Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Board of Supervisors: What Direction Shall Chesterfield Move

As we move forward post-election, Chesterfield County appears poised to either return to the old path driven down by Republicans up until the change election of 2007 or one guided by needs and fiscal responsibility. Virtually all the candidates this year for the Board of Supervisors ducked the really tough questions regarding the future of Chesterfield. Instead, the usual consultant-backed strategy of making the election more about the opponents faults than one's own vision for the County ruled the day. Its a shame really that citizens of Chesterfield really have no real clear indication of the direction the new board will take; all those "Pledges" aside.Issues such as poor infrastructure, economic development, the Comprehensive Planning and of course the guerrilla in the room, School Funding took a back seat to the kinds of attack pieces like where fundraisers were hosted or where money was coming from. The elements of a fundamental vision for the future of Chesterfield was never really expressed by any candidate seeking a seat on the Board of Supervisors.

We have to ask ourselves exactly why these campaigns in 2011 were so void of solutions or fresh ideas? The answer may be in what lies ahead for Chesterfield. The agenda that has basically been placed in a holding pattern in 2011 because of the election- the Comprehensive Plan- will no longer be able to be be shelved as it faces its deadline from the State. Unfortunately, we have our State leaders to blame for passing requirements that localities have such plans that basically mandate New Urbanism. What on earth were the Republicans in Richmond thinking?

Chesterfield managed to send back both Senator Steve Martin(R-011 unopposed) and Senator John Watkins(R-010) back to Richmond. No word on whether or not Mr. Watkin's proposal regarding the cash proffer system will re-surface or not in the coming term to address the needs of adequately securing funding resulting from new development to assist in offsetting build-out expenses by localities. No doubt the Real Estate Associations will push back an any proposal they perceive as being an added layer of expense in terms of new home construction under the guise those fees will be passed on to buyers. Again, during the campaign season of 2011 no mention by any candidate regarding the broken Cash Proffer System or even a whisper about real estate tax revenue given the fact that property values appear flat moving into 2012. No mention regarding potential increases in sales and meals taxes given real estate taxes account for over half of the local revenues generated for the budget.

One question I sought to get answers from candidates regarded the unfunded pensions. The State saw fit to dip into the VRS fund, which has now dropped below 60% of its funding status. Given the number of teachers approaching retirement, this issue cannot simply remain to go ignored and like so many issues our local leaders will have to figure out means of addressing issues rather than simply blaming Richmond and the State.

Recently, County Administrator of Chesterfield James Stegmaier stated that "the biggest vulnerability we have is the apparent failure of the Commonwealth to find solutions to its fiscal difficulties, and the tendency of the Commonwealth to shift their budget problems to the local level". Mr. Stegmaier's statement illustrates a rather "entitlement" mentality regarding State revenues and how localities must secure those revenues or at the very least deserve them in order to solve its own budgetary issues. How can local leaders rationalize the dependence upon the State and most recently Federal Stimulus dollars to address its needs but act as if they believe in limited government and don't support bailouts from the national government and yet gladly take the money every time.

A week hardly goes by that Senator Steve Martin does not blast President Obama and the Progressive regime in Washington for its stimulus programs on his facebook page and yet remains silent about his own districts use of those funds through our local government. Isn't this the height of hypocrisy? Why has candidate Steve Elswich (R-Mataoca) and now a newly elected Supervisor avoided addressing such issues? In the coming months we may learn whether the County's newest Supervisor is the "outsider" he claims or merely just another establishment-type as his opposition penned him during the campaign.

The alignment of the Board appears to have shifted back to the Republicans. Supervisors Warren, Jaeckle and Elswich representing the Republicans with James Holland and Daniel Gecker residing in the minority. The Republicans have enlisted the support of Gecker the last two years or so, but the honeymoon could now be over now that Elswich has been elected and the Republicans have a block of three votes to carry any issue. The Republicans did not actively seek out a challenger in Midlothian for Gecker in 2011 and determined to concentrate its efforts in Matoaca and Dale. It paid off in Matoaca with Elswich's victory, but the Republicans were unable to unseat James Holland (D).

I am hardly optimistic that the new Board will chart a new path given the circumstances facing them. In years past, the Board has done about everything it could to avoid addressing most of the issues facing the County and rather has sought to inflame the debate with unproductive rhetoric aimed directly at the School Board. It is obvious to any objective party that a shortfall with regard to the CCPS is once again on the horizon and once again there is little a whisper from our leaders concerning and proactive steps to be taken or any proposed solutions to head off what will certainly be a contentious 2012.

Friday, June 17, 2011

President Obama: An Economic Reality Fact Check

In an interview this week on the Today show, Ann Curry asked President Obama why he hasn’t been able to convince businesses to hire more people. She cited a New York Times article which stated that since the recovery, companies have spent only 2 percent on hiring, but 26 percent on equipment.

Here is the president’s answer:

"There are some structural issues with our economy where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don't go to a bank teller, or you go to the airport and you're using a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate. All these things have created changes in the economy…."
The way I hear him, self-service convenience devices are a reason we have fewer jobs.
A casual survey of the real world reveals that there are thousands of people who have jobs today because of the existence of ATMs and kiosks.

When you look at the entire industry chain – the manufacturers, processors, networks, financial institutions, deployers, cash providers, servicers, refurbishers, software providers, content creators, accessory sellers, and yes, even the regulators – we have created the equivalent of a small city of jobs.

Since when did the installation of airport check-in kiosks cause a ripple effect of layoffs? On the contrary, these machines have improved service, created a more efficient boarding process and provided a better overall customer experience. All good for business. Not to mention, a cause to hire people to support the machines and spend money with vendors.

The statement that struck me as the most uninformed was the president’s implication that ATMs have caused a loss of teller jobs.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of tellers employed by banks has grown from 453,150 in 1999 to 556,320 in 2010. That’s more than 100,000 new teller jobs in the past 11 years.

The FDIC reports that U.S. bank branches grew from 81,444 in 1992 to 99,109 in late 2010. While many bankers in the late '60s feared they would have to lay off tellers and close branches because of this new-fangled self-service machine, the opposite has in fact happened.
This has created more than just teller jobs – FDIC data states there were 1.8 million full-time bank employees (not to mention those in credit unions) in 1992. That number grew to more than two million in 2010, even with the layoffs during the financial crisis of the past few years.
The approximately 400,000 ATMs in the U.S. have further fueled economic growth by giving people access to their cash in the places where they spend it. What would happen to the retail industry – and the economy – if all the ATMs were pulled out of U.S. stores?

If we are to blame job loss on technological advancement, we must blame the mobile phone for a loss of jobs in the payphone industry. But I’m sure the 40,000 attendees and several thousand exhibitors at the CTIA Wireless show in Orlando earlier this year weren’t longing for the good old days.

Tom Harper

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chesterfield: Opportunities Lost

Many of us were hopeful that our elected officials in Chesterfield would come around and actually do the right thing for once. Given the focus lately by our leaders and the media on the very flawed Comprehensive Planning debate, Redistricting at the State Level and the potential for future shortfalls to the County budget in the years ahead it is no wonder that our leaders either intentionally or conveniently failed to address the very make-up of our County Board of Supervisors.

A mere three years ago, voters heard at least three challengers to incumbent Supervisors speak to the issue of an increasing population within Chesterfield and the necessity for adding additional seats to the Board of Supervisors. Now that these three challengers were victorious in their elections it appears as though they have had little desire to work towards the establishment of new Magisterial Districts in Chesterfield. Many of our leaders cite issues such as complications with the State redistricting and a time crunch given what has been happening in the General Assembly, but in the end it is becoming apparent that these Supervisors failed to act on establishing new districts out of self-interest rather than that of the citizens of Chesterfield.

Many other localities throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia have less population than Chesterfield and yet have more than the five member Board of Supervisors leading Chesterfield. The City Council in the City of Richmond dwarfs the Board in Chesterfield and Hanover County with about a third the population has basically the same size Board. So whats the difference? Whats the value in a larger Board?

Representation as well as transparency are key issues that voters at the local level are seeking in their leaders. The days of back room deals- though the whole Supervisor Gecker fiasco that elevated Supervisor Art Warren back to the Chairmanship earlier this year illustrates they are still happening- are beginning to come to end in large part because more citizens are getting engaged in the process. Thankfully, groups like the Campaign for Liberty and Tea Party elements are holding local leaders to the fire on key founding principles.

Right now, Chesterfield's population is approaching almost 325,000. Two decades ago when Chesterfield was at its growth infancy it still had as many Board members as it does today. It really begs the question which citizen got a better deal in terms of access and representation; the one whose Supervisor represented some 25,000 people or the one today where we see some representing 70,000. Three of our current Supervisors (Gecker, Durfee, Jaeckle) recognized this in their campaigns, but have taken no action in three years to address the matter.

Because of State Law, the failure of the Board to take action this year following the what would normally be the most opportunistic time because of the released 2010 Census Data, Chesterfield County will have to wait TEN MORE years to add any Magisterial Districts. These leaders can whine all they want about time and issues with the GA all they want, but they knew three years ago they would have the data from the census to get this done. In fact, I bet Bob Olsen- the local citizen who basically crafted Plan A and B for the redraw in the first place- could have drawn new districts up in about a weekend.

There is a arrogance and elitist attitude that permeates this Board of Supervisors like I have not seen in decades. Many have always associated a sort of "good ole boy" personification to Chesterfield politics, but in fact in recent years where that has wained it has been replaced by an arrogance that seems to speak DOWN to citizens or AT them and not TO them.

I for one have long been calling for a new Magisterial District in the Bon Air area in large part because the interests on this area have never really been served by the local Supervisor representing Midlothian. Even Supervisor Gecker who has resided in the area since his appointment to the Planning Commission by (D) Ed Barber some ten years or so ago appears more interested in representing the Midlothian area along the RT 60 corridor and west than Bon Air. The Village of Bon Air and the community there is an older, more established one with lower growth ability than its Midlothian area counterparts. In the last ten years, do in part to poor planning under the leadership of people like Gecker the area has seen an increase in the number of rental properties which has been a direct result of lowering property values and the sprawl impact of Midlothian Tnpk coming west of the old Cloverleaf Mall. The vacancy rate of lease space along the corridor has steadily increased during the last ten years and even though there is promise for the old Cloverleaf space we have yet to see any real rehabilitation of the area moving
west of the City.

In fact, Bon Air residents have seen massive growth and newer developments pop up all along the western boundary of the Midlothian District and when such decisions like the 4.2 million dollar Sportsquest bailout was made many residents perceived that action has benefiting those communities in west Midlothian and Matoaca and hurting such recreational programs in their own community given that funds by the same leaders were reduced for field upkeep.

Whether or not the reality in truth favors one area over another is not really the issue. The issue is there are growing portions in Chesterfield that have become glowingly under-represented and whose interests are really not being addressed. It seems given this Boards attitude toward infrastructure solutions and road spending the older areas will continue to be the hardest hit.

If you live in Bon Air, do not be surprised if in ten years you are looking at another Jefferson Davis Hwy situation on your doorstep in terms of Midlothian Tnpk. Its already begun, even if people like Supervisor Gecker wish to continue to deny it, but thanks to leaders like Gecker, Durfee, and Jaeckle we will have to wait another ten years to balance the County in the manner that would benefit our County.

I am not sure what is worse. Leaders who can't recognize a problem exists or Leaders who recognize a problem exists but does nothing about it. Another opportunity lost in Chesterfield.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Chesterfield: Two Boards Divided Revisited

It been one year since the fireworks and strained relations between Chesterfield County's two governing bodies in the Board of Supervisors and School Board was made public. These things had previously always remained behind close doors, but last year at this time the County was facing some very hard financial climbs and citizens were demanding leaders respond to the forces on the ground in our community.

Ultimately, the Board of Supervisors would reject the proposal to raise the real estate tax (property) by five cents in order to meet the gap that the County was facing in the School Board budget. This followed weeks of sparring between the two Boards over budget matters and fiscal responsibility.

One year later I am not so sure we have really made a progress on the relations front. There is still visible tension between the two bodies and it is not going to get any easier with looming shortfall to funding the next budget let alone the current proposals by the Schools. If you recall, Feb. 9th, 2010 School Board member Omarh Rajah(Matoaca) stated publicly during the School Board meeting that:

"As soon as we present our budget, guess what the other ones(BOS) do?Well, why do you need this and why do you need that?We do a line item with the BOS. Don't let them put the spin job on you, because that's exactly what they're doing.We do that in every one of our meetings, When we have joint meetings, we give them this, we give them line item stuff. And we present that to them. Don't let them fool you into thinking that we don't. By law we have to present everything. We don't hold anything back. We can't do it, we must balance our budget. Every year we have to do this. So if the BOS says to me or you one more time that the school system is not showing us all of our documentation, They're lying. They are lying to you...I don't believe the BOS are anti-education, I believe they are anti-youth. You look at a majority of their budget cuts, it comes on the backs of youth. From schools, and to their county programs"

While lately such local papers as the Chesterfield Observer seem bent on portraying Mr. Rajah as nothing more than an annoyance, it really begs the question why it is papers like the Observer have not taken Mr. Rajah's comments and criticisms of the process and investigated the validity of such claims. Instead, there seems to be a consistent effort to portray Rajah as an outsider. In fact, recently the Observer ran a piece entitled "Rajah distances himself from CCPS/school board"(Feb. 9, 2011) which touched on a topic Rajeh has been trying to address for three years and that is the overcapacity of schools like Cosby. Are not the facts, the facts? Are we not constantly told that we need "data driven" measures in the County? Well, the data is in and has been in for years; Rajah was right on target to seek a Cosby to accommodate 2,000+ because the school is overcapacity by 30%.

I wonder why it is the Chesterfield Observer or other papers in the area have not investigated just why it is Cosby got built in the manner in which it did. Why were the voices (not unlike today) silenced out or in the case of Rajeh portrayed as "distancing" himself from the Board when he has simply be a dissenting voice to the status quo. The Board of Supervisors does not want to face the political football that is redistricting, but anyone with any sense of integrity on the matter knows that's the coming outcome.

These leaders have stated recently that they believe that enrollment at some of the schools that are at overcapacity will decline in enrollment in the coming years. In fact, the reported number that Cosby High will only add 20 students between now and 2019 appears absurd. How does the County derive such predictions?

According to Tim Billis, Director of School Community Relations "the enrollment projections for Chesterfield are built using school and county data.An analysis is developed based on a variety of factors including live birth rates and county developments such as approved developments and approved residential lots."(Chesterfield Observer Feb. 9, 2011)

What Mr. Billis should have included in his explanation is the word "redistricting". The only way the County will keep the enrollment number from rising and hitting only 20 new students between now and 2019 would be if the took out a pencil and redrew Cosby High School's boundaries.

So once again, Omarh Rajah appears to be ahead of the curve in Chesterfield much to the chagrin of the establishment in the County. After all, if I was to decide to move my family to Magnolia Green this summer and that development was not redistricted I would be adding some three new students alone to that 20 number.

But then thats just how "data" works these days. Forget about the philosophy that if you build it they will come which gets ignored by our planners evidently because we have enough homes going up right now in Harpers Mill and Magnolia Green to totally blow away the County "data" and those are just two of the many new developments in the "current" Cosby zone that could see improving sales in the next two years.

So one year later, School Board member Omarh Rajah is still out there making the case for reasonable solutions and one year later Rajeh is still being ignored by the majority of the leaders in the County. I wonder what else will have to happen for papers like the Chesterfield Observer to begin to have some balance to its pieces, but this is of course is an election year and there appears a vested interest in focusing on what Rajeh is saying rather than what our Boards are actually doing.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chesterfield: The Road Ahead

While many of the people I admire here in the area for their advocacy of local issues here in Chesterfield have been oout of town at CPAC, this certainly has been a jam packed week following the Reagan Dinner held in Richmond.

Our School Board has determined that a proposed budget increase of 6 million over last year is warranted for consideration to include a 2% "salary enhancement" for employees of CCPS. This fall just months after the Board of Supervisors bonus consideration of all government employees (non-school) whom have been in service at least one full year.Am I missing something? Have we really seen any real signs (of significance) of a recovery? I mean we are still facing a huge housing crisis here in Chesterfield with rising defaults and foreclosures whihc will result in less revenue generation by the County via "paid" property taxes. Has our "government class" simply endeavored to operate outside the bubble of the real mainstream families here in the County? Do they really feel as though they are an "entitled class" even in the midst of under funded pensions and things like the VRS.

How can our government continue to operate as though they live in a box?I speak with business owners all the time who would love to provide their employees with higher wages, a bonus, or better benefits, but in the end all of their efforts are tied to income generated by operations. These are still very tense times for our local business owners and job creators and while they buckle down and make hard choices to stay in business, our government remains defiant at making any hard choices with regard to its own budgets. Both the Board of Supervisors and the School Board jave failed equally in delivering fiscally responsible budgets to meet these times.

Only in Chesterfield have we come to expect (and accept) to have a government who can rationalize proposing a budget greater than the preceeding year and then forecast a potential 20 million shortfall for 2013. If you ask those business leaders what would be their reaction to such news regarding their industry or business, what do you think the reaction would be? Well, it would be to cut spending in those areas in which they could that would not hamper business integrity. Our government however, sees things quite differently. Because government is "service" driven they use this as cover for attempting to increase budgets in order as leaders say to provide the services that citizens desire. Really?

It is not those services per say that is the question, but rather the excessive expense generated by the government in order to deliver said service when compared to other areas of the country. Why has our County seen so fit to create budgets that far outpace both population growth and inflation? How is it that a budget a mere 5-6 years ago was almost 40% less than it is today. How can people like Daniel Gecker and Marlene Durfee stand up at District Meetings with the Renaissance Group consultant tell us that by passing Comprehensive Planning we will see LESS population (they say 100K less) in the next 30 years if the Plan is adopted but then keep endorsing larger and larger budgets and Capital Improvement Plans. How?

The fact remains our County spending is out of control and these leaders lack the political will to be honest not only with citizens but apparently themselves. A 523.8 million School Budget when compared to other localities with more students/schools appears wildly optimistic or should I say dangerously opportunistic when they have admitted that the budget will surely face shortfall in the next year. Both the School Board and the Board of Supervisors must be held to task for providing in this current economic environment bonus payments to employees that outpace inflation with the average raises pegged just below 2% while inflation has been 1.2% and yet we have an admission that productivity has not been enhanced.

Our schools face very hard descisions to be sure. There is no question we must see to it that we are compensating our teachers effectively and retaining our quality teachers through performance based measures that unfortunately politically driven entities will not accept. If we endeavored to cut in those non-essential areas, we could certainly have come up with a better, focused plan to raise the teacher funding, but simply providing across the Board "salary enhancements" does nothing to increase performance.The class size and overcapacity as been exasperated by an over zealous Board of Supervisors with regard to planning by not effectively managing the impacts that such zonings would have on our schools and communities. In part, the animosity between the two Boards expressed in 2010 was not productive either. Not having engagement by the School System in zoning/planning has/is a recipe for disaster and we see it in the form of Cosby, Watkins, and Robious Middle along with others concerning capacity. Most classes are over the 25:1, 27:1, 26:1 targets (elem, middle, high) of student /teacher ratios though they manipulate classes like physical education to skew the numbers. By this I mean, it is not uncommon for an academic class to have 33-35 students, but sense there can be multiple gym class with 42-45 the numbers as a ratio on average get played with through the system. The ones that suffer from such convenient tinkering are our children!

So where are our Schools and likely of Board of Supervisors looking to explain such unwarranted budget proposals; while the State and the Federal Government of course. The Schools will receive Federal stimulus monies from two fronts; the stimulus and a Federal Jobs Bili which are to be "one-time" infusions and given whats happening in Washington these days it may just be one-time, eventhough I have been told "we always get money from the State and the Feds so not to worry". The County appears to always use the "matching" approach with regard to funds from outside sources by using the same amount of local funds for a desired purpose (thus increasing the budget) instead of just using the outside source funds for purposes of the budget.

Well, in fact we should all be worried. A County unable to operate at sustained levels regarding budgets and railing from shortfall to surplus and back to shortfall spells disaster for County stability and ulitmately will contribute to Chesterfield to be a declining locality and not a thriving one.

Those families living here in Chesterfield deserve better. Much better.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

UDA's: Urban Development Areas; the Backstory

So what is it exactly that is giving cover the local officials in Chesterfield County regarding this new Comprehensive Plan?

Urban Development Areas. Daniel Nairn gives us a (glowing) look into their creation and evolution: (taken FromonHigh blog)

"Over the last couple of years the state government of Virginia has been rolling out a land use planning category for localities known as Urban Development Areas (UDAs), where higher density development can be concentrated. The concept started off slowly in 2007 with HB 3202 as an advisory element to be placed in the Comprehensive Plans of "high growth" localities, but UDAs have gradually been weaved into everything from stormwater regulations to street design requirements over the last year.The Development and Land Use Tools Subcommittee, known as the Athey-Vogel group, last week released a proposal for stronger UDAs and a loan fund to sweeten the pot. Considering the media has pretty much ignored this process (I can't find any story, actually), it seems like a worthwhile endeavor to pay attention to where this initiative may be going.The purpose of UDAs is not only to allow the concentration of growth in certain areas (thus relieving the pressure on others) but also to guide the design of such areas to ensure they are livable and attractive environments. The legislation explicitly calls for "new urbanism and traditional-neighborhood design," and the essential criteria are spelled out clearly: pedestrian-friendly road design, interconnection of streets, preservation of natural areas, mixed-use neighborhoods, reduction of front and side setbacks, among other things. Minimum densities are set by floor-to-area ratio for commercial and dwelling-units-per-acre for residential development.Last week's proposed changes double the density requirements for all localities"

HB 1721(Virginia General Assembly)

The following is information that Donna Holt of Campaign for Liberty provided about HB1721.

BACKGROUNDThe General Assembly convened on January 12th and we are following many pieces of legislation. HB 1721 is one that has dire consequences for us. Currently, 67 localities in Virginia are mandated to build Urban Development Areas.HB1721, introduced by Delegate Bob Marshall, would make Urban Development Areas optional rather than mandatory.The bill was recommended to report (passed by a majority of yea votes) by the House Counties, Cities and Towns Sub-committee #2 by a vote of 7-4 on January 20th, but was stalled on January 21st by the full committee at the request of Speaker Howell. It must pass this full committee and then go to the House Floor for a full vote. If it passes there, it then goes to the Senate on February 8th, Cross-Over Day, to begin the process there. This is going to be a long battle.

WHAT WE’RE UP AGAINST This bill is being attacked by heavyweights like the Home Builders Association, Southern Environmental Law Center, and the Sierra Club, and the League of Conservation Voters.Members of the Home Builders Association stand to gain a great benefit from the construction of UDAs. Not only can they build up to twelve homes on a single acre of land that they can purchase very inexpensively, but they get tax breaks for the new urbanism, green building, and green energy efficiency practices used in the construction of these high-density communities.Organizations like the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Sierra Club are heavily funded by other international organizations like ICLEI and benefit greatly by defeating the bill.The reality, folks, is if we don’t get this bill passed, 67 local governments in Virginia will have no choice but to approve the comprehensive plans in EVERY locality in Virginia because UDAs are MANDATED.WHAT YOU CAN DO:WE NEED ALL HANDS ON DECK NOW if we are to be successful! We must show them who the real heavy weights are.We strongly urge you to:* Contact every member of the House Counties, Cities and Towns Committee to urge them to vote in support of the bill.

* Contact Speaker Bill Howell (R) Phone: (804) 698-1028 Email: and ask him to support this bill.* Contact YOUR representatives to let them know you support this bill.* We urge citizens from EVERY locality of the Commonwealth to be representatives of their community at the next committee meeting on HB1721. We are in the fight of our lives to defend private property rights. It is up to each and every one of us to do all we can to get HB1721 passed out of this committee and on to the floor for a vote.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Observations on Chesterfield Comprehensive Plan: A Concerned Citizen

Today, Donna Holt from Midlothian, Virginia and from the Campaign for Liberty posted this on Facebook:


1. The language in the plan is very vague and subject to the interpretation of the reader.
2. The plan turns the entire county into a planned community with governing boards to establish the rules with no oversight much like “Home Owners Associations” do in planned communities.
3. The plans state there are lifestyle choices but is not specific about what the choices are and implies a vast amount of restrictions we will be forced to live by.
4. The plan restricts the majority of future growth to within the new urban boundaries.
5. The plan puts a lot of emphasis on aesthetics and implies that some properties that do not conform with the “aesthetics” of the community may be required to reconstruct the front of buildings to fit in with the design plan for the community as determined by unidentified decision makers.
6. The plans are designed to lower density further in the less populated areas while increasing the density in more populated areas which seems to have the goal of population control.
7. The plan calls for very expensive revitalization and development that is unaffordable in this economic downturn.
8. The Comprehensive Plan Reference Handbook with supplemental material is said not to be adopted but does not state the significance of the material to the plan. It implies that it is to be used as the handbook for implementing the goals set forth in the plan with no further action by the BOS.
9. The plan calls for public/private partnerships to redistribute the wealth as seen in socialist societies for economic development and affordable housing.
10. The plan includes strategies, plans, policies, and processes to control every aspect of life.

1. Proponents of "sustainable development" like the Renaissance Planning Group are taking advantage of the UDA mandate to facilitate the implementation of very strict land use regulations to achieve a political agenda that goes far beyond what the legislature intended.
2. In 1993, President Bill Clinton issued Executive Order #12852 which created the President's Council for Sustainable Development. Their purpose was to translate the recommendations set forth in the 1992 United Nations' Agenda 21 into public policy administered by the federal government. Among the objectives of the President's Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) were:
To implement new policies for America as described in "Sustainable America -A New Consensus".
To use land use planning to control populations.
To establish "sustainable communities", also called smart growth, calling for high-density mixed use feudalistic transit villages to handle future growth in localities across the nation.
To forever preserve rural areas and establish "wildlands" for more than 50% of the nations landscape with roadless areas that would be off limits to humans.
To create buffer zones for another 35% or more of the land between areas of high density and the wildlands.
To establish government funding to seek and acquire private land. They have stated in their documents that public ownership of land should be used to exercise urban and rural land reform.
To use incentives and disincentives to achieve the goals as set forth in Agenda 21. It was determined by members of the council that 67% of the recommendations could be implemented administratively using rule making authority at the local level.
3. The process used to develop the plans to meet the UDA mandate is of great concern. The decisions for the community were made by unelected facilitators of the "steering committee". The Renaissance Planning Group was paid nearly $900,000 for the visioning and planning project at taxpayer expense. The plans they present are merely a template for social engineering that is presented as the goal just as it is done in every locality across the Commonwealth, the nation, and around the world.

The Renaissance Planning Group, the facilitators of the "steering committee", in fact, did the steering. The plans are never voted on by the members resulting in an outcome that was obviously pre-determined. Though their meetings were open to the public, they were void of any public input thus the questions and concerns of the true stakeholders in the community were never even heard during the planning process. Any questions or expressed concerns by other members of the committee
were marginalized and left unanswered.

The end result was the "vision" for the community in a "new comprehensive plan" that was presented to the county BOS as the "consensus of the community".

4. Low-income areas are targeted for the establishment of the UDAs. High density development increases housing costs, thus taxes, which will displace many of the elderly and low-income families. Though subsidies are offered for low income housing in the UDAs, the cost to make homes more affordable for some are transferred to the cost of homes for others.
5. All the funding, subsidies, and tax incentives for the implementation of the plans adds to the national debt at the expense of taxpayers.
6. There is a correlation between restrictive land use regulations and foreclosure rates. According to the leading housing data firm, Realty Trac, Virginia ranked 16th worst among all states in terms of its foreclosure rate in 2009.

Ronald Utt, Senior Research Fellow for The Heritage Foundation, recently did a study of foreclosure patterns and concluded that "the state's foreclosure problems stem from the state's exceptionally high home prices in comparison to the incomes of its residents, and these high home prices are due to land shortages caused by abusive zoning. "Housing is considered "affordable" if median home prices in an
area are no more than three times the median household income in that area. This ratio is called the "median multiple"." What is considered affordable is a median multiple of 3.

California was one of the first states to adopt "sustainable community" polices more than two decades ago, commonly referred to as smart growth, imposing strict land use regulations to discourage building and growth. As a consequence, in 2006 and 2007, the median multiple in California soared to more than 10.

Such regulations spread rapidly to many other states and communities during the 1990s and 2000s. Northern Virginia, Hampton Roads, and Richmond warmly embraced them with similar consequences. In Northern Virginia the median multiple hit 5.6, Hampton Roads went to 4.7, and Richmond hit 4.1. As we
continue to implement "smart growth" policies, this number is expected to rise.

7. Many high density urban development areas already established across the state have been empty for a year or more.
8. Land use decisions should be largely driven by a free market. If UDAs have to be mandated, one can only conclude that:
There is no market for UDAs.
The community doesn't want it and doesn't feel it's appropriate for their locality.
9. In 2009, Realty Trac reported there were 16,687 homes in foreclosure in Virginia. In 2010, 1 in every 948 homes received a foreclosure filing with a sharp increase in December of 2010 when every 1 in 501 homes received foreclosure filing. At this rate of foreclosure and with so many homes already on the market, mandating UDAs will only add to the inventory of unoccupied homes at a great risk to the economy. While it may be putting builders to work, we must also consider the burden to the taxpayer for the money that is funding this development through grants, subsidies, and tax incentives. Then there's the loans to finance construction to build more homes that there is no market for. Who will pay the construction loans if the homes don't sell and what will that mean to the economy in the long
10.The plan fits perfectly with the goals in the biodiversity plan called for in the United Nations plan, Agenda 21, called for in the Biodiversity Treaty that was rejected by the Senate in 1994. The plan calls for strategies, policies, and processes to control every aspect of life. The developers of the UN plan stated:
"Land...cannot be treated as an ordinary asset, controlled by individuals and subject to the pressures and inefficiencies of the market. Private land ownership is also the principle instrument of accumulation and concentration of wealth, and therefore, contributes to social injustice..."
11.The new comprehensive plan provides for the type of social engineering that is the perfect definition of a soviet.
12.Most would agree that we need to be good stewards of the environment and most people are. Sensible planning is generally accepted by the community but the abusive land use planning in the new comprehensive plans determines every aspect of how and where we live and is seen to be a violation of private property rights.
The official District meetings concluded last night at Cosby High School. The debate however is far from over and there will be many opportunities for the public to come together in local town halls that will be organized in the coming weeks, not by politicians or the County but by CITIZENS. Its time we heard the other side of the story. In order to form a better judgement on the direction of the County those that oppose both this Plan and "Sustainable" Communities must be able to be heard.
Citizens must be informed as to both the pros and cons of embarking on such a massive undertaking. As of yet, the County has not be able to provide citizens with an adequate cost/benefit analysis except to say the Plan has the "potential" to save the County millions.
The meaning of "potential" is politico-speak for we haven't really a clue but we hope it will!
if you would like to be informed of upcoming gatherings in the community regarding these matters please feel free to provide your email address or join the Alter of Freedom Group page on Facebook the next time you are own that site.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sen. Steve Martin(R-Chesterfield): Challenges of Social Media

The following is passage is taken from State Senator Steve Martin's (R-Chesterfield) Facebook page where he was recently engaged in debate with fellow Virginians over the potential former Senator and Governor George Allen's nomination to represent the GOP in a bid to unseat Senator James Webb:

Robert and Amy; "For some reason you believe that you have a right to control my evening and the focus of it. You are fully aware that this is my wall and not your own, yet you keep posting things here for me to respond to. I have worked very long days including weekends for several weeks and I am very tired. Today I had hoped to rest but found it necessary to travel out of state for an aunt's funeral. I left very early this morning and got home a few hours ago, and have found it necessary to respond to you two ever since. Apparently, you will only be happy if I stop responding to any and everything you say.Yes; please move along. This is not your wall for you to post whatever you choose. That is what your wall is for. Hijacking of someone's space and time is never welcomed, by anyone.I appreciate both of you, but this is not your wall for your unchallenged use. Do you mind if I take a break from your onslaught" (Steve Martin)

This was but one of the comments posted by Mr. Martin on his page as he responded to individuals who have challenged his apparent endorsement of George Allen in the GOP Primary. It has really been interesting to watch and read these things because apparently Mr. Martin has had a great deal of trouble grasping the Social Media medium when compared to other elected officials. Mr. Martin constantly complains about people "hijacking" his page whereas we rarely (if ever) see other leaders resort to such petty quibbles. Mr. Martin would later post on his page about being compelled to delete and remove comments from those that have differing points of view on the issues than himself. Mr. Martin would later post:

"Some believe a store owner's removal of an unwanted bulletin from his front window is censorship. No. That is controlling your storefront ... your wall. The same is true on FB. Censorship would be deleting someone else's desired messages from their own wall. Deleting unwanted posts from your own wall is called, "taking responsibility." Too bad, so much of it was reguired this evening" (Steve Martin)

It has become clear in the last year, as we have posted about this before regarding Mr. Martin, that he has a tendency to feel very insecure about his Facebook Page. In fact, when he states "unwanted posts" its as if he is implying that they are unsolicited when in fact through Facebook when you accept to be friends with an individual let alone a constituent you are inviting posts upon your wall.

By accepting a Friend Request we basically provide that person with access to our wall and in doing so provide them with license to post whatever they would like. After all, these people are our friends right? Mr. Martin has every right to delete and take control of his wall of course, but is it really professional to whine about having to engage and respond to constituents whom may have a different perspective, especially when you post a virtual endorsement for another political figure. It appears as though by posting such an endorsement, Mr. Martin was inviting constituent response from those whom are his Friends on Facebook, otherwise why even put it out there and through a press release.

What has to be the most humorous response regarding Mr. Martins plea for sympathy came when on of his commenter's stated in reference to how Mr. Martin should look at this issue came when Mr. Martin stated that the wall on Facebook was property in the same manner in which a renter has rights over property that may be owned by someone else and no one has the right to enter said property or post on the wall or trespass. The comment directed at Mr. Martin was:

"The difference Sen. Martin is that by accepting Friendship with someone to use your renters analogy you have basically given them the keys to enter your property"

Obviously, embarrassed Mr. Martin quickly removed the above comment as well as those that were in agreement most likely because it basically undermined the stated position of Mr. Martin. In fact, the Senator even removed his own comment regarding the "renter" analogy. The thread now reads as an uneven, hard to follow thread where none of responses seem to flow as you read them.

Once again, Mr. Martin has proven his inability to understand Social Media at its basic core but after the last year or so are any of us really surprised?

Interesting point as well is Martin's endorsement of George Allen in the statewide race, but Mr. Martin still has failed to endorse Mr. Robinson;the only Republican candidate that has announced a candidacy for Supervisor from the Matoaca District in Chesterfield, which is smack in the middle of Martin's own District. Apparently, Mr. Martin is sticking by incumbent Marlene Durfee -Independent, much to the dismay of conservative voters in Chesterfield.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chesterfield: Politics as Usual

I want to take this opportunity to express how so very disappointed I am in the current Board of Supervisors. This Board, not unlike the Congress in 2007, was ushered in by those in the media as bringing a new day, tone and transparency to the process. As a nation we had had seven years of leadership under George Bush and voters turned over Congress to the Democrats and here in Chesterfield, an historically conservative County turned the Board of Supervisors over to Independents(Democrats) after decades of Republican control.

I am hear to tell you that the result of such action has been as negative here in Chesterfield as it has nationally in terms of the last Congress. We all know what happened in November. Voters rejected the path in which both Congress and Obama were taking the nation down and now here in Chesterfield I can tell you that citizens are rejecting not only the policies of this Board but in fact are questioning its motives.

Yesterday, there was a meeting regarding the new Comprehensive Plan in Midlothian. (More on that meeting later for its deserving of its own post). In attendance were the usual suspects; Supervisor Gecker(Midlothian), Supervisor Durfee(Matoaca), Patty Carpenter(School Board-Midlothian) and many Planning officials but also there sitting respectfully in the back of the meeting room was Supervisor Jim Holland(Dale) who just a day earlier had been the victim (yes victim) and some of the political engineering as so often has expressed itself in Chesterfield County. So much for a new day and tone!

Or should I say so much for "Planning not Politics" as Supervisor Gecker's campaign slogan suggested . Oh folks, "Politics" is alive and well in Chesterfield and in part due to people like Mr. Gecker.

Instead, what the County gets is once again the status quo of leadership. If the County voted out the Republicans and they currently remain somewhat in the minority given the current political make-up; 1 democrat, 2 Independents, and 2 Republicans. Remember, there were 5 seated Republicans going into the last election. Why on earth than would the Board continue to shift backward to Supervisor Art Warren you ask? Simple. Politics.

Warren has held the Chairmanship of the Board a few times in his 20 years as a Supervisor, but there is more to it than that. The County is at a crossroads with regard to its future. It appears as though the powers that be wanted the power of the Chair in the hands of a friend, given Mr. Holland was just recently elected and has been a bit of a wild card on the Board. Truth be told, I have the greatest amount of respect for Holland who appears to vote his conscience and appears not to persuaded by the powers. Holland, however was betrayed on those closest to him and those people he has worked beside these last few years.

I have no doubt the disappointment felt by Mr. Holland and frankly the surprise that such a back room deal orchestrated by his fellow Supervisors would be sprung on him at the very meeting there was to be a vote. Everyone assumed Mr. Holland would take over as Chair and then at the last moment the plan unraveled and Warren was secured the Chair by a vote of 3-2.

Supervisor Jaeckle's(Bermuda) position in the matter was known. After all, she is a Republican and has voted alongside Warren for the last few years, but what was quite surprising was the switch made by Supervisor Gecker(Midlothian) who had supported Holland until the vote when he joined Jaeckle in supporting Warren. Gecker has had the current Chair this past year.

Supporters of gecker at the Planning meeting voiced that his actions demonstrated his "independent" nature, however those of us who have observed Gecker these last nine years know he is a pure politician. It is my opinion that Gecker made a politically calculated move because he knows the Midlothian District is in large part a Conservative area. Gecker made a calculated move in 2006 to run as an "Independent" after losing to Donald Sowder-R in the Special Election running as a Democrat. In 2006, Gecker challenged Sowder again and defeated him this time running as an "Independent". It was a calculated move based on politics and Gecker understands he will not be able to yield the same kind of sentiment for "change" like he did in the historic 2006 election and will need many Republicans to support his re-election bid.

Again, Mr. Gecker has demonstrated his desire to engage in the worst kind of politics. The politics of selfishness. Gecker had an opportunity to bring about an historic vote in Chesterfield which would have seen the first minority Chairman in County history. Instead, Gecker hands over the reigns to Warren for the third time in four years.

Now that's "change" you can believe in!