Thursday, May 28, 2009

Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors--Is the Future Still Bright?

Look, I have made clear my issues with the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors over the course of the last few years. Many insiders have not been all too happy with some of the issues addressed here at Alter of Freedom. I will have to admit though, at least the former Board members took the time to return emails, messages and in some cases even participated on local blogs as a means of reaching out and being more accessible to the public interest.

I must admit however, that Cheterfield on balance does not have the blog exposure that many of its other county siblings do across the State. This must change in order for the Board to be serious about transparency. Localities like Loudoun, Fairfax, Arlington and the like have some of the highest rated/viewed blogs in the country and if you visit blogs like Too Conservative out of Loudoun you will find a great balance of Local, State and National issues.

The current Board here in Chesterfield has just endorsed a 32 citizen Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee made up of citizens from throughout the local districts of the County as well as members from the planning group contracted to shape the future of Chesterfield. Many of these members will be familiar to many readers here; Bill Hastings, Andrea Epps, Ree Hart and the like with either political or developer ties to the process are but a few familiar ones that stick out on the list.

While many of us have to wonder just how this committee has come to be and how the mebers were selected in terms of process, it is further alarming that Chesterfield County has just contracted a Florida firm in Renaissance Planning Group to the tune of almost $900,000 to work with the Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee in creating our future.

$900,000 in contract fees paid by tax payers of course. Any explaination why it is this money could not have been used to contract a local or Virginia firm employing residents of Chesterfield or other regional localities. We have seen this before and the Board continues to go outside Virginia with its contractors.

Chesterfield has been operating under its Comprehensive Plan which has guided much of the planning concerns over the course of the last two Boards. Of course, many have taken issue with the Plan in its present form and at times have appeared poised to disregard its guidelines in terms of getting zoning ordinances worked through. We saw this in the debate over the Upper Swift Creek Plan and most recently the debate over Centralia.

I said months ago that I felt it was premature to begin to pass judgement on this Board collectively, however in recent weeks I am of the opinion that the time has come for residents to hold this Board and its members fully accountable for this point forward. Many new members were elected some eighteen months ago and ubnfortunately the learning curve of the first year is now over. No longer can we simply excuse the actions of this Board based on the previous ones misteps or agenda.

I am beginning to have less faith in the direction this Board is planning than I did in the election cycle of 2008. There has been far too much finger pointing with the School Board on budget issues, lack of true conviction by the Board to balance the ratio of revenues between citizens and business, a nominal cash proffer increase below the original proposal and no action of significance on the impact fee debate stemming from State Senator Watkins original proposal in the State Senate.

Is the future still bright? I think so, but many residents still find themselves faced with the same issues they have been confronted with for almost ten years crowding/trailers, roads and infrastructure standards and a government that is content with spending more and more money on its own operation and facilities than it appears willing to impact residents everyday lives.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Interesting New Minority Population Data Released

Some interesting growth patterns within Virginia's population data on the heels of the current housing issues that continues to hit certain areas within the Commonwealth.

In Chesterfield County, over the last eight years the Hispanic community has grown 135% to represent 5.9% (18,000 residents)of the overall population estimated at 303,469. The County also experienced an increase of 42.5% within the African-American community compared to 25% in Henrico, 22% Hanover and 18% in Hopewell. The fastest growing African-American community is Colonial Heights where the population has grown 102% over the last eight years.

The Asian Community of Henrico represents some 5.2% of the overall Henrico population. Thats an increase of 56.6% in eight years and in fact the Asian population in Henrico rose 3.6% in 2007/08 alone.

The Hispanic population in Virginia represents 4.5% of the overall population or 531K while the Asian community comes in at 3.3% or 378K of the overall Virginia population.