On October 11 District 4 candidates for supervisor and school board presented their case for election to a standing room only crowd at an informal forum sponsored by the Goochland Tea Party.
Kudos to the Tea Party for organizing candidate events by district so citizens can get a side by side look at the people who want their votes.
Seeking the District 4 supervisor seat are multi-term incumbent Malvern R. “Rudy” Butler and challenger Bob Minnick.
Butler seems insulted that anyone would dare oppose him in the general election. Given the revelations of the past few years, multi-term incumbents should be glad their constituents haven’t considered tar and feathers.
Butler touted his experience and sought to distance himself from the scandals and revelations of abysmal mismanagement of county government that have occurred in the past few years.
Butler gave an overview of challenges facing the county referring to the TCSD debt as “the bear in the closet.” He said that the county must make serious decisions about resolution of the TCSD debt situation. Goochland, he said, must find ways to deal with the looming debt while protecting the investment homeowners and He seemed to suggest that the county needed a bridge loan to deal with the debt but was a bit vague about details.
Butler contended that the county needs to work harder to bring broadband service to more people in the county. He mentioned the broadband consultant that the county hired about four years ago and blamed lack of results on the bad economy. He spoke about other localities, like Louisa, deploying “mini towers” to improve signal strength for wireless internet. Louisa, unlike Goochland, has revenue from a nuclear power plant and Wal-Mart distribution center to help fund such endeavors.
Butler explained that Virginia Senator Mark Warner met with the supervisors earlier this year to discuss broadband and pledged to help with regulatory issues, but gave little hope that there is any federal money for the matter.
Butler declared that he would not vote for the urban development areas as mandated by the state.
He reiterated his general support for small business, but gave few details as to how the perception that Goochland is hostile to business can be changed.
Butler tap danced around a question about the recent Davenport study of the TCSD debt that revealed there was no investigation into the wildly optimistic annual growth assumptions used to justify the bond issue. He said that Goochland supervisors are part-time and they must depend on the recommendations of their advisors. Butler said those advisors told the supervisors that if the county got $10 million worth of growth every year the debt would work out.
One Butler supporter implied that the TCSD fell apart because Motorola never built a proposed computer chip plant in West Creek. The county knew that Motorola was not coming at least two years before the TCSD was created.
Minnick, who lives in the TCSD and pays both ever escalating water and sewer charges as well as the ad valorem tax, said that his campaign is about new ideas to solve the problems facing Goochland,.
He said that the supervisors must work harder to bring the county together to address its problems.
Minnick also opposed the UDA proposals for Goochland. He said that he cannot reconcile the term urban as applied to a rural community.
Minnick supports vigorous efforts to bring economic development to the TCSD by hiring a competent economic development director and being more proactive to ensure that Goochland has a seat at the regional development table. He said that the county must pursue all possible opportunities to increase the tax base.
He believes that the county must work harder to bring broadband access to all citizens by creating an environment that would attract them. He too was a bit light on details.
Minnick contended that, because the TCSD debt, which he said is around $167 million, was secured in part by the moral obligation of Goochland County, everyone “is on the hook” for that debt regardless of which district they call home. He opposes a tax increase to pay the debt, but believes that the county cannot continue to ignore the problem.
The District 4 school board seat is open.
School board candidates Beth Hardy and Phil Davis gave presentations that were textbook lessons in civics at its best. Both of these fine citizens made it clear that they are very troubled about the lack of leadership and transparency exhibited by the incumbent school board.
Rather than attack each other, they elaborated on the deficiencies they perceive in the school system and strategies for improvement. Neither supports a tax increase to fund schools because there is far too little information about school funding available.
When asked if she supported a tax increase to fund the school budget Hardy explained that when her family’s revenue sources declined she and her husband reordered their priorities because they did not have the option to raise taxes to cover their personal shortfall. She believes that the school system must do the same.
Hardy said that there is far too little information about how the school system actually spends its money to offer an opinion on the need for additional funds. She questioned the need to hire a director of elementary education whose salary could pay two and one half teachers.
Davis said that the current school board lacks leadership and has allowed school administration to create a repressive culture in county schools that uses intimidation to enforce its policies by chastising teachers who speak out and stifling creativity in the classroom. Even parents are afraid to speak out, he contended, for fear of retribution against their children. This has caused the exodus of many extraordinarily talented educators. Davis said that, especially in difficult times, positive leadership is needed to encourage teachers.
He said that he deplores waste and believes that parents and citizens are entitled to more information about the way that tax dollars are spent.
Both hardy and Davis believe that good teachers are the most important resource of a school system. Both believe that the schools can do better by our kids and should increase academic rigor. They both believe that there should be educational options to help all students, not just the college bound, be prepared to be productive in the next phase of their lives.
They pledged to keep all citizens informed about the school system, whose annual budget consumes a bit more than all revenues generated by local property taxes.
The elections are less than four weeks away. Things are getting more interesting by the minute.