Voter Vocabulary

Forum Watch Editorial

By. Neil Williamson


The Free Enterprise Forum’s definition of a Voter Vocabulary term is a government program whose title describes very little but induces lemming-like support.  The grand daddy of this technique is the term “Smart Growth” coined by the staff of then Maryland Governor Parris Glendening.  Other examples include Sustainable Development, Traffic Calming, Land Use Integration and Revenue Enhancement.       


Earlier this month Delegate Brian Moran (D-Alexandria) launched the latest entry in Virginia’s Voter Vocabulary hand book.  In a Virginia-Pilot Op-ed, Moran, who has made no secret of his desire for the Governor’s seat, calls for the creation of an “Office of Responsible Growth”.


This Orwellian sounding concept is a logical next step in wrestling control of plans and proposals away from local government (and citizens).  After weeks of meetings at the Planning Commission level, Fluvanna County agreed to “outsource” its Comprehensive Plan to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission (TJPDC).  The Free Enterprise Forum has learned Greene County has indicated some interest in following the same road (pun intended).


Over the past five years, TJPDC as an organization has become very good at coordinating public meetings and framing the presentations and questions in a manner that provides the public the perception of involvement and still producing an end product that matches their philosophical bend.


TJPDC plans and reports are filled with Voter Vocabulary references such as pedestrian friendly (who would want to be pedestrian unfriendly?), buildings of a human scale (?), and sustainable solutions (if it is not sustainable is it a solution?).


Of interest, the Executive Director of the TJPDC, Harrison Rue, recently resigned to accept a position at an international consulting firm, ICF International.  In discussing his departure with Nancy Miner of The Central Virginian Rue stated, “I’ll be in [ICF’s] transportation practice … working with regions around the country on the same kind of land use integration that we have here.”   We anticipate hearing from Rue in the near future regarding Land Use Integration with Sensible Sustainable Solutions.


Thus during a search for a new Executive Director and in addition to their current activities, Fluvanna County will be paying the TJPDC to create the vision Comprehensive Plan.  The Free Enterprise Forum remains hopeful that the plan will accurately reflect the core values of Fluvanna citizens.  We are concerned Fluvanna (and possibly Greene’s) Comprehensive Plan may be developed in a cookie cutter methodology filled with Voter Vocabulary words and without significant (and meaningful) citizen involvement.  The Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors and citizens deserve better.     


Respectfully Submitted,


Neil Williamson

One comment

  1. Sorry Neil, but you are mistaken with regards to Fluvanna County’s Comp Plan. We are not “outsourcing” nor are we hiring someone to create a “vision” for us. Our action is simply in response to the staffing situation in the County’s planning department.

    In early May, it became apparent that the latest draft of the Comp Plan included very few of prior consensus, comments or corrections submitted over the past year. So the Planning Commission made a unanimous decision to request the services of a qualified consultant as current staff is simply not in a position to provide the level of support needed to make progress on the current Comprehensive Plan revision.

    The Planning Department has faced several significant challenges in just the two years I have been part of the Commission. The office has experienced a high staff turnover and subsequent understaffing, growth in planning services requested, and an increased complexity of required Comp Plan contents, all of which affect the internal resources available for this effort.

    So all this means we need to retain the services of a trained professional whose sole responsibility will be to work with us to integrate into one coherent document the thoughts and ideas of the Planning Commission, County administration and its citizens.

    Also, while the County Administrator has expressed interest in using TJPDC, nothing has been finalized. So stay tuned.

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