Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chesterfield County- The Future Begins With Us

While I am sure that most of us today were busy working today and taking care of our families and paid little attention to the follow-up to last nights State of the Union address, I urge all residents of Chesterfield to begin to focus their attention on matters of hand here in Chesterfield as opposed to Washington. I undertand that is a bit harder said than done given the twenty four hour news cycle concentrating on Washington but there are things afoot here in Chesterfield that could undermine our ability to continue to remain a First Choice Community.

The Board of Supervisors will release soon a targeted property tax rate to be debated that must be published before they can take up the matter in a mere two months. This published rate by law cannot be exceeded by vote but the rate certaibnly can be lower than the proposed publish rate if citizens get engaged.

The rate is important because recently the School Board has asked the BOCS to increase the property tax rate from 95 cents to 1.01 per $100 of assessed values. The justification for this increase is that such an increase would be revenue nuetral in that with the falling property assessments the amount paid by residents would roughly be the same as 2009. Such an increase would add some 19 million in tax revenue with the CCPS getting around 12 million.

This effort is meant to address the 40 to 50 million in budget cuts facing the School Board which is centered around a reduction in teacher ranks, establishing furloughs and potentially authorizing the elimination of school athletics saving 1.8 million.

These efforts are said to be essential in large part because the monies from the Federal Stimulus Package that were to be marked for schools (some 19 million) in Chesterfield was removed by then Governor Kaine.

Its time that residents get engaged. There is a growing conservative Tea Party group here in Chesterfield and I urge them to engage in this process and expose those leaders that have implemented gimmicks in order to please voters and passed unneccesary zonings to satisfy the special interests.

Many residents who challenged the current Board members for lowering the tax rate some two years ago are outraged. The very thing that many warned the members has happened. The time has come for these leaders to be held accountable and for conservatives to rally around each other and signal the beginning of the end for some of these members.

The Schools are a huge issue with regard to the County budget. Yes the CCPS should be fully audited and their budget completely overhauled in search of savings. There is absolutely no reason why the CCPS should be operating at levels exceeding State mandates. The high salary levels of top adminstrators both in and outside the CCPS is alrming. If the average adjusted gross income in Chesterfield is around 80K than some of these folks are earning 3 times that average in salary and car allowances. 3 times.

The fact that such car allowances are being sold as neccessary to attract top notch people is a dated and tired arguement. Are they telling us that the County cannot find anyone qualified in America willing to run CCPS for under 252K. I think its time that the CCPS and the BOCS get a big dose of reality from citizens.

Fact si there is plenty of blame to go around. Its not merely the CCPS fault for the shortfall in their budget. The BOCS shares a lions share of the responsibility. Members like Daniel Gecker from Midlothian have overseen in the last nine years the largest misguided growth pattern in the Chesterfield's history. The lack of defined comprehensive planning has resulted in unsustainable capacity levels that will require of schools to raise the number of students per classroom to over 30. Increasing the class size by a mere student is said to save the CCPS 112 teachers and some 6 million.

Why would raising these class level sizes be neccessary in the first place? Ill-conceived planning has created an environment where new schools must be built and older schools modernized faster than the amount of revenues can be collected to address these needs. The costs of construction skyrocketed in terms of new schools as well. Members like Gecker have been quoted has stating that any effort to focus money at the middle school level are unjustified and yet new middle schools have come on line and very well may continue to be required. Gecker while on the Planning Commisssion before joining the Board after the 2007 elections has directly contributed to the woes facing Chesterfield in terms of excessive capacity in the housing market driving down home values and requiring the neccessary adjustments to cash proffers in the coming years whether he believes in them or not. The County had the opportunity to raise the cash proffer levels to comparable standards of other Virginia localities with similar growth rates, but members like Gecker did not support an increase to the proposed level and forced a lower rate all be it higher than the previous years. The fact that the CCPS is facing capacity concerns is a direct result of approving zonmings for areas without the capacity to support children in the classrooms. This forces hastily planned school constrcution to meet the demands and creates an environment where Chesterfield families face new school boundaries and potentially school shuffling.

Its simple. You do not permit housing developments in areas where there are no seats in the classrooms for students. Obviously these leaders failed to get the message in Field of Dreams- "If you build it, they will come". Well, they built it and now our schools are taxed as well as our infrastructure and in particular our roadways. Traffic is at its highest levels as well as vehicular accidents and yet still the Board continues to approve more developments.

Will residents accept that fact that the CCPS may have to eliminate school athletics? I mean, how can we reconcile the fact that we are saying that our young people are out of shape, many obese and at the same time take away such programs that promote the very best things in our youth; health, teambuilding, and respect for authority. Its as if they are saying that the 1.8 million has no real "benefit" to our children.

I would support for sure the ability for parents to pay for their children to participate in sports. I think the case can be made that it makes little sense to require all residents to pay for such programs anymore than it makes sense for all of us to pay for other peoples healthcare as proposed in Washington. There needs to be a shared responsibility between the County adn citizens if we want to keep these programs and a big start would be the ability for volunteer coaches and assistants to come from outside the CCPS system. Should we be pay higher salaries for teachers willing to coach neccessarily if we can get volunteer coaches from our community? Should we be willing to eliminate programs before taking a look at administrative salaries? Should our teachers be the frontline casualties first?

We as citizens have some very hard questions to face in terms of the direction we want Chesterfield to go. It must start with us and not the leaders in the backrooms. We must demand that programs that we believe benefit our children and our communities be funded and those that seem to merely benefit government be eliminated. There is no reason we should be spending funds on government facilities like new courtrooms, new adminstrative buildings, new libraries when another one already open can maintain the traffic when we need a focused laser on schools and public safety.

There will be plenty of opportunity in the coming weeks for citizens to get engaged. Will you join us or sit back and let Chesterfield begin to fall behind the curve. The future of Chesterfield is in our hands.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

On Haiti

Don't get me wrong, we all feel a sense on compassion for the plight of the Haitian people as they pull themselves and their nation up out of this disaster, but it really begs the question if our politicians ever really truly get things right when its a tragedy is no longer frontpage news.

I can remember when buddies of mine serving in the U.S. Army and Marines back in the 90's were task with assisting in places like Haiti, Liberia, and Somolia and it was always the same political story. It was a hot button issue as long as it was on the front page of the Wapo or NY Times, but as soon as the light on the country dimmed so did the focus of our government. If you were in any of thoese countries, it is hardly a surprise that even though many have contributed large amounts of money over the years that progress has been slow and slower. Bill Clinton's influence notwithstanding.

I can't help but see how the politicos twist themselves over and over about the right way to spin these things. Think Katrina for a second. I cannot recall the massive international relief effort for one thing as we have seen in Haiti and I really also do not recall such a massive undertaking by Hollywood in this nation to raise money for our own people in a post-Katrina environment. Its as if these folks believe that our government should take care of our own and that places like Haiti and the Far Eastern Tsunami plaqued areas deserve all of their fundraising efforts. It really makes you wonder about the mentality of people whose sole livelihood is derived from our people more or less and yet seem so content with using their money and reputation which can be leveraged to raise more money for so many other causes than the ones here at home.

Again, do not get me wrong. What many of these celebrities are doing is honorable and commendable. I just wonder how many of them will continue to step up say six months down the road when this disaster will be off the radar and its not "in" thing to do in Hollywood.

If you do not think it will happen, there are plenty of examples to look at where the media drowns us in images for a period of time and than neglects to after story....Iraq for one. Katrina for another. Except of course if they can make some political assertion to cast the other side in some bad light.

I could not help be be floored whe I saw the pundits on MSNBC try and portray civilian contractors who would go in to Haiti to stabilize and help rebuild the nation as "profiteers" like they did to many in Iraq and still do in Afghanistan. Apparently, Jeremy Scahill (resident MSNBC loon) has some kind of vendetta against contractors because he still has not retracted his stories rooted in falsehoods about the involvement of Blackwater contractors at Nissor Square who were cleared. In fact, Scahill virtually anoints those insurgents that killed Blackwater contractors in Fallujah, Iraq as heroes. Scahill this time around as brought in by MSNBC to comment on Haiti takes his anti-contractor rhetoric to new levels when he asserts that those Blackwater contractors that went into New Orleans during Katrinia were nothing more than a militia of hired thugs. Funny thing is it was these former policeman and military veterans that were task with creating a sense of order when many in the New Orleans police failed to report for duty during the crisis. Instead of going after those idiots who abandoned their own citizens, Scahill and the liberal media goes after the remedy that never would have been required had these officers not abandoned their posts.

Scahill's efforts to distort and manipulate details to his own end is not new to MSNBC as Maddow and Olbermann routinely engage in such commentary--just see Olbermann tirade over MA-Senator Scott Brown. The effort is to create an environment where the government will be forced to end its use of private contractors, but instead grow the actual size of government by creating such areas within our agencies to formulate its own ranks to perform such endeavors. This is classic liberal doctrine.

The lack of admission by these liberal pundits that the very reason Iraq has been a non-issue in large part is do to the work of these contractors who still to this day outnumber our military forces in both Iraq and now Afghanistan.

What does it say to people like Scahill,Maddow and Olbermann that even Obama recognizes the value of these contractors to perform highly skilled functions in country that our military could not. Of course, no admission as to why our military could not respond accordingly came in the wake of eight years of President Clinton desimating our armed forces as his basis for balancing the federal budget. Those of us downsized in the 90's during this purge know the truth. Spin it as they may.

Now in Haiti, these pundits want to make it hard for the White House to send contractors to to the effort in Haiti. Its amazing to me that these people just have no clue about the real politics at work. Just like in Afghanistan, if Obama can send 30K trooops but send 200K contractors through contracts with private and public firms why would he want to send 80K or more military forces and face the backlash? Contractors are a political end and have been a decade or more now.

With all the celebrity assistance, the telethons, the texts donations.....eventually the question will have to be how BEST to put those funds to work on the ground in Haiti. If the past is an example of whats to come, they could be in for a long road in Haiti in terms of true re-building.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Snake Oil Liberalism- Part I

In looking back on the decade that has just past, it is growingly apparent that though the Democrats sit in power of this great land they have lost their souls. Not all "Democrats" however apear willing to to fall into the abyss of liberalism and are beginning to pull back. These Democrats are those mostly residing in the South, who have never actually been truly aligned with the Northeastern brand of Liberalism that permeates the Democrat Party. Many of these Dixiecrats and Conservative Democrats are more closely related with the moderate policies of say a Bill Clinton than the vastly liberal ones of a Barrack Obama.

We also have to examine the transition undergone by the platform of the Democrats itself. How many self-professed "progressives" were there at the beginning of the last decade in Congress? Now, like so many things in the Democrat Party the leadership appears content with attaching itself to whats hip or cool in the short term. Afterall, the term "liberal" had pretty much taken the worst beating of any political philosophy from a pure publicity standpoint. Even the leadership of the Party must admit that its purely a stunt to have these leadrrs who have been in Congress for decades to suddenly shift in thought to a "progressive" view of the world.

Fact is these leaders have not shifted. Its a muse. Like so much in Washington its smoke and mirrors. Its Liberalism with a nice shiny coat of lipstick. And Snake Oil Liberalism at that. The selling of this new foundation of the Party has hit one very big hurdle with the Party elite; America ain't buying. The polling is demonstrating that the Party is losing any opportunity to capitalize on its power and further demonstrates that Democrats are not programed as a Party apparatus to lead. Instead, Democrats are more established as the opposition party and that role is better suited for them. Why?

If you paid attention this last decade, Democrats do better with a villain, a target, or frankly just someone to blame for everyone's lot in life. They have shown in 2009 that they are ill-suited to be the Party in power and can't seem to get it together in terms of agenda. The reason for this is the Democrats "big tent" mantra creates splinter elements all the way up the leadershop ladder who have allegiances to varying elements. An example of this is easily demonstrated over the so called "public option" coupled with the issues regarding abortion funding in the health care bill.

I mentioned early on about the Dixiecrats or Southern New Democrats whom are mostly conservative and are reffered in Congress as "blue dogs" will have a huge cross to bear in coming years if they do not withdraw support for this administrations agenda. The result if they fail to do will be catastrophic to them both individually and to the South as well. You see, "blue dogs" will have to face the growing momentum of liberals in the Party to take a very hard look at gun control in the next year or so. It does not take a political genius to recognize that Southerns love their guns. What will the conservatives in the Party do when the Obama folks circle the wagons on this issue and expect all Democrats to deliver reform of gun rights and laws?

Snake Oil policy thats what. They will placate the liberals with the notion of gun reform all the while hoping to rope in the conservatives with some watered down policy that will inch the country closer and closer to the British model. Afterall, the Progressives seek to model America after the failed state of Europe with every policy they have sought to implement. This of course smacks of denying our own history and the principles upon which our great nation was founded.

The heros are not the Washingtons, Jeffersons, or the Madisons but rather the radicals of the Progressive movement of the turn of the century in the eyes of the leadership in Washington today. They have sought to change the very education our youth experience by focusing more on "causes" than on history. They seek to create a disconnect with performance, individuality and goal setting and replace it with more of a greater dependence on society. They have sought to create a collective community and have been using the educational system as a sword to do so. They started first with the removal of Christian elements, ending the pledge of allegiance and of course attempted to remove any reference of God in coursework or celebration in an attempt to create a more collective community; a more sympathetic environment for the minority and one where it is more important to heed the offenses of others than promote the truth of our Founding Fathers and the true heritage of this country.

During the last decade we have seen that these Progressive appear to be engaging in a "de-americanization" process of our government. They have done so buy attemtping to grant even more power to central government, which is exactly what our Founding Fathers warned against. They have sought to expand roles of Fed policy and left the Fed unchecked all the while telling America that it was the lack of regulation that created the most recent crisis in our economy. They have sought to target Wall Street as the great evil and yet never appear to want to tackle the fact that in Texas its big oil, in California its Silicon Valley that have as must political weight as Wall Street where the average worker brings in around 75K a year. Again they have created a target to illustrate why it is that their policy should be followed and yet everyone of the principle players in Obama's house has ties to this "evil" and come directly from the lions den of Wall Street. An industry by the way that contributed more to Obama's campaign in 2008 than to McCain and one located in the state of New York which leans highly liberal in ideology and voting historically.

Again, Snake Oil Liberalism.