Monday, October 10, 2011

First look

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 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 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.


Pat said...

I went to the Tea Party candidate forum for Dist. 3 at the Library last night. The event was poorly attended; maybe 10 people. I didn't care much for the format - they let the candidates speak for a time then take questions from the audience, but there was no control over speaking time or control over audience questions. Several individuals including one who sat at the table with the candidates monopolized much of the discussion with endless monologues that only with luck terminated in questions of some sort or other. At one point, I asked the Tea Party guy who was supposed to be monitoring the event whether a certain individual was a candidate, and if not did he have a question to ask.

Alan Tucker sat by himself on one side of the table and handled questions reasonably well - mostly about UDAs as certain people monopolized the discussion points. I didn't feel like I had a chance to learn about other important issues like broadband, as the UDA folks dominated the questions. Creasey was not asked the same questions by these folks...

Ned Creasey gave a low-key presentation promising to continue doing more of what he's been doing. I wasn't thrilled with his response to two of my questions - one specific to county employees that put me in mind of N. Korean re-education camps, and the other a high vision - what does Goochland want to be when it grows up, question? I was hoping for some vision and wasn't particularly inspired by the answer. I would have liked to have been able to ask Alan Tucker similar questions, but with the format dominated by a few in the audience, that wasn't possible.

Mattox for the SB was a good speaker. He came in late because he was actively involved with school activities, and left early to get back to those activities, but managed to give a good presentation and to answer strongly questions from detractors that were intended to put him in the hot seat. I thought he handled himself well. He did not address in any detail, my question about why only one side of the School Board 'story' ever gets advanced in the press and blogs; why the public only gets to hear from the vocal detractors... There was some good discussion about the format for SB meetings and the need to make them easier to hear by leveraging available technology.

Lumpkin gave an OK presentation, but (to me)where Mattox was all about the schools and kids, Lumpkin appeared to be all about himself. His interest is in the financial side of things, and that's well and good, but I'm more attracted to visionary people whose first thought is for the kids. Lumpkin has done some homework. Like Mattox he mentioned numerous times that there are certain mandates from above that limit what the SB can do. It's almost like he's pre-positioning himself to deal with the criticism that he knows will come when those who yell the loudest don't always get what they want. I think Mr. Lumpkin is really more interested in the wider issues affecting the BoS than in the issues affecting the schools. He had opinions on lots of subjects that had little or nothing to do with the office he is seeking.

I've pretty much made up my mind in one race, but not ready to commit on the other.. I hope to attend at least one more of these events and get a little more insight. Nobody has pulled down my driveway to ask for my vote.

Anonymous said...

North Korean education camps? That is a rather vague characterization from someone who writes as prolifically as you.

What exactly was the question? What bothered you about the answer?


Pat said...

Dear Anonymous,

Fair question. I told Ned that according to friends & acquaintances, some county employees felt that some on the BoS were playing gotcha politics and felt that they may have a target on their backs with BoS individuals waiting to pounce for their own aggrandizement. What that question really says is that I had heard there was potentially a morale problem in county government and I wanted to know how was it being addressed, and Ned's answer (as I heard it) essentially was that the beatings would continue until morale improved. He said that because previous management was "bad" the employees needed to be "retrained" and there was probably some resistance to this. He did not elaborate much further.

I regret the N. Korean re-education reference, it was however the first thing that popped into my mind; but perhaps I shouldn't have put that on paper. I was unsatisfied with the answer, and I like Ned a lot. My concern with almost any politician is that they eventually become part of the machine that they went in to fix. I don't know if Ned is there yet or not, but I think it's inevitable for most people.

So, Anonymous, there it is.

Jeff said...

Pat you say that Ned Creasey gave a low-key presentation. What kind of a presentation do you expect from a person that had just finished his fourth round of chemotherapy? I think it is amazing that he even showed up. Have you no compassion?

Pat said...

Jeff, I have all sorts of compassion. I didn't make a value judgement, please don't make one for me. I simply said he made a low-key presentation. I didn't say whether that was good or bad. The very first presentation I ever saw from Ned was just as low-key as this one. No judgment here - just trying to tell what I observed. Perhaps I should have included the word "typical." A typical low-key presentation. I'll try to do better next time. Thanks for the constructive criticism.

It is very difficult to be objective when you care about someone who is undergoing difficult personal issues; but that doesn't mean that you can ignore the facts of life either. Perhaps he'd have given answers I'd have liked better if he was in full health - perhaps not. I tried to report honestly what I observed and what I felt.

I didn't raise the issue of whether perhaps his health should be an issue - what do you think?

Anonymous said...

"I didn't raise the issue of whether perhaps his health should be an issue - what do you think?"

What exactly do you mean by this comment?
Do you think we should all ignore the fact that Ned has attended every meeting?That he has been to SB and UDA and P and Z meetings post surgery because he is ill now ?
You really are a disgusting individual if that is what you are implying, Mr. Gannon. You are as guilty as those you accuse. Ned is dedicated and his family is dedicated to this county.
You on the other hand seem to be dedicated to having your name on every forum on this county .
I am sure you have some long monologue you will respond with as the last word is your favorite hobby and seems to be your current occupation. However, here's the last words I give to you "armchair quarterback".

Pat said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thank you for your kind and heartfelt words. I wish you could be forthright enough to disband with your anonymity as I do. I could sit and poke at people anonymously too, but in my mind it wouldn't be right to do that.

"Jeff" made the point that Ned's health was poor. I simply asked whether that should be an issue in the election. I voiced no opinion on the matter. Since Jeff felt it was important enough to bring to my attention, I figured he had an opinion on the matter that perhaps he would be willing to share.

Thank you Anonymous for seeking to find the worst in people. I happen to have a very high opinion of Ned. I gave him his campaign slogan, the first time around (Representation or Rule?) I know all about his contributions to the community and applaud he and his family for them.

Apparently however I am not permitted to have an opinion regarding his responses to my questions. I'm so tired of a few people in this county limiting opinions to a select few who then bully all the others who differ with them. Don't you dare talk to me about the vocal crowd who dominates the blogs. I'm sorry it bothers you that they occasionally have some competition for air space. Tough. It's about time.

It's not about having the last word - it's about conversation and discussion and exchange of ideas. You're referring to exchanges in which I refused to yield until we chased down the final word. For example, a parent made a huge issue of school fees (not the parking thing) and I kept digging and digging and digging and eventually it turned out that all she wanted was for the rest of the taxpayers to pay the fees that the rest of us paid without whining for years gone by. It's called persistence; not having the last word.

I will not leave your assertion that I am a "disgusting" person untouched either. That would be to buckle on the kind of bullying that others like Mr. McDermott engage in, for example, ridiculing me on his blog, but not having the guts to permit any response. He wants others to see the fate that awaits them if they choose to disagree or provide information that the vocal bullies would rather remain unspoken. I never liked schoolyard bullies and I still don't; and I don't believe in curling up in a ball to take a beating. I would like people in the community to know they don't have to stand for that and that it is perfectly reasonable to defend one's self and to express one's opinions; despite a handful who would deny those opinions because they differ with their own.

In this case, I think Ned is showing incredible strength in continuing his run for office. I'm not sure I agree with his direction so much as I did the first time around. I'm still deciding. I have no opinion on his health issues, but I'm still curious as to whether Jeff does...