By. Neil Williamson
Well, 2017 is the year many in Central Virginia would like to forget. Beyond the far reaching ramifications of the year when Charlottesville became a verb on the national stage, The Free Enterprise Forum remained focused on monitoring local government, reducing regulatory burdens, promoting market based solutions, protecting property rights, and encouraging economic vitality.
None of this could be accomplished without the generous support of our donors and our regular readers. Thank you. As we embark on our fifteenth year of operation,we remain vigilant, and “pleasantly” persistent.
Each year, we select the top ten blog posts for our year in review. There were many other blog posts that reached honorable mention status. I would be remiss if I did not thank our Field Officers Brent Wilson (Greene County) and Bryan Rothamel (Fluvanna County) for their significant reportage in 2017.
With apologies to the now retired David Letterman, here are our Top 10 posts for 2017:
#10 Albemarle’s $52 Million Rain Tax Department December 4, 2017
Farmers count on rain to feed their crops; Albemarle County is counting on the Rain Tax (AKA Storm water “fee”) to grow government with a 10 year budget that exceeds $52 million.
#9 Charlottesville’s Paid Parking ‘Canary in the Coal Mine’ ? March 14, 2017
While it is heartening to see Charlottesville position parking meters as a “pilot” and only a part of the parking solutions considered.. . Available parking is the life’s blood of most small businesses.
… The Free Enterprise Forum hopes the City Council will pay attention when the canary stops singing – local businesses (as well as the jobs and taxes they generate) will be at risk.
#8 The Wizard of Oz and the Rio/29 Small Area Plan March 1, 2017
Over the years, some have considered the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Woodsman and the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz to be less than perfect heroes – I beg to differ I find them to be the best kind of heroes – those that must work together to achieve a goal.
Today, (3/1) as the Board of Supervisors considers the innovative Form Based Code land use planning for Rio/29 small area plan I believe this unlikely trio could provide important guidance
#7 Frederick Fleet and Charlottesville’s Form Based Code Charrette Sept. 7, 2017
….Considering the current [Charlottesville] climate, I am reminded of Titanic crewman (and survivor) Frederick Fleet who was on duty when he saw a black mass ahead of the ship. He struck three bells and telephoned the bridge. Though the ship swung out of the way, he watched as an iceberg scraped the starboard side.
The Free Enterprise Forum is ringing the bell.
We fear this ill timed, but worthy, Form Based Charrette exercise will be met with a similar fate.
It is a shame.
#6 Fixing Charlottesville NDS Engine Light February 16, 2017
If you have ever driven with a “Check Engine” light illuminated, you have an idea of where Charlottesville’s Neighborhood Development Services (NDS) Department has been for some time.
Everyone (land owners, neighborhood associations, developers, etc.) agrees that something is seriously wrong but no one knows specifically what it is or, perhaps more importantly, how to fix it – until now.
#5 Albemarle Economic Development X Files March 29, 2017
Albemarle County says that it is in favor of economic development. The former County Executive Tom Foley went so far as to say it is a “new day in Albemarle” regarding being open for business. A couple of supervisors have even gone on the road attempting to drum up public support for economic vitality.
I find myself thinking of the 1990’s science fiction series the X-files where two FBI agents, Fox Mulder the believer and Dana Scully the skeptic, investigate the strange and unexplained, while hidden forces work to impede their efforts.
Just as Fox Mulder in the X-Files, I want to believe Albemarle, but the facts keep getting in the way.
#4 Changing Charlottesville Philosophy to YIMBY July 25, 2017
…This is not a development problem, it is a political problem, and it exists nationwide.
I recently reviewed the YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) San Francisco platform and I believe there are many parallels to Charlottesville….
We believe that San Francisco has always been, and should continue to be, an innovative and forward-looking city of immigrants from around the U.S. and the world. San Francisco is not full, and the Bay Area is definitely not full. Ours is an inclusive vision of welcoming all new and potential residents. Anyone who wants to should be able to afford housing in the Bay Area.
#3 Hindsight Report Asks ‘What If?’ August 1, 2017
…The Hindsight Report indicates that over the study period (2001-2016), Albemarle County received, from the study area, over $277 million in local tax revenue compared with the $212.9 million revenue sharing payments made to the City of Charlottesville (+$64.1 million).
….Had Charlottesville been successful in the annexation and the revenue sharing agreement not been in place, the City would have received $304.7 million in tax revenue from the study area during the study period compared with $212.9 million in revenue sharing payments from Albemarle County (-$91.8 million).
#2 A Tradition Like No Other–Albemarle Again Seeks to Ban Golf April 5, 2017 and
Sunny Day? Albemarle Prohibits Greens, Endorses ‘Green’ April 24, 2017
….By our back of the envelope calculations, rural recreation is an economic driver in the community representing nearly 2,000 jobs and an annual payroll of $40 million dollars. In addition, rural recreation is a part of the fabric of Albemarle County. The Free Enterprise Forum asks you to abandon this folly and utilize your limited staff resources to meet real needs of the community.
#1 Sayonara Shucet March 31, 2017
Late yesterday afternoon (3/30), the embattled Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) named former Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Commissioner Philip Shucet as their new Chief Executive Officer.
In our three years of observation, we have grown to appreciate the charming manner in which Shucet manages (some might say manipulates) meetings and their outcomes…. As a facilitator extraordinaire, he has stayed true to the “Shucet Six” we first identified in 2014…. for now we say Sayonara Shucet, we wish you fair winds and following seas.
But most of all THANK YOU, the readers and supporters of this blog and our work in Central Virginia. Without your generous support, we would not exist, thank you!
BRING ON 2018!
Neil Williamson, President
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County.