Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tea Party and GOP play well together

Contrary to reports, the Tea Party and establishment Republicans—at least in Goochland County—play well together. At the August 26 meeting of the Goochland Tea Party, it was hard to tell where one group left off and the other started.

Fred Gruber, who wrested the 7th District GOP chair from longtime republican power broker Linwood Cobb in the spring, observed that the Tea Party and Republicans have common goals and beliefs. Gruber asked for the group to work for Republican candidates. He also asked for help to return about 30,000 lapsed Republicans, and their checkbooks, back into the party fold. Given the GOP’s recent history coupled with the soap opera underway in a Richmond Federal Court, that is a tall order.

Ben Slone, who chairs the Goochland Republican Committee and is active in the Goochland Tea Party, is another indication that the two groups are working together, rather than at cross purposes as portrayed by the national media.

A standing room only crowd heard from a wide range of speakers, including Keith Flannagan of the Goochland Electoral Board; District 1 Supervisor Susan Lascolette; and GOP candidate for the Virginia 7th District representative to the U. S. Congress, Dave Brat.

Flannagan gave a brief update on new voter ID rules and seemed encouraged about the potential for identifying those engaged in voter fraud.

Lascolette, in office since 2012, said that local government is a team sport. She was amazed to learn that the county has many boards and commissions comprised of citizens who generously share their time and talents with the community.

Although Goochland has a great team of elected and appointed officials and county and school staff, citizens must pay attention to ensure that governmental decisions are going in the right direction. Government, Lascolette declared, works for the benefit of the citizens, not the other way around.

Lascolette believes that the county must be live within its means. She said that she examines every matter that comes before the Board with an eye to unintended consequences. While grant money may seem appealing on the surface, all too often it comes with strings attached that increase the grasp of state and federal government and take the decision-making process for local issues out of local hands, she said.

Lascolette announced that the county’s comprehensive land use plan will be revised in the coming months. The result of a state (unfunded) mandate, the Comp Plan allegedly reflects the will of the citizens about land use, including where and how much the county will grow. It is intended to guide, rather than dictate, land use policy and decisions.

Lascolette believes that the existing comp plan is too detailed and needs to be simplified and streamlined. She urged everyone to let their planning commissioners (names and contact information is available on the county website under planning) know their views on land use going forward. Citizen engagement in this process is vital for its success.

Brat was up next. He seems to have taken a deep breath after defeating Eric Cantor in June and crafted a campaign victory strategy. Brat said that he is an ethically focused economist and believes that the less government the better. The Founding Fathers, he contended, gave America a perfect plan to create an environment that fosters prosperity.

He pledged to serve no more than 12 years in Congress and asked for continued grass roots support from the Tea Party. (See for details)

Visit for more information about the Goochland Tea Party.

A debate between Brat and other candidates will be held on Thursday, October 23 at Benedictine High School on River Road at 7 p.m. This event is expected to draw a good crowd, so be sure to arrive early to get a seat.

The right to cast a ballot comes with the responsibility to be an informed voter. Learn all you can about the candidates and make up your own mind about who is the best choice.

Jack Trammell of Hanover is the democrat candidate for the congressional seat. His website is:

Monday, August 18, 2014

Get invovled

School started in Goochland County this morning. The days are getting shorter and soon, summer will be gone.
This is the perfect time to take advantage of the opportunity to learn about the inner workings of Goochland and get to know people from all walks of life and parts of the county.

Goochland Leadership Enterprise (GLE) offers a series of 14 sessions that explore facts of the county from its history to the function of local non-profit organizations. The meetings are usually held every other Thursday, beginning at 7 p.m. and run from September 18 to the middle of March. They are planned for different locations around Goochland to expand attendees’ familiarity with parts of the county not on their normal “flight paths.”

Dinner with the Goochland Board of supervisors and a day at the Virginia State Capital during the General Assembly session provide informal access to the law makers whose actions have the most impact on citizens.

Graduates of the GLE program include: current and former members of the Board of Supervisors and School Board; Chair of the Republican Committee; several past Christmas Mothers; local business people; and a blogger.

Local elections are coming up in 2015. This is a great way to become and informed and engaged citizen.
The registration fee is $55 and scholarships are available.

Registration is in progress and continues until September. For additional information, brochure, and applications call the Goochland Extension Office at 804-556-5841 or go online at or Like Us on Facebook (Goochland Leadership Enterprise).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Lobbyists need not apply

When Goochland County’s current Board of Supervisors took office in early 2012, it took a scalpel to the county budget. One of the many deleted expenses was membership in the Virginia Association of Counties (VACo) in favor of direct communication with the county’s delegation to the Virginia General Assembly.

On August 5, this year’s annual legislative luncheon was held in the community room of the Goochland campus of Reynolds Community College.

For about two hours, Delegates Lee Ware and Peter Farrell discussed a wide array of issues. Senator Tom Garrett was unable to attend.

Board Chair Manuel Alvarez, Jr., District 2 began the session by thanking Lisa Beczkiewicz, Administrative Assistant / Deputy Clerk, and Paul Drumwright, Senior Management and Projects Analyst, for coordinating the event.

Alvarez commented that “these sessions are very valuable, and very much appreciated. We don’t need lobbyists if we can sit next to you at a table” and discuss our concerns.

Ware explained that the General Assembly is still in session. Medicaid expansion and judicial vacancies still need to be addressed by the legislators. He said that funds for the final phase of expansion of the Department of Corrections water tank was cut out of the budget. State revenues, Ware explained, are far less than anticipated. This is the first time that state income has declined in a non-recession year and the general consensus expects more of the same.

Farrell agreed that state revenues are “way down from expected levels” and anticipates more budget cuts and an increase in capital gains tax. He said that the General Assembly tapped its rainy day fund to minimize fiscal harm to local government. He said that the General Assembly will work on a “caboose bill” to investigate what actually happened with state expenditures and adjust accordingly. That could result in a new second year budget.

“Goochland,” observed Farrell “Is a well-run county whose citizens are very in tune with what’s going on locally.”
GOMM was the only media equivalent in attendance at the session.

Ware said that the opportunity to hear a variety of perspectives is very helpful. The meeting was attended by most elected and appointed officials, department heads and others.

Both Delegates concurred that Goochland is not shy about communicating with its representatives to state government in a timely and constructive manner.

County Attorney Norman Sales, the “keeper” of the county’s legislative agenda, guided the discussion to specific topics.
Sludge was at the top of the list. Sales pointed out that application of both sewage and industrial sludge on land in Goochland has been on the news. The county and citizens, he said, are greatly concerned about the long term effects of this practice on surface water, ground water, and aquifers. Sales contended that there is no indication that regulations currently in place are sufficient to protect the health, safety, and welfare of citizens. He expressed the need for the State Water Control Board to conduct a study on the storage and application of sewage and industrial sludge.

District 3 Supervisor Ned Creasey said that sludge application should be reflected in documentation of all land sales, so people know what they’re buying. He asked why, if sludge is so benign, it is spread so far away from its source.

Alvarez mentioned a television news report touting the safety of sludge while showing people applying it to fields wearing protective clothing.

Ken Peterson, District 5, said the state mandate on localities to impose expensive storm water regulations while at the same time it permits spreading sludge on farmland is a bewildering contradiction.

Bob Minnick, District 4, suggested that sludge be spread only on state land to eliminate exposure to the public.
Board vice Chair, Susan Lascolette, District 1, observed that if the state will not approve the option to ban sludge application, short of suing the EPA, giving localities the power to regulate its application would slow it down without legislation.
Farrell said that a “study would be prudent.”

The discussion turned next to transportation, which in Virginia means VDOT—the state agency whose motto is “Oops!”—and its reform. As VDOT has “huge interaction” with localities, eliminating waste would be a good first step.

Ware and Farrell said that past attempts to fix the massive state agency have met with limited success. Peterson wondered if you started from scratch to craft a road agency what would it look like versus what VDOT has become.

Ware offered to carry bills addressing specific elements of VDOT operations. He also explained that transportation revenue streams are not drying up as much as those that are income tax based.

Farrell said that some localities are willing to try taking over their own road maintenance, while others, like Goochland, would be overwhelmed by the task. Currently, Goochland is totally dependent on VDOT for road construction and maintenance.

The big item in this category is a less than half mile bridge over Tuckahoe Creek connecting Ridgefield Parkway in Henrico with Rt. 288. Goochland believes this bridge would reduce congestion on Broad Street Road, which will only get worse as the homes and businesses planned for the area come online. It would also spur construction of a hospital on the West Creek Emergency Center site.
Henrico contends that the bridge would raise traffic in residential areas to unacceptable levels. There are suspicions that Henrico’s refusal to even sanction a traffic study for the bridge is a “sour grapes” reaction to the location of Rt. 288 in Goochland instead on its turf.

Farrell, who represents both sides, said he will not put in legislation to force or oppose the bridge. “It’s wrong for me to take a position. I have a problem with a delegate stepping in to solve an inter county dispute.”

Peterson said the issue is a “monument to lack of regional cooperation” and that he would be happy to abide by the results of a comprehensive analysis of the issue by an impartial third party.

Alvarez, Peterson, and Minnick, who serve on regional boards, pointed out that Henrico has the power to table any discussion of the bridge regardless of Goochland’s objections.

“Goochland has no ability to tell Henrico not to develop land without adequate roads, but Henrico will not let us put in a safety valve to protect our citizens,” said Alvarez.

Ware volunteered to sponsor legislation allowing motorists to cross double yellow lines to pass bicycles without penalty.
Electoral Board secretary Robin Lind, who characterized the bridge discussion as a “gentle mugging,” thanked Ware for unsuccessfully sponsoring legislation concerning state funding of local registrars and elections and making political parties pick up the tab for primaries. (Democrats in the Petersburg area are to be congratulated for holding a “fire house primary” to select a candidate to replace Sen. Henry Marsh without government funding.)

The School Board thanked the delegates for their support in past years. A complete list of the schools’ legislative agenda is in the School Board agenda for July 22, 2014, which can be found under the School Board tab on the school website: (A visit to this site is always a treat.)

In general, our educators want more local control. They also want the freedom to lease rather than purchase technology, which is not permitted under current laws.

School leaders contended that timing of tests; methods of rewarding excellence in teaching; and even the freedom to determine the number of hours needed for completion of classes and the opening day of school, should be established at the local level.

School Board Member John Lumpkins, Jr., District 3, said many arcane policies that have never been changed represent an old way of thinking about education. Virtual classes now allow students to progress at their own pace. Once a student has demonstrated mastery of say, Algebra I, they should be able, and encouraged, to move on to the next level.Ware, a retired teacher, and Farrell seemed to favor the intent of these initiatives.

These legislative meetings demonstrate the effectiveness of our local government. When everyone--elected officials, county and school staffs and state representatives—collaborate, good things happen.

If we could just lease a giant 3D printer to make a bridge…

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Muddy waters

The current Goochland County Board of Supervisors regularly uses the term “transparency” to describe its brand of good government. The proposed county strategic plan announces that Goochland will be governed with integrity in a respectful and transparent manner.

Events at the August 5 Board meeting, however, could be interpreted as a return to the opacity of the previous regime, that acted as though citizens were too stupid to understand most matters.

Denise Doetzer of Rock Castle, who is a Master Naturalist and retired state conservationist, made a presentation about designating a portion of the James River a scenic river. Doetzer said that she was asked not to bring supporters of the measure to the meeting as it was for information only.

At the conclusion of her presentation, Doetzer asked the board if it would request that the state Department of Conservation and Recreation perform a study to see if the designation was appropriate. According to the Board packet (available in its entirety on the county website similar presentation was made in July 2012, at which time no action was taken.
Supervisor Susan Lascolette, District 1, stridently contended that the request for the study will essentially result in an automatic designation and Goochland will lose control over this section of the river.

The Board, still smarting from the infringement of its authority over local land use during the General Assembly brewery kerfuffle, and facing imposition of expensive and cumbersome state mandated storm water control regulations, is understandably leery of any more outside governmental interference. As the federal government seems to be wresting control of every puddle from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River in the name of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, this caution is warranted.
Opponents of the designation used citizen comment time before the Board’s evening session to contend that the designation would reduce the taxable value of land along the river, and cede control to the state.

Baird Stokes, who spoke against the designation, contended that the supervisors were not getting the whole story.

Stu Doetzer said that the request for the study would be made through 65th District Delegate Lee Ware and the county can decline the designation up until the measure is signed by the governor. He contended that the board needs to hear all sides of the matter and gather information before any decision is made. During his remarks, the opponents snickered audibly.

It could well be that designating any part of the James River in Goochland has dreadful consequences and should be avoided at all costs.

Facts supporting or refuting that point of view were notably absent. It seemed like a decision on the matter had been reached in private with limited citizen input.

That is not transparent. It is way too reminiscent of the previous regime that rewarded friends and silenced opponents without justification.

This board is not afraid to make hard decisions; doing so “behind the curtain” is disappointing at best. Given all the time and effort put into a strategic plan whose core values are integrity, respect, and courage, the board can take a little time to hear all sides on this issue. Surely it has the courage to respect all viewpoints and the integrity to openly explain its motives for a decision.

Goochland has come to expect better of our supervisors. They should have the “courage” and “integrity” to “respect” all points of view and “transparently” explain their reasons for reaching any decision. If not, they are no better than the bunch they swept out of office in 2011.

Monday, August 4, 2014

We've had enough of silly laws

America prides itself on being a society based on the rule of law. We elect representatives at all levels of government in the hope that they will enact legislation that nurtures and protects individual rights to build a framework for an orderly society.

Somewhere along the way, that notion got a little off track. All too often, it seems like laws are passed to reward one segment of society and punish another. Like other things, laws tend to roll downhill.

Virginia is a Dillon Rule State, which means that localities like Goochland County have only those powers specifically granted to them by the Virginia General Assembly. The notion behind this, put forth by jurist John Forrest Dillon in the 1800’s, is that local government officials (in Dillon’s time this applied mostly to cities) tend to be incompetent and corrupt. State representatives, he contended were smarter and more honest and better able to govern.

This all means that Goochland’s elected officials must engage in a cumbersome game of “Mother May I” to get things done.
Each year, our county officials have a public lunch meeting with our delegation to the Virginia General Assembly to explain the Goochland’s position on a number of issues. This year’s session will be held on Tuesday, August 5 in the Community Room of the Goochland Campus of Reynolds Community College beginning at noon. The public is invited to attend.

In the past few years, our representatives: Delegates Lee Ware, 65th District; Peter Farrell, 56th District; and Senator Tom Garrett, 22nd District, have sponsored and worked to enact legislation that benefits the county. For this we are grateful.

The items up for discussion this year include: sludge; storm water runoff regulations; unfunded mandates; a bridge over Tuckahoe Creek connecting Ridgefield Parkway in Henrico with Route 288; and a law passed last year dealing with bicycles. (See the Board packet on the county website for the complete list.)

The bridge is an “evergreen” concern that may need a change of Henrico supervisors for resolution. Sludge, unfunded mandates, and storm water regulations illustrate how the state shrugs off awkward and expensive mattes to localities.

Beefed up bicycle regulations, however, seemed to have coasted into law amid the fervor over next year’s international cycling event in the area while legislators were concentrating on the budget and Medicaid expansion. This requires motorists to give cyclist three feet of clearance when passing.

No one wants to see cyclists hurt. Sharing the road is a wonderful concept, if you have enough road.

District 5 Ken Peterson, a cyclist himself, “did the math” on this law and found it wanting. For the past few months, he has asked representatives from VDOT—the state agency whose motto is Oops!—if and when we can expect bike lanes to be added to our roads for safety’s sake. In July, the response seemed to indicate that construction of bike lanes is an expensive proposition, especially for an agency chronically short of funds, and will commence on the fourteenth of never.

Peterson pointed out that most roads in Goochland are centered by double yellow lines that prohibit passing. As cars tend to travel at a higher rate of speed than bicycles, drivers have the option of crawling along behind the cyclists, or breaking the law and crossing the center line to pass. He said that the law makes no sense. An influx of cyclists to county roads, whose “shoulders” are often narrower than the width of a dollar bill, will only exacerbate the situation.

Perhaps those sponsoring the bill live in a place with wide roads and bike lanes believing all Virginia roads are the same.
It will be interesting to see how the legislators explain this law that was undoubtedly passed with many good intentions, but too little thought.

Our state laws have a reputation for being difficult, if not impossible, to decipher and follow. Earlier this year, during the Benedictine dispute, Goochland Circuit Court Judge Timothy K. Sanner expressed frustration at land use statutes that he characterized as “opaque” and suggested that both parties implore their state legislators to amend the applicable sections of the Code of Virginia for greater clarity. One of the attorneys involved argued a particular point by contending that the legislators meant something other than what the law said.

The Virginia General Assembly meets for only a few weeks each year. During that time, legislators wade through a deluge of bills on a wide array of topics. It is impossible for them to read and carefully consider the consequences of every potential piece of legislation, so we get silly laws that cannot be interpreted by the courts or enforced. There has to be a better way.

The line on the left is three feet wide. Not much room between its end and the double yellow line in the center of a typically narrow Goochland Road.