After the mess in the VA Blogosphere this week, the first thing I thought when I heard of Saddam's execution was "I wonder if anyone will post the picture on their blog and if so, will they get banned from Waldo's blog aggregator?"
Below is a letter Chairman Scott York of Loudoun County sent to Speaker Bill Howell today in regards to the GOP's plan on growth revealed this week. Gerry Connolly of Fairfax County has also bashed this idea. That's two of the "big three" of County Chairman. What does Corey Stewart of Prince William think?
I'm a little surprised the Speaker didn't have local government support for this lined up in advance...
December 28, 2006
Dear Mr. Speaker:
It is clear from your remarks of December 27th, 2006 that the House of Delegates Leadership has no idea of how land use decisions are made. Local governments do in fact have some control over zoning decisions and Loudoun County has had a clear record of denying rezonings where infrastructure is not adequate.
The problem of inadequate requirements for infrastructure has been on land already zoned for development. For years counties have sought permission from the State to deal with "stale" zoning. For years counties have requested the local ability to deny subdivision approvals if public facilities are inadequate to handle the influx of new residents. And for years the General Assembly has consistently failed to pass any legislation giving us local control over covering the costs of this new and expensive infrastructure.
The "new" House solution is simply to ignore our real needs. Instead the House solution serves only to shift the burden of costs from the State to the counties. The House version will now force counties to place the costs of maintaining new subdivision streets for snow removal and future maintenance on the homeowner's real estate tax bill or by placing an impact fee on new development in a locality's rural areas to pay for road maintenance in urban areas.
One proposal put forward recently would require counties to designate Urban Development Areas for the next 20 years where public infrastructure is already planned. This bill conveniently ignores the issue of subdivisions outside these designated areas where counties cannot deny new residential subdivisions even though the infrastructure is woefully inadequate.
The second proposal would allow counties to "volunteer" to form tax districts to pay for maintenance of the secondary roads within a district. In addition to the surtax imposed on such a tax district, the legislation would allow counties to impose impact fees in the rural areas and then transfer the funds collected to maintain the roads the county's urban areas. This legislation also proposes that the State would provide anywhere up to $15,000 per lane-mile to help maintain these roads and would give the county VDOT equipment to do the job. This certainly sounds generous however VDOT currently pays less than $5,000 a lane-mile for road maintenance in counties. For a State that does not today have money to maintain roads it is difficult to imagine that this promise can be kept.
The third proposal would no longer allow new secondary roads to be accepted into the state system. Counties would be forced to either make the homeowners pay for maintenance or impose real estate surtax on all the property within the county. This appears to be a total abdication of State responsibility for our secondary roads.
For eleven years I have been a supporter of slowing our growth until we could get a handle on our infrastructure costs. And for those eleven years the House of Delegates have consistently worked against our efforts. It is interesting that you now seem to have discovered that growth does not pay for itself; something we have lived with for two decades.
If you would care to hear directly from the Supervisors that you think have "the easiest job in the world" I would like to see legislation introduced that gives any locality that takes over maintenance of its secondary roads a minimum return of 50% of its income tax dollars sent to Richmond. Would you now support an Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance? Would you now support 100% Impact Fees to be collected at the time of issuance of a Zoning Permit? These are "real solutions" counties need to offset the enormous cost of new development.
I would also request that you visit with the Loudoun County Republican Committee and the elected Republican Supervisors and convince them that they are "accountable" when they recklessly approve thousands of new residential rooftops.
It is interesting to see the sudden shift of blame to counties that have had to deal with a development-controlled legislature for years. Is there a real solution in the new legislation to be introduced this session? Or is this just a posturing that exposes the lack of enthusiasm of elected State officials to work with their local counterparts on a real, workable solution?
In the primary between Senate Majority Leader Walter Stosch and Joe Blackburn, there have been some big developments recently. Blackburn recently had a kickoff that was very well attended, and got a buzz going that this is a very serious challenge. Meanwhile, the Henrico GOP had an election for Chairman recently, and over 90% of this district is in Henrico County. Blackburn backed the Sheriff Mike Wade for Chairman while Walter backed the opposition. Wade went on to win a huge victory which essentially gave Blackburn control of the local party. I'm also hearing Blackburn has hired Gilmore's key consultants with Creative Direct doing his mail while Boyd Marcus consults on the race.
I'm hearing rumors that a number of people have approached Mason District School Board Member Kaye Kory about a primary challenge to Bob Hull. Kaye is the #1 vote getter in the area. Apparently a lot of the PTA types in his district are still very upset about his bill to ban youth sports on Sundays.
Kaye is rumored to be seriously considering this challenge. Her School Board District represents about 90% of the Delegate district...
I was reading the Connection Newspaper this week and saw the most bizarre letter to the editor in a while. In it, Fairfax County School Board members Kathy Smith, Cathy Belter and Tessie Wilson were praising Senator Ken Cuccinelli for his support of securing additional money for K-12 education in Fairfax County. Absent from the letter were the three other school board members who represent Cuccinelli's district- Ilryong Moon, Steve Hunt and Cuccinelli's likely opponent Janet Oleszek.
Fairfax County has a weird thing going on with school funding. On one hand, county residents support fully funding the schools. Generally Fairfax also supports candidates who want to do so. However, when it comes to state funding there is problem, for every tax dollar devoted to education that comes from Fairfax County only twenty cents is returned through the Richmond bureaucracy to Fairfax schools. That's because of a formula called the LCI (Local Composite Index).
So in the letter, the school board members praise Cuccinelli for seeking to change the funding formula- but they point out that other localities that gain from this formula are unlikely to support a change unless the overall money spent on schools increases enough that their new percentage of the formula does not provide a cut in the real dollars they receive. In other words, if Virginia Beach gets 110% back and that is $200 million (this is only an example!) and under a new formula they only get 100% of money back, that amount better be $200 million or the Virginia Beach Delegation will oppose it. Makes sense, right? The only way that math works is if the overall money being spent is higher.
But this is what is so strange. The one thing Cuccinelli has consistently opposed is more education spending. Sure, he supports more money that is already spent coming home to his district (that's a tough position to take), but he doesn't support increasing the overall dollars spent. Thus, praising him for supporting this makes no sense, and shows a complete lack of knowledge from these board members to what his position really is. For example, Mark Warner's 2004 budget did nothing to address transportation because it focused on education. In that budget the new dollars to education were sent through a new formula for school age population. Basically this formula for additional dollars spent it equally per student across the commonwealth and school systems received dollars based on the number of students they were educating. Given that chance to vote for more education money under a formula very favorable to Fairfax County, Cuccinelli voted "No".
So I just don't see how these members can praise Ken for wanting to change the LCI formula, when they acknowledge in the same letter that the only way to change it is through additional funding (*ahem* taxes) which Ken opposes. In short- If the school board position is that you can't change the formula without increasing the overall spending, and Ken opposes increasing the overall spending- then he doesn't support that position! I thought the letter came across as awfully flaky for those signing it, I've just never seen anyone praised by school board members for opposing more school funding. Weird. I think the only thing this letter accomplished was giving a lot of fodder for opponents of Tessie Wilson and Kathy Smith to mock their knowledge on the school issues they are supposed to know about.
It's important to remember this entire situation started because of Virgil Goode's statement. I took a look around today to see what people were saying about this, and I was shocked to find this statement by Alton Foley on his blog:
"I just read that myself Rose.
Actually a half empty box of Frosty Flakes is much more valuable to me.
I can at least eat the Frosty Flakes, all I can do with the Koran is
piss on it."
Absolutely shocking that anyone would say something like this. Deplorable.
It will be hard to ever take Alton seriously again.
I hope no one tries to prosecute this kid- as I said in the BVBL controversy- the last thing we need in the Virginia blogsphere is lawsuits or indictments. Hopefully if anyone sends this to a local prosecutor they will decide to have better things to do with their time then nail a sixteen year old for playing lawyer on the internet.