By. Neil Williamson, President
With over 1,000 archived blog posts, it could be said that you know where the Free Enterprise Forum stands on most matters of local government.
Today, we want to know what you think.
- What is important to you?
- How are we doing?
- What should we do more of?
- How should we change?
There are just five days left to make your voice heard. Earlier this month, the Free Enterprise Forum launched a short, anonymous 7 minute survey to discern public perception of our organization, assist in understanding the community’s areas of interest and assist the Board of directors in charting the future.
While an unscientific community engagement methodology, the survey link has been shared far and wide in hopes that supporters and opponents alike will take the opportunity to make their voices heard. Please feel free to share the link with your contacts.
With a number of anonymous survey responses already in, I can tell you this discernment process is revealing.
Please take the 7 minute survey and make your voice heard.
The survey closes at 5 pm on Friday, January 25th.
Neil Williamson, President
As a community leader, can you spare 7 minutes of your time to complete an important, anonymous, survey regarding the Free Enterprise Forum?
Your voice is important. The Board seeks your input via this short, albeit unscientific, survey.
The Free Enterprise Forum is a privately funded public policy organization focused on local government in the City of Charlottesville and the surrounding counties.
We utilize direct appeal, research papers, social media, mainstream media, and blog posts to add pro-business balance to public policy discussions. Areas of impact include housing affordability, land use, economic development, as well as environmental regulation.
Now in its sixteenth year, the Free Enterprise Forum Board of Directors is discerning the organization’s effectiveness and future direction and the results of this survey will help.
Thank you in advance for your participation.
Robert P. Hodous, 2019 Free Enterprise Forum Chair
Photo Credit: Incolors Club
By. Neil Williamson, President
In 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 where we have been the only person in the audience.
Our alphabet soup of regular attended local government meetings includes, but is not limited 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”.
It 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.
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
Get on the Bus?
By Natasha Sienitsky
I, like many people others in this community, like the idea of transit, but rarely take it. I live and work close to bus stops along the Route 7 bus, the main line for the city of Charlottesville and Albemarle County, and as a UVA grad student, I ride for free, yet still I don’t take the bus.
The main issues for me are time and convenience. Every time I take the bus, I am frustrated with long travel and wait times. According to a Federal Transit Administration report, buses travel on average at about 60% of the speed of automobiles. On a recent bus trip from my house near the Amtrak station to Free Enterprise Forum headquarters on Hillsdale Drive, a 10 minute car commute, I waited for the bus for 10 minutes. The trip took me 22 minutes. A round trip transit ride, although cheaper, costs me about 50 more minutes of time inclusive of walking to the stops or 5% of my waking day. Since I am among the lucky who have a choice, I choose not to take transit.
I wasn’t always a transit avoider. Although an automobile dependent American, when I lived in Prague, I never begrudged the fact that I didn’t have a car. With twice the density of Charlottesville, Prague’s development is concentrated around transit stops. Coming home from work, it was easy to pick up a roast for dinner and walk the block home. Trolleys and metro both run frequently and provide quicker routes to destinations than automobiles.
Aspiring to be more like Prague and other cities which developed largely before the advent of the automobile, Places 29 envisions a mix of uses and dense development around transit nodes. This vision is far from the current market based reality, where current land use patterns and zoning parameters favor automobile travel.
Even with the new vision proposed in Places 29, the incredible pressure to limit development densities have lead the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission to routinely ask for density reductions in development area projects. I have serious reservations about whether transit options such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) are currently viable options for our region given the vocal opposition to population densities needed to support a more serious transit system. Further, I wonder even if the densities need to support transit were allowed, what is the extent of the market for this type of development. Instituting an expensive addition such as BRT without even a glimmer of the supportive densities and land use patterns will result in millions of local investment wasted as the empty bus syndrome continues. Undoubtedly with an aging population and increased attraction to urban living, there will be some demand for this kind of development, but will it be enough?
Instead of the large step of paradigm changing upgrades to the transit system vis a vis Bus Rapid Transit with dedicated lanes, the City and County should take an incremental approach. The new GPS tracking system for buses will hopefully be extended to allow some of us with internet access real time information to provide more transportation choice and reduce wait times. Other more modest options such as decreasing service headways and expanding routes are manageable and welcome improvements. These along with education and other service options such as an on-demand dynamic local service should be explored as options for increasing ridership. According to the CTS Director, Bill Watterson, programs and service improvements increased ridership by 11.5% this year.
With the depth of both city and county coffers in question and impending economic slow down, both localities will have to carefully examine spending priorities. Transit competes with other pressing needs for funding. Fancy rapid transit buses estimated to cost approximately 4 to 6 times as much as a conventional bus and a dedicated BRT lane are a waste of taxpayer money. If the county is serious about its commitment to a paradigm shift in transit, then they should encourage development with densities supportive of transit in the development areas of the county. Until those densities are promoted by the county rather than discouraged and there is a positive market response creating that development that would encourage transit use, a system overhaul doesn’t make much sense.