Category Archives: Nelson County

Who Will Decide Election 2017?

By. Neil Williamson, PresidentBallot Box

One day left.  Mercifully.

Citizens and candidates alike look forward to the end of the election season. As one local incumbent described the process, “There’s two ways to run, unopposed or scared”.

Unfortunately, this election we have many seats running unopposed. This is not an indictment of the candidates running, The Free Enterprise Forum strongly believes contested races make better candidates. Simply put contested elections make candidates explain and defend their positions thus making the public better informed and generates better policy after the election.

johnny RaincloudNot to be ‘Johnny Raincloud’ but the weather report for Election Day 2017 looks pretty gloomy; this generally suppresses voter participation.

By virtue of reading this post, you tend to be one of the more engaged community members.  By now, you likely know who is running for local office in your locality.  Hopefully, you know where they stand on issues that are important to you and you have selected the candidate that best represents your views.

Here in Virginia we like elections so much we hold them every year.  This year is an “off-year” election meaning there are no Federal offices on the ballot but there is a gubernatorial race. By means of contrast the 2016 presidential election year saw 72.05% statewide voter turnout compared with the last “off” year the 2013 Gubernatorial election turnout of 43.0%.

Based on early absentee voting and historical averages, the Free Enterprise Forum anticipates the 2017 statewide election turnout to hover near 40%.  Locally, the lack of multiple contested races may hinder turnout. We do not believe it will exceed 50%.

virginia voter turnout photo credit Rassmuten

Credit: Rassumsen Reports

It is not a leap to predict roughly half of registered voters likely will not vote this cycle.  Therefore, regardless of the locality, this year’s campaign will come down to which campaign motivates their voters to show up at the polls.

Get Out The Vote, known in the ‘biz’ as “GOTV”, campaigns have been underway by the major parties, and special interest groups, for a number of weeks.  Likely voters are being contacted via mail, phone, and in person by party operatives and candidates.  Historically, this type of “ground game” can make the difference.  Over the years, we have seen the amount of shoe leather candidates put into the campaign can have a higher return than signs and advertising in many of the local races.

Every vote matters as evidenced by several recent close elections.  In the 2013 Samuel Miller District Race in Albemarle County, Liz Palmer on a Board of Supervisors contest by 874 votes. The same year, Jim Frydl  won his Greene County Supervisor race by 33 votes. In 2011, Supervisor Davis Lamb won his Ruckersville seat by just 15 votes (with 41 votes going to a candidate who had dropped out of the race).

Typically turnout elections favor those candidates with well defined and energized constituencies.  While there are a multiplicity of local constituencies with varying levels of organization, the question of election day is which of these constituencies are both motivated and energized.  Put succinctly, what half will show up?Badge

The Free Enterprise Forum is a non partisan public policy organization, as such we embrace elections as the political marketplace for ideas.  We sincerely thank ALL the candidates who are making the sacrifice to run for public office.  We strongly encourage everyone to make your voice heard by voting.

The candidates have done their job by running now it is up to you – Polls will be open Tuesday from 6 am to 7 pm.—VOTE

If you do not know where you vote, click here for your polling place.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non partisan 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

 

Photo Credit: http://dracotempest.deviantart.com/art/Johnny-Raincloud-609304000

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Greene Supervisors Hears Five Year Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

It makes good common sense to hope for the best but plan for the worst.  For Virginia localities it is more than common sense, it is mandated by state law.clip_image002

In response to this requirement, Billie Campbell, Senior Program Manager, and Wood Hudson, Planning Manager, of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission  addressed the Greene County Board of Supervisors at their first meeting of October (10/10). They presented a draft of the 2017 Update of the Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan . The Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000 set out requirements for State and local governments to update their plans every five (5) years.

clip_image005The purpose of plan is prepare for natural disasters before they occur and it covers all jurisdictions in the Thomas Jefferson Planning District – Albemarle County,  the City of Charlottesville, Greene County, Louisa CountyFluvanna County, Nelson County, and the towns of Scottsville, Stanardsville, Louisa and Mineral. The first plan was approved in 2006, then in 2012 and it is now due to be updated by December 17, 2017.

In August a draft of Regional HMP was submitted to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM) who will then forward it to FEMA for their review and comments and once they have approved it, each jurisdiction must adopt the plan.

According to the draft plan:

Natural hazards tend to be low-probability, high-impact events. One year could be mild with natural
events scarcely interrupting communities, while the next could be literally disastrous. The purpose of hazard mitigation is to make an effort to minimize the damage and loss of life caused by disasters when they do occur. Hazard mitigation is one component, along with emergency response and post-disaster recovery, to the larger strategy of dealing with the human impacts of natural hazard

With more people living in areas susceptible to natural hazards, the costs associated with such hazards have been steadily increasing over time. The localities of the Thomas Jefferson Planning District (the Counties of Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa, and Nelson, the City of Charlottesville, and the Towns of Scottsville, Columbia, Stanardsville, Louisa, and Mineral) are impacted by variety of different hazards. In order to lessen the growing cost of disaster recovery on the localities and minimize the disruption of business during a disaster, there is a growing need to mitigate the impact of known hazards. Through proper planning and the implementation of policies and projects identified in this Hazard Mitigation Plan, the region and the localities can reduce the likelihood that these events will result in costly disasters.

The Hazard Identification and Analysis section of the plan describes natural hazards which pose the greatest threat to the Thomas Jefferson Planning District. Hazards are profiled in terms of prevalence, intensity, and geographical scope. The section includes a description of the hazard as well as analysis based upon historical and scientific data.

The specific areas of the plan are:

        1. flooding and dam failure
        2. winter weather
        3. wildfire
        4. temperature extremes, drought and landslides, and
        5. tornado and earthquakes.

The plan calculates a risk factor for each event within the TJPDC study area.

Hazard-Mitigation_full_doc

Within each category are specific actions recommended to be taken that include describing the hazard, potential mitigation, lead responsible entity, estimated cost, funding method and the time period of the issue.

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Campbell asked that the Board consider making the resolution supporting the plan. All of the supervisors supported the plan but wanted to wait until the second board meeting of the month to allow time for them to review the proposal. The request was deferred until the October 24, 2017 meeting and it is hoped that the Supervisors will approve the resolution at that time.

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.  The Free Enterprise Forum Field Officer program is funded by a generous grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® (CAAR) and by readers like you.  To support this important work please donate online at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Local Government Spending Index Released

Study Finds Disparity in Local Government Spending

Charlottesville, VA – As political candidates are vying for election and local governments are starting their FY2019 budget process, a new study shows that the rate of increases in local government spending vary dramatically. The “Choices and Decisions” report, conducted by the Free Enterprise Forum, is based on an independent locality-specific local government spending index (LGSI). The report, which studied fiscal years 1990-2016, identified Nelson County as the locality with the greatest increase in LGSI with Albemarle County a close second.

Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson said, “The goal of the LGSI is to inform and promote dialog. The comparison of local spending trends, combined with population data provides citizens an objective tool to evaluate spending decisions. Equipped with this data, citizens can ask better questions of elected officials during the elections and budget season”.

The LGSI is based on self-reported data required to be provided to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Auditor of Public Accounts. The numbers focus exclusively on the operating budget of each municipality. This number will not include capital expenditures thus avoiding having single-year spikes in capital spending skew the results or interpretation of the data.

It has been theorized that inflation adjusted spending would largely track changes in population and school enrollment. While a correlation was found in some localities studied, this trend was not universal:

Albemarle County – adjusted for inflation, Albemarle County’s total spending increased by over 152% during the study period while population and school enrollment increased by 55% and 36% respectively.

clip_image004City of Charlottesville – During the study period (1990-2016), Charlottesville experienced a population increase of almost 23%, the second smallest of the municipalities being studied. In addition, Charlottesville experienced a cumulative growth in school enrollment of just over 1%. In contrast, inflation-adjusted operating expenditures increased over 80% during the study period.

It was also theorized that growth in inflation-adjusted per capita spending among the localities would be similar because of the high percentage of programs mandated by the state and operated by the localities.

In contrast, the analysis clearly indicates wide variation in per-capita spending decisions made by the localities. During the study period, four localities had roughly 50% increase in per capita spending, while two, Albemarle and Nelson, increased per capita spending by over 60%.

The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization dedicated to individual economic freedom. The entire report, and supporting documentation, can be accessed under Reports Tab at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

Lessons from Snoopy

By. Neil Williamson, President

This holiday season, perhaps more than most, I am reminded how lucky we are to live in this particular place at this particular time.  Thanks to the generous support of the community the Free Enterprise Forum is celebrating twelve years of making a difference in Central Virginia.

Regular readers of this space are well aware of the many meetings the Free Enterprise Forum covers, often as one of the only members of the public in the room.

This year there were several meetings that were standing room only as Albemarle County considered an expansion of their development area for a brewery prospect.  In this meeting, there were many speakers including Former Albemarle Supervisor Sally Thomas who suggested the Planning Commission was being “bullied” into accepting this economic development prospect.  Our friend, Jeff Werner from Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC), also spoke questioning the due diligence of the County.

Route 29 Solutions logoThis year we also saw the start of Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) construction of the subtlety named “Route 29 Solutions” projects including the one of the newer words in the local lexicon “Rio GSI” for the grade separated intersection being constructed at Rio Road and U.S. 29.  The issues surrounding these projects have provided significant activity over the last forty months.

Last night (12/21) the Charlottesville City Council opted to table the Down Zoning of West Main Street – We have argued in opposition to this affront to property rights while our friends at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) have, somewhat counter intuitively, jumped on the reduced density in the neighborhood. Another friend John Cruickshank of the Piedmont Chapter of the Sierra Club provided comments in favor of lowering the heights thus reducing the environmental impacts.

Yes, there are important issues and emotions that can divide the community.  With limited exception,  the Central Virginia community has a great deal of respect for those who disagree with them.  This is not true across the Commonwealth.

While the Free Enterprise Forum has, and will continue to, question the logic, strategies and tactics of those opposed to regulatory reform and economic development, we do not question their motivations.  We believe they are working toward their vision of a better community.  We welcome their involvement and, lest anyone think I have been hitting the egg nog, we will still often adamantly disagree.

However this holiday, thinking of the spirited alphabet soup of Free Enterprise Forum opponents (ASAP, PEC, SELC, VDOT,  Etc.)  I am reminded of the 1967 hit from The Royal GuardsmanSnoopy Christmas – Snoopy vs. the Red Baron”.  The Free Enterprise Forum wishes all of Central Virginia, especially those who disagree with us, a blessed holiday season.

 

The news had come out in the First World War
The bloody Red Baron was flying once more
The Allied command ignored all of its men
And called on Snoopy to do it again.

Twas the night before Christmas, 40 below
When Snoopy went up in search of his foe
He spied the Red Baron, fiercely they fought
With ice on his wings Snoopy knew he was caught.

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ring out from the land
Asking peace of all the world
And good will to man

The Baron had Snoopy dead in his sights
He reached for the trigger to pull it up tight
Why he didn’t shoot, well, we’ll never know
Or was it the bells from the village below.

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man

The Baron made Snoopy fly to the Rhine
And forced him to land behind the enemy lines
Snoopy was certain that this was the end
When the Baron cried out, “Merry Christmas, my friend”

The Baron then offered a holiday toast
And Snoopy, our hero, saluted his host
And then with a roar they were both on their way
Each knowing they’d meet on some other day.

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ringing through the land
Bringing peace to all the world
And good will to man

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson December 2 2015 Albemarle BOS meeting Photo Credit Charlottesville TomorrowNeil 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 Credits:  Charles Shultz,  Charlottesville Tomorrow

Will The US29 Solutions Panel Find Any?

By. Neil Williamson, President

us 29 logoAs the US29 Solutions Advisory Panel prepares for their final meeting on Thursday, May 8th, we have little doubt regarding the actual outcome of the meeting but we are not convinced the impressive group assembled will be allowed to find any real solutions.

The Free Enterprise Forum continues to believe the work of this panel will be revised, spun and recommended to the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) however “facilitator” Phillip Shucet [and Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne] wants.

us29 woodbrook rd 0830 7.27.11There will be no vote, no test for consensus, Shucet will genteelly say here is what I and the technical team have been working on to  present to the Secretary and CTB, “What do You-all think about that?”.

The panelists, each in turn, will say nice things about the process and followed by a critique of several individual elements in the plan.

Different panelists will have different concerns and all will be dutifully recorded.  The facilitator will nod and make everyone feel as though their individual comments have been exceedingly helpful and, after checking his watch, thank the panel for all their hard work and dedication to the process and to the Commonwealth.

This is not an indictment on the members of the panel who, especially in the latest meeting, have been rather clear in their concerns.  Interestingly, both internal to the meeting and in the media Shucet has suggested he has heard the panel’s concerns but they (and by extension the community) need to keep an open mind.

page 6 (2)Rather than argue the merits of the proposed expressway with 22’ “Depressed Express Lanes” that will not have community (or MPO) support or the “do-ables” that will not have support from down state, I believe the Panel members should push for and alternative plan that is proactive rather than reactive.

Perhaps we can find one positive outcome from this public process charade.

Or as President Ronald Reagan was fond of saying “There has to be a pony in here someplace”.

One of the desired outcomes from the panel is a community supported solution that helps solve the mobility and congestion in the region.

What about a new road?  Not a bypass; Not a parallel road; a brand spanking, smell the asphalt, new road.

For the sake of argument we will call it Virginia Route 229.

Such a  four lane road could start at, or near, the Rapidan River (Madison/Greene County line) and continue to a point at least 10 miles south of the designated Development Area in Albemarle County.  Access to this road would be limited but not eliminated.  There is no alignment presupposed but certainly one should be studied.  It would be a shame to see this panel disband without even considering putting some money aside to look at a real solution to the bottleneck that is Charlottesville.

The model for such a road already exists outside of Richmond — Route 288.  Located one exit before Short Pump, drivers seeking to head south on I-95 have the option to take 288 South to Petersburg rather than dealing with I-295 or I-64.

To be clear this type of concept would be forward thinking.  Any real action on this project would be under, to use Secretary Layne’s verbiage “some future Governor”.

The only question is if the constraints placed on the Route 29 Solutions Advisory Panel will allow it to think that a new road long in the future might actually increase capacity and be part of the answer.

Alternatively, the panel could be forced to think only in political 3.5 year increments of progress and ignore real solutions.

Stay Tuned.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson 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

Why 2013 is a “GOTV” or “Turnout” Election

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

BY. Neil Williamson, President

One day left.

Citizens and candidates alike look forward to the end of the election season. As one local incumbent described the process to me recently, “There’s two ways to run, unopposed or scared”.

Regionally, we have one of the most robust ballots in recent history.  While we do not have opponents to our sitting state legislators (which is regrettable), the vast majority of the local elections are contested.  Simply put contested elections make candidates explain and defend their positions thus making the public better informed and generates better policy after the election. 

By virtue of reading this post, you tend to be one of the more engaged community members.  By now, you likely know who is running for local office in your locality.  Hopefully, you know where they stand on issues that are important to you and you have selected the candidate that best represents your views. 

Here in Virginia we like elections so much we hold them every year.  This year is an “off-year” election meaning there are no Federal offices on the ballot but there is a gubernatorial race. By means of contrast the 2012 presidential election year saw 71.78% statewide voter turnout compared with the last “off” year the 2009 Gubernatorial election turnout of 40.4%.

Based on early absentee voting and historical averages, the Free Enterprise Forum anticipates the 2013 statewide election turnout to hover near 40%.  Locally, we may see higher than state average but we do not believe it will exceed 50%.

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Based on this projection, roughly half of registered voters likely will not vote this cycle.  Therefore, regardless of the locality, this year’s campaign will come down to which campaign motivates their voters to show up at the polls.

Ballot BoxGet Out The Vote, known as “GOTV”, campaigns have been underway by the major parties, and special interest groups, for a number of weeks.  Likely voters are being contacted via mail, phone, and in person by party operatives and candidates.  Historically, this type of “ground game” can make the difference.  We have seen the amount of shoe leather candidates put into the campaign can have a higher return than signs and advertising in many of the local races.

Every vote matters as evidenced by several recent close elections.  In the 2009 Samuel Miller District Race in Albemarle County, Duane Snow won a three way Board of Supervisors contest by 264 votes. The same year, Shaun Kenney won his Fluvanna Supervisor race by 33 votes. In 2011, Supervisor Davis Lamb won his Ruckersville seat by just 15 votes (with 41 votes going to a candidate who had dropped out of the race). 

Typically turnout elections favor those candidates with well defined and energized constituencies.  While there are a multiplicity of local constituencies with varying levels of organization, the question of election day is which of these constituencies are both motivated and energized.  Put succinctly, what half will show up?Badge

The Free Enterprise Forum is a non partisan public policy organization, as such we embrace elections as the political marketplace for ideas.  We sincerely thank the candidates who are making the sacrifice to run for public office.  We strongly encourage everyone to make your voice heard by voting. 

The candidates have done their job by running now it is up to you – Polls will be open Tuesday from 6 am to 7 pm.—VOTE

If you do not know where you vote, click here for your polling place.

Respectfully Submitted,

 

Neil Williamson, President

—————————————————————

20070731williamson Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non partisan 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

2013 Local Government Spending Index Released

Study Finds Disparity in Local Government Spending

 

Charlottesville, VA – As political candidates are vying for election and local governments are starting their FY2015 budget process, a new study shows that the rate of increases in local government spending vary dramatically.    The third iteration of the “Choices and Decisions” report, conducted by the Free Enterprise Forum, developed a locality-specific local cost of government spending index (LGSI).  The report, which studied fiscal years 1990-2012, identified the City of Charlottesville as the locality with the greatest increase in LGSI.

Neil Williamson

Neil Williamson

Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson said, “The goal of the LGSI is to inform and promote dialog.  The comparison of local spending trends, combined with population data provides citizens an objective tool to evaluate spending decisions.  Equipped with this data, citizens can ask better questions of elected officials during the budget season”.

The LGSI is based on self reported data required to be provided to the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Auditor of Public Accounts.  The numbers focus exclusively on the operating budget of each municipality. This number will not include capital expenditures thus avoiding having single-year spikes in capital spending skew the results or interpretation of the data.

 2013 FINAL Combined Chart

It has been theorized that inflation adjusted spending would largely track changes in population and school enrollment.  While a correlation was found in some localities studied, this trend was not universal:

Albemarle County – adjusted for inflation, Albemarle County’s total spending increased by over 129% during the study period while population and school enrollment increased by 49% and 30.75% respectively.

City of Charlottesville – During the study period (1990-2012), Charlottesville experienced an average annual rate of population increase of just 11.36%, the smallest of the municipalities being studied. In addition, Charlottesville experienced a cumulative decline in School enrollment (- 4.38%), by far the largest decline in the study group in school enrollment (Nelson -1.29%).

In contrast, inflation-adjusted operating expenditures increased at 79.37% during the study period.  The LGSI in Charlottesville was 176.31 in 2009, but had declined the following two years.  In FY2012, Charlottesville’s LGSI had increased by 5 points to 156.41 still markedly below its 2009 apex.

In FY2012 per capita spending is as follows (in 2012$):

In FY2012 per capita spending was as follows (in 2012$):

Albemarle – $2,837.55

Charlottesvlle – $4,689.66

Fluvanna – $2,129.75

Greene – $2,487.05

Louisa – $2,442.55

Nelson – $2,33.35

It was also theorized that growth in inflation-adjusted per capita spending among the localities would be similar because of the high percentage of programs mandated by the state and operated by the localities.  In contrast, the analysis clearly indicates wide variation in per-capita spending decisions made by the localities.  During the study period, Charlottesville had the greatest increase spending per capita at 61.07%, Albemarle increased 54.24%, the balance of the localities increased less than 50%.  Nelson County (29.8%) had the lowest increase.

It was also anticipated that school enrollment growth would track population growth. While it does [with 2 exceptions] in every instance the percentage growth in school enrollment was smaller than the growth in population.  The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization dedicated to individual economic freedom.  The entire report, and supporting documentation, can be accessed under Reports Tab at www.freeenterpriseforum.org

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“Common Wealth Report” Released

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Study Finds Disparity in State Tax Revenue and Disbursements

Charlottesville, VA – Virginia state tax revenue generated by economic activity and the disbursement of such revenue vary dramatically according to a study released today. The Common Wealth Report, underwritten by The Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce and compiled by the Free Enterprise Forum, studied state tax revenue generated in each locality for FY2011 and direct State funding for the same period.

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At the start of the study, it was theorized that a significant portion of State Tax revenue would return to the locality where it was generated. There seems to be an inverse correlation between economic prosperity and direct state funding. While not universal, those localities with the greatest contribution of State taxes tended to be “donor” localities with less tax revenue returning to the locality when compared with taxes sent to Richmond.

Of the localities studied, the Common Wealth Report identified the City of Petersburg as the largest recipient of State funds as compared to taxes generated. Charlottesville was second with the Commonwealth returning $1.66 in State spending to the locality for every dollar sent to the state.

Fairfax County accounts for 23.5% of all income tax collected in Virginia. Fairfax County is the largest donor locality included in this study. For every tax dollar sent to the Commonwealth, Fairfax receives $0.36 back. Albemarle County is the fourth largest donor locality studied.

The Common Wealth Report does NOT include transportation tax revenue nor transportation spending in its calculations. In addition, due to reporting variations income tax data from FY2009 was used to complete the tax generation data.

Free Enterprise Forum President Neil Williamson said “Our goal in developing the Common Wealth Report is to provide citizens an objective locality-specific metric to be used to compare state tax generation and state spending between municipalities. Perhaps informed with an objective metric such as the Common Wealth Report, additional study can be done to determine what it is citizens are getting for their money and whether they are getting their money’s worth.”

According to Timothy Hulbert, President of the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber chose to underwrite this report to “provide guidance for local officials and citizens alike about the importance of economic vitality statewide.

“This report reminds all of us that we are citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. We in Charlottesville are directly impacted by economic forces in the rest of the state,” Hulbert said.

The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded, public policy organization.

Population Growth Report or Manifesto?

By. Neil Williamson, President

This morning’s Daily Progress included an article outlining a report written by Craig Evans considering the fiscal costs and benefits of growth.  This report is underwritten by a local population control advocacy group, Advocates for a Sustainable Albemarle Population (ASAP).  The Free Enterprise Forum was contacted by the paper and asked to provide comment.  Brian Wheeler quotes us accurately in the well written article.  Below is the entirety of our statement on the issue of this troubled “report”.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes the Evans report while seemingly accurate in its limited financial analysis fails to recognize the indirect, but calculable, economic benefits of population expansion. The Free Enterprise Forum is concerned the “Counting the Costs and Benefits of Growth Analysis” report by Craig Evans is flawed in design and unfairly prejudiced in its analysis and conclusions.

Much of the Evans report reads significantly more like a political manifesto rather than an academic thesis. Using such terms as “Race to the Bottom” and describing developers as “Speculative Enterprises” do not add to the academic credibility of the report and fails to recognize developers as the very businesses who take the financial risk to bring the community’s comprehensive plan to life.

Taken at face value, the Evans report indicates that the County and City lose roughly $.25 for every dollar collected in residential tax revenue. In FY2011, the City posted a $3.8 Million dollar surplus. How is that possible?

According to NBC29, “The [FY2011] surplus came from a couple of different places. First, the city saved money during the last fiscal year when expenses came in $2.9 million under budget. On top of that, the city collected $900,000 more revenue than expected in 2012 – largely from a spike in sales, meals and lodging taxes”. Only by recognizing the indirect benefit of and important symbiotic relationship between population and revenue producing commercial activities can you reconcile this anomaly.

The Evans report fails to calculate the considerable value of population to economic vitality. It is established that “Retail follows Rooftops” and revenue follows retail. One need only look to Greene County’s recent increase in retail square footage that followed the residential expansion. In addition the retail sales tax local option has increased exponentially in Greene County since the establishment of the retail centers.

In its most telling omission, the Evans Report fails to recognize that every locality in the state must produce a balanced budget. Property Taxes are set by elected officials after consideration of ALL revenue sources. While the property taxes generated by individual homeowners may not cover Evans cost calculations, these same citizens generate the economic activity [sales tax, commercial tax, machine/tool taxes] that allows the locality to keep property taxes lower because of commercial activity.

One thrust of the Evans report is that growth comes with costs. Taken in isolation this is a true statement but when one considers the economic opportunities and advancements such growth also provides.

The Evans report cites Loudoun County as an example of rampant growth and it is true their government spending has accelerated significantly to meet the needs of their community. At one point Loudoun was building a high school a year to keep up with growth in student population. Late last year, Loudoun County was named by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey as the county with the highest median income per household in the nation. With a median income of more than $119,000, Loudoun households generate almost twice the income than Albemarle households. Yes, there is a cost to growth but the benefits far outweigh the costs.

Paraphrasing Aaron Levenstein, “Statistics are like bikinis. While what they reveal is suggestive, what they conceal is vital”.

Respectfully Submitted

Neil Williamson, President

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20070731williamson 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.  For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org

What’s Three Thousand Hours Worth to You?

By. Neil Williamson, President

Neil at Albemarle Board of SupervisorsIn our almost ten years of operation of the Free Enterprise Forum, it is conservatively estimated we have attended almost 3,000 hours of local government meetings.  Some of these meetings have been well attended with wide media coverage and others city council forum 2009where we have been the only person in the audience.

Our alphabet soup of regular attended local government meetings bos20060825bincludes, but is not neil at MPOlimited to: ACARB, ACPC, ACBOS, CBAR, CCC, CPC, FCBOS, FCPC, GCBOS, GCPC,  LCBOS, LCPC, MPO, PACC, RSWA, RWSA, TJPDC.  Extra points to anyone who can correctly name all the acronyms. 

Why do we go to so many meetings? – so you don’t have to.

Time is money and you don’t have time to get up to speed on all the issues of each locality and attend their respective meetings — but you need to know what happened and how it impacts you and your enterprise.  As the James Taylor song says “That’s Why I’m Here”.

Neil Williamson before the Albemarle County Planning CommissionIt is important to recognize that we not only attend we participate.  Our regular attendance at these meetings provides elected officials and staff an understanding of our commitment to these issues.  Our pro business policy perspective has directly impacted the regulatory environment in every locality we serve.

This year, I was floored to be named “Citizen Planner Of the Year” By the City of Charlottesville Planning Commission.  We are making a difference!

So I have to ask – How much is Three Thousand Hours worth to you?

The Free Enterprise Forum is a 501(c) 6 organization that relies on contributions from organizations, businesses and individuals to maintain operations. 

As we approach the end of the year, we have not yet met our 2012 fundraising target.

Put ever so bluntly, will you put your money where my mouth is?

Please click here for our secure server donation page!

Only with your support will the Free Enterprise Forum continue to be a strong voice in our community.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson

20070731williamson

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 Credits- Charlottesville Tomorrow