? Are we doing all we can to balance the realationship between business and citizen funding of services? Are business owners paying their fair share?

These are just a few of the questions we should be asking our leaders in the coming months.

I appreciate everyone's feedback here and will continue to explore and find the answers we seek.

JS

Joan said...

Found the plan information on the county gov site. If you really want to take a look at the projects that revenues are being spent on the plan demonstrates three areas, county,school, and utility for projects.
In reviewing the plan I think it it pretty much makes it apparent that the officials have little faith or prospect for any regionalism or cooperation with other areas in terms of cultural, arts, library services, historical elements. I would have thought these things would be on the front lines of how regional cooperation could work and solve collectively a need. Afterall, I use the State library frequently downtown and by-pass two County libaries to get there.

I think officials may be suffering from the fact that the money is there so why not spend it syndrome. Is all the revenue being collected really neccessary or is the government simply finding ways to spend the money that they have collected?

I was happy to see some funding for some of the drainage issues throughout the County. The Wrens Nest area along Robious is of particular interest since the Homeowners have been pushing for years some action behind the area along the railroad and toward Old Bon Air Road. I feel as though all of these projects and utility and water quality issues ought to be funded and acted upon before the County allocates millions for projects that do not seem to be of an expedient nature in terms of our daily lives or impacts upon them.

There is an accountability question but most of us simply do not know where to start. I am beginning to think that is exactly what our officials want!!
Joan-Midlothian District

Anonymous said...

For Chesterfield Forum question regarding the "Independent" Supervisors.

I think the Swift Creek Plan illustrated the point frankly. Marlene Durfee in adding language at the very last minute in that session either illustrates her inability to be prepared or a complete disrespect for the process and her colleagues. How has she acted on behalf of her pledge? She has supported virtually the same line as the republicans before her in terms of Magnolia Grange now, something I believe she was opposed to years ago in the process. Her challenges to the then board and her campaign are not reflected in her current votes nor her postions given I believe the Dogwood zoning. This case resulted after the USCP discussions and much of the point was lost on the case.
In fairness, I do believe Durfee was opposed to the new level of proffers and sought a higher rate and lost that fight on a push by Gecker, the other "independent", which of course the Republicans supported.
Has not Mr. Geckers voting record been more aligned with Republicans so far? Give me one example where his vote would not have been the same outcome had Don Sowder still be sitting up there? One would have thought that Gecker and Durfee would be working together to filter through the historic partisan network of county politics but is seems as if they have been courted by opposing sides.
If they could manage to work together they would only need to pursuade one other member on critical issues. Its seems that Holland is working with Durfee and Gecker with Art Warren and Dot Jaeckle more times than not.

This behavior cannot be looked at in single votes but over the totality of the sessions thus far.

Four members are the seedlings of a change election. Somebody spray some miracle grow quick.

ChesterfieldForum said...

Anonymous 10:37 You asked for one different vote? How about the vote to oversize the waterline on west 360. Gecker was the lone vote against it to slow growth. I believe we should use the utilities as a way to slow growth. Not like the old boards that would build water lines that seemed to encourage growth.
I actually like the fact that there is no "Block" of supervisors running the county. Each is bringing their own view and baggage to the votes.That means everyone has to compromise on different things to make it work. to me that's good.

A New Republicrat said...

That is all nice and all Chesterfield Forum but not if they are "compromising" our quality of life.

I find it interesting that we are discussing a "water line" as a means of "slowing" growth. This to me is simply playing back door politics instead as Alter as proposed being "out in front" on the growth issue. Leaders need to take stands and sometimes its unpopular. Look at Sen. Watkins. All criticisms aside he is making a stand with regard to impact fees and ending proffers at some great risk I might add. To use a water line to slow or curb growth in about as disingenious as it comes with regard to growth.
Much of what is required isslowing the "commercial" sprawl and growth through proffering those tracts as well.
I would oove to see someone like Bacons Rebellion provide some insight on the "capacity" of retail and shopping center (not mid-range business developments employing 100+ people but retail and its relationship to our population. I think we are certainly at over capacity right now, especially along Rt 60 and 360 (Matoaca and Midlothian).
The County needs to stop factoring "retail" as somehow "economic development". This is where I break from Alter's view on the Interchange and the 20 million proposed funding. I think that investment would/could spurn more job growth that is not retail.

We cannot simply bank of economic condition on increasing our retail base. That may be great for sales tax generation but not for employment purposes if we want to attract career oriented citizens. Thats where Henrico County has Chesterfield beat every time. Henrico appears to have less students in the overall school system but more schools on balance when compared to Chesterfield. Henrico manages to take care of its own roads with State funding or reliance on the State. Costs of living are quite similar but the growth buildout was and is being conducted quite differently. I wonder what the relationship is between Henrico and the commercial ventures being completed, especially like West Broad Village.
There is enough incentive to build in Chesterfield as it is without offering up services on the cheap. You should have to pay to play.

There was also a comment at the USCP session that stuck with me. What about that line from Lake Chesdin being created for water. The position voiced was that this water line and the capacity of Chesdin to provide water makes much of Swift Creek plan a little mute other than water quality standards.

Also, why is it that our Board appears ready to support the reservoir remaining a playground for solely those that live around it. The body belongs to all of Chesterfield. Access for weekend sailing is all but limited to private access with no public facilities to really speak of. Why will Gecker nor Durfee support a public luanch area? Does it have to do with residents along the water who are opposed to opening up what belongs to all of us? Do not our tax dollars go to support the reservoir. I understand the no gas ordinance, though Lake Chesdin permits this by the way and is a source for drinking water, but access as always been very limited. Its eems appropriate to fund access to the James River like near James River High but not the Swift Creek Reservoir.
Durfee will not even address this issue.
What is your suspicions about Roseland? The standard playing field for those involved with that have shifted and seems to me that Magnolia Green (some still call it Grange in error like above) got the better end of the deal with its provisions. Is their a "fairness" that is lacking here? No one seems to want to address the exterior impacts of such a community. The traffic counts listed and referenced by Alter of the county site bear out that most roads are still having counts at increasing levels even with Rt288 with Powhite and Bon Air areas being the most helped by these roadways. What will the traffic counts be on Otterdale, Woolridge, Midlothian to 288 once all this construction is completed. I am aware that developers will be funding some road systems but if we know we have planned to allow some ten thousand new residents to move into the area by way of new construction would it not be reasonable to expect or demand a long term transportation plan and funding in the CIP. The Board has already alluded to the issue of our failing roads and now they intend to allow more cars to be placed upon the same pavement they tell us today is unsafe. Why? What is the rationale? What is the real reason they are promoting such growth whatever the requirement?

I fail tosee how Durfee has changed our dynamic one bit. Her growth formula may be "smart" but its not controlled. It is simply endorsing the same level of growth that the Republicans of the past have but tooling it to meet specific smart goals. It does nothing to control the excessive growth patterns nor does it help to curb both commercial and residential sprawl.
How will Mr. Gecker address the fact that Robious east of Huguenot all the way down Rt.60 to Powhite will likely go the same way as Powhite to Cloverleaf and areas like Turner and Broad Rock roads. The area runs the risk of becoming a rental area in the next ten to fifteen years.

A pattern is a pattern because of the direct result of cause and effect.

Instead of using code words like "comprehensive" planning and "smart" growth maybe these officials ought to concentrate energies at the REALITIES of such growth descisions on the population that currently calls Chesterfield home.

Chesterfield Forum said...

New Republicrat: First let me ask, How long have you lived in Chesterfield, and where? You threw out a lot of items that have been around for decades. And have yet to be addressed by anyone, How do you expect this Board too turn it all around in their first year.
I bought my first house in the area of Robious, you seem to be so concerned about in 1975. The address was 1943 Woodmont drive. I paid $38,955. I sold the house in 1983 for $60,000. One of the main concerns at that time was the perception that there were increasing amounts of rental homes.
That same house just sold 4/10/2008 for $219,950. I don’t think Greenfield is going down the tubes as you perceive.
On the issue of public access to Swift Creek, In 1985 I belonged to the GRSA. The Greater Richmond Sailing Association that owns part of the land along Woolridge Road @ Genito. Back then the issue of public access also. Brandermill even had one of their “wardens” try to chase us off “Their Lake”; of course we told him where they could stick their lake. The lake is surrounded by private land, except the southern end of the side where Woolridge crosses. Maybe when Woolridge is four lanes the public access issue can be addressed during the design stage.
Concerning Mr. Watkins, you need to take a good hard look at his SB768 tax bill, that he introduced this year. It would have taxed every homeowner selling a house, while eliminating most of the proffers and impact fees for Mr. Watkins, and his developer/builder friends. For Magnolia Green (Grange) they are getting a break, thanks to the old boards. Who says money can’t buy you love! Magnolia was zoned before the May massacre of zoning 1989. In January 1989 the Board announced that they were going to implement proffers June 1. In the month of May 6,200 acres were zoned with no proffers required. They still have not come on line, Magnolia, being the largest. That’s why impact fees are so important. Mr. Watkins always supported proffers, until after he Received $16,000,000.00 from the county to back his bonds for his development. Suddenly we are not in his view any more. We who have been here for a long time have been fighting these battles for years. I believe if we give this new Board a chance we will soon see some real changes in government, rather then just rearranging the deck furniture on the titanic know as Chesterfield.

Alter of Freedom said...

I want to take an opportunity to jump in here.

As many commentors here know I am originally from Loudoun County in NOVA. I have lived in Chesterfield since entering middle school and now am raising three children here in the same community.

I say same community because my children are playing in the same streets and parks as I did when my parents brought me here from NOVA. When I arrived and entered middle school it was at the beginnings of the first major growth pahase for the County. I grew up on the streets of Settlers Landing, Bon Air Terrace and Greenfield and entered Robious. Thats right. I was a red raider. At the time, my parents were informed by the County that trailers would be a temprary solution to the growing pains. The County had just finished Monacan High school and the newer Midlothian was not even a consideration yet.

Chesterfield Forum the problem is we have had a cycle of Boards bent on popping the growth pills without pause and the time has finally come for some real de-tox. I say that half joking but my children will be sitting in the same trailers I sat in almost thirty years ago. That friends is unacceptable.

The current Board has no vision to end the use of trailers and in fact endorses the use by stating that the quality of education is not diminished by the use of trailers. When pressed during the election cycle if some of these offcials had ever experienced the trailers there was simply the back peddling of the fact that they have children in the school systems as well and are aware of the problems. Comforting.

I nsay this because it is not a question of how long or short someone has lived within the County. It is the fact that as Chesterfield Forum point out many of these issues have gone unresolved for decades. They have not been priorities.

I have seen 2/3 if not more of the growth be experienced within thirty miles of Midlothian Village. It started with the Bon Air Village along the Huguenot corridor; remember Reeds Landing and the discussions over that at the time large upscale development? What does Bon Air Village look like today as a result of the planning? It has sicne moved on to Midlothian Village which now approaches being completely surrounded by the expansion of growth on all sides. The charm of the community has been lost. Worry not, it willnot stop there. Chester Village is no entering the middle phase of what Midlothian experienced in the 1990's. Ettrick will follow with the buildout from Fort Lee.

The villages that were once Chestefield County will be lost by 2020 along with the charm of such communities.

It not so much home values Chesterfield Forum, but sprawl. The Board has not passed a single measure to prevent the further groundswell effect of sprawl nor has it address land banking of zonings. can they solve the mistakes of the past? Probably not. But what they can do is issue ordinances that specified that zonings that were zoned prior to 1989 and without proffer have until 2015 to declare intent to develop or if by 2015 they have not and so chose to after said time than current market proffers will prevail upon the property if designed for single family development. Feasible? probably not but would like to hear some people making the case. I do not support infringing on property rights but these people still must hook up to County services and be serviced by the County in terms of Police, Fire, EMS, Water, ect and should not be given a free ride on the backs of the community paying taxes to support such services.

I support that if a new development wants to be built out of the belt of services like Fire/EMS than they should in order for approaval pay or provide funding/land for the creation of Fire Stations and Police sub-stations. The County should never be authorized to zone land for multiple units that cannot be serviced at the same level as the rest of the County. Period.

In nterms of the Robious Road corridor. let me inform you that a new Robious Road Community Alliance is in the works to collectively bring about a unified front consisting of residents along the corridor from all the various subdivisions. Potentially that is a huge block of participants to work to bring about change.

The area is experiencing the erosion problems as mentioned by New Republicrat (thank you by the way) and they are getting worse. The railroad winding through th area is having its trees and buffers removed it seems thus resulting in greater sound carry into the neighboorhoods of Greenfield, Settler Landing, Woodmont, and down to Bon Air. One can visually see this at the interesection of Cranbeck and Huguenot as the road readies as a route extended to Chesterfield mall.

Costco has signed a lease for the Woodmont development there and Cranbeck road from Huguenot will connect the Robious corridor to Chesterfield Mall. There is also quite a bit of property sitting along the corridor zoned commercial between Huguenot Park, Huguenot Road and Mall Drive. The impact of more commercial development here without resident consultation will be dramatic. We are not talking about the development at an existing major intersection like Huguenot and Robious the likes of Belgrade. we are talking about creating additional roads and development.

Everyone is experiencing some form of pains in one form or another with regard to growth. Even the secondary areas are feeling the strains on roads as people attempt to find alternative routes throughout the area.

I was happy to see that Cloverleaf will be developed but a large part of Mr. Daniel Gecker's, my Supervisor, mission should be addressing the commercial sprawl of Route 60. I counted some 100+ Thalhimer and other leasing company signs with available space from Courthouse Road to Cloverleaf earlier this year. There should be solutions to the question of over capacity as mentioned in the thread by others before we committ to zoning addtional commercial sites. The dump more sites, whether a company wants to do it or not, is not in the interest of the County or its citizens.

Sprawl is a considerable issue that must be address and it has been perpetrated mostly as a result of land banking done over the course of the last twenty plus years.

We have to see that the County has been and it being developed with true balance within the County. Midlothian and Matoaca population patterns have been increasing while other areas have not kept pace putting greater strain on the western portions of the County. Growth in Bermuda and Dale while beginning early phases pales in comparison. Do you think those communities want to follow suit? They have not nearly experienced the levels of growth and yet still sit with overcrowded schools.

I have supported both an increase in proffers to at the very least 23K as well as impact fees upon lots that require zoning andaccess to County service regardless of time of zoning. No free rides folks. Mr. Gecker does not support Impact fees nor did he support the full increase of the proffer. Needless to say I am not currently that happy with him. I am willing to give this Board the opportunity as Chesterfield Forum proposes and monitor the positons that are being taken, but more importantly monitoring the impacts upon the community of said positions.

I believe the County should be moving in the direction of ending any proffer free status of development, especially commercial projects. I know that may seem like being anti-business, but frankly I believe it is being pro-County and pro-citizen.

Who exactly are we a First Choice Community for? Business or Citizens? While I see the arguement that business "is" our citizens, I just believe that if we are really serious about addressing issues there needs to be a fairness involved in the relationship between citizens and business and 80/20 just is not cutting it anymore.

Will Chesterfield be less of a market if the business and commercial developer communities have to pay more to access the market? I think not. Afterall, are they not paying more for land and fees to enter other markets like Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun, Stafford, Fredricksburg etc etc.

There are many issues and I guess the Roseland zoning case may be the next one on the horizon. yet another one impacting Midlothian.

JS

ChesterfieldForum said...

Well said Alter. By the way my children were Red Raiders also. But, take a good look in the woods behind Settlers Landing and you will find the old foundations of the Girl Scout camp that my wife went to forty-five years ago. Nothing is going to stay the same. We just need to begin to go into a slower gear.I am happy to hear that a Robious Road corridor group is being formed. Let me know when your next meeting is and I will be there. You need to consider including the rest of the Robious corridor to the county line. We were active west of the tracks when Riverton was zoned and were able to get the developer to pay for the robious widening. I believe this board has a view to get rid of the " learning cottages". The problem we face is coming out of the hole that the previous boards dug for us. I believe Gecker is correct in putting in restrictions on developments until the infrastructure ie roads, fire, schools are available. As far as the schools they seem more intrested in getting the Bible as a class in high school, then the room the class is occupying. We changed one board, now we need to change another. Jim Holland is working on a county wide department audit, and I believe it will be explosive.

Lucks Lane said...

THREE ITEMS

A group of Lucks Lane area reisdents are considering starting a upper Lucks Lane association.

The County actually tryied to control growth by the bungled placement of Tomahawk MS. The Planning Dept was dead set against putting the school in the western part of the County to keep more growth from migrating there.

The Metro Chamber of Commerece is staring a new group to study regional co-operation. Art Warren and the County Adm are on it. We need to monitor it to see that Chesterfield has the most reps as we are the largest political sub-division. It will probably be a dog and pony show, cut Chesterfield needs to assert its power.

Alter of Freedom said...

I am all for different areas of the County coming together and forming "voices".

I call them "voices" because lets face it, many of us truly care about our community but cannot make it to these sessions with the Board and School Board. At times, dates get moved or new public hearings get set and people are not as informed as they should be and keeping up with working, raising families and just plain old time constraints limited our full involvement. That does not mean we do not care.

The "voices" allows a representative to be on hand at the meeting to make concerns known. The more that can make the sessions all the better, but by forming groups and getting concensus as what an area collectively would like to see in informal gatherings and get togethers before these session is the most productive way to start.

100's of Homeowner Associations working independently has not been working effectively. We need to do something different.

I live in the Bon Air quadrant of Midlothian but by no means is this something that should only be undertaken by us or our area. Each of our areas have varying concerns at different levels.

For example, Lucks Lane I am sure your area is very concerned over the Courthouse Road plan on one side and then the buildout of the Charter Woods Colony area on the other. Lucks Lane traffic counts will increase considerably regardless of the expressway's influence. I use this as an example to illustrate that while an area like Luck Lane's is experiencing "growth crisis management" where I live we are not dealing with growth per say now but the ramifications of growth dated twenty years ago. The James River High area (Riverton) as referecned has really been the last major area of "new" growth following Tarrington on Robious Road. The new larger tracts are now located opposite Midlothian Tnpk where Midlothian meets Matoaca district boundaries. That said, both area have to mitigate the issues of excessive commercial component; Watkins Center and the zonings that folks are unaware which will make the corridor from Midlothian High School to the Powhatan line on Rt 60 mirror what Rt 360 appears from Brandermill to Cosby High. In fact it really starts at Courthouse road and leapfrogs the Village of Midothian and then begins again all the way to Watkins Center.

I would love the opportunity to organize together with those in my area and beyond if merely to gain concensus. Only through dialogue can a new paradigm be formed. Its not merely a matter of flipping a Board.

Chesterfield Forum, I to fished in Girl Scout lake and spent many a summer down behind Settlers Landing pool in my hey day. There are significant drainage issues running parallel to the subdivisions and Iron Mill Road backing up to Old Bon Air. Homeowner groups have been trying to get something done for years. The is considerable expense, plus having the issue of access to address the issues. To truly solve the problem, access would have to granted by property owners to allow for equipment to be properly configured to fix the issues. There is some reference to a Wrens Nest drainage in the current Captial Improvement Plan and a plan to proceed but at tghis point am unsure whether it extends all the way along the line behind Bon Air Terrace.

I am glad to see Jim Holland take a leadership role given his background. As a CPA I am sure he will get many sleepless nights regarding auditing the County.

In term of Gecker, I have higher expectations regarding the urdan planning aspects. With eight years now under his belt on the Planning Commission and now as a Supervisor...he has been to the circus and has seen the strings sorta speak...and should be held to a higher standard of leadership than say the newly elected Supervisors who we not in government before the election.

Could be wrong, just my opinion. Whereas many of us saw last year as an opportunity to break with the past, I cannot help but wonder what the mood or label that will be placed on the 2012 election given the moves thus far. Its early and many things may be linked externally from the County in all honesty but if the Country determines that government is the remedy and the answer for everything this November, the effects of such a determination could shape the County perspective by 2012.

I think folks just want to feel like the fight is being taken on behalf of them. If things get any worse economically, we will certainly need a fighter from one corner or the other because the issues will only get tougher to solve.

JS