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.


Anonymous said...

I think this post should be sent to the Observer and Village News. We do not even get the Observer here in Matoaca but it always appears as though it protects the Board. Not sure if its out of self interest or if they do business with the County but they never are willing to do the hard work unless its to bring down Omar Rahji here. Eventhough, he has been proven right time and time again.

Anonymous said...

Great post.

Its is alot easier for corruption to occur whenyou have a smaller Board.

Anonymous said...

Its alot easier for corruption to occur when no one is holding them accountable or even paying attention as well. It appears unless people here in the County are about to be told that thier kids are going to be sent to a different school there are apathetic and could care less where the money is going.

Anonymous said...

Guess most folks are satisfied with the 2007 changes. Of the 10 SB and BOS seats up, only 2 will change. Those are the the 2 open SB seats.

I don't think the SB will do a county wide redistricting like Henrico did. The CCPS has recently elected to keep moves to a minimum.
Redistricting will set off the citizens like nothing else, even a tax hike.

Anonymous said...

Don't you just love how the Observer always paints Gecker as a Republican?

Is it any wonder the local GOP committee is not putting up anyone to run?

The Observer always paints Gecker as "always voting with Warren and Jaeckle" as it stated in this weeks edition.

Gecker managed to work another back room deal or back stabbing by snatching the area around the Bon Secours Hospital away from Durfee's district and hand it over to Warren, who seemed all too delighted to lose a portion of his area because it was an area that "was not very Republican anyway" as echoed from the hallway of the complex.

I wonder what that means?

People need to wake up to the back room, old politics gamesmanship going on with the cronyism that smacks of arrogance before the lose more and more rights and our schools fall to the level of others in the area.

Anonymous said...

Love the post!
I have a couple of points I would ask you to ponder.
All five current Supervisors campaigned saying they agreed we needed 7 districts. There were maps generated (by the staff who had the accurate information) with seven districts. “Bon Air” and “Manchester” were added and Clover Hill began in Woodlake. Matoaca was entirely south of Hull St. The demographics worked. The numbers worked.
Then…it began. The “mouth of the west” decided she should be classified as a full time county employee. The supervisors who have jobs totally opposed the idea, and the party line republican didn’t feel additional tax money should be wasted.
So, as with everything else…stalemate. The threat of “full time” status killed the seven district promise.
As for Bon Air: I understand the points that have been made. I disagree with your take on Mr. Gecker’s interest in it. Bon Air is actually very well represented. Yes, Mr. Gecker lives there, but there are many other influential people who live there as well. They are involved. They lobby other Supervisors when necessary. Actually, if and when I move, Bon Air will be the first place I look. I know this opinion might be the minority here, but I think Mr. Gecker is the only Supervisor on the board doing his job. I have seen some really nasty, humiliating behavior from this group that never made it to any media, and he is the only one who consistently protected his district while also looking at the county as a whole.
I am calling January 1, 2012 as follows: Elswick, Warren, Gecker, Bickford and Jaeckle. Time will tell.


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