Tag Archives: Governance

Is It Time for an Albemarle ‘Super Supervisor’?

FREE ENTERPRISE FORUM EDITORIAL

By. Neil Williamson, President

In our annual break from public meetings, the Free Enterprise Forum asks if the time come to popularly elect an at-large member of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors?

This would break the 3-3 tie situations where nothing moves forward due to the even number of supervisors.  But why stop there?  Perhaps the public, rater than the supervisors, could even directly elect the Chair of the Board of Supervisors?

Please let me explain.

Currently, the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors has six members and the members work, or don’t work, amongst themselves to elect a Chair.  According to Charlottesville Tomorrow:

In a tradition dating back to the late 1980s , supervisors have rotated through the chairmanship with the newest members getting in line for their chance to lead the board for a two-year term. By custom, Snow would become chairman and Thomas would become vice chairman.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Duane Snow’s 2012 Chairmanship; the politics of the US 29 Western Bypass.  If Snow wanted to be Chair, three of the supervisors (Chris Dumler, Ann albemarle board credit NBC 29Mallek, Dennis Rooker) insisted they have representation on  the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).  Dueling motions failed 3-3 and the two sides did not agree to a solution, therefore according to Robert’s Rules of Order the previous chair and MPO representation would continue until such a time when the Board could elect a new chair.

The Albemarle County Board is scheduled to vote again on chairmanship on January 9th.  It is unclear what, if anything, has changed since last January.  We very likely could witness the same 3-3 dueling motions.

The Free Enterprise Forum has written about the importance of four 004counting to four on a six member board.  In the past, Supervisor Rooker has mentioned the benefits of a six member board including the need to develop coalitions and work together.  Supervisor Boyd regularly mentions that such split votes are the anomaly and the vast number of votes the Board takes are 6-0.

Interestingly, in the same Charlottesville Tomorrow post regarding the leadership vote in January 2012, Boyd said:

“There are other things looming, like the Crozet library and the land swap for athletic fields at Biscuit Run, that people will need support from a majority,” Boyd added. “Let’s don’t set up this 3-3 split as the table we are sitting at for the rest of the year. That wouldn’t be good for the county or anyone.”

The Free Enterprise Forum researched the sixteen localities in Virginia that are frequently used by Albemarle County for benchmarking purposes.  Of these localities, all but one (Prince William) have an odd number construct of their governing body.  Less decisive is the concept of a chair that is elected at large.

Locality Population Number of Board Members Elected Chair
Albemarle 98,970 6 NO
Augusta 73,750 7 NO
Bedford 68,676 7 NO
Charlottesville 43,475 5 NO
Fairfax 1,081,726 9 YES
Frederick 78,305 7 YES
Hanover 99,863 7 NO
Henrico 306,935 5 NO
James City 67,009 5 NO
Loudoun 312,311 9 YES
Louisa 33,158 7 NO
Montgomery 94,392 7 NO
Prince William 402,002 8 YES
Roanoke 92,376 5 NO
Rockingham 76,314 5 NO
Spotsylvania 122,397 7 NO
Stafford 128,961 7 NO

It is important to note that having an odd number also creates the propensity for significant ideological swings in your Board.  This is especially true in Loudoun County where they do not have staggered terms for Board members.

If an at large “Super Supervisor” was in place today, this man or woman would represent the entire county and would likely be the swing vote on many contentious issues.  If the “Super Supervisor” was also the chair, they would control the agenda of the meeting as well as preside over the Board of Supervisors meetings.  

In both private and non profit Board governance, many consider an odd numbered Board to be a sound business practice that can help speed decision making.  The Free Enterprise Forum recognizes that there are times that such increased speed is not desirous in local government.

It is illuminating that the Albemarle County Planning Commission has seven voting members one from each magisterial district and one that is appointed by the entire Board of Supervisors.  If at large representation is good enough for the PC why not the Board itself?

Considering the 3-3 logjam at the Board, the time has come for the community to debate the merits of both an odd numbered Board and an at-large elected Chairman of the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes such a decision could increase citizen representation as everyone would be represented by their magisterial district as well as the Chair. We also believe such a decision could create an incredibly powerful voting block, that could go either way, on the Board. 

If this is the will of the voters, would an organizational structure designed to create a voting majority on the Board of Supervisors be a bad thing?

Or do Albemarle citizens prefer the current structure with its structural flaws as this design promotes collaboration and coalition building.

That can only be answered by the community discussion; but if Albemarle citizens choose not to to discuss the obvious structural issues in their current government construct, we may spend at least another year counting to three.

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

Photo Credit: NBC29

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‘A Very Merry Unbirthday’

By. Neil Williamson, President

mad-hatter-1-300x240Yesterday’s (6/6) discussion of the approved US29 Western Bypass at the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors meeting  looked more like Allison in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter’s Tea Party than local governance.

The meeting opened with a large number of speakers (including this writer) sharing their thoughts about the Western Bypass project, under the “other matters from the public” portion of the meeting.  BOS Chair Ann Mallek (D-White Hall) (who has consistently been opposed to the project) made a motion to that the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors officially support the Western Bypass.  Her motion of support was seconded by Supervisor Christopher Dumler (D-Scottsville). 

Supervisor Ken Boyd (R-Rivanna) indicated he thought the 4-2 vote by the previous Board of Supervisors was indicative of Board policy on this issue and that a majority vote was needed to reconsider the decision.  Mallek countered that her motion was about this specific project and this Board had not voted on this specific proposal. 

County Attorney Larry Davis, in his new role as BOS referee determined the motion on the floor was different from the motion that was voted on last July and did not require a majority to consider.

In discussing the motion, Supervisor Duane Snow (R-Samuel Miller) questioned the chair motives regarding the phrasing of the motion.  Charlottesville Tomorrow’s story in this morning’s Daily Progress includes the following quote:

“By having this motion put forward and then having it defeated, they hope they will tie the hands of us going forward because by the negative vote they hope to kill the bypass,” Snow said.

When the vote came forward, to no one’s surprise, it was deadlocked three to three with Dennis Rooker (I-Jack Jouett) joining the Chair and Dumler in voting against the motion they brought forward.

Then sensing parliamentary positioning, Boyd made a motion (that he indicated he would be voting against) to direct the Board’s representatives on the Metropolitan Planning Organization not to support the Western Bypass.

In discussion, Rooker argued that Boyd’s motion was a new topic that was not announced and should wait to be placed on another agenda.  Boyd countered that the motion was directly related to the agenda item.  In this instance, Referee Davis sided with Boyd and the motion moved forward.

Boyd’s motion also failed on a 3-3 vote.

In a post last year, we explained the importance of counting to four in order to get anything accomplished by Albemarle’s six member Board of Supervisors.

A summary of yesterday’s activities:  bypass opponents made a motion to support the project that they then voted against; bypass supporters made a motion not to support the project that they then voted against.

The Free Enterprise Forum believes each of the motionAlice_in_Wonderlands were  politically motivated parliamentary pirouettes that never had a chance  of garnering a fourth vote.

As Alice said in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass :

“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”

Respectfully submitted,

Neil Williamson

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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

Image Credit: Walt Disney

Greene BOS Elects New Chair as Reductions in State Funding Looms

By Pauline Hovey, Greene County Field Officer

Changes abound for Greene County in this new year, not all of them welcomed as the county faces decreased state and federal funding that will greatly impact the school system’s budget (and in turn the County budget).

buggs peytonThe first change the Greene County Board of Supervisors experienced on Tuesday night (January 10) was the election of a new chairman, Buggs Peyton (Stanardsville) – a position his predecessor had served for eight years. Peyton (photo left) has the most experience on the board, followed by Supervisor Jim Frydl  (Midway), and both will need to rely on their knowledge of county procedures as they guide the three new board members through the fast-approaching budget process.

Facing reductions in both state and federal funding, this year’s budget will be challenging, especially for the school system. Greene’s Local Composite Index (LCI), which determines a locality’s ability to pay education costs, has risen significantly, and state contributions to the Virginia Retirement System (VRS) for teachers will decrease this year. According to Frydl, who is liaison to the school board, both factors combined along with a loss of federal money, means county schools will be dealing with as much as a $2.2 million reduction in funding.

One much-needed change underway concerns road improvements that will lessen traffic congestion in the Ruckersville district. In his quarterly repoVDOT logort to the board, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)  representative David Crim reviewed the proposed improvements to the intersection of Route 607 (Matthew Mill Road) and Route 29, an intersection that has become increasingly traveled as housing developments have sprouted up in that area over the past several years.

According to VDOT, Rte. 607 currently carries 7,112 vehicles per day. Anyone traveling on that road during the morning or evening peak commuter hours knows firsthand how heavily congested it can be. VDOT is proposing to widen lanes on Rte. 607 to five lanes, allowing an additional turning lane into the Sheetz service station and an additional westbound left-turn lane onto Rte. 29 south. At a public hearing held at Ruckersville Elementary School on Wednesday (January 11th) evening, residents had an opportunity to view the intended changes, provide input, and ask questions of VDOT representatives. Project construction isn’t proposed to be completed, however, until the fall of 2015.

And with the new sheriff in office, widespread changes either have taken place or can be anticipated in that department as well. Sheriff Steve Smith came before the board Tuesday night to request permission to fill five vacant positions. When Smith, a newcomer to the county’s sheriff’s department, took office January 1, he did not reappoint several officers to their positions. Supervisor Frydl’s main concern about Smith’s request related to the current budget and whether filling these positions and the training the new officers would require would match the amount already appropriated. Frydl made a motion to approve filling the vacant positions contingent upon an investigation from the finance director to determine how many positions can be filled under current budget appropriations.

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Pauline Hovey 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

Fluvanna Supervisors Kick Off With a Retreat

By William J. Des Rochers, Fluvanna Field Officer

Fluvanna County’s Board of Supervisors kicked off its 2012 meeting schedule by holding its first meeting in two parts. The second session was an all-day retreat held in downtown Charlottesville on January 6th to discuss vision, goals, and budget. While short on many specifics, the retreat set a more collegial tone than had been seen in recent years.

Supervisors agreed to employ new procedures this budget cycle, given what they acknowledged to be “dire” budget circumstances. Perhaps under the rubric of no surprises, supervisors Joe Chesser (Rivanna) and Bob Ullenbruch (Palmyra) will work directly with the acting county administrator Darren Coffey and staff directors to hammer out what agreements they can at that committee level. Then the budget will go before the entire Board for further consideration and adoption.

Simultaneously, each county department will evaluate its program activities on a “most to least critical” scale to identify where the departmental priorities are.

There also will be an effort to look beyond the immediate budget cycle. Staff will prepare broad three-year projections and a five-year forecast that will focus on financial needs to:

· Maintain a steady (“do nothing”) budget;

· Comply only with state mandated requirements (e.g., the least the county is required to provide for schools is $8.2 million, according to Chairman Shawn Kenney (Columbia)); and,

· Develop a more sustainable budget, one that might, for example, be more aggressive in debt repayment (i.e., refinance or retire debt that comes due).

The Board’s budget subcommittee will meet later this month and the departmental budget proposal will be transmitted to the entire Board on February 1st. The school budget request, by far the largest component will be forwarded in March.

At the brief January 4th segment of the meeting, Mr. Kenney was elected Chairman of the Board, and Mr. Ullenbruch the vice-chairman. Supervisors also agreed to serve as Board representatives to several Boards and Commissions, most notably:

· Fluvanna Economic Development Commission: Mr. Chesser

· Thomas Jefferson Partnership Economic Development: Mr. Ullenbruch

· Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission: Mr. Chesser

· Fluvanna Planning Commission: Mr. Chesser

· Virginia Association of Counties: Mr. Kenney

· Fluvanna Social Services Board: Ms. Booker (Fork Union)

The next Board meeting will be held on January 18th.

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William Des Rochers is the Fluvanna 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

Land Use Revalidation – Working With Landowners

The Free Enterprise Forum frequently criticizes local governments for a failure to understand the unintended consequences of their actions.   This afternoon’s discussion at the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors was a refreshing change of pace.    

Back in the heat of the Land Use taxation debate earlier this year, there were strong charges of abuse of the system.  The Farm Bureau, along with other land owners, embraced the concept of creating a re-validation program to make sure that land that is enrolled in land use still qualifies for the tax deferment. 

To his credit, Albemarle County’s Tax Assessor, Bruce Woodzell, engaged two members of Albemarle’s Farm Bureau in the creation of the revalidation form (pdf).  It is my understanding that they spent almost three hours working on the document to make it both information rich and user friendly.  The Board of Supervisors approved the form with minor changes and is taking it to public hearing on October 1st.

Supervisor Sally Thomas suggested the Farm Bureau also hold an open house along with Albemarle County to assist landowners with filling out the forms the first time.

This is a good example how reaching out to those who are to be regulated assisted in the development of a positive county policy that has the political buy in from the community.  Clearly, by reaching out to ask the opinions of those who are to be regulated, government can do more than eliminate errors, they build credibility and confidence. 

Well Done.