Tag Archives: elections

Ballot Box Capital Spending Exceeds $1.3 Billion

By. Neil Williamson, President

In case you did not notice, earlier this week there was an election.

In addition to the Presidential race, several localities had so called “Bond Issues” on their ballots.  Albemarle County was one of 17 bond issues presented by 6 localities this year – This represents over $1.3 Billion in capital spending – not surprisingly all passed by fairly significant margins.    bond-chart-2016

The Free Enterprise Forum does not question the need for any of these projects but we do wonder if the ballot box is the proper place for determining their priority in the community.

Voters are provided a binary choice of support or not support a distinct number of capital projects in a particular government function but they are not told (on the ballot) the impact on their local budget or the other capital improvement items that might have to be postponed in order to pay for the proposed bond referendum.

Interestingly, this year when voters in four localities were provided the option to institute a meal tax – it failed in three of the four localities (Passed Matthews County 54%).  The lesson, regardless of the actual impact, if you do not call something a tax the citizens will be likely endorse it.

The Free Enterprise Forum is very concerned that referendums [and fees (i.e. storm water)] are providing local government a new way to generate revenue and duck responsibility for making the hard choices that result in tax increases.

In addition, it seems that the manner the ballot question is phrased also has an impact on the success of the effort.

Tuesday, Augusta County residents were asked not about a bond issue but a straight spending question.

Shall the Courthouse of Augusta County be removed to the Augusta County Government Center Complex in Verona, Virginia, and shall the Board of Supervisors be permitted to spend $45,000,000.00 therefore?

Voters (66%) said no.

But Henrico Schools Bond referendum asked a 6 times larger spending question in a completely different way:

Shall Henrico County, Virginia, be authorized to contract a debt and issue its general obligation bonds in the maximum aggregate principal amount of $272,600,000 pursuant to the Public Finance Act of 1991 to finance school projects and the Henrico County School Board’s Capital Improvement Program, including capital improvements to schools, furnishing and equipping of schools, acquisition of future school sites, and such other school construction, renovations, and improvements as may be required by the actual education needs in Henrico County?

It seems to this observer that voters strongly favor financing options for municipal spending even absent tax ramification information but push back on the concept of making specific spending decisions.  The language of the ballot question matters.

More importantly perhaps is not how voters are asked but should they be?

The self governance part of our philosophy appreciates the apparent citizen involvement in the process but the cynical portion questions if by limiting the choice to a binary yes/no decision they are truly engaged.

Shouldn’t those we elect make the tough choices between adding classroom space or adding a firehouse?  Aren’t they in the best position to evaluate competing priorities?

The reality is each and every one of the bond referendums that passed will be repaid using local tax revenue but not one of them said in the ballot question how the amount borrowed equates to the property tax rate increases during the term of the bond.  .

Considering the significant disclosures required when we as private citizens take on debt (car, auto, etc.) is it too much to ask for a truth in lending statement for over $1.3 BILLION in capital spending?

The Free Enterprise Forum believes such fiscal clarity should be an integral part of such ballot questions.  Unfortunately, we doubt such change will be made any time soon as that might negatively impact the passage rate and require elected officials to make the tough capital budget decisions.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson, President


Neil Williamson is president of the Free Enterprise Forum, a privately funded non-profit public policy organization focused on local governments in Central Virginia. For more information visit www.freeenterpriseforum.org.

 

Fluvanna To Move Polling Station

Ballot-Box_thumb.jpgBy Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

The Fluvanna County  Board of Supervisors will have a special public hearing on Jan. 6 about moving the Rivanna District polling station.

It is currently the Lake Monticello Clubhouse but because of planned renovations, the facility may not be accessible during a primary election, if held, and the general election.

The new proposed location is the Lake Monticello Volunteer Fire Squad Station (LMVFS). It previously served as the second precinct in the Rivanna District until 2010 when the redistricting eliminated the second precinct and shrunk the district size.

An interesting note, the LMVFS is located outside of the Rivanna District and is in the Cunningham District. While the voting districts are close in population, the Rivanna District is so small geographically because it mainly includes only area inside Jefferson Drive at Lake Monticello. The district is almost completely residential except for the Lake Monticello Clubhouse and Lake Monticello Marina.

The county ordinance (2-2-3) states, “Precincts shall be known by their respective polling places and shall be coterminous with the respective electoral districts.”

The state code (24.2-310) allows polling stations to be outside the precinct if within one mile of the boundary.

The Rivanna District boundary is less than half a mile from the proposed location.

The other options considered were Effort Baptist Church and Lake Christian Church. Both are also located in the Cunningham District and both are within a mile of the boundary lines.

Questions to the Registrar’s Office regarding the county ordinance went unanswered as Joyce Pace, the registrar, is out on vacation for a week.

————————————————————-

bryan-rothamelThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Geddy Lee Explains Why Every 2015 Voter is a Super-Voter

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By Neil Williamson, President

super voter pinSome folks honestly believe their vote doesn’t make a difference.  They could not be more wrong in the 2015 election cycle.

This year every voter is a super voter.  Geddy Lee from the Canadian rock band Rush explained this concept precisely many years ago – Please let me explain.

Over the years we have written extensively about voter turnout and why it matters.

In Virginia, along with our peanuts and Virginia Wine we love our elections; we love them so much we hold them every year.

While the balance of the country (except New Jersey) is looking toward November 2016 for their next election, Virginians must vote on their local representation in the General Assembly, many of their constitutional officers (Commonwealth Attorney, Commissioner of the Revenue, etc.) as well as those who represent them in the County office building or City Hall.

Statewide Voter Turnout Source: Virginia Board of Elections

Statewide Voter Turnout Source: VA Board of Elections

2015 (as 2007 and 2011) is what is known as an “Off-Off” year election.  There are no federal races on the ballot and there is no Gubernatorial race either.  Such elections regularly see low voter turnout.

But what does that mean for the local races that are on the ballot?

It means, as the button above suggest, your vote has superpowers. In every election every vote matters but in off off year elections with less than 25% of registered voters in any given district voting, your vote matters 75% more.

In Fluvanna County, the 2007 Palmyra District Board of Supervisors race was won by John Gooch with 364 votes just 18 vote less than his opponent Minor Eager. In fact, before counting the absentee ballots Gooch led Eager by merely 10 votes.  Fast forward to 2011, when Bob Ullenbruch beat Gooch by 106 votes.

Albemarle County Rivanna District 2015 race features three candidates.  Historically, a multiplicity of candidates further inflates the value of each vote. In 2011, Greene County had a four way race for the newly created Ruckersville District, absent an incumbent the race was very close, with the eventual winner Davis Lamb winning by just 15 votes:

Virginia Elections Database » 2011 Board of Supervisors General Election Greene County - Ruckersville Considering that the 2007 Rivanna District’s contest was decided by 149 votes and the 2011 election was decided by 685 votes, this year’s three way race without an incumbent will likely be decided by the candidates Get Out The Vote (GOTV) success.

Adding complexity to predicting the Albemarle County turnout, is the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s and Clerk of the Courts races which seems to be gathering momentum in the final days of the campaign.  If these races continue to generate attention you may see a slight increase in the number of Albemarle voters headed to the polls.

vote superheroThe Free Enterprise Forum anticipates slightly higher than average turnout in Greene County this year.  The Greene election features several county wide elected positions (At-Large Supervisor,  Clerk, Sherriff).  Based on historical trends, and dependent on the candidate GOTV efforts, we would not be surprised to see better than 38% voter turnout in Greene County this cycle.

This election will select those who serve the government closest to you, your local government.  The candidates who are successful in this campaign will be the ones to determine the vision for the locality as well as the ordinances; they will develop the budgets and set the tax rate.

Do you know where your polling place is? If not click here.

Polls will be open from 6 am to 7 pm. Based on projections, there will not be significant lines.

Yes, Virginia will hold an election next Tuesday; the question is will you be a part of it?

Regardless of your involvement in this year’s election, the results will impact you for years to come.

As classic rock composer Geddy Lee posed in his anthem “Freewill

Canadian Rocker Geddy Lee

If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice

It really is all up to you.

Will you be one of the 2015 super voters?

or not?

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: Blogspot, Charlottesville Tomorrow,  Virgina Board of Elections

Fluvanna Supervisor Ullenbruch Not Running

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

Fluvanna County Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch will not seek re-election for the Palmyra District seat, despite speculation and reading into recent public comments.

Ullenbruch released the following written statement to the Free Enterprise Forum:

Ullenbruch2014

Fluvanna Supervisor Bob Ullenbruch

Since I will be moving out of the Palmyra District at the end of my present term and moving to Cape Cod, I will not be seeking re-election to the Board of Supervisors.

It is a time in my life where I want to be close in proximity to my grandchildren and family. My parents are aging and other health issues with family members were defining factors in planning the move.

I would like to thank the members of the Fluvanna Republican Committee for the encouragement and ever continued support. I need to give the Committee time to recruit a viable candidate for the Palmyra District Seat.

Finally, I would like to thank my constituents. I have enjoyed serving the Palmyra District throughout my term and look forward to finishing the year.”

Ullenbruch ran as a Republican in 2011, defeating incumbent John Gooch.

Often times in board votes Ullenbruch has sided with fellow Republican Don Weaver (Cunningham District).

Now the Palmyra seat is wide open for the 2015 election. So far obvious candidates to run for the seat are not clear. Board of Supervisors meetings have been scarcely attended, even during the budget season.

The other Supervisor seat up for re-election this cycle is in Fork Union. Early speculation is the incumbent, Mozell Booker,  will seek re-election but she has not commented on the matter.

——————————————–

bryan-rothamel.jpgThe Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum

Photo Credits: Fluvanna County

Fluvanna Elects O’Brien and Sheridan

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

PALMYRA — A slight shift in the political landscape, Mike Sheridan and Tony O’Brien have won their respective elections to serve on the Fluvanna County Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor elect Tony O'Brien

Fluvanna Supervisor Elect Tony O’Brien

The biggest surprise of the night was O’Brien’s sizable victory of 321 votes over Republican candidate Rick Kelly in the Rivanna District. The seat is currently held by Joe Chesser who did not run.

O’Brien campaigned on infrastructure investments to attract businesses. Kelly took a more conservative approach to growing the business community and finding what Kelly deemed ‘fat’ in the budget. Kelly had support of local Republicans including delegate Rob Bell.

O’Brien had strong support of Focus on Fluvanna’s Future group. Many members of the group hosted campaign events for O’Brien who is a senior partner of a Charlottesville business, Helix Systems.

Fluvanna Supervisor Elect Mike Sheridan

Fluvanna Supervisor Elect Mike Sheridan

Sheridan, a school teacher, beat Elizabeth Franklin in the Columbia District. Sheridan captured 58 percent of the vote with over 1,200 votes placed. Shaun Kenney currently serves the district and did not run.

Sheridan grew up in the county. His brother is the Commissioner of Revenue but this is Mike’s first campaign.

In the other Board of Supervisors race was Cunningham District. Don Weaver (Republican) ran unopposed.

The only contested School Board race was Cunningham. Charles Rittenhouse beat William Hughes for the second consecutive year. This will be Rittenhouse’s first full term after both candidates served one years to fulfill the term for the late Doug Johnson.

Camilla Washington beat write-in candidate Claudia Thomas in the Columbia District. Carol Tracy Carr won the Rivanna District in her uncontested race.

All elected candidates terms will begin Jan. 1, 2014 for four years.

———————————

The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

bryan-rothamel

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.

 Photo Credits: NBC29, Fluvanna Review

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%.

image

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

The Free Enterprise Forum Five–Q1 Economic Development

By. Neil Williamson, President

As a part of the Free Enterprise Forum mission to inform the public, we posed five questions to the eight candidates for Albemarle Board of Supervisors.  Other than minor formatting, the candidate answers are reprinted exactly as they responded.  One Question will be answered by each of the candidates each day this week. 

  • Economic Development Monday
  • Transportation Tuesday
  • Development Area Expansion Wednesday
  • Environmental Mandates Thursday
  • Proffer Policy Friday 

————————

1. Economic Development has been advocated by the current Board of Supervisors.  What is your vision for the proper role of government in economic development?  How do you grade Albemarle’s recent three year effort in gaining and retaining business? 

Scottsville Candidates:

Burket campaignCindi Burket – The proper role of government in dealing with economic development is to streamline regulations for new and established businesses, setting common sense regulations that promotes growth while protecting our environment.

Making Albemarle County an attractive place for businesses to move to by keeping taxes low, having a ready workforce from which they can hire and by setting an optimistic and enthusiastic tone to make it all happen.

dittmar campaignJane Dittmar In 1995 I was proud to be on a team of private and public sector officials who launched the Thomas Jefferson Partnership for Economic Development (now called the Central Virginia Partnership) and eventually chaired the partnership from 2003-4

I authored the original plan that was used to eventually write the agreement with the unusual funding formula drawing 50% of the funds from the private sector and 50 % from the public sector with leadership of the partnership switching each year between the private and the public sectors. I chose this model because in the partnerships I studied across the commonwealth, those that relied totally on public funds, tended to exclude private sector leadership. The partnerships that relied totally on private funds were not as stable because they shrank or went out of existence during recessionary times. The one jurisdiction that did not join the Partnership at its inception was Albemarle County. By 2000 Albemarle was reconsidering this and in 2011 the chairman of the partnership that year was Tom Foley, the County Executive.

I am very pleased by the progress our Boards of Supervisors have made in recent years supporting the hiring a professional staff member to focus on business services. If elected, I would like to ensure that the next comprehensive plan thoughtfully lays out a vision for economic development that focuses on business retention and attraction. I would also like to continue efforts to streamline the development timeline if there are more efficiencies to be found.

Rio Candidates:

Sheffield campaignBrad Sheffield: The role of government, with respect to economic development, is to provide good, competitive infrastructure and public-private partnerships necessary to attract new business and to enhance existing business. I give Albemarle County a “C.”

The County is failing at maintaining the infrastructure to existing businesses, which not only hurts those businesses, but affects the decisions of new businesses who might consider locating here. We could be doing a better job with attracting more innovation and small business growth by building better “places” that create the environment needed to build on energy and activity.

Also, over the last three years we have failed to capitalize on the City of Charlottesville’s shift to residential growth. We should have been establishing policies and approaches to making Albemarle County’s growth area the strongest economic hub in the region.

Thomas campaignRodney Thomas:  The action plan deserves high marks for designing a plan. The next step is to fund and implement it. The targeted industry study was a valued effort to match the skill sets of our workers with the jobs of the future.

What we must not lose sight of is that there are many skilled level support jobs that go along with the targeted jobs. We are still going to need electricians, carpenters, etc.. In a vibrant economy. These are career level jobs that should also be referenced in the study as an important part and we need to recognize this when considering government action.

Jack Jouett Candidates:

McKeel campaignDiantha McKeel: I fully subscribe to the purpose of government as promoting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s my view that government should be a catalyst in bringing together those components that achieve each of these goals. Economic development is a vital path for the pursuit of happiness and on the local level that means creating a climate where our workforce is well-educated and in alignment with workforce needs; our community is safe and we are tapping into our natural resources, which in Albemarle is the creativity and innovation of all of our partners, including the university.

This reliance on building partnerships is why I proposed and led the way for our school division to join and become an active participant in the regional Chamber of Commerce. I supported the 2010 BOS’ adopted Economic Vitality Action Plan. As public officials it is our responsibility to work to expand our commercial tax base to reduce the reliance upon property taxes in support of county services and infrastructure improvements. Over the past three years, I would grade the county as achieving a B—for example we’ve made some good grades with the Target Industry Study and we’ve protected our exemplary bond rating. We’ve moderated tax rate increases.

We need to be A-plus, however, and that will come from taking steps that achieve the promise of our growth potential, leveraging our high quality of life and our intellectual and creative resources to become a national model of excellence.

seay campaignPhillip Seay: Our County government should encourage and demonstrate economic development. Implement and fund The Economic Action Vitality Plan with the understanding of the needs and wants of the community.

Samuel Miller Candidates:

Palmer campaignLiz Palmer: As the economy slowly recovers, everyone can claim credit for our local situation, and probably we all should claim credit. The local government can set the tone, express interest, review ordinances, engage the public in discussions and, in other ways, affect the morale and reality of our local economy.  Its own human resource decisions enlarge, or shrink, the number of employed people, and its salary scale affects other employers’ pay scale decisions (and vice versa).

I believe that retaining the attractiveness of our county is a subtle but major part of what government can do to attract and retain businesses.  We must not assault the county in the name of economic development. Likewise, the quality of our schools is a major expense and a major part of what local government does to attract residents and business-owners.  Taking this broader view, I think the last three years are a mixed bag, with some words of encouragement but some doubts planted regarding the County’s interest in assuring the quality of life that is so important to present and prospective employers.

Snow campaignDuane Snow: Prior to 2010 Albemarle County did not have an economic development plan, with action steps. They had an economic development statement. We are now in the implementation part of the plan.

Economic Development is a major part of the County’s responsibility.

· provides well paying jobs for our community/career opportunities for our children.

· Provides additional tax revenue to fund the core responsibilities of Government . Thereby reducing the pressure to raise property Tax.

————————————————————–

Tuesday – Candidates answer Q2 – Transportation of the Free Enterprise Forum Five.

—————————————————————

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 Credits : Candidate Websites, Facebook, Newsplex

Greene County Candidate Forum Held

By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer

On Saturday, October 19th, the Ruckersville Elementary School PTA  and the League of Women Voters held a forum  for the four candidates for the two Greene County Board of Supervisors positions open this November 5th. Current BOS Chairman Jim Frydl is facing Steve Keene  for the Midway seat.   In the Standardsville District, former at-large supervisor  Patsy Morris is competing with Bill Martin.Greene Candidate Forum 2013 credit Newsplex

The Forum Moderator, Charlottesville attorney Tara Boyd, outlined the forum ground rules the event would start with opening statements from the candidates followed by three questions that all four candidates had received prior to the forum. In addition, audience members were welcome to submit questions in writing of which four were selected. All of the questions were asked of all candidates in a rotating format.

The following are the Free Enterprise Forum notes from the event.  With two staffers at the event, we have attempted to capture the meaning in each candidate’s answer, but it is important to recognize our notes are not verbatim quotes – nw.

Opening Statements:

Patsy Morris:  I work for the United States Post Office and have for 14 years.  I also previously served two years as a member of the Greene County Board of Supervisors. I support land rights and is not in favor of contractors buying up land to resell. I believe the past 2 years the BOS has spent, spent, spent.

Bill Martin: Demand for services is growing in Greene County putting a strain on resident’s property taxes. Virginia has passed on unfunded mandates that are increasing the county’s burden. The commercial tax base must be expanded to lower property taxes on residents.

Jim Frydl: Four years ago I was elected to the Board, this year my peers elected me as Chairman. During the economic downturn, Greene has done better than most counties. We cannot spend beyond our means. Greene property tax rate is the same as it was four years ago, while Albemarle County is up 7% and Madison County is up 66%. Frydl indicated economic growth has added 368 new jobs during his tenure.

Steve Keene: Originally from Southwest Virginia, I chose to relocate to Greene County.  I have generated positive results in the Sheriff’s Department including trash pickup using inmates and those out on probation. Teachers are leaving county schools since no raises. We need to buckle down because we are in hard times.

Question #1. According to the US Census and the Weldon Cooper Center, seniors 65 and over currently represent 14.5% of Greene County residents. That is expected to grow to 16.7% by 2020. By 2030, seniors will represent 20.1% of Greene’s population. While that has many positive aspects for the community, it will also put increased demand on many county services such as JABA, Greene County Transit, and health and emergency services. How would you address the budget impacts of those emerging needs?

Bill Martin:  Seniors are the soul of our county. Demand will grow in future years and it is our challenge to assess needs in all areas. The BOS need to balance the needs vs. revenues. Our seniors need more attention. I support the reduced property tax rate program for needy seniors and we need to continue to look at changes to the tax rate for seniors.

Frydl Campaign photo

Jim Frydl

Jim Frydl:  I have a passion for seniors. During my term on the BOS we have expanded the tax relief for seniors. I have supported increased funding for rescue squads and our fire and safety departments along with the Sheriff’s volunteer program.

Steve Keene:  This area needs to be improved. We can look to seniors because they have more experience and can volunteer. Seniors also have less demand for services than younger citizens do.

Patsy Morris:  We could look to sell ads on our county vehicles. When I was on the BOS, I encouraged a lower tax rate for seniors. I will work the Commissioner of Revenue to continue to lower Seniors tax burden.

Question #2. With our schools facing cuts to their budgets year after year even as they continue to grow along with recent Virginia Education Association reports showing that compensation for Greene County teachers is slipping from middle towards the bottom for our area – how will you work to ensure our schools are fully funded and able to stay competitive with surrounding localities?

Jim Frydl:  18% of our population is students, and when you include parents, the percentage of the Greene County population personally impacted by our education funding decisions grows to 65%. Quality schools benefit a county in attracting business. Even when the county faced $2 million in cuts from state funding, I supported funding the schools. I would support any unspent funds from the schools budget be placed in a fund for future capital improvements/maintenance or the schools.

Keene campaign photo

Steve Keene

Patsy Morris:  We must keep teachers and put the dollars in the classroom. But how much can we afford?

Bill Martin:  Last year, cuts in Federal and State funding took $750,000 from our schools. The schools absorbed this cut while only receiving the same level funding from the county. New businesses look for quality schools for their employees. Strong schools equal a strong county. We need to improve communication between the BOS and the School Board.

Question #3. What do you view as the biggest challenge facing our county, and what are some key measures you would advocate for to help address this challenge?

Steve Keene:  Teamwork and communication are our biggest issues. I would work to improve the communication gap between the BOS and the School Board along with each department in the county. Also, the water impoundment and growth in the county are important.

Patsy Morris:  Open communication with the school so we can understand what we can and can’t afford. Teachers need to get the best pay.

Bill Martin: Population growth is putting pressure on how to generate additional tax revenue. Since 2006, our sales tax revenue has grown by $600,000 which has the value of $.04/$100 on your personal property tax rate. We need to do more and attract clean businesses to the 6% of Greene County zoned commercial while still maintaining our scenic views.

Jim Frydl:  Our seniors and our water supply are our two key items. We must hire competent people. The connection fee for water and sewer needs to be changed to attract more users. An example of reducing regulatory barriers is we reduced the minimum square footage required for a home in the Greencroft subdivision and the number of homes constructed more than tripled.

The last phase of the forum consisted of questions from the audience.  Questions were provided in writing and selected by a League of Women Voters screener.

Question #1. We need to balance spending vs. the tax rates – where can we trim expenses vs. spend more?

Patsy Morris: We need to cut spending for schools and other agencies. We need to hire part timers so that we don’t have to pay benefits. The property tax rate should have only been raised $.01/$100 instead of $.03/$100 this time.

Martin Campaign Photo

William “Bill” Martin

Bill Martin:  While schools are the largest portion of our budget, all departments should have a hard review. I would propose a zero based budget approach  vs. incremental budgeting. We need to take care of quality teachers while still looking for cuts. Our latest property tax rate increased by $.03/$100 combined with the lower assessment generated equalized tax revenue – no increase in the average tax bill. The end result was to bring the rate back to what it was four years ago.

Jim Frydl:  Last year the schools were the only department to go down, mainly from the state cutting $600,000 in funding. Other departments, including the sheriff’s department, increased. One of the reasons we hired our new County administrator was his  experience with zero based budgeting.

Steve Keene: Criminal justice costs are eating us alive. Probationary personnel are picking up trash . My opponent has indicated the new Sheriff’s programs cost the County money.  I do not agree.  I challenge him to show me where the County is spending new money on these programs.

Question #2: There is tension in the county between those born in Greene vs. those who have relocated to Greene – please address.

Bill Martin:  I understand the concern but we are all residents of Greene County. Since moving to Greene County I have been very active in the community. We chose to move here for the beauty of Greene County.

Jim Frydl: I don’t think it matters at all rather it is the commitment needed to be involved and care. My goal is to serve the people of Greene County on the BOS.

Steve Keene:  I agree with both Bill and Jim. Character is important to keep the rural, clean county. We are all here from different parts of the state and even the country. We should reward good behavior.

Patsy Morris: I am a native of Greene County.  The natives of Greene County worry about land in the county being sold for big bucks and trying to change Greene County. Don’t change our county. I will try to protect our rights. I’ll bet you didn’t know what the STAR program in Stanardsville was going to do. I thought it was just new sidewalks.

Ballot-Box_thumb.jpgQuestion #3. Earlier in the evening many candidates mentioned commerce as the source of new revenue for the County.  Does such revenue come from growth in commerce or increased fees and taxes on commerce?

Jim Frydl:  Government doesn’t control the free market, must have reasons for businesses to come to Greene. We hear from large chains that we don’t have enough rooftops to attract them to come to Greene. Government can encourage them by reducing barriers. In a recent BOS roundtable Walmart commented how easy Greene was to work with, the same was said by Pioneer Bank.

Steve Keene: Greene has chased some businesses from the county. We must look at how to decide the price of water and sewer and the water impoundment. The counties ISO rating needs to be lowered. There are good facts coming out with this discussion.

Patsy Morris: It has been said that “we need more rooftops” in Greene County – I don’t’ understand? The Stanardsville voting district is big, I know I’ve been knocking on doors. Greene County doesn’t need to be a bedroom community for Albemarle County any longer. We need the water impoundment and the water and sewer hookup fee of $20,000 must be lowered.

Bill Martin: We need to encourage more commercial growth to generate more tax revenue and help take the pressure off personal property tax rates. We need to grow the tax pie larger by attracting more businesses. We should also streamline local government and make it easier for businesses to come to Greene County. Finally, the town of Stanardsville has a place in the economic development of Greene County.

Question #4: Property Rights vs. Eminent Domain?

Steve Keene: I am generally against the use of eminent domain. There must be good common use for the county to take property under eminent domain.

Patsy Morris:  I would never vote to allow property to be taken. The government is taking more and more control. We have no money.

Bill Martin:  A person should be allowed to manage his own property. Eminent Domain has some uses, the bypass on Route 33, but I don’t see any other uses in Greene County.

Jim Frydl: Eminent domain is not a county issue. Bill is correct, property rights stay with the property regardless who owns it. I would support property rights even if I disagreed, since it is the law.

The forum provided a good way to gauge the candidates and their beliefs for the future of Greene County. We encourage the voters in Greene County to turn out and vote on Tuesday, November 5th

——————————–

Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a non partisan 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.

Photo Credits: Newsplex.com, candidate websites, Facebook

Fluvanna BOS Candidate Forum

By. Bryan Rothamel, Field Officer

PALMYRA — The four vying for two spots of the Fluvanna Board of Supervisors participated in a cordial candidate forum last week.

The forum, put on by the Fluvanna Chamber of Commerce, had each candidate answering eight questions plus opening and closing statements. The questions varied from why each is running to infrastructure to what each candidate wants at the end of the term.

Columbia District

elizabeth franklinElizabeth Franklin and Mike Sheridan are both running as independents for the Columbia District.

Franklin sees herself as a highly experienced candidate because of her time following the supervisors the last few years.

“I don’t think anyone running has the grasps of Fluvanna issues as I do,” said Franklin.

Sheridan believes it is time to ‘restore the trust in leadership’ of the mike sheridan credit Fluvanna Reviewsupervisors. He mentioned his history as a coach to help find compromises and forge the government together as a unit, especially in working with the School Board.

“We have to find a way to get things done here,” said Sheridan.  When it comes to school funding Sheridan, a school teacher, described the issues with current pay structure.

Sheridan said, “We have to find a way to help the teachers. I live with it every day.”

In other answers, Franklin mentioned that the classrooms couldn’t be ‘robbed’ anymore. In the direct question about school funding, she responded, “The trick is we have to look at all the things we are spending money on.”

Rivanna District

In the Rivanna District, Republican nominee Rick Kelly is against independent candidate Tony O’Brien.

“I am supposed to ask questions and that’s what I’ll do,” said Kelly who also announced he will not take the supervisor salary.

O’Brien sees how Fluvanna has grown over the past 20 years and how that has effected the county services.  “We have grown. We have grown substantially. We have pushed our core services to the limit,” said O’Brien.

When it comes to balancing the tax base, Kelly said the county needs to plan Zion Crossroads.  “We need to study this issue, we need a plan,” said Kelly. He also rejected the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission studies and warned a plan with Aqua is not officially done.

O’Brien says infrastructure is critical in economic developmtony obrienent because other counties offer services including water. He said businesses will not relocate in Fluvanna if the county is “not competitive in terms of the service we offer to the other counties.”

In four years, Kelly wants to see the budget process giving everyone a little piece of the pie, but noted the pie is only so big. “Everybody gets a little bit of everything that want,” said Kelly.

O’Brien’s vision of what will happen in four years if he is elected is the long discussed economic development is finally started.

Closing statements

The candidates closed the less than two hour forum with two minute statements.

Franklin again brought up her history of attending meetings, “I believe I’m one of the best prepared supervisors to take that seat.”

Sheridan discussed his hopes to improve the county, “We want this county to be the best county in Virginia for us to live.”

Kelly wants to see creative ways to solve the county problems, “There are a lot of things going on out there but we have to look. I don’t see that now.”

O’Brien closed that the county has made continual mistakes with Zion Crossroads, “Do nothing isn’t going to change the mistakes of this county.” He continued, “We need leaders that are willing to take a few risks. If we do nothing, we get nothing.”

The election is Nov. 5. Don Weaver (Republican nominee) is running unopposed for the Cunningham District.

———————————

The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Fluvanna County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.

bryan-rothamel

Bryan Rothamel covers Fluvanna County for the Free Enterprise Forum.

Photo Credits: Candidate Websites, Fluvanna Review (Sheridan)

Celebrating A Full Ballot & Friday Night Lights

FORUM WATCH EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

Ballot BoxLate August is a time of great optimism in both politics and football.  The “real” campaign has not yet started, the road to victory is in sight  and everyone is undefeated. 

Looking across the region, the Free Enterprise Forum is heartened that a majority of the local races are contested. 

We applaud all those seeking to serve; it is a major time commitment.  Earlier this year when considering their annual salary ($14,542), Albemarle Supervisor Dennis Rooker joked “Where are the living wage folks now” considering the significant number of hours each supervisor dedicates to the “part time” supervisor position.  We concur with Mr. Rooker’s statement and recognize the significant sacrifices most supervisors make to provide representation at a myriad of committees and commission meetings. 

With that being said we believe a strong, vibrant and fair contest for Supervisor (or City Council) enriches the community engagement, shines a light on the import of local government and makes for better public policy.

From big picture discussions of development areas and enterprise zones to more finite conversations about how the noise ordinance impacts local businesses, the community is stronger for the vetting of views.  Absent a credible challenger, incumbents tend to do the minimum amount of campaigning required to make sure folks know they are running.

The 2013 election is an “off” year election.  Back in 2009, voter turnout hovered around 40%.  Interestingly, that 40% was rather evenly split in Albemarle County where both contested Board of Supervisors races were won by about 300 votes (5%).  Make no mistake your vote matters.

This is an historic election in Albemarle where four supervisors will be elected (Scottsville for the balance of Chris Dumler’s term).

bigalignmentConsidering all four Albemarle County Board of Supervisors contests have two candidates the math wiz in me has determined there are sixteen possible candidate combinations to join the one Democrat (Mallek) and one Republican (Boyd) to make the 2014-16 Board of Supervisors (see graphic)

Based on the current slate of candidates, Albemarle’s Board is guaranteed to gain some gender balance as both announced Scottsville candidates (Burkett, Dittmar) are female.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that when voters are provided a true choice, election turnout increases.  It will be most interesting to see how voter turnout in the City of Charlottesville with a full slate of political party candidates in 2013 compares to the 2009 election which featured two independent candidates (Fenwick, Long) vs. two Democrats (Szakos, Norris).

Greene County voters will also have choices this year as both seats up for election are contested.  In the newly created Midway District, incumbent Jim Frydl is facing a challenge from Steve Keene.  With the retirement of Clarence “Buggs” Peyton, the open Stanardsville Supervisor seat is being sought by former At Large Supervisor Patsy Morris and William “Bill” Martin.

Incumbent Don Weaver is running unopposed for the Cunningham district seat in Fluvanna County.  In the Columbia District, Elizabeth Franklin is running against John “Mike” Sheridan.  Voters in the Rivanna District will have a choice between Tony O’Brien or Frederick “Rick” Kelly.   

With so much money flowing into Virginia to fund advertising in the only competitive gubernatorial race in the country, it may prove hard to hear the local candidates above the Richmond hum – but listen.  Take the time to learn who is running to be your local government representative and why. 

The Free Enterprise Forum will do our part by asking candidates “The Free Enterprise Five” five questions that hopefully will provide the candidates the opportunity to differentiate themselves from their opponents on critical issues of the day.  We will run their answers to the questions in late September/early October on the blog.

sy symsAs the days start to get longer and we prepare for “Friday night lights” please spend some time getting to know your local candidates.  To paraphrase the late clothier Sy Simms “An educated citizen is our best voter”.

Respectfully Submitted,

Neil Williamson 

clip_image0024_thumb.pngNeil Williamson is the President of the Free Enterprise Forum, a local government public policy organization located in Charlottesville.  www.freeenterpriseforum.org