Local Government Is All Ears

By. Neil Williamson, President

Adapted from comments to The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors July 17, 2019

See the source imageRegardless of your politics, most Americans respect General Colin Powell.  Powell was a professional soldier for 35 years rising to the rank of 4-star General.  His last military assignment was serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  He also served as Secretary of State in the George W. Bush administration.

Secretary Powell has written extensively on leadership but today I am reminded of his comments about listening:

Diplomacy is listening to what the other guy needs. Preserving your own position, but listening to the other guy. You have to develop relationships with other people so when the tough times come, you can work together.

Over the last few years, Albemarle County has vastly improved its public engagement efforts.  From video streaming Supervisors meetings to stakeholder meetings regarding the Economic Development Plan to hosting a Rio+29 Form Based Code discussion at a brewery in the impacted area – Albemarle is reaching out, going where the people are and more importantly rather than reaching out and presenting – Albemarle seems to be listening.

As Powell’s quote infers “listening” does not mean agreeing with all that is said, but really listening to the issues involved and working together on possible solutions.

In reviewing the last item on your agenda tonight, “Zero Lot Line” there is an extensive e-mail trail between staff, builders and developers.  When first enacted the development community thought the zero lot line concept made sense, in reality the policy was inequitable to the second parcel to be developed.

Working with the development community, staff fashioned an ordinance that solved the problem whilst preserving the concept of reduced setbacks.

This is just one example of the kind of positive legislation that can occur when we are able to work together.

I often use this time to suggest areas of improvement for Albemarle County.  The Free Enterprise Forum believes it is equally important to recognize when something goes right.

Don’t worry, I will be back soon with a number improvement opportunities but today – I wanted to say, ‘Thanks for listening’

Respectfully Submitted,

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.

Photo Credit: Nydailynews.com

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