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Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Steve Thomas has letter to editor

Frequent visitor and chairman of the Spotsylvania Republican Committee Steve Thomas continued his attack of Sen. Edd Houck from my blog to print in a letter to the editor today.

Now don’t ask me to explain what the comparison means of a VW Bug (damn good cars actually) and Sen. Houck.

Does anyone know what the point of that comparison is because when I read it, I kind of wondered what the heck it meant.

Is Mr. Thomas saying Houck is a good car? That can’t be right.

VW Bugs have a history of running forever, being economical on gas and are quite the collector’s piece.

Mr. Houck has been running forever, too.


  • D.J. McGuire

    Granted, I’m not in Houck’s district (my part of Spotsy is repped by Sen. Ryan McDougle), but what would upset me most about Houck is his seeming addiction to tax increases.

    During the special session on transportation two summers ago, he voted for thirteen different tax increases in one day. Then he shot down a plan from the House of Delegates that funded roads *without* a tax increase.

    I haven’t see Herbie the Love Bug in decades, but I doubt he could do *that* badly.

  • D.J. McGuire

    That should, of course, be “seen”, not “see.” Sorry about that.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    Let Steve join us AGAIN and explain why we’re having so much trouble putting a VW Bud an Senator Houck together, in the same thought.

    Houck and the Bug may have been RUNNING for a long time, but what kind of milage do you get from either? What’s the trade in value on each? Is there room enough at the ancient car museum for Senator Houck to be memoralized?

    Not to worry , I don’t have a political bone in my body, but Steve does, with every breathe he can muster. It’sd an election year folks, and what comes out of some peoples mouths, serve only to confuse us more tha we already are.

  • SteveThomas

    The VW Beetle could well have been a ham sandwich- the point was, anything is better.

    Actually, I have a good amount of respect for Houck. He’s personable and smart. And anyone who’s been in office since the stone age is a good politician. That ad did NOT do him justice and was worthy of ridicule. “Classic-post-Byrd-Virginia-Democrat”??? Come on.

    My quips are twofold:

    1. He’s wrong on virtually every policy debate and his only answer to almost anything is to raise taxes.

    2. I am concerned about conflicts of interest with his policy-setting role as Health Committee chairman as his day job with Medicorp; also with the fact that more than half his fundraising comes from health care corporations, and 90 pct of it comes from outside his senate district.

  • dtelvock

    I see. Yeah, I didn’t get the VW bug reference, but I see now.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    So.. Steve .. would you support a new law to make it illegal in Virginia for a legislator to sit on a board?

    or how about a law that requires full disclosure for every lawmaker?

    See.. I’d see that action on your part as principled… and not political hackery…. because you’d be looking for better government as opposed to more Republicans…

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    There is a law and it requires full disclosure, All anyone has to do is call Senator and ask him to disclose his conflicts of interest in any fashion he wishes, but to necessarily include when he recused himself from matters of public policy

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    I’d like to see Steve Thomas recommendation for better transparency and accountability for all Senators like Houck – now and in the future, Democratic or Republican.

    How about it?

    How about we shoot for better govt rather than just Democrats?

  • SteveThomas

    Larry, you and I are in agreement on this, Dem or GOP. Gotta disclose. What Houck is doing, being employed by a company his chairmanship has jurisdiction over, is as bad as what lost Phil Hamilton his job last year IMO.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    We agree. It does not look good at the least the perception is stinky. I’ve been looking for where the General Assembly folks file their Statements of Economic Interests ….anyone know?

    I do not think they are found at VPAP, Richmond Sunlight or the Coaliton for Open Government

    Are they available online? That would be a worthwhile project.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    VPAP would’t have that information. Check with the Govener’s Office. THEY know where this info is and how to access it.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    turns out that information is provided in the candidate Statement of Economic Interests which is received by the State every January but in the case of salary all the candidate has to do is provide the name of the company and to signify if the Salary is more than 10K.

    which brings up an interesting question which is if this info is not provided in the Economic Interests statement then how do we know what the salary really is?

    Has that info been provided publically through other means?

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    You don’t know and yes the Statement of Economic Interest is just one of the BOXES that keep this information safe from anyones having a need to know beyond the principles. If State Economic Interest are mandated to have limited information and access to the info you’re looking for, then have them connect the dots for you. It’s a beaurocracy. When you don’t want people looking over your shoulder, you hide the evidence in another box and this other box could be just down the hallway and labeled “Janitorial Supplys”

    This is how good government works; from the inside, but you already know this to be true.


    Well Steve if you are upset with Senator Houch about his record of supporting tax increases, you must also be upset with Republicans like Chris Yakabouski. While in public office as a Republican and claiming “NOT TO RAISE YOUR TAXES” Chris Yakabouski support nearly if not every “FEE I NCREASE” that was proposed. Now tell me what the difference is between a tax increase and a fee increase. I would suspect that most people would say that there is no difference. At least Senator Houck doesn’t try to hide his actions like Chris Yakabouski has a clear record of doing…..

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    re: ethics/conflicts of interest/etc

    Well Marty – we’ve got not the best system in Va.

    But I strongly suspect that more than Mr. Houck would be caugt up in a more open and transparent disclosure law.

    I don’t think the information necessarily “hides” in the bureaucracy if the law only requires much less on a reporting form.

    What I don’t understand here is that if Houck is only required to name the employer and disclose that he gets paid more than 10K, how come we have folks naming his salary?

    How do we know what his salary is?

    So – it’s really two different but related issues. The second one involves how anyone knows of Houcks Salary.

    The first one is more to the conflict of interest statute to start with – that would allow someone in the GA who has a vote or sits on a committee or is the Chair of that Committee – involve themselves in legislation that affects their employer.

    That’s not good.

    But going after Houck alone for that is just partisan hackery unless it is combined with a call to fix the problem itself – for ALL legislators.

    In fact, I give points to folks who start off saying that the conflict potential is a problem that needs to be fixed and then CITES – SEVERAL examples to INCLUDE the local issue.

    That would be a much more powerful statement that would resonate with people like me AND increase the likelihood that I might actually vote for a candidate that promises to try to change this if elected to the GA.

  • SteveThomas

    Larry, between Hamilton last year and Houck this year (he gets a VERY hefty salary from Medicorp btw), I would endorse a plan for full disclosure and revamped ethics rules to fix this issue.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    SO, who amongst US is capable of writing such a bill? As with the VRE challenge, Senator Houck showed up and told a few public participants that County citizens could get their government back and that he would put such legislation on the boards BUT confessed any citizen effort to move such lefgislation fowared, would be dead on arrival, and that’s before it ever got to committee, much less a vote.

    I got my VRE meeting disc, when Logan handed them out, since the public presentation was not financed by Spotsylvania County but Supv Jerry Logan, on his own accord and with his own money. Where do you match this up with Skinner’s Train Station and Cosner’s hospital and TRICORD’S Rt 17 and 2 housing development proposals being shifted over to “by-right” land development, and being endorsed by FAMPO/GWRC internal legislative bodies, which Doug Barnes, Supvs Pitts and logan serve on, with Connors holding down other Committee matters in the FAMPO network.

    It’s just a question folks, not an indictment. I’m trying to make as much sense of this as anyone else who wants to know what’s going on but can’t get past the closed doors.

    Perceptions are fine, but excuses eventually run very thin to the publics right to know.


    I can assure you that Supervisor Logan didn’t do the citizens of Spotsylvania County any favors when it came to VRE and his “own” funding to taping of the VRE meeting. It was Supervisor Logan’s meeting, why shouldn’t he pay to have it taped, if he wanted it taped??? Remember it was Supervisor Logan who delayed Spotsylvania’s membership in VRE. That delay cost the county taxpayers thousands of dollars (at the time estimated to be over $300,000.00) in lost revenue by playing the political game to delay our VRE membership. Remember The Free Lance-Star referred to Supervisor Logan as a “jellyfish” because of his VRE ctions or should I say the lack thereof.

  • SteveThomas

    We could elect a principled senator who could write such legislation. despite political difficulties. Something to look out for. Perceptions of impropriety simply serve to turn people off to politics, and that is NOT a good thing. We need more people educated and engaged.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    Mr. Houck has been a principled advocate of mental health care and other issues where people, without a hand from others, would not fare very well. Elementary education is another.

    His attitude about Transportation is that the gas tax has not seen an increase in 25 years – not even adjusted for inflation.

    I like fiscally conservative folks and tend to have some sympathy for those who need help but agree that we want people to be self-reliant and personally responsible as much or more so.

    We waste money hand over fist.

    I would have supported VRE if the 2% tax went to ALL Commuters regardless of mode but to subsidize VRE riders at $20 a day while at the same time saying we have no more money for bus/van parking lots is just plain wrong.

    VRE has scant additional capacity and dim prospects for substantially more, despite the salivating developer types and at the end of the day – as our area continues to grow, we must have responsible policies to deal with our commuting-centric region and what that boils down to is lots of carpool lots with lots of buses and vans and carpools and slugs.

    That’s should have been the focus of our 2% “tax” – NOT just VRE.

  • bhaas

    I am basically in “lock step” with Larryg as he has expressed in paras 3 and 4 of his post #20 above.

    However, my understanding of the VRE Master Agreement etc. is that the only restriction on the local use of gas tax revenues returned to Spotsy is that they must be used on transportation projects. Thus, it is left up to the BOS to decide how to spend that money.

    There is no reason, to my knowledge, why some of it could not be used for bus/van parking lots or other “commuter” projects. In fact, I would encourage the BOS to do just that as we require expansion in those areas.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    Sorry Bill, but the VRE Master Agreement Spotsy signed on to, makes NO MENTION or REFERENCE to the gas tax. The Master agreement is a contract Spotsylvania had in front of them for 10 years without public knowledge, much along the same lines as Stafford County and Fredericksburg joined VRE without their constituents knowledge. Run Logan’s disc and you will witness Matt Kelly and Paul Milde telling the VRE audience attending Supv. Logan’s meeting that Stafford Co and Fredericksburg joined VRE without public involvement.

    Simply said the “gas-tax” and the VRE Master Agreement are two (2) very DIFFERENT kinds of contracts. That’s one of the reasons the Committee of 500 paid so much attention with the “gas tax” and never made any mention that there was a VRE Master Agreement our elected leaders had for years, and came with consequences.

    Even Spotsylvania County never posted the VRE Master Agreement on their website, but sent it over to GWRC/FAMPO to post on their site until the agreement was was brokered and sealed, without the public knowing anything about the Master Agreement, while lobbied interest focused the public on what the “gas- tax’” could be, and played to the “bean counters” as they were allowed to speculate about money, project their sense of values, and focus on what they allowed themselve to buy into for what THEY thought was a historic loss of revenue to the County over the last 5 years, with no idea what revenue streams were being mandated under the terms of the VRE Master Agreement that works its way to diminished returns, over a lifetime, and empower the development communities to design a Railroad Station, surrounded by dense populations, afforded by TRICORD, Silver and Cosner’s intention to build out their housing plans, and THEIR vision of what Spotsylvania will look like, within the next ten years. not 20.

  • bhaas

    Heheh….I did not just fall off a turnip truck, Marty. Note, I said MA, etc….I know the whole history there.

    The history is not the point; the point is the BOS can spend any return they get from the VRE gas tax as long as it is spent on a transpo project. Things pertaining to van pools and van/bus parking would qualify if the BOS decided to spend it that way.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    FAMPO is in charge of vanpools, parking, bus and every other kind of transportation modes of transportation. Since Barnes, Logan, Skinner, Pitts and Connors are in possession of the information but fail to bring it to the PUBLICS attention, what are we to understand about Federal and State transportation agendas, when our local elected officials keep it under wraps, until they can spring it on public perceptions, who don’t have a clue what’s really going on and claimed to be in the publics best interest?

    Here’s a question for you and Larryg. Did you ever get an answer back from Logan or the State about gas tax revenues; what comes in, goes to the State and returned to Spotsylvania County to underwrite transportation development in the County? As far as I know, the question was asked over 10 months ago, and you guys and the public don’t have a clue where this data is. REMEMBER: Logan and VDOT promised you an answer and all you’ve gotten back are vague excuses why they can’t manage to get this information for public consumption.

    Since you didn’t fall off the turnip truck and HISTORY is not the point or relevant in discussing your version of a MA or a VRE Master Agreement because “you know all that” why the refrain? What part of my #22 didn’t you get?

    Since you don’t have answers, and are holding on to nothing more than a wish list, what difference does it make whether you fell off a turnip truck, or not? So, what’s your point? Does the public have a right to make informed decision about their best interest, or does that exclusively belong to their elected officials who work and conduct business outside their elected positions, in conjunction with other agendas and governmental persuasions the public has no idea even exist or how they WILL NECESSARILY impact the County’s well being and land scape?

    Who wants to raise their hand NOW?

  • bhaas

    Here is my answer to your question…NO, I never received an answer from Logan or anyone else on the gasoline tax revenue issue. I NEVER expected to get an answer because I determined a long time ago that the data does not exist.

    The records are not kept by locality. Which brings up other issues about “fair” distributions etc. Alas, if our elected officials do not care…why the h*** should I care?

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    re: VRE gas tax. VRE has final say on what “transportation” the money can be spent on.

    re: State Gas Tax

    the lack of accountability of the state (and Federal for that matter) gas tax has nothing what-so-ever to do with Spotsylvania or FAMPO nor any of the oft-named “players” that Marty’s brings up over and over as somehow involved less than honorable ways with the issue.

    No county in Va knows this data – although there are ways to find out and one of those ways is to have a “devolution” analysis done – which basically is used to provide data with respect to whether or not a county would want to take over it’s roads from VDOT.

    Those studies generate provide the costs that the county would assume – and the amount of reimbursement per mile provided by VDOT.

    It’s not a radical concept either as every city and town in Va (including Fredericksburg) already does this as well as Henrico and Alexandria.

    I’m not about conspiracies or nefarious behaviors – not that some may exist but I think developing information and pushing to have more information developed is a more productive way to engage the leaders and to engage the issues.

    They have to be willing to listen to you in the first place.. and if all they perceive that they’ll get from you is venom and accusations.. then they’re just going to ignore you.

    We can ALWAYS do better and that should be our focus – IMHO.

  • bhaas

    Larry…are you sure that Spotsy has to get VRE “approval” on the transpo projects Spotsy funds with the Spotsy share of revenues returned? I thought VRE determined the amounts each member receives, after other obligations are paid, and each locality decided on their own projects with the caveat that the project must be a transportation project?

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    Bill, I’m pretty sure I read this somewhere. I’ll see if I can find the words….

  • http://Z2KS LarryG
  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    here is some evidence:–Manassas_Dean_Drive_Extended_Project.pdf

    change the [dot] to a period… sorry about this.. Dan has continued to set moderation for links even though folks like Emily Battle and others do not have that option set on their blogs.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    here is some evidence:


    change the [dot] to a period… sorry about this.. Dan has continued to set moderation for links even though folks like Emily Battle and others do not have that option set on their blogs.

  • bhaas

    I attempted to go to the prtc site referenced and was informed no such doc existed(?) and was referred to main prtc web site. Once there I could find no connection to /docs/ . Ergo, I shall have to accept your word Larry.

    I really do not understand this policy. Since the Board of VRE is highly populated by local membership elected leaders; why the devil would they want to “handcuff” themselves like this? It seems logical to me that a project would have to be a transpo project, but to have to send each of those back to the VRE board for final approval is quite simply assinine in my view.

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    So, Larry what have you or Bill found out, in the last year, about gas taxes. Logan promised to get this information from VDOT for public consumption and all you come back with are conspiracies, venom and accusations.

    What part of my 24 didn’t you get.These people don’t listen to anyone other than themselves, You don’t even have the price of admission to even enter the room, much less serve as anything more than the puppet and the County’s messenger.

    You really can’t bring yourself to know the truth of any matter and what constitutes “good government”, real transparency and accountability. All you want is for us to be friends with the hand that feeds us and without question.

    You want to play that “vendetta” card again you’ve been asked to play, if only to distract us from the fact, that at the end of the day,you still don’t know and don’t want to.

    “No county in Virginia has this data?” How would you know? You haven’t gotten an answer back from our elected officials and it been a year. I know. I saved all my notes.

    So, after a year we need a “devolution” analysis to get this data that Logan has yet to provide anyone and that’s a fact, not an accusation. From where I’m standing at this moment, I can’t tell whether you’re running for office or just sucking up to your bosses?

    If you just want to play kick-the-can please play through. I’ll be waiting at the other end.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    Bill – make sure you remove the [dot] and replace it with a period… I have to do this because if I don’t the comment will not appear….

    Marty – Logan promised to try to get it. He did not succeed. Does that make him corrupt ?

    “no county in Va has this data”…

    Marty – what do you know? Do you actually seek to find out or just condemn everyone who tries?

    So if Mr. Logan tries and does not succeed, he become one of “them” who seeks to not provide data?

    so.. for those of us that seek to develop data.and don’t succeed 100% of the time – . we are “going around in circles” and not really understanding that we are dealing with devious and unsccupulous officials who will continue to hide data, lie and obfuscate, etc?

    such a nice view of the world you have guy.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    Marty – do you have a County govt and an MPO where you live right now? Can you tell us what they are?

  • bhaas

    Larry…I did all that and till no luck. Sorry.

  • bhaas

    Jeez…’still” not”till”

  • Martin (Marty) Work

    Same as Spotsylvania County. So what’s your point?

    “Logan didn’t get the information…so does that make him corrupt?” NO. But, you already knew that. So why ask the question? Your the only one around putting my facts together and calling it conspiratorial. I ask questions and you don’t have any answers, unless of course you wish to distract your readers in another direction.

    If I didn’t know any better I could swear we are getting closer to the truth than you and your mentors would otherwise allow. You’re making too much noise and trying much to hard in drawing convoluted circles to notice your standing in the same cement you started out with. Instead of asking me questions, why don’t you try gettinng our elected officials together and see what you get back, when ever that is.

    Larry, I know only what I can prove. If my asking a question is tantamount to condemnation in your frame of mind, how far do your think “going along, only to get along” would last in getting the job done the first time around, or do we have to wait until we’ve been put back to sleep again?

    If you are to continue calling my comments full of venom, you might want to double back and pick up some of your own. He who cast the first stone, better have a good aim, BEFORE launching his diatribes.

  • http://Z2KS LarryG

    Bill – I can no longer get that doc also.. so let me see if I can find another…

    try this one:


    make sure you don’t have any embedded blanks

    and then search for “authorized” and look at page 4 where it says:

    “Authorized the use of $220,880 for the fourth quarter (FY 2009) of 2% motor fuels tax funding in Stafford County’s account for transportation expenditures”

    notice it says “Stafford County’s account”.