By. Neil Williamson, President
As an organization, the Free Enterprise Forum is very active in many local public policy discussions. I appreciated Charlottesville Tomorrow’s Sunday (3/15) article regarding our comments to the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors regarding community councils.
In the end, only the most tepid of reforms were passed (6-0). The number of groups will be expanded. Language discouraging voting was eliminated from the reforms at the request of the now renamed Community Committees. I actually believe we may be worse off after the “reforms” than we were before.
I found it most interesting the Supervisors took issue with the concept of limiting the committees’ ability to vote. This Board has applauded the US 29 Project Delivery Advisory Panel which seems to be functioning absent any voting or consensus.
On Tuesday, I received a call from a student at Monticello High School who was interested in our position on the issue. In the interest of clarity, I have published our entire statement in the space below.
My name is Neil Williamson and I serve as the President of the Free Enterprise Forum a public policy organization focused on local government located in Albemarle County.
We have had serious concerns about the mission creeping community councils at least as far back as 2009. I have shared just two of our posts regarding these concerns.
While these entities may have been well intentioned at their formation, they have become an unelected mandated review sieve that provides planning commissioners and members of the Board of supervisors more than just a sounding board – they have become gatekeepers and defacto political cover for the Board of Supervisors.
Planning Commissioner Tom Loach is on the record stating he would have great difficulty supporting any project that does not have the support of the community council. This is not an issue about any community council or any particular decision, frankly I have seen some good things come out of community councils. This is a bad government by design.
I applaud your tepid changes to the councils because they are probably all that could politically pass muster but the Free Enterprise Forum believes citizens should be free to gather however they see fit and speak out on any policy or project but the government should not be directly involved in that assemblage.
We call on you as elected leaders to lead. Evaluate projects on their merits and with the input of the community do not promote some members of the community to unelected fiefdoms in control of which projects advance.
We ask that you disband the community councils if you fail to do that, we encourage you to reign in these unelected mission creeping bodies to their original intent as sounding boards.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org