Election activity shifts into high gear
The Goochland chapter of the NAACP set a high standard for others to follow at its October 6 candidate forum held at the Rec Center in Sandy Hook. Members of this fine nonpartisan organization put a great deal of thought and work into the event and are to be commended for this important service to the community.
Although all candidates were invited to participate, incumbent supervisors had previously committed to an event at J.Sargeant Reynolds Community College. Sekou Shabaka president of the Goochland NAACP explained that a second forum, for supervisors only, will be held at 7 p.m. at the Rec Center on Thursday, October 13. Please attend if you can the event will be well worth your time.
The very fact that there are many candidates for local office indicates the high level of dissatisfaction with the status quo. Goochland is truly blessed to have so citizens willing to stand for public office and bring important issues into focus during the campaign season.
The forum gave each candidate an opportunity to make an introductory statement followed by audience questions and brief closing remarks.
Following are thumbnail highlights, which are not complete recaps of comments.
Susan Lascollettte (District 1 supervisor challenger) said that she believes that the looming interest payment on the Tuckahoe Creek Service District debt must be addressed quickly before it swamps Goochland government. Long term unchecked incompetence on every level has made a mess of Goochland government. Lascollette said that she is opposed to the proposed 25 percent increase in supervisor pay.
Jim Haskell (District 1 school board incumbent) said that every student in Goochland public schools gets a good education and is ready to take on the next step in life. He said that he is open to the idea of “a vocational type thing” for students not college bound. He contended that our schools are working hard to close the achievement gap between black and white students and that the school board works on this issue every month. He blamed the dissatisfaction among parents on shrinking revenues.
Michael Payne (District 1 school board challenger) said that Goochland schools do a great job getting kids ready to go to college, but putting every student in the same education mode doesn’t work. Payne, a vocational teacher in Henrico, is a strong advocate for reinstating a vocational component to county schools to provide a wider range of options for all students.
Manuel Alvarez, Jr. (District 2 supervisor challenger) said that he decided to run for office because he was fed up with the scandal of the week and dysfunctional operation of local government. He cited the fact that the county neglected to renew the Comcast contract for four years as one instance of incompetence. He also said that keeping knowledge of problems with the treasurer under wraps for years was appalling and promised to conduct county business in an open and honest manner.
Penny Palen (District 2 school board challenger) said that Goochland schools are not delivering an education to prepare our kids to live in the 21st century. She made some other incomprehensible remarks. Perhaps Palen was nervous, but she came across as imperious and arrogant, two qualities with which the incumbent school board is well endowed. (Visit www.goochlandparents.org for a summary of Palen’s counterproductive legal action against the schools.)
Ray Miller (District 2 school board incumbent) made comments that were sweet but vague. He said that the actions taken by the school board are dictated by Code and touted the great strides that county schools have made in the last 15 years. He also supports continuing efforts to ensure that African American students have equal educational opportunities.
Kevin Hazzard (District 2 school board challenger) said that student achievement will be the basis for all actions he takes on the school board. He believes that the school budget should focus first on money to be spent in the classroom. He would create a grant writing workshop to capture the talent among Goochland citizens to help the school system obtain funding from sources other than local taxes. Please see his blog at www.electhazzard.com. He has clearly given a great deal of thought to the problems facing every student in the county and has crafted some innovative and achievable solutions.
Alan Tucker (District 3 challenger) is committed to transparent cooperation in local government. He supports responsible growth to deal with the TCSD debt. He did not seem to understand that West Creek and the TCSD are not the same thing.
Ivan Mattox, Sr. (District 3 school board incumbent) said that he should be reelected because he has two kids in county schools and his experience is valuable when dealing with the school budget process in lean times.
John Lumpkins, Jr. (district 3 school board challenger) said he was motivated to run to reverse the decline in local schools. Frustration with meaningless proposals, including one to replace the Goochland elementary school building even though there was no money available is but on example of the “smoke and mirrors” methods used by the current school board.
Bob Minnick (District 4 supervisor challenger) said that the lack of engagement by incumbent supervisors is the root cause of the widespread mismanagement and scandals revealed in the past for years. He advocates vigorous pursuit of economic development in the TCSD to offset its debt. He believes that the county needs to identify and focus on its core functions and investigate outsourcing of some services to reduce costs.
The District 4 school board seat is open.
Beth Hardy (district 4 school board) is a strong believer in public schools and her four children have benefitted from the range of services ordered by GCPS. Hardy has served on a school system advisory committee. She believes that every student should be prepared to compete in the real world when they graduate from high school. She pledged to bring full transparency to the school budget process.
Phil Davis (District 4 school board) has been an actively involved parent for several years and become increasingly concerned over the lack of logic used in making school budget decisions. He believes that in difficult economic times reducing teachers without first making reasonable budget cuts in other areas is unacceptable.
Both the District 5 supervisor and school board member are open positions.
Ken Petersen (District 5 supervisor) believes that his financial background will help the board of supervisors deal with the wide range of fiscal challenges facing Goochland. His remarks about the complexity of the structure of the TCSD bonds indicate a high level of understanding of the fiscal challenge faced by Goochland. He believes that zoning decisions should be based on a cost/benefit analysis.
John Wright (District 5 school board) said that in the past few years he has attended more school board meetings than any incumbent school board member. An accountant by trade, Wright believes that the school board must be more transparent in its actions and responsive to parents and citizens. He pledged to be honest and responsive when dealing with citizen questions.
Pamela Cooke Johnson, interim county treasurer and candidate for the office explained how she is working to get the treasurer’s office back on track since appointed to the position by the Circuit Court in April. She contended that her work experience in asset forfeiture at the federal level prepared her for the job.
Tana Marie Hogue (treasurer) said that she has extensive bookkeeping experience and would try to reduce county expenditures for fringe benefits. (The treasurer is charged with taking in revenue and paying bills, the supervisors decide how county funds are spent.)
Jonathan Lyle, (Monacan Soil and Water District commissioner) made the most entertaining presentation. He explained that the MSWD is charged with protecting soil and water resources. This office, Lyle explained, is volunteer but very important in Goochland where 85 percent of homes obtain their water from private wells.
Sheriff James L. Agnew and Commonwealth’s Attorney Claiborne H. Stokes, Jr., who face no electoral opposition, thanked the citizens for the opportunity to serve. Stokes said that Goochland is a safe place to live. Agnew said that his deputies depend on the eyes and ears of the citizens to do their job.
Tom Garrett, the Republican candidate for the newly created 22nd District in the Virginia senate, which includes all of Goochland, pledged to vote against all unfunded mandates and a gas tax increase to build roads in northern Virginia when some people in his district must drive 20 miles to a grocery store.
This year more than ever Goochland citizens need to make informed decisions before casting our ballots on November 8. There are a great many important challenges facing the county that are just coming to light. Please make every effort to learn about all of the candidates and let them know that they must earn your trust and your vote.