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Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Want to overwhelm Hap Connors with VRE questions?

Anyone interested in peppering Supervisor Hap Connors on the Virginia Railway Express?

 

If so, this might be your chance:

 

When:   Wednesday, May 6, 2009, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

              Wednesday, May 20, 2009, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

 

Where:  Chancellor Community Center

              7300 Old Plank Road

              Fredericksburg, VA 22407

 

Directions:  I-95 to Culpeper Exit 130 West. Take Route 3 (Plank Road) West approximately 7 miles. Make a left at light onto Andora Drive (Rt. 626). (Chancellor Elementary will be on the right.) Follow Andora Drive to the end. Make a right on Old Plank Road (Rt. 610). Chancellor Community Center will be on the immediate left.

 

Visit http://www.spotsylvania.va.us/contactus/dirinfo.cfm?DirectionNum=44 to view a map, or call 507-7529 or 507-7005 for directions to the Chancellor Community Center.

 

Purpose:  Spotsylvania Supervisor Henry (Hap) Connors, Jr. invites citizens to a discussion of budgets, jobs and VRE/transportation matters.

 

 

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Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/spotsygovt/2009/04/29/want-to-overwhelm-hap-connors-with-vre-questions/

  • MAVRICKinc

    Thanks for the invitation to show up at Supv. Connors town house meetings to discuss VRE transportation. lament our county budget and address jobs that continue to make their way south.

    I would put May 5, 2009 on my calendar but understand Spotsylvania County has yet to receive contracts or contract language from VREoutlining what Mr. Connor’s believes to be a foregone. If he’s not going to bring both CSX and VRE officials to the meeting with copies of their contracts, why show up, unless you’re looking for a job. The Commonwealth of Virginia just paid down $300 million to construct a “third rail and maybe two additional rail lines, from Richmond to Washington, within the next 5 years.

    Mr Connors has made his business agenda abundantly clear from just about every podium available to him, but doesn’t come with any answers, except to say he and some members of the Board and staff have done a great job, without the details. I’m not sure how we would go about making an informed decision when we’re getting nothing more than good intentions.

    If Hap Connors is njot going to show up at his meeting without appropriate details and documentation, why should anyone show up to hear what can now be described as giving himself a pat on the back and describe his dream to make a difference. and build roads the VDOT can’t quite manage, without a funding source or another taxing mechanism that will come from the County tax payer; commercial and residential.

    How is it that Supv. Pitts has a conflict of intererst with last nights Board legtislated agenda and leave it standing as a conflict without details. If he can claim conflict, what’s to say Mr. Skinner should not have recused himself also with his conflicts of interest?

    When they get a copy of the VRE contract, they might want to consider publishing it to the County of Spotsylvania before telling us they serve in our best interest. There’s more but I’ve already challenged your readers need to know.

  • lgross

    and that guy is Matt Kelly of Fredericksburg City Council – and I applaud his commitment to be accessible to his
    constituents – at THEIR convenience – 24/7 … Mr. Kelly takes all comers…. including VRE and he is a supporter of
    Spotsy joining … not afraid to say so…. not afraid to give his reasons.. and not afraid to disagree – as long as
    the dialog is civil.

    Good, bad or indifferent – I give him credit for being accessible and willing to dialog.

    Do I dare hope that one or more Spotsylvania BOS might be willing to make themselves similarly accessible?

    Mr. Kelly calls his blog “Question Everything”.

    Perhaps Mr. Connors might consider such a thing…

    Heckfire…we could start with a little question and answer session about…what else… VRE !!!!

    One comment on VDOT, roads, and the State. When we advocate that the State “step up to the plate on
    Transportation” .. I hope that folks see this for what it is – which is an advocacy for the State to raise taxes for
    more money for Transportation.

    My view is – if the State raises taxes …and then sends those taxes to VDOT/Richmond, how is that better than
    Spotsylvania doing the same deed and keeping those taxes to spend when and where they need to?

    I’m not advocating a tax increase at either level but rather pointing out that if we must – I’d prefer NOT to send it
    to Richmond as we have fairly ample evidence that we won’t get it all back ..and worse.. what we do get back will
    have a heavy VDOT hand in it.. which has proven to be ….let’s say….. problematical in terms of cost-effectiveness
    and timeliness.

    My understanding is that even Spotsy’s own funded road projects are being jerked around.. by you know who.

  • hapconnors

    Dan,

    Please know that these are town meetings to update and discuss a number of issues with Chancellor constituents. Transportation/VRE is but one of the issues I will update folks on. Others are welcome, but they need to know that Chancellor residents get priority. If residents from other districts want to discuss similar issues, they should contact their Supervisor. Thanks.

  • hapconnors

    Mr. Work (aka Mavrick?),

    As I told you tonight on the phone, the VRE contract will be the subject of a public hearing and vote by the Board. I am sure you will attend to tell us how dumb we are. Always looking forward to seeing you.

    With much love,

    Hap Connors

  • southwest

    MAVRICKing apparently you were doing something else or just not paying attention (as usual) when Supervisor Pitts identified the reason(s) as to why he had a conflict with the issues you identified. I watched the meeting and understand very clearly the statement made by Supervisor Pitts. His statement wasclear, exact and to the point as usual. Mr. Pitts did “exactly” what the law of Virginia required him to do. If you don’t like it, tuff ________.

  • lgross

    this is why I favor a VRE FACT SHEET that deals fairly and objectively and uniformly with the questions that citizens have. I think that all citizens of
    the county are entitled to 24/7 access to this information AND the ability to ask more questions and get answers to their questions.

    Community meetings are good but not everyone can attend one and each BOS can and will accentuate the points that support their views.

    A Fact Sheet approach would give all citizens a fair opportunity to better inform themselves so that they can formulate their views – based on facts
    - not rumors and myths…

    Alternatively a Citizens Group – trying to achieve the same goal could undertake the task but again – the Fact Sheet should deal with all the issues
    - Pro and Con in a fair and objective way and refrain from being a cheerleading effort.

    I’ve been characterized as opposed to VRE. I’m emphatically not. What I’m opposed to is inequitable treatment of county citizens with regard to
    the disposition of the 2% gas tax and I think this is key to gaining more support – or -engendering more opposition.

    I’m in favor of VRE itself as well as high speed rail but …as a for instance, if you asked most county citizens what the difference is between VRE or
    High Speed Rail in terms of benefits to citizens – many would not know because VRE has been promoted as having the potential to operate like
    High speed rail – and it cannot.

    If the State is going to build a 3rd rail to accommodate high speed rail – how might that affect VRE?

    Some answers may not be known right now but the benefit of the dialog is – once again – to let the Spotsylvania Citizens who want to know more –
    to be able to educate themselves on the issues.

    I believe that – in the longer run – a more informed citizenry will better appreciate the problems – and the solutions – and ultimately gain wider
    support.

    I don’t think the current dynamics with VRE questions – gives me confidence that there is a conscientious effort to get the facts out to citizens.

  • gramps

    Since you seem to be using this blog, I have a question for you. What is the big secret about the VRE/Spotsy agreement language? To my knowledge that language has never seen the “light of day” beyond VRE, Spotsy BOS, and Stroman’s office. I have looked for info everywhere I can think of, including writing directly to VRE. VRE gave me two responses from different people that amounted to “doublespeak.” You surely must know that there are many statements being made about the “agreement” that are in conflict. It would seem to me that it is time to publish the entire agreement (or let Dan Telvock publish it) so that the truths come out and the myths can be dispensed with. Thank you, gramps aka Bill Haas

  • hapconnors

    Bill,

    There is a draft, predecisional contract being negotiated. It will be subject to a public hearing, full vetting and a vote by the Board. You are free to call our County Attorney if you have any questions about it. I will discuss transportation/VRE issues, the budget and other issues at the town meeting. I hope to see you there.

    Best,

    Hap

  • lgross

    Does this imply that each jurisdiction has a
    separate contract with unique provisions specific
    to that jurisdiction?

    What is the Master Agreement and what does it
    say?

    What are valid uses of the remainder of the 2%
    gas tax?

    Can it be used…for instance, to build more
    parking lots for van and bus commuters or to
    give them an equivalent subsidy to what VRE
    riders get?

    The idea of telling citizens to call the County Attorney individually troubles me.

    Any info that is available to one citizen should be
    available to all citizens and they should not have
    to ask for it from the CA.

    There may well be jurisdictional-specific issues
    that cannot be released to the public because it
    would affect the negotiation posture but other
    things – like the Master Agreement should be
    posted on the County Website – and ideally – a
    process for receiving and responding to further
    questions.

    To me – this is a test of just how open and
    transparent the BOS chooses to be on VRE and
    they don’t get points for being coy about the info
    in my book.

  • vinylrules

    Many VRE facts can be found here: vreyes.com. If the
    site is not trusted, the same information can be
    obtained directly from VRE, Stafford Co., Fred. and
    other gov’t sources. Most of the 2% tax subsidizes all
    who use roads, not VRE commuters. The record
    clearly shows VRE only gets about a third of that
    revenue collected in Stafford and about 11% in Fred.
    Evidence also proves (revenue collected divided by
    population & cars) most of the revenue comes from
    non-residents (I95 drivers). Looking up all WaWa gas
    prices, all 7-11, etc. by date and time also proves gas
    prices are the same with or without the 2% tax (as
    well as with or without other certain taxes).
    http://www.vreyes.com

  • hapconnors

    Larry,

    These are good questions, and will be answered. Someone left a website for some of this information on this blog. Meanwhile, yes, each jurisdiction can negotiate certain aspects of the contract, but other provisions are constant. The Master Agreement is available by calling VRE, I suppose, and since you are a Spotsy rep of TAG, and since this is a transportation issue, you can probably ask FAMPO staff to provide you with a copy. You don’t need to go through me, or anyone else, I suppose. Finally, I was advising Mr. Haas that if he wanted a copy of the draft contract, he could call the County Attorney, who is charged with leading the negotiations/changes to the contract with VRE counsel, to see if it was available. Since it is predecisional, I don’t think it is, but since in all these blogs there is an element of distrust, then I would suggest folks call him for that ruling. He seems to imply, as do others, that we should bypass the usual process and allow everyone in the county negotiate the contract. That would be chaotic, at best, and besides, in a representative democracy, that’s what elected officials do on behalf of the citizens. If you and others would like that responsibility, then you should run for office. Not a jab, just a fact of the way things work. Have at it….

  • lgross

    well thanks for the response but I think the duty
    of citizens is to hold their elected accountable for
    open and transparent operations.

    A FOIA to the County for all electronic and paper
    documents related to VRE would settle the issue
    of what cannot be released.

    My advice for the VRE process is the same one
    for giving progress reports on road work to
    citizens – citizens are not only entitled to it but it
    helps remove the suspicion that arises when
    there is perceived resistance to providing info.

    Having me go obtain the Master Agreement as
    opposed to the County willingly providing it on
    their website is what is wrong with this process
    IMHO.

    Take a look at this:

    http://www.co.caroline.va.us/prtc.html

    and tell me why Spotsylvania cannot also do
    this?

    Geeze.. if Caroline County can do this.. why can’t
    Spotsy?

    In my view – what I am advocating for is simply –
    Good Government and no.. I don’t need to run
    for BOS to make it happen… and, in fact, it won’t
    happen as a BOS but only if citizens strongly
    encourage it.

    I think we are playing games with VRE – to the
    detriment of the county and it’s citizens.

    that’s my view right now. It could change of
    course.

  • lgross
  • MAVRICKinc

    Dear Mr Connors: I called you yesterday afternoon and you called me back around 9 PM. I only had one question of you. Do you have copies of the VRE contracts and contract language? You confirmed you did not. You then carried the brief conversation to your concern that you did not want my attendance at your town meetings to serve as a distraction or disruption to your scheduled meeting with your constituents. I attempted to remind you that I am a citizen of Spotsylvania County. You prefered to think of me as an arrogant little man with too much time on his hands.

    Your sarcasm and political rhetoric over this blogg appear to be very angry and manipulative.

    Why would you want to tell your constituents that my attendance at your meeting would serve only one end and that would be to call them dumb? Is this one of those tactics that sells preconceived notions that your constituents wouldn’t have to listen to anything I might be prompted to say or inquire about?

    I’m not running for office. Based on Blogg comments to date, a major part of your constituency appear to be asking the same questions I have. So far, your blogg responses appear surrounded only by speculation, very few details with no real answers.

    Please feel free to make as much fun of me as you wish. We all have “tells”. If I were a betting man I would conclude you don’t have a winning hand but will attempt to bluff your way to winning the pot. Your constituents have called. All you have to do now is show them your cards.

  • MAVRICKinc

    Southwest: I attended to Board Meeting and recall we didn’t have any breaks but you may have, from your comfortable chair at home.

    You might want to put your viewing on rewind and listen carefully to Supv Jerry Logan proffer to the Board that there was a distinct difference between absent and abstaining. Apparently he didn’t the message either.

    If Mr. Pitts has a conflict of interest with last Tuesday’s Board agenda he conducted his business described by law. The only question that remains on the table is what the conflict of interest is. so that we may later understand, in advance, what Mr. Pitt’s should, can and can not vote on down the line. It’s called transparency, not tough love.

    Next time you want to yell from the bleachers, you might want to consider showing up at the Board meetings. I’ll even save you a place to sit down and take it ALL in. The only drawback to attending is you won’t be able to change channels while the meeting is taking place.

  • southwest

    Learn the law, If Supervisor Pitts had claimed a conflict and then voted on any of those issues, he would have been by law required to identify the exact nature of the conflict. Because Supervisor Pitts stated that he had a “financial” conflict and then refused to vote on any of the issues that Conflict of Interest Laws” did not require him to make any additional statements. Supervisor Pitts followed the law and in fact went above what is required by law. Good job Supervisor Pitts, say no more…..to the busy bodies.

  • hapconnors

    Mr. Work,

    A couple of things. I do have a draft contract; I said it was not a public document, but that it would be the subject of public scrutiny when we have a public hearing. (I didn’t say that you would call my constituents dumb in my last blog, but that you would proceed to call Board members dumb, which you imply once a month.) I said that you were free to attend the town hall meeting, but that it was for constituents of the Chancellor District, and that they would have priority. You then started lecturing me on how I should conduct that meeting. I really do not need your advice. I’ve held several in the past six years. And the reason I didn’t call you back until 9:00 is that I didn’t get back home from meetings until about 8:30. I have to still work to pay the bills. Finally, it is true that I said that I think you are an arrogant and angry man. But, thinking about it further, a spiritual man once wrote that everyone and everything is a teacher. Your speech and actions have taught me many, many things, mostly the danger of holding onto arrogance and anger, and I thank you for that.

  • gramps

    I was quite disappointed with your direct answer to my question. Your definition of representational democracy differs from mine. The people you represent elected you to represent them AND to represent their positions on matters affecting them. When a elected body conducts predecisional business behind closed doors it seems to this citizen that the best interests of the citizens are not being served. By the way, I am told by an excellent source (a former county attorney) that Mr. Stroman does not speak directly with individual citizens. He prefers to deal with their attorney. Thanks for the invite to your town meeting; I am not a constituent so I won’t “clutter” up the audience. One thing we now know from this interchange; the myths, half-truths, and ordinary BS will continue and apparently that pleases the BOS to no end.

  • lgross

    Gramps summed up my feelings also. Citizens are entitled to see the same information that the BOS is
    collecting and considering AT THE TIME it is AVAILABLE. Providing it 3 days before a hearing in not
    acceptable.

    The law with respect to closed meetings – and information associated with closed meetings is being
    skirted and abused IMHO.

    I would hate to see FOIA used as a reaction to this but what truly irritates me the most with respect to
    VRE is that it clearly symbolizes a pattern of BOS behavior with regard to important issues that affect
    citizens who deserve and are entitled to information to be able to ask substantive questions – perhaps
    some questions the BOS itself had not considered.

    We had some previous BOS whose attitude became – “if you don’t like what we are doing, then vote us
    out” and I’m starting to perceive this again.. I’m afraid.

    I guess after awhile .. BOS being human get cynical about damned if you do and damned in you don’t
    and the easy answer out of it is to just exclude the public except when they must be heard – at hearings.

    While understandable .. it’s shortsighted and wrongheaded IMHO.

    But I’m going to end on a higher note. The current BOS is much more professional and effective on
    many issues that prior BOS IMHO.

  • hapconnors

    Larry,

    You know as well as I that you have more than 3 days before a meeting to review public hearing material. In fact, the VRE debate has been going on for YEEEARS- long before I moved to Spotsylvania. Since you didn’t want to take the initiative as part of your role on the region’s Transportation Advisory Group, I have asked FAMPO to put it on your agenda, so that you all can review ALLL the facts and discuss elements of the contract that others currently have (Fburg and Stafford, etc.) and then you can share them with the world in an informed way. You’ve been part of this body for how long? And yet, you can’t seem to ask for the information or put on the agenda something you can only complain about in blogs. And Mr. Gramps/Haas, you are free to come to the town meeting if you so desire; the only point I was trying to make to you and Mr. Work is that it is a town hall meeting for Chancellor Districts, and they will get priority.

  • MAVRICKinc

    Maybe one day we’ll come to agree I don’t give lectures or advise. I just ask questions and connect dots. As you know I’ve been doing this since 2005 to current date. The Board of Supervisors have copies of all of our presentations and the legislative scripts used to make our presentaions to the Board of Supervisors, since 2005. Simply said, we don’t have any secrets or anything to hide.

    The spin on your political might, stealth and cunning is well recorded. Your willingness to use this political power speaks well of your own arrogance and anger. All we have to do is read this blog to see how you conduct business under the guise of what serves in Spotsylvania County’s best interest.

    You will recall, at one of your Board meetings in September, 2007 you voted to change your by-laws so that I could not come before the Board, to speak, except every 6 months. The vote was 3-3. I can still hear Mr. Marshall saying into his microphone, “it’s a tie, house wins.” Attorney Stroman would clarify otherwise and we would have it all on film. The expressions on your face are quick reminders that we never to assume or imply anything. Whether this can be counted a “dumb” is something you’ll have to take up with yourself and the Board. I don’t need to have an opinion when yours has been so readily available.

    We are now to understand that possessing a draft copy of the VRE contract and language is not a “public document” and will be disclosed to the public only AFTER it’s already been negotiated by our County Attorney.

    At no time has the contract and business model VRE has with CSX and where the money goes after we pay our initiation fee to VRE and syphoned back to CSX for the price of operating passenger trains on CSX property. CSX is building that “third rail” with tax payer money after the State put down $300 million to get things started.

    I’m absolutely certain your constituents have absolutely no interest in these details or how they connect to the next dot.

    With your level of political persuasion, your constituents will never know what hit them, until it’s too late and voted on before they ever make it to public hearing. The Committee of 500 (really 80), Supv. Skinner’s working agenda toward joining the VRE along with FAMPO, the Frederickburg Chamber of Commerce, and the realtor connection should be reason enough to join the VRE journey, lock stock and barrel.

    VRE is a good thing, but in the wrong hands for the wrong reasons.

    The issue of transportation draws only the biggest flies and as we go from one mode of transportation to the next, the only thing being debated is how much of the transportation dollar can we move into our discretionary spending and comes with no receipts. You can see for yourself what results have been accomplished with our infrastructure.

    Mr. Logan has made it abuntantly clear we have used $15 million out of our 2005 transportation Bond Referendum, but to use or negotiate beyond this $15 million pay out against $144 million availble would serve only to raise our property taxes, for want of Capital improvements.

    My math may be well off the mark, but why did we agree in 2005 to buy bonds to the tune of $144 million, but if we use the money, our taxes go up. Who’s being held hostage now?

    I’ll leave this war on words, only for the moment. Pizza was just delivered. I’ll save you a piece and one for Southwest, who appears to be your backstop for all things confinded to legal interpretation. Based on what I’ve seen so far, it appears to be a very narrow interpretation of laws created by a single sponsor and cause us to take one step back for want of a second opinion.

    Since I have no political or special interest allegiance or agenda, I’ll stick asking questions and connecting dots. My motivation is to learn what kind of truth is being served up as soup of the day. If it tastes bad, I just order off the menu. Arrogance and anger is that perception that comes from others when the questions start coming close to home.

    I’m not the enemy, I just appear to be, in the windmills of your mind, and others of special interest, not mine. You are invited to call me anything you want. You can use me as a distraction, if only to shine more light on leadership and what you intend to bring to your constituents, by way of draft without comprehension.

    The day you consciously chose to take my freedom of speech from me, was the day I promised myself to always show up, whether I had anything to say or not. My freedom of speech may be confined to three minutes a month, before the Board of Supervisor cuts me off. but its still worth the price of admission.

  • lgross

    Well I’m going to respond with another compliment. Because of the efforts and commitment of the current BOS and it’s immediate
    predecessor, most (but not all) of the supporting info for the BOS (and now the PC) meetings are available online several days prior to
    the meeting… (but email notice sometimes only 3 days).

    For those who may not know where it is: http://www.spotsylvania.va.us/onlineservices/agendas/

    I think I have a conflict for the next FAMPO TAG meeting ( surgery for my Lab dog “Sam” at Va Tech) but FAMPO also has it’s

    agendas online and they can be found here: http://www.fampo.gwregion.org/transportationadvisorygroup.html and so most (not all)
    supporting info for agendas will appear here a few days before the meeting which is usually around the 13th of each month.

    but I still would like to see a VRE FACT SHEET that pulls together all the info that is flying around and made widely available on either
    the FLS or Spotsy County Website … i.e. a logical place where Spotsy citizens can go looking for it and find it.

    the fact that the VRE issue has been around for years.. and is controversial – is all the more reason to have such a fact sheet IMHO.

    I would say that, just like the Road Projects Status that there are many folks (non-activist Spotsy citizens) who don’t know much about
    it… other than what they hear or read and there simply is no definitive source of plain factual info which would be.. again in my opinion
    - help to ultimately resolve the VRE issue – and perhaps in favor of it – if we can deliver a solution, a compromise similar to what occurred with other controversial issues in the county.

    An example: Charging for EMS transport – but implemented with a compassionate billing policy or Approval of Harrison West but major
    transportation improvements and of course the Mullin’s Farm Compromise.

    And I’ll finish by saying that being a BOS, I’m sure has it’s rewards but it’s also a thankless job in many respects.. because you can do
    20 things right – real successes and one thing… not so hot (like the Mall Connector Road) and all the good stuff gets ignored…

    And for some of our BOS – they have TWO jobs – one to earn a living and then the BOS job… talk about gluttons for punishment!

  • lgross

    sorry about the messed up formatting….not sure exactly how I’m doing it yet. I’m using Google Chrome and it sometimes messes up the formatting..

  • MAVRICKinc

    I would suggest that Larry make an appointment to sit down with Ms. Golden for valued assistance on how to best navigate the County Website. She has assisted me on many occassions on how to access County information. She is a most willing participant and has tons of knowlege and information on just about everything and how her department ties in to the big picture of Spotsylvania County.

    Kathy Smith, Public Information Officer for Spotslvania County is another valued resource of information, and all you have to do is ask.

    You can beat the heck out of Google, but answers to your question are found in our very back yard. Be sure to take your pad and pencil with you. Connecting dots often times requires that you rewind to starting points often lost in polite conversation.

    Mrs.Smith and Ms. Golden will provide you with the map and and format necessary to chart your course and these uncharted waters.

  • lgross

    I know there are scads of info available but my
    point is that it should be easily and obviously
    accessible to those looking for it instead of
    having to personally go in for a tutorial – which, is
    not a good use of county personnel (that I help
    pay for) IMHO.

    The County Website is a HUGE improvement over
    just a few years ago.

    The issue is that County Staff.. often are so busy
    with “real” work that keeping the website up to
    date with comprehensive info is considered
    “extra” when … IMHO… providing info and status
    to citizens is … as important as the actual work if
    the BOS expects citizens to appreciate the level
    of effort and the successes – which I would say is
    especially ironic when some of the BOS itself is
    not clear on some obvious status info – like the
    road projects.