Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Turning the Page: Chesterfield 2011

In the last few years, citizens of Chesterfield County have faced the sad fact that local government is broken. It does not take a financial expert to know that the messages such as "shortfall" on the one hand and then a few months later "surplus" confuse and baffle citizens, but in reality what it does is create a complete lack of confidence in local government itself.

This year has illustrated the great divide in priorities between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board. Many people would argue that these two bodies have completely different agendas, but frankly that is the very attitude the creates the divisiveness we have experienced throughout this year. The visions and goals of both these bodies have a very common thread that binds them and it is NOT money; its our future.

We have a Board of Supervisors that is more concerned with short-term political gains and scoring political points by undermining the Chesterfield County School Board than they are at setting a course centered in common interest toward solutions that will benefit the entire County heading into the future.

Fortunately, one of the greatest things about democracy is every four years we as citizens have the opportunity to determine whether the compass of our local Board is heading in the right direction or whether we need to chart a new path by turning the page.

It is fairly early as far as local politics goes to learn about those citizens willing and determined to run for office. In 2011, all five of the Board of Supervisors seats will be up for re-election. The current Board was thrust into office in the change election dramatics of 2006. It was this election that not only placed the United States Congress into the hands of the Democrats in Washington, but also on the local level represented a sweeping change in the make-up of the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors.

Looking to 2011, I had an opportunity to sit down and speak with one of the citizens that has declared himself as a candidate for Supervisor from the Matoaca District, T.C. Robinson. Mr. Robinson seeks to win the Republican nomination and challenge (I) Supervisor Marlene Durfee in November, 2011.

The following is a summation of my conversation with the candidate:
What would you see as the most important issues facing the County today in general?
Putting Children First, Fiscal Responsibility, and Economic Development (Robinson)

Lets go through those three if we can okay?
Putting Children First?
For too long, there has been a high level of anxiety in our school system causing a loss of focus on our most important asset - our students. Now is the time to come together to regain our focus on our children and our future.(Robinson)
How would you describe the current relationship between the BOS and School Board ?
Fractured. (Robinson)
How can we get beyond this condition?

Well, I will encourage unity and open, productive communication among all members of the community – students, teachers, administration, the School Board and concerned citizens.
Education should be something we all rally around and we have great resources at our disposal.
Class sizes have a direct impact on the level of education our students receive. (Robinson)
That said, what is your position on trailers scattered throughout the County?

Simply put, class sizes must be kept manageable so that teachers have the opportunity to work with each child. Teacher frustrations over not being able to give their best every single student often results in departures from CCPS or even from the profession. Teachers are not particularly fond of teaching in trailers nor are students with being educated in them. Look outside this morning and look at all this snow. Do you think it is fair to have those students venturing out into the cold to sit in trailers? All of us are guilty for it because we have allowed the Boards in the past to create ill-conceived planning thus adding students to our class rolls with virtually no consultation with the School Board and creating over capacity. How can sit back and say its okay we have schools 10-20% over intended capacity when they were constructed?

All of us have a stake in the health of our education system. Local governments, the business community, and non-profit organizations can all work together with our school districts to support stronger, safer schools that give all our kids a chance to succeed.
Together, we can make our County a true partner in our children’s future. (Robinson)

What is your take on Fiscal matters?
Fiscal Accountability is crucial. The current Board spent much of the Spring casting blame on the Schools for its budget. Supervisors Durfee and Gecker both made statements that created mistrust between the bodies by implying that the Schools were not being forthright regarding financial matters when in fact in accordance with State law the School Board had supplied all the requirements. Regardless, Chesterfield will soon be the third largest locality in the State, behind only Prince William and Fairfax. Population growth usually means bigger budgets. It also means an increased opportunity for the mismanagement of revenues. As our budget grew nearly 40% between FY2005 and FY2010, the chances that money would be misspent grew exponentially. I would move to create a more powerful Citizen’s Budget Audit Committee, so that we can make sure that every dollar is spent wisely.

I also believe we need serious reform in the way our property tax rate is advertised and eventually assessed. We cannot simply keep lowering the rate for the sake of saying we lowered it. I would favor an amendment to the county code that prevents the Board of Supervisors from setting the property tax rate at more than 3 cents below or above the rate deemed revenue neutral. Along with that I would propose that the Board of Supervisors be required to move 10% of any future revenue surplus into our Rainy Day Fund, with the goal of seeing the fund reach $100 million by 2020.
I would also submit that this Board has not lived up to the expectations of citizens to address County roadways and infrastructure. We cannot simply just keep blaming the State and our local Assembly leaders. This Board demonstrates very little accountability. They had an opportunity to create set-asides to address this issue and have failed to act.(Robinson)

You spoke of economic development?
Yes. Economic Development is vital to our future but it must be a shared responsibility with the fiscal responsibility we were just speaking to. In these times of economic adversity when people are losing their jobs and homes, the government should work to help the private sector generate new jobs in Chesterfield and help our existing local businesses succeed.
While most new jobs should and must be created in the private sector, the government can play an important role in establishing a favorable climate for job creation. It is essential that Chesterfield County be a place which appeals to hardworking, imaginative and inventive workers. That said, it also important that we adjust the mix regarding our revenue generation. Currently, we see about 80% of the revenues on the back of our citizens and only 20% on the business community. Many have questioned why it appears as though Henrico as done a better job addressing these balances. A recent 2008 Business Survey in Chesterfield demonstrates the willingness of business to work in a manner that is cooperative and appropriate to grow our economy. In fact, Supervisor Durfee and Gecker pledged to reduce said burden on citizens and shift more towards business while candidates, but once seated have done nothing to address this disparity. In fact, it appears as though they have gone the other direction. (Robinson)
What would you say to those that favor commercial buildout along the 360 West corridor?
It is imperative that we work to attract more office and retail development, which will bring jobs but we cannot simply just rely on the retail model. These are not the high paying jobs that will ignite our economy. They may be suitable for financial purposes but looking out twenty years does it really do any good to bring them and then continue to zone additional lots that create commercial sprawl. (Robinson)
Can you elaborate a bit on that?
Certainly. Look at Midlothian Tnpk east of Chesterfield Town Center toward Cloverleaf and the City. If you drive through Mr. Gecker's District you will see literally dozens of For Lease signs and vacant retail units all along Rt. 60. What have we done to address this? Have the Business Zones worked to address this? We have to ask ourselves how we can attract business investment along with County invetment to revitalize these areas and not simply just keep building further west in Matoaca. (Robinson)
Would this benefit from a revenue perspective?
Certainly. Not only would it mean more higher paying jobs for Chesterfield residents, it would mean more revenue for the county as a whole as those types of developments cost less to provide services for than say those projects like Roseland cost to build out. In fact, look at what happened in Magnolia Green. Many citizens are unaware of the Lower Magnolia Green Commercial Development Authority tax lien on residents in that area that are in addition to the typical property taxes that they pay which will last for up to 30 years. I have been told that these taxes are roughly about $500 a year for every household but am not sure what the commercial rate will be because of the issues that Magnolia has faced with its developers and the fact that there has been little action on the 200 acres of commercial property along Hull Street. Currently, the residents are stuck with more of the burden as the 3,550 homes are built out until the economic recovery permits the commercial elements to catch up. This pattern seems to have repeated itself throughout the last twenty years in Chesterfield. (Robinson)

More background information on T.C. Robinson can be found at www.tc4matoaca.com for those that wish to seek out further information. Citizens can also find him involved with the CCRC in Chesterfield.

I fully intend to reach out to the other candidates throughout 2011 that seek either the Board of Supervisors or the School Board. 2011 is shaping up to be a very interesting year for Chesterfield concerning path the County will take in the coming years.


Anonymous said...

"Altar" is misspelled!

Nathan said...

Anonymous--ever heard of Jonathan Alter? By the way newbie the blog has covered the "alter" meaning numerous times so maybe one ought not cast such judgement before they actually understand or investigate what it is they are questioning. Sorry, Alter people like anonymous rub me the wrong way.

Alter of Freedom said...

Too funny Nate!
If you look at the bottom of the blog you will see the quotation from Lincoln. "Alter" in the context written in the Lincoln letter during the Civil War was Old English and was commonly used during the period by leaders as well as poets and authors.

Jonathan Alter...wow! Never thought of that one. I don't think we see eye to eye on much though Nathan. Maybe I am the "alter" of Alter!! haha.

JoeinBonAir said...

I think it is great to see that you are getting back into things in Chesterfield again. The blog during the 2006-2007 was a great resource on the local issues and it appears as though you are getting back into it now that we have another election coming.

I have say that you warned us. I am very disappointed in the Board. I supported Daniel Gecker but will not again. Like you I saw the issues facing the area and though his background in urban planning would benefit us; it hasn't. Instead, both he and people like Ms. Durfee seem bent on a regionalistic approach putting budgetary desires above the needs of residents.

What did you feel Mr. Robinson's take was on property taxes? Did he say if he would have supported the increase proposed last year or did he endorse the decrease after the new Board took office?

There is a lot of talk about the extension of Powhite in the next ten years. Has he endorsed that idea? If so, is it his intent to change the cash proffer system as well to better reflect the needs of services as other areas have. Alter as you know we lag behind in proffer revenue when compared to other areas of the same growth rate.

I think this was a start, but i hope get more specifics as we move closer.

Any word on Midlothian? Are you still in Midlothian? I had heard you may have moved out of the district.

T.C. Robinson said...

JoeinBonAir, thanks for the questions.

In terms on Powhite, I am diametrically opposed to the extension at this time. I believe that Powhite should be extended eventually, but only when the necessary infrastructure is there to support it. Also, I don't see where we could find the estimated $300 million needed to fund it.

I do believe we need a reform of the proffer system. I'm in favor of a tiered approach, much like the one Renaissance Planning Group is proposing. This would take into account the size of the house and the infrastructure already in place. I also think this would encourage more affordable housing. I am not in favor, as some have suggested, of increasing the proffer at this time. Areas like Henrico and Richmond City, direct competitors of ours, don't have proffers at all, mainly because they have the revenue-generating commercial development that we desire.

Anonymous said...

What branch of the armed forces did he serve in?

Anonymous said...

Alter or Robinson?

Joan said...

Marlene has been a big disappointment. While touting green, open space and smart growth prinicples as an activist before the County as soon as she became Supervisor she was lured by the developer class in the County. In fact, after railing against the developers in her campaign, in the end she finnaly caved to them and even held a fundraising event sponsored by a developer in his home. This is simply hypocricy by Durfee in the face of voters.

Durfee has spoken out against the Roseland development but the rumors are she only cast her vote knowing that the zoning would pass; which it did 4-1. Since then she has routinely addressed the over capacity of schools in the County with but one simple solution; REDISTRICTING!

Again, a slap in the face of those voters whom supported her during the debates about Spring Run some five years ago. Now, we as homeowners who purchased in Matoaca have witnessed our values fall and to top it off have a Supervisor that thinks that our children should be relocated to other schools. I wonder if she realizes just why it was we moved into the area in the first place?

Durfee has become that which she said she stood against.

Anonymous said...

Redistricting is worthless as any solution to overcrowding.

It does indeed lower home values and defeats the reason why parents chose that neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Marlene Durfee has been in office for three years now and her only solution to the problems our schools are facing is "redistricting"?

Maybe her challengers in 2011 should just have a few thousand "Durfee for Redistricting" bumper stickers made up as a campaign gimmick.

Durfee, all HYPE and no SUBSTANCE!!

Anonymous said...

If I were considering running for office in Chesterfield. I would run for School Board:

Less money needed for campaign.
You will never have to vote to increase taxes-The Board has no say in raising revenue
Say what you will abour Durfree(and you can say alot)she is going to be tough to defeat
The district now is going to be different for the election after redistricting

I hope we have good canidates for all the Chesterfield races including the General Assembly. We have some GA members who are nothing but pious frauds.

Anonymous said...

If Marlene Durfee is serious about her desire to put redistricting of Woolridge area and the like up for consideration than she can kiss her seat goodbye. Precincts like Woolridge provided her a voice on the Board and it can certainly silence that voice come the next election, but only if qualified candidates or at least serious ones end up on the ballot.

Anonymous said...

I think Mr. Robinson should run as an independent so he will be on the ballot next Nov.

Even if he does not win, he seems informed enough to raise the level of discourse.

Anonymous said...

Good point. I don't see how the local CCRC is gonna let some 20 year old run under the GOP banner. The GOP is and always has been a good ole boy network. If the GOP can't win in CC in this climate than safe to say though that the CCRC must go another direction than D. Williams at the helm. Isn't his role to seek out "qualified" candidates" for these races?

Anonymous said...

Does "Turning" the page include our Delegates? So disappointed in the meeting Wednesday at JRHS. Its all seem so contrived. I have a hard time believing those were the questions that were handed in to the moderator. If this is the "new" Tea Party as was advertised than it is nothing more than the same old crowd with a new name and label. Sorry folks, not impressed.

I even learned that the questions were almost identical to the ones that were asked the night before in Hanover. Voters are about to be dooped again!

Anonymous said...

Il semble que vous soyez un expert dans ce domaine, vos remarques sont tres interessantes, merci.

- Daniel

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