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Both incumbents cancel attendance at bloggers’ forum

Neither Supervisor Gary Skinner nor Supervisor Benjamin Pitts will attend tonight’s forum held by a group of mostly Republican bloggers. Whether the intentions for this event were good, no longer matters, as the two incumbents are out.

Skinner is ill. He just called me and said he would forward me his doctor’s excuse. 

Pitts informed the organizers yesterday that he would not be attending because of a prior engagement. 

So, now at 6:30 p.m. at Riverbend High School, Chris Yakabouski and DJ McGuire will be the only candidates present, which doesn’t provide much of a forum. I am not even sure I need to attend now, and considering I could have used one more day off sipping the OJ, I might just do that. 

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Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/spotsygovt/2009/10/07/both-incumbents-cancel-attendance-at-bloggers-forum/

  • brochureman

    While the audience count was a scant two dozen at the Spotsy Forum, the issues covered were pointed and comprehensive.

    The answers given seemed like they droned on for hours some times though, but I confirmed each one- two minutes only. Shee[*#@!] To both of the attending candidates I’m thankful for their insight and feel they’re both perfectly capable of doing the job, but when it comes to answers I have two words for comments: SOUND & BITES. Please! But the bigger story, not necessarily worthy of ink in the newspaper, but for every voter’s consideration, is participation.

    I’m highly disappointed that Benny Pitts “had a previous engagement” *all of a sudden* after confirming several times in advance for this public forum.

    WHERE was this previous engagement to serve the public, clearly in far greater need, than answering why the public should trust him another 4 years?

    Ole Benny won’t return my phone call from today, so I’ll let you know when I find out whether it was finishing a round of golf, or going out on a drinking bender with his developer friends again.

    Mr. Skinner was the shorter notice of the two to notify one of the panelists –versus the director of the forum who invited him! We had a full 3 hours of advance notice with him. Prior to THAT call, I had actually learned of this from THIS BLOG! So, obviously Mr. Skinner KNEW that it was a press-worthy action on his part and attempted to do DAMAGE CONTROL long before showing any sign of COURTESY to those whose money and weeks of time in preparation he had just wasted.

    While no one can ever know when they’ll be “sick”– the timing is highly ironic at best. In his defense, he did offer to bring a doctor’s note to prove he was sick. I would have prefered a touch of basic courtesy with a direct call to the people who paid for the event and went out of their way to voluntarily put it all together for the sake of transparency and disclosure! I would bet a finger that if this forum were hosted by the Free Lance-Star that BOTH would have attended, and been early!

    The free pass he’s asking for is hardly earned. There were no donations to cover the hundreds of dollars in expenses we bloggers incurred on democracy’s behalf. Will he pay his share of the costs at least? Mr. Pitts said he would not! Mr. Skinner was not yet asked because we didn’t have the time to call him since we were BUSY SETTING UP THE STAGE for his arrival.

    Both made it to the C-500 meeting just fine where they had the endorsements pre-made before “deciding” to attend, and they’ll no doubt appease the predominantly Democratic NAACP forum next week with attendance.

    Both Pitts and Skinner are about as transparent as Obama, and they appear to be reading from the same telepromtper too; say one thing, do another, cost someone *else* money, accept no responsibility fo your actions. Well, not in the blogosphere guys! Game on!

  • gramps

    if the audience attendance last night is the bigger story rather than the fact that Pitts and Skinner were no shows?

    Undoubtedly, the fact that this election covers only two districts is one factor in the poor crowd turn-out. Could it also mean that the “challengers” are in for an unpleasant surprise on election day?

  • Torpedo72

    Many of us weren’t there because 6:30 is a little early especially when we have homework to help our kids with, dinner to prepare, soccer practices to attend and/or Wednesday evening church services to attend.
    But don’t worry be will show up on that important Tuesday knowing who we need to vote out of office.

  • lgross

    I think the bloggers have a good basic concept
    that could prove to be one of the more popular
    debate forums – but I think they need to tend to
    a few things and these are constructive criticisms
    so don’t get riled up folks.

    I think your panel needs to be balanced. You
    might consider someone from FRED2TRUE or
    similar to balance it out.

    you need to pick your site in advance knowing
    that you will, in fact, be able to live blog the
    event.

    I think the cards are a bit gimmicky but perhaps
    I’m an old fogie .. I think the cards throw another
    level of uncertainty into the format which can be a
    turn-off for a candidate that DOES want to answer
    the question and DOES want his opponent to
    answer also and the concept of “hyperlinking”..I
    dunno guys.. that’s sounds a bit off the wall to
    me.

    I’d not let ANY panel member to be an active
    supporter of any of the candidates involved in the
    debate.

    When you click on the websites of some of the
    panelists – it takes you directly to a very partisan
    website supporting one of the candidates.

    that’s not good IMHO.

    the double random idea is a good attempt to
    negate the potential of influence but I don’t think
    it succeeds in completely achieving it;

    that’s my two cents – and I’ve tried to put it in the
    form of how to make the forum better so that it
    becomes the success that I think it could
    become.

  • lgross

    then consider sending a survey to the participants
    that focus on the things that are different about
    your forum from other forums.

    in other words – find out from the participants
    (including those that backed out) what they like
    and what they don’t like and what it would take to
    get them to commit to being there.

    You don’t have to do everything any of them say
    - but if you have a significant number of them
    that are not comfortable with some aspect – at
    the least – you need to think about it no matter
    how strongly you feel about it.

    In the end – the power of your forum will be – that
    it attracts most of the candidates if not all of
    them – and that, in turn, draws a lot of interested
    people.

    I’m personally more excited about your forum
    than other forum because it’s a bit more wide
    open such that one cannot really ascribe any
    particular pro/con stances for local issues whereas
    most of the other forums are sponsored by
    organizations with known biases.

    that’s what would make your forum – powerful –
    IMHO.

  • brochureman

    Your thoughts are well intentioned and lucid, thanks.

    We did pre-survey the candidates who would speak about it and honed the formula accordingly the best we could. The card were actually in response to the concerns, not a cause for them. They asked things like, “well what if I’m uncomfortable with the question? What if it’s a better thing for my opponent to answer for but I get asked it. What if I just want to not answer that? What if my opponent or someone else is really railing on my for 2 minutes, will you shut him up?’

    Now, me being the way I am, I would tend to rip into them for being weak and spineless as most of these concerns are a daily fact of being on an elected board, and if they can’t handle it from us bloggers in the public, they sure can’t handle it from a super-active, old, angry retiree who attends every meeting and worksession instead of watching Oprah. But we compromised and gave everyone the “out” they might need, but only ONE of each. And if we reaaaally wanted to press, we have the limited follow-up chips to cash in and keep them on the hot seat a little longer.

    Affiliations in campaigns are impossible to eliminate in our area since the pool for political activists is, well– either being a candidate or a blogger. There aren’t many ACTIVE people in local politics who also blog to choose from.

    The Fred2Liberals guys WERE invited and declined. They were first on my list to sit on the left side of the table. Apparently being a liberal and working to advance your agenda was too much to consider, hence the Spotsy Democrats web site. hehe

    If you don’t have one Larry, start a blog yourself- heck, you’re on here often enough to just cut & paste! And join us on the panel next time!

    Yeah- venues are always a problem getting it “just right”. When you ask non-technical people about what they have, and they see computers and wires nearby, they say “yeah we have Internet there, no problem. Lesson Learned though…

  • lgross

    I’ve considered a blog – one that is data rich. For
    instance, as much as transportation is an issue
    around here – I’ve yet to run into a single person
    including newspaper folks and politicians who
    know how much money we actually generate in
    gas taxes in our area nor how much we actually
    get back.

    Most folks don’t have a clue how much a penny
    increase on the gas tax will actually generate
    locally.

    most folks don’t realize that the gas tax only
    provides about 25% of VDOT’s budget nor than
    1/2% of the sales tax – 500million a year goes to
    VDOT and not schools.

    so if I did a blog.. it would focus on the facts –
    that we all need to know if we are going to
    advocate either for or against something –
    especially taxes.

    or schools – do folks have a clue how much
    Spotsylvania spends on schools compared to
    other localities?

    do people realize that by NAEP standards only
    37% of Spotsylvania 4th graders are rated as
    proficient in reading even though the SOLs claim
    80% are?

    See .. that’s the kind of question I would ask a
    candidate… nasty eh?

    I’d want to know – before I knew what the were
    advocating for – how much they knew about
    WHAT the were advocating for or against.

    I think ya’ll are off to a great start and would
    encourage ya’ll to hang in there while you get
    over the initial bumps in the road.

  • brochureman

    HAHA- Larry you impress me! I had no idea you were a Republican!

    PS- I think I can answer all those questions to a pretty good level of detail, and I know Yakabouski and McGuire can as well.

  • lgross

    REALLY? How much does the FAMPO region
    generate in gas taxes each year?

  • lgross

    For instance, we know that there will be no more
    money coming from VDOT – in essence because
    we neglected to index the gas tax unlike other
    states – and VRE.

    So now, we have a big decision about what to do
    about local and regional transportation.

    How will Spotsylvania deal with needed new roads
    in the future without raising taxes?

    Bragg Road will cost about 6 million dollars.
    Stafford found out earlier this week than the total
    amount they will receive next year is about 2
    million dollars.

    Spotsy won’t do much better.

    so.. how will we maintain, expand, improve our
    regional transportation network?

    these are the types of questions that I think our
    local candidates should answer – with clarity.

  • MAVRICKinc

    Before we get carried away with all the back slapping on what transpired at last nights blogger’s forum and a version of what you would bring to your own blog…”data rich” and “focus on the facts that we will ALL need, for or against something…especially taxes, needs some clarification on what facts you are talking about.

    I was supplied with an amended VRE Master Agreement from PRTC Executive Director, Al Harf…dated August 12, 2009…not July 2009 as posted by the BOS on their County Website.

    As a matter of record the Spotsylvania County BOS could not bring themselves to supply me with this information after my Board meeting presentation and request for this document or where I might find it within the public domain.

    However, just above and below Spotsylvania County’s posting on their website of their Master Agreement, you will also find other ordinance and VRE agreements that are attached to the VRE Master Agreement and crafted by our BOS and County Attorney that deserve to be looked at and understood, not only from current circumstance or consequenses for the next 5 years of development and someone elses version/vision of land use agendas, “mixed-use” interpretations, development of Urban Development Areas and how they wish to spend our money at 3.3 % interest GO-Bond rates for the next 25 vears.

    These posted documents will be found on the Spotsylvania County website under:

    1. “An Ordinance To Enable Spotsylvania County, Virginia To Become a Member Of The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation District.”

    2. “AGREEMENT GOVERNING SPOTSYLVANIA COUNTY’S ADMISSION TO MEMBERSHIP IN PRTC AND PARTICIPATION IN THE VRE.”

    3. Amended August 2009…”AMENDENDED FOUNDING ORDINANCE AND MASTER AGREEMENT POTOMAC AND RAPPAHANNOCK TRANSPORTATION DISTRICT.”

    Some of the better questions asked last night came from Tim Watson who proffered a real need to have a Audit Commission in place and Eric’s insistense that Spotsylvania County needs to reinvest in public (free of charge) committees that were eliminated by this BOS 2 years ago. Simply said, we need to return to oversite of the BOS’s spending agendas and business models.

    The August 2009 version of the VRE Master Agreement is not much different than the 7/07 version. I was particularly taken by the language and contract conditions cited under B. ESTABLISHMENT OF THE OPERATIONS BOARD, sub paragraph (4). This would be one of my concerns but do not see the current BOS making this small part of the Agreement as a deal breaker. Apparently, none of the other “participating members” considered this language important when their BOS’s made the unilateral decision to join, without public debate or knowledge this VRE Master Agreement even existed.

    I know for a fact the C500 Committee never made mention of this agreement to the public, but focused only on selling a gas tax that has proven itself to be unsustainable.

    If you were to reach out to State and Federal authorities you would see they are of the same consensus. Even Edd Houck confirmed, to my satisfaction, the General Assembly is neck deep in a transportation quagmire that apprears to be nothing more than a bottomless money pit.

    How you treat FACTS is legend and framed in many exchanges we have had over the past 6 months. I don’t see the correlation between what you consider fact from fiction. I recall coming up with facts that you could only describe as conspiracy theory. Between what you claim to be fact, you always manage to include your multiple disclaimers up front and end with…”I don’t really know but that’s my take”… on any subject you care to imagine.

    On June 26, 2005 the FLS reported you were the Committe of 500′s new CHAIRMAN and leader, after Merl Witt relocated to New Mexico. For 3 years prior to your promotion you served the C500 as its Vice-Chair.

    At that time you were primarily interested in protecting battlefields and getting growth-management policies into Spotsylvania County’s comprehensive land-use plan.

    So, when it comes to the questions being asked by the C500 of elected officials and candidates running fo office, would I be mistaken in concluding you were NOT a very serious part of crafting these questions and the principles that continue to be leveraged against the public’s knowlege of what the C500 really brings to market?

    How does your involvement with Friends of the Rappahannock, our local Sierra Club or FAMPO’s
    Transportation Advisory Group translate to what you would would claim to be data rich, and focused ON THE FACTS?

    As far as I know, you defend only one side of the equation. My deepest concern is how much of a fact would you bring with your own blog site.

    Don’t know who VACORRESPONDENT was, but he came with facts and you, the FLS, and Dan Telvock played him/her to diminished returns, instead taking his informed numbers to market.

    I don’t mind you being the Company’s man. When do you intend to show US all your cards?

  • lgross

    to answer some of the questions. I am no longer
    a member of any organization other than the
    FAMPO TAG – and that will be at their discretion
    which they have the power to change membership
    at any time they wish.

    My standards for being part of NGOs now days is
    that they have to be serious about accomplishing
    their mission and they must be forthright about
    the issues – to show the pros/cons for each issue
    they take a stand on – and to fully explain why
    they take their positions and that means they
    need to know the data.

    And like I was asking Eric – who in this area
    knows the dollar specifics of transportation?

    Because if you don’t know this – then how could
    you take a position?

    I’m not as good as doing homework as you are
    Marty – but I am more than open to being shown
    relevant info.. but I need to know exactly what
    your points are and I’m not patient with vague
    innuendo ESPECIALLY when dealing in
    personalities.

    stick to the issues – to the data – to the facts –
    make your points – and back them up without
    once mentioning personalities and I’m happiest.

    Now what you missed Marty – didn’t do that
    homework was my involvement in the opposition
    to the Salem Church Dam and the Outer
    Connector.

    tsk tsk.. I thought you were pretty good at that.

    gotta do better… tsk tsk

    but you need to give C500 credit for their
    candidate questions – they are good questions.

    I did not care for their nebulous way of
    supporting their candidates (nor VRE) but they
    did a decent job on those questions for the most
    part.

    The Smart Growth question was an enormous
    softball.. any fool could have given them the
    answer they were desperately seeking…

    Anyhow Marty – do you have any idea how much
    money the FAMPO area generates in gasoline
    taxes?

    how about that being your next homework
    assignment?

  • southwest

    Maybe someone needs to ask why the two Republican candidates failed to participate in the Spotsylvania Education Association (SEA) endorsement process. Neither Republican candidate completed the questionnaire are appeared for the SEA interview. The Spotsylvania School System is the largest employer in the county. The Spotsylvania School system receives the largest amount to tax revenue. Neither Republican candidate felt our schoool system was worthy of their participation in the SEA endorsement process. Both Pitts and Skinner felt that our school system and our children were worthy of their participation. To me that says where the priorities of these candidates are, education not bloggers. Good decision Pitts and Skinner. I will work to get you both elected.

  • gramps

    do you have an answer? I have examined the revenue side of the county budget and unless it is lumped in with other state sales tax figures it is not there. I have also looked at the DMV numbers and have found the state aggregate figures for motor fuel tax revenue, but no county breakdowns. Is this something that one has to belong to the “in group” to know the answers?

  • gramps

    the answer may be obvious. The state does not account for motor fuel taxes by county; it aggregates that revenue and uses it wherever the GA decides. Therefore, technically, the counties and municipalities do not get that specific portion of the tax that has been collected within their borders. They get funds for various purposes from the state and the amounts they receive may be less, equal, or greater than the motor fuels tax collected from within their borders.

  • lgross

    but I ask the question – if you don’t know for
    your own county what the facts are – how can you
    advocate for something as a fix?

    Like you – I have yet to see actual data but I can
    show you a VDOT operations budget for the
    Fredericksburg Area and it totals about 160
    million dollars if I remember correctly:

    here:
    http://virginiadot.org/business/resources/fy-08-
    supplement-final.pdf page 7

    this is a large PDF so be patient…

    so we know that we get a pile of money back for
    operations – while most folks blithely think that
    “roads are free” after they are built.

    so how much money do we actually generate in
    gas tax?

    isn’t that an important number for any citizen and
    any politician running for office professing to do
    “something” about it?

    When a politician is saying that it is a “state
    responsibility” – and the State money is already
    completely dedicated to maintenance and
    operations – 160 million worth in the Fburg Area –
    what exactly is that politician advocating that the
    state do about it?

    Are they not saying that it’s up to the state to
    raise taxes on Spotsy citizens to pay for “more”?

    why would we want to pay the state more taxes
    rather than paying those taxes locally for our
    transportation needs – if either of the two
    directions results in a tax increase to start with?

    Wouldn’t it be BETTER to get ALL of our tax
    money back locally – from the get go rather than
    sending it to Richmond and not getting all of it
    back?

    but then… since we don’t know how much we
    actually generate verses how much we actually
    get back – how could any citizen or any politician
    really know what the heck they are talking about
    in the first place?

    and that’s my point… if you are a politician
    running for office – you should know these facts
    and you should cite them to the folks you want to
    elect you – that you know what the heck you are
    talking about and citizens also know what the real
    situation is and have to decide what they want to
    do about it – or not

    so that’s the first question I would ask a local
    candidate – whether I was C500 or the Bloggers
    or anyone for that matter that really wants to
    know what that fellow (or gal) would do about
    transportation.

    and in my mind – that’s the potential value of a
    citizens group in the first place – a valid reason
    for them to exist.

  • lgross

    I could go through the same process for schools.

    what is the right amount for schools?

    how do we compare for costs & achievement for
    other schools?

    do most folks in the country know that we fund
    schools at a higher rate than most other counties
    in the state already?

    are Spotsylvania residents aware of this
    document

    http://www.spotsylvania.va.us/emplibrary/Budget/
    Annual_budgets/FY2008/APA%20report.pdf

    are Spotsylvania Citizens aware of this website:

    http://www.apa.state.va.us/ComparativeReport.cf
    m

    my point is that we have a very rich data and
    information environment these days – and it’s an
    opportunity for any candidate for office to do two
    things:

    1. – to know the facts

    2. – to be able to fashion his/her approach to
    govt and to demonstrate to voters that he/she
    actually know what the heck they are doing.

  • gramps

    You are cmpletely correct about the candidates, but if the ‘data’ is not available where we can find it how can we expect them to find it?

    If my theory, stated earlier, is correct; there is probably some “clerk” in Richmond that may be able to total all the motor fuel taxes paid by retailers and/or wholesalers in Spotsy and provide the answer. It may be as simple as hitting a button on a computer somewhere. However, if the state accounting system does not use that knid of input it may never see the light of day.

    Now, it would seem to me that it would behoove each and every BOS member, in their argument pro or con on VRE, to officially request this information and use it in their positions. That’s sort of what “pols” do, isn’t it?

    In fact, would not the PRTC and VRE boards need that kind of info when they meet to decide the individual members share of the “excess” revenues at year end? If so, why would that info not be publicly available? Are we not pretty sure these folks lurk hereabouts? Some of them even post here at times.

  • lgross

    you are correct. My point is that if the candidates
    also don’t know why would they offer to support
    “changes” ?

    Candidates should promise to get the facts,
    share them with the public – and propose a
    course of action – that the public would then
    understand the facts behind it.

    Candidates that don’t do that are doing what?

    blowing smoke?

    a good question is – why is this information not
    readily available in the first place?

    where is the transparency and accountability for
    this?

    so that could be a campaign promise – that the
    facts will be obtained …

    you can find this out in a general sort of way by
    extrapolation – like you said .. doing a back of
    envelope approach to VRE money from the 2% or
    taking the aggregate data and converting it to
    per capita data and multiplying … then cross-
    compare results to see if the results are fairly
    consistent.

    but I am totally puzzled why any candidate for
    local office that is citing transportation as one of
    our important needs – and supports VRE – has no
    clue of the basic facts overall – and without those
    facts how could you claim that the approach you
    advocate is viable?

    most of the folks in our area – don’t have a clue
    as to the facts – and yet they vote for candidates
    who also don’t have a clue because of some
    bogus statement that has nothing to do with
    anything real.

    At any rate – I THINK that the PURPOSE of an
    effective Candidate Forum or Citizens Group is to
    advocate for – these facts – as fundamental to
    the campaigns.

    If I were C500 or the bloggers, I would have
    asked that direct question – and see who
    answered it best.

  • loganj001

    I agree. So, this is how I do it. Our Commissioner of
    Revenue receives total gallons sold info as required by filing
    of the BPOL Tax each year. The total for ’08 was 93,130,635
    gallons of gas/diesel fuel sold. If you do the math, that
    equals roughly to $16.3M for the state.
    If we were doing VRE and the average price of gas was
    $2.50/gal, that would generate (gal x $2.50 x 2%) $4.7M.
    Then, if you deduct the VRE projected subsidy of $1.4M, you
    end up with $3.3M net for the county, assuming my math is
    correct.
    I will be getting the ’09 BPOL data update soon.

  • gramps

    Thank you JILogan. Is the BPOL data available to the public? If so, where can one find it? If you are who I think you are, you are the first to offer even one iota of light on this subject. Thanks again.

  • lgross

    yes – thanks. That’s what I got – but it’s not the
    whole story as the Va gas tax provides only 25%
    of the VDOT budget.

    Remember – VDOT also gets Virginia’s share of
    the 18 cent Fed Tax also.

    VDOT also receives 1/2% of the sales tax

    check out the DMV statewide monthly data here
    for all of the sources:

    http://www.dmv.virginia.gov/webdoc/pdf/tracking_
    aug09.pdf

    Once you start taking into account all the other
    sources and total them up – you start to better
    understand where the 160 million for VDOT
    Fredericksburg come from.

    here:
    http://virginiadot.org/business/resources/fy-08-
    supplement-final.pdf

    note that it includes the construction also – I
    erred before in saying it was only operations and
    maintenance.

    So the Fredericksburg District has 14 counties in it
    - I’m not sure the total population but I’d hazard
    perhaps 500K or so… the data is there.. just
    needs to be crunched.
    but let’s compute allocation on a population basis

    160,000,000/500,000 = about 300 bucks per
    capita – which multiplied times 120K …. about 40
    million …

    and out of that.. we get less than 6 million for
    construction – is that right?

    okay.. so you want to address this issue – what’s
    the best way?

    raise the statewide gas tax? a nickel (which will
    probably never happen) will bring in an additional
    2.5 million total .. not sure how much of that
    Spotsy would net for improvements.
    ( a penny statewide brings in about 50 million).

    but a savy Spotsy BOS might do copy this NoVa
    template:

    ” What Different Funding Options Generate for
    NoVa – local and state gas and sales taxes

    http://www.nvta.org/content.asp?contentid=1188

    okay ..so I’m going through the numbers and
    though I have some of the data, I clearly don’t
    have all of it.

    but I would like to see a candidate or a BOS
    incumbent or a citizens group with something on
    the ball – do this – so that more folks in
    Spotsylvania will better understand what our
    current status is – and what directions we might
    want to think about for the future…

    …. instead of the every popular but totally no-
    response ” it’s a state responsibility”.

    by the way.. I have not touched on the potential
    use of Transportation Districts to play a role and
    the current BOS know far, far more about this
    than most folks including me.

    Finally – a provocative question:

    What IF… it were possible to have the GA allow
    the PRTC to boost the current 2% to 5% and the
    entire additional 3% would go to the county for
    road improvements?

    would that be something for Spotsylvania to put
    on their legislative priority list?

  • MAVRICKinc

    You’re headed in the right direction. If Supv. Logan has info we need to make an informed decision, so much the better.

    To raise the gas tax (2.1% come January 1, 2010), you will never see an increase to 5 cents to balance any of our road projects or transportation needs.

    Project all you want, but the day of reckoning is found in the VRE Master Agreement. Come budget time, VRE only promises to “do their best” to keep cost down. Has anyone taken a look at VRE’s Capital Investments for today and tomorrow? I have, and you can project all you want but return on investment in the VRE will eventually lead to our general funding.

    If you want to talk about how much VRE is going to cost Spotsylvania tax payers now and in the future, maybe we should pay closer attention to the budget liabilities found in the VRE Master Agreement, which, by the way, are a matter of public record. But, again, we are reminded the public doesn’t have a clue what’s really going on.

    The public prefers to be led by the nose. They don’t have time to be involved because of other demands being placed on their time, including soccer practice. To be involved is something we plan for. Involvement is not a random process. It’s for keeps and requires a little homework.

    If Spotsylvania County has done their homework, it’s certainly not visable to the public, nor has ever been.

    Anything you would ever want to know about VRE is something you need to ask Supv. Hap Connors, Chairman of the Spotsylvania County BOS, FAMPO and the George Washington Regional Commission. So far, he hasn’t shared any of his market share and trading with the County’s tax payer dime.

    Nor has any member of the BOS shared or exchanged anything with the public other than scripted messages and the price for a cup of coffee.

    Larry, lets be resigned to the fact that you are only now coming out with facts that can only be consigned to the notion that distractions will always lead back to where you started from.

    If the BOS are to be considered a “personality”, why should we even try to unmask what is, or is not?

    Simply said, if the BOS has the information we need to make informed decisions with, why are we going all over the map for answers when the information we need is sitting under our very nose, and if THEY tell you it’s not available for public consumption, then you might want to entertain the idea of calling them a liar. Liar, liar, pants on fire.

    You’re creating another circle that leads US nowhere.

    Lets follow the lead of bloggers. It’s not as if our elected officials aren’t standing on the side lines, just waiting to be called out on real or imagined issues.

    If Colin Brehm, currently 19 years of age, can open a door to real debate, why is it that we just don’t get it?

    Larry, you’re looking a committee, and I’m looking for answers. Even Bill Haas understands this notion better than most and he’s working off of gut instinct.

    If Eric wants to bring our public committes back to life, he doesn’t need to fly a political banner, but one that serves us ALL.

    If Colin Brehm is the glue, why are we standing around shuffling our shoes? Good intentions, political rhetoric simply does not cut it any more, and I’m still waiting for my invitation to attend Spotsylvania County’s Planning Department Forum meeting with the real stakeholders, if, for no other reason, than to recognize there are land-use agendas being conducted, without public acknowlegment. I’ve been turned down twice, with the remaining tickets of admission going to Mary Lee Carter ands another selected member of the Planning Commission.

    Supv. Jerry Logan’s numbers are good, but you already knew that. But, if you throw those numbers at a VRE Master Agreement, your bottom line would change from projected to numbers found in our next budget cycle, with nothing more to show for the investment in VRE than the cost of their Capital Improvements agenda, spread across the “participating members” check book.

    I don’t have to be labeled for or against the VRE agenda. From an investment standpoint, we’re nothing more than a means to fly the bond market with additional leverage and capital to support VRE’s insatiable appetite to support the transportation”Commissions” and their collective membership.

    Start with METRO and work your way down the list, with only a promise VRE “will try its best to keep cost down.” Take that to market and see what you get in return. Fly any numbers you want, but 2+2 is not going to come out to 4.

    Let’s close ranks on those who have the answers, but are not telling. The silence and arrogance displayed by our BOS needs to be opened up and made available to those who know the difference but continue to wade in shallow waters.

    I’ve been showing up for years, and I wrote everything down, including your homework assignments. Instead of mouthing the words, why don’t you go for the truth, and decide the journey was worth taking?

  • therestofthestory

    in the Master Agreement! The public hasn’t read it, the FLS refuses to critically analze it and the PRTC hides it from the Taxpayers of the County. Spotsy is just the next “public entity” being duped into bailing out a bad government program.

  • lgross

    stop it.

    deal with the issues and let people out of it.

    I’m not a supporter of VRE – as is – because I think it focuses
    too much on commuter rail as a solution and not enough on
    other forms of ride sharing which has much more potential to
    take traffic off he regional roads because there is much more
    flexibility in origins and destinations,.

    IMHO – the ire towards VRE is not useful if it diverts us from
    thinking about the test of our transportation issues – now and
    into the future.

    The reality is – that without additional funds, Spotsylvania is
    not simply not going to have much in the way of road
    improvements in the future – even if they keep their growth
    rate to 2% – with the current environment – we won’t even
    maintain a 2% transportation improvement.

    We need to decide – as a county – what we want to do or not
    do about this – and that take facts so that are dealing with
    realities and not what we want to believe.

    but Marty – I DEEPLY RESENT your continued pejorative
    references to personalities

    these are little more than veiled personal attacks and I don’t
    mind asking the FLS to make their own determination of them
    if you choose to continue in this way.

  • lgross

    I’ll agree that the VRE agreement – and for that
    matter the legal and policy aspects of VRE are
    murky – just as the money for VDOT funding is
    also.

    and I’ll further agree that in terms of
    transparency and accountability – that virtually
    none of the players, VRE, Spotsylvania, FAMPO,
    VDOT – seem to understand the importance of
    making this information available to the public.

    It’s a legitimate issue for citizens to demand
    better government from the entities that use
    public funds to carry out their missions – ostensibly to serve the public.

    Our area is not unique in this regard.

    Go to the Virginia Coalition for Open Govt –
    http://www.opengovva.org/ and you can read a
    litany of similar less-than-accountable actions by
    all levels of government across va to restrict
    information that should be public.

    I once saw a local citizens group charged several
    hundred dollars from VDOT in their attempts to
    obtain information that should have been public.

    but I’d disagree with those that say it’s
    someone’s fault .. which it is .. but in the end – if
    citizens do not assert themselves on these kinds
    of issues then they won’t get results.

    There are legislators who are very supportive of
    open government and they will listen and even
    sponsor legislation if requested.

    Senator Houck is actually has been an officer and
    is a current member on the Va Coalition of Open
    Govt.

    The truth is – as VCOG and Sen Houck will tell you
    that the law is one thing – and enforcing it on a
    practical basis is quite another.

    the long and short of it is – that if we (citizens)
    want more information – that we have to earn it.

    we have to push, persuade, and finally fight for it
    because even though it’s wrong for govt to hide
    info, it’s just what they often do..

    and there are many success stories – the top guy
    and some of his top aides at the Va Fish and
    Game got fired because of the persistence of a
    citizen – using the FOIA law.

    so I’ll share the frustration about the VRE Master
    Agreement – and other info about VRE – as well
    as info about other transportation
    “arrangements” in our Area but as I pointed out –
    this is not a unique problem to Spotsy.

    We can continue to complain about it – or we can
    do more about it than collectively wring our
    hands.

    it can be much more effective if several citizens
    are willing to work together to accomplish more
    than they could as individuals but both paths do
    work.

    this is actually one of my biggest
    disappointments with C500. I originally
    envisioned it as an effective organization
    dedicated to dealing substantively with the issues
    by getting the facts – and holding county govt
    more accountable and insisting that public
    information be made available without a knock-
    down-drag-out.

    now… some who frequent here – have nothing
    but complaints – about everyone and everything
    they say or do – as opposed to shutting the heck
    up and putting their money where their mouth is
    and actually work to accomplish change.

    in my view – this is a cowardly behavior to
    essentially say that everyone else is responsible
    for the problems and then listing the people and
    organizations …

    what does this accomplish?

    nothing?

    whiners be gone.

    if you want a more open, more accountable
    government – you’re not going to get it by
    yammering on and on about what others are not
    doing.

    we basically get the govt that we deserve folks.

    although it’s not right – go read all the ways that
    govt evades their duty at the VCOG site – the
    bottom line is that citizens have to assert
    themselves if they want more transparency and
    accountability in local govt.

  • lgross

    I’d like to better understand whether those that post
    here believe in the legitimacy of public transit as a
    taxpayer funded (subsidized) function or not

    because I think we need to more clearly understand the
    arguments.

    If someone is fundamentally opposed to the concept of
    publically-funded transit then that is a different deal that
    if they support it but don’t think that the VRE method is
    a good method.

    I myself have mixed feelings at times but in the end –
    my view about publically-funded transport is similar to
    other publically-funded things – like schools and Public
    Safety – the big 3 in Va and in most Va localities.

    If you think VRE finances are murky, I’d invite folks to
    find out how FRED Transit is funded or METRO in DC.

    using the word “murky” is a non sequitur

    but I’d make the same challenge with regard to schools
    and law enforcement also.

    so …why… do …we .. focus only on VRE ?

    and this goes back to whether one believes that public
    transit is a legitimate public funded function.

    what I’d ask – if that you make clear the basis of your
    complaint.

    If you’re arguing against VRE because you don’t like
    public transit of any shape or kind – then disclose that.

    if you’re generally supportive of public transit with
    caveats and you think VRE is a particularly egregious
    arrangement – then kindly say so.

    and I’ve reference the 160 million dollar annual VDOT
    budget in our region before in this thread but go take a
    look at the various categories and their various cost
    components – and you soon realize that a vast amount
    of the VDOT budget is NOT spent on physical
    infrastructure..

    In fact, out of a 160 million dollar budget, Spotsylvania
    nets about 6-10 million (or less) for actual transportation
    improvements.

    my point here is that in terms of transparency and
    accountability – VRE is much different from VDOT.

    unless of course.. you’re pretty much okay with VDOT
    and you’re pretty much not ok with VRE.

    I support publically funded transit, roads, and schools.

    we don’t have enough transparency and accountability for
    all 3 IMHO.

    I just think we ought to be clear if we oppose VRE –
    whether or not we’re really opposed to all forms of public
    transit or not.

  • loganj001

    Larry, we have just posted all the VRE docs adopted by
    the Spotsy BOS on 8-18-09. You can find them at :
    https://www.spotsylvania.va.us/departments/bos/index.c
    fm#BOS_VRE_Documents

  • lgross

    I got a 404 on the link but I think I found the right
    location and I created a tinurl for it.

    is this the correct document?

    http://tinyurl.com/ykm75oy

  • loganj001

    That is only one of them. There are four in all. Try this
    link :http://www.spotsylvania.va.us/
    They are listed under FYI – “VRE Documents as Adopted
    By the Board 8-18-09″
    Hope this helps.

  • lgross

    yes thanks.. I seem to remember perusing these previously – more
    than once.

    I keep looking that the terrible “gotcha” parts of it that are alluded
    to by some and I’m never sure if I’m looking at the exact part of it
    that they are saying is so bad.

    so they don’t make themselves that clear IMHO.

    I think they do a better job if they go cut/paste the relevant
    passages that they think are so egregious .. and then explain what
    it is about the passage that concerns them…

    .. and then.. bonus points… for how they would change the words to
    make it better..

    ..that’s why I asked the question about how folks feel about
    publically-funded transit from the get go.

    because if they are opposed to the concept – then the entire VRE
    contract is an abomination no matter how it is worded because it
    formalizes a concept that they are opposed to in principal.

    if on the other hand – they support public transit but they feel that
    PARTS of the VRE contract are egregious then they could point out
    the offending passages and suggest changes…

    so I’m having trouble understanding whether or not it’s fixing the
    VRE contract or just saying no to the concept of commuter rail.

  • MAVRICKinc

    Larry, your October 8, 2009 7:47 PM response to my “Bloggers Lament” starts out by saying you are only going “to answer SOME of my questions.”

    That’s sort of like saying you have a ‘get out of jail” card”, much like the Bloggers Forum had available for candidates who showed, and the silence generated by encumbants Skinner and Pitts’… hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil and no show strategy.

    Even the C500, at their candidate forum, recorded NOTHING, took no pictures, or provided anything for public consumption. Simply said, this C500 forum never took place, and the only thing the C500 had to offer were candidates and encumbants answers to a scripted questionaire they’ve been using for years to see who comes closest to THEIR principles and a County Government that steers their boat, but not into uncharted waters (change).

    Larry, the fact remains that you are no longer a member/Chairman of the C500, but every time you turn the corner you’re still carrying C500 baggage. The FLS has demonstrated to my satisfaction they are bound by the same baggage you carry around on your back. YOUR WORDS DON’T LEAVE MUCH ROOM FOR US TO QUESTION OR EVEN SPECULATE OTHERWISE.

    If Eric has answers to “who in this area knows the dollar specifics of transportation”, what was his answer?

    You want us to stick to ISSUES. TRANSPORTATION is an ISSUE. You can pull up the last 20 years on the issue of Transportation and see that it hasn’t made progress from day one to today’s date.

    Now, WHO beyond political rhetoric, fuzzy feelings, more cliches than anyone could possibly imagine, my end question doesn’t get any better than, “where’s the money?”

    If it were not for people, personalites, and politics we wouldn’t have issues. Your solution is to yell at the top of your lungs to “STOP IT.” and “Deal with the issues and let people out of it.”

    Since WHEN have YOUR RULE of engagement become the only available means of finding the truth and confined soley to your version of reality?

    Larry, if you want to use those big words, ie PEJORITIVE, you might consider providing our blog audience with definitions of what you’re saying: like “tending to disparage or belittle” OR ” “to make or become worse.”

    I have enough problems making my way through one of Paul Akers’ editorial spread sheets and challenging prose.

    You might want to consider looking in the mirror next time, before casting your aspersions. Apparently you’re the one with the thin skin, which I know better. Whether you “Deeply Resent” my input is something you and you alone will have to deal with.

    We’ve covered this ground before, and your threat that “these are more than veiled personal attacks, and I (Larryg) don’t mind asking the FLS to make their own determination of them if you choose to continue in this way.”

    Larry, the phone number you’re looking for is 540-374-5000. When the FLS picksup your call you might want to ask for Jim Toler, local news editor, or ring up Dan Telvock’s direct number, 540-374-5438. I’m confident they both have a current version of what free seech entails and I have already signed off on the terms a conditions of the FredTalk User Agreement.

    If you want to dial up the Committee of 500, I’m certain you already have their number.

    So, what part of my “Bloggers Lament” did you decide not to read or acknowledge? I gave you the additional titled VRE agreements Spotsylvania has posted on their website and will become part of the VRE Master Agreement, given the opportunity.

    Your response to Supv. Logan’s description of what was “recently” posted was identified in my Bloggers Lament, with specificty. You claim to have gotten a 404 (what ever that is), but still asked Supv. Logan if thyis were the correct document.

    Logan responded that your 404 link was only one of four document posted at the Spotsylvania County Web site. Your 404 document was a copy of the VRE Master Agreement dated 7-17-2009. If you need the the 8-12-2009 version, I suggest you call Supv Hap
    Connors, to see if VRE can send a copy. After all, as Chairman of FAMPO and the George Washington Regional Commission, I’m confident he can arrange to have VRE send you a copy, just as Al Harf, PRTC Executive Director provided me this information.

    Your response back to Supv. Logan was “YES…I seem to remember perusing these previously…more than once.” You then encapsulate your take on the VRE Master Agreement as a concept and wind up saying, “so I’m (Larryg) having trouble understanding whether or not it’s fixing the VRE contract or just saying no to the CONCEPT of commuter rail.

    Your use of the terms “mixed feelings” and “murky” really doesn’t provide me with a confidence that your distractions serve any constructive purpose or profile in what’s really going on behind closed doors, other than to obfuscate what you consider is not relevant or germane to the issues and the people, politics and personalities that are joined at the hip.

  • lgross

    Marty – C500 is a NGO. I’m not defender of them or any other entity. You can ask
    around. I’m pretty though on the lot of them but unlike some I give credit where
    credit is due also.

    C500 is run by it’s members according to it’ members preferences – agree?

    Unlike govt, there are no standards that you seem to desire. the Local NAACP, SEA,
    Republican Party, etc all have their own member-decided rules and policies that may
    or may not suit you or me or others.

    I strongly prefer debating the issues and not personalities which you seem to prefer
    and you tread close to the line frequently and go over it when you think you can get
    away with it.

    this is going to be my last response to any of your posts unless your next post gives
    indication that you will cease personalizing discussions.

    fair warning . you WILL be ignored for the duration.

  • MAVRICKinc

    Larry: the record will show I’ve been ignored for years by the very people you hold in the highest reguard. So far, THEY they have given given me no reason to applaud their arrogance or hiding behind their silence.

    The NAACP is preparing for their coming out to celebrate their history and life long commitment to engage our enemies and bring us to this point in history. They are and will forever be the morter mix that holds this nation together.

    One of its senior members was in attendance at the Riverbend BLOGGERS FORUM, in preparation for the NAACP gathering and celebration. He and a senior member of the C500 was in attendance. I don’t recall seeing you at this meeting.

    SEA is the component part of the education system and agenda that seeks money and market share to raise levels of education to their highest levels, if that is at all possible. I thrive on learning. Have done so all my life.

    The Republican Party, from where I’m sitting, is trying their best to put lots of people under a single banner and having them pay allegiance to principles and agendas that have not yet been decided on. Their principles and STANDARDS are not much different than the Democrats, Independents or Libertarians. It’s called “being first in line.”

    You can talk rules, standards, principles all you want. My only interest is how people, politics and personalites make their way to center stage and whether their standards and principles make sense and whether they stand a chance of making it to the bottom line.

    Larry, maybe you don’t get it. You can be all things to all people, parties, alliances, strategic oneness as you wish. I just keep waiting for someone to persuade me they are headed in the right direction and it serves in our best interest.

    You don’t debate issues. You rejoice in making murky what should be common knowlege. You mistify issues like the VRE Master Agreement which you claim to have read, much the same way it did in 2007 and still come up with questions on how the contract could be so onerous.

    We’ve addressed this issue, in much of its specifity over the past 6 months, and you still can’t account for the language, terms, conditions and constraints that serve only one purpose; cash flow into a transit and transportation agenda that steals from one mode of transportation to underwrite another.

    Spotsylvania County has about $100 million left over from the 2005 Referendum ($144 million) and dedicated to the proposition that County roads and transportation needs would be taken care of. It’s 2009 going on 2010. You tell me how well our money has been spent or should we default to your citizen group for answers.

    I didn’t eliminate 12 public oversite committees 2 years ago. The Spotsylvania Country’s BOS did and WE want them back, so we can play by our rules, principles and standards and work with our elected leaders if allowed to do so. When was the last time you knocked on a closed door and gained admission.
    I’m still waiting for my ticket of admission to the Spotsylvania County Department of Planning FORUM meeting with the real stakeholders of this county.

    You continue to ask US question you already know the answer to, or more importantly should know WHO has the answer. It’s not as if you work in a vaccum.

    Since your threat to have me eliminated from the field of bloggers, unless I conform to your rules of thoughtful exchanges and acceptable discourse has turned into a promise, disguised as a “warning” and that I “WILL BE IGNORED FOR THE DURATION” brings to mind a style of communication I thought we gave up, a long time ago, as inappropriate.

    For the record, I put my money where my mouth is and all I got back was and is the same kind of silence your selling.

    If it’s your wish to leave, or the FLS wants to amend or change it’s blog rules of engagement, just provide me the courtesy of letting me know, one way or the other.

    The one thing about where I’ve been or what I’ve said in the past or present has not been challenged by any person or organization as being libled or slandered and all I had going for me was the truth.

    How you wish to conduct YOUR BUSINESS will be according to your rules, not mine.

    You’ve left enough dialogue on this particular blog subject that needs response, if I could only come up to or get past your standards; 2 divided by 2 still comes up ZERO.

    Last, but not the least, please give serious consideration to who or what stands on the other side of a closed door, BEFORE you start knocking.