Spotsylvania News

Jeff Branscome writes about Spotsylvania County.

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Last night’s meeting

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Here are a few observations from last night’s meeting:

First, Larry, here are the details I jotted down about foster care:

The report was in a response to a question from Supervisor Jerry Logan, who asked why Spotsylvania has 2.5% of the state’s foster children when the county doesn’t have 2.5% of the state’s children overall. I don’t know about anyone else listening, but I was pretty surprised by some of the numbers social services Acting Director Gail Crooks mentioned. First, that Spotsylvania has a high number of calls about child abuse or neglect. I do remember from an earlier story that Spotsylvania does get a lot of referrals–cases to investigate. But I’m not sure why this is.

But in 2010, Spotsylvania received 904 referrals while neighboring Stafford County received 373.  Now, percentage-wise, Spotsylvania does have quite a few more children than Stafford. According to numbers Crooks presented, 8.3% of Spotsy families have children under 18, while 4.4% of Stafford families do. That still doesn’t explain the discrepancy in referrals, but Crooks suggested that another number might–the number of families living under the poverty level. In Spotsy, 7.1% of families live in poverty, while 2.7% of Stafford families do.

Crooks was careful to mention that poverty does not equate to abuse or neglect. But families suffering under financial stress might be more apt to snap. And statistics have shown a correlation between financial strain and abuse or neglect. Of course, I’m always hesitant to say statistics show causality and would definitely reiterate Crooks’ assertion that poverty doesn’t mean bad parenting. That’s probably one of the most powerful lessons I’ve learned as a social services reporter.

So that’s as much of an explanation as there was about the rates of foster care. I won’t even try to answer the question on whose responsibility abused or neglected children is, except to say that the law does say that the county cannot ignore these children and must step in. But I think you’re asking that in a more moral/existential kind of way. I did ask for that, I guess. :)

Another thing that surprised me about the meeting was the tension. So far in my short tenure, everyone has been amazingly civil to each other on the board. But last night, there were definitely a few sparks, though everyone remained very polite. Logan suggested using some of the projected surplus to give residents a rebate and said this was a very real step the board could take to help the struggling families Crooks mentioned. He said:

“If we’re dealing with folks that are in this kind of financial straits, I think this would go a long way in helping those folks.”

Supervisor Gary Jackson later said that he didn’t understand the drive to give taxpayers either a cut or a rebate, considering that Logan voted for the gas tax (by voting in favor of VRE in Spotsylvania):

“I’m having a hard time reconciling your interest here and I’m wondering if it’s not an election-year conversion.”

Logan countered that the gas tax had a negligible effect on tax payers and said that he runs “a fleet of trucks” every day in the county and hasn’t noticed a difference. Jackson said that he does notice and added:

“The rebate idea, I’m sure, is going to make great press. I think it’s irresponsible, I’m not going to support it. Every time I fill up at the gas station, I do a mental calculation and I invoke your name.”

So Tuesday afternoon, they’ll get to the nitty gritty details of the budget. Supervisors will discuss the surplus, employee raises, the five proposed social work positions and some additional details–like more money for the farmers’ market, the library or Micah Ecumenical Ministries.


  • Steve T.

    And to think, I chose spending an evening with my 2 year old over spending an evening there. I can’t imagine why.

    This Board may be in denial about the pain being felt out there right now. Insulated perhaps? And I thought there was never a bad time to do the right thing.

    Amy didn’t report the comment by Benny Pitts (the radio did): the one about not caring if he didn’t get re-elected.

  • aumble

    Steve, I have teenagers, so board meetings aren’t so bad. :)

    You’re right, Benny Pitts did suggest he didn’t care about re-election. After saying that he wanted the county to put more money toward paying off the bonds that residents voted for, he said that he didn’t know how much longer he’d be on the board but felt it probably “wasn’t for long.” Last night’s meeting certainly had a lot of good quotes.

  • havingfun

    Wow…I am sad that so many of our Spotsy kids are in abusive situations or dealing with neglect. :( However, on a positive note, at least Spotsy people are reporting it! How many times do we hear of abuse that the neighbors never reported because it wasn’t “their business”. I am glad to hear that Spotsy citizens and schools are looking out for the little ones who aren’t able to look out for themselves.
    Oh, and in the news today…3 more children added to the system after the tragic murder/suicide. :(

  • http://UmqaoU GIVEMEABREAK2M

    I think Supervisor Pitts has never been worried about “getting re-elected.” However, he has always focused on doing what was in his opinion best for Spotsylvania County and its residents. He has great insight for not only focusing his decisions on the issues of the day, but towards the future. Most politicans seem to be worried about doing what is best for him or her to get “re-elected.” To his credit, Supervisor Pitts has never played that political game,.If Supervisor Pitts is considering not seeking re-election when his term expires on December 31, 2013 or sooner (that is his personnal decision) ,that is also to his credit. I think most voters are tired of “career politicans.”

  • LarryG

    Well, streaming videos is not a reality for our General Assembly and a few counties BOS meetings and Spotsylvania is contemplating it but as with just about everything there is a cost.

    But if/when we get it – Amy will be able to use excerpts in her reporting and folks like Steve his “spare” time can replay his favorite parts over and over and incorporate them into his commentaries!

    ain’t technology GRAND!


    I am GLAD that we DO HAVE a govt that does provide a safety net for kids and yes it does cost tax money and it’ pretty sad that we have such neglect but I’m with Mr. Logan on the disparities.

    I went to the Virginia Auditor 2010 localities comparatives and found this for Health and Welfare Expenditures:

    per capita % of Va Average
    Spotsy 194.30 60.67
    Stafford 175.27 54.72

    the Va average is $320 per capita

    Contrast this with Schools:

    per cap % of Va Average
    Spotsy 1,895.06 109.46
    Stafford 2,018.89 116.61

    Then I’ll throw these two in for folks to ruminate over

    revenue capacity stress index
    spotsy 53.0 62.0
    stafford 83.0 107.0

    these are defined thusly:

    Revenue capacity per capita rank scores are from the Commission on Local Government’s annual reports for fiscal year 2009. The Commission determines the revenue capacity scores for each locality based on the Representative Tax System methodology. This approach looks at certain resource bases that indicate aspects of private-sector affluence that local governments can draw on to help finance their program objectives. The statistical measure identifies the revenue that a given locality could expect from its various resource bases at statewide average rates of return. The Commission’s report includes actual revenue capacity scores and additional information.

    Composite fiscal stress rank scores are from the Commission on Local Government’s annual reports for fiscal year 2009. The Commission determines a fiscal stress index score for each locality. The index utilizes jurisdictional measures representing (1) the level of revenue capacity per capita for the fiscal year, (2) the degree of revenue effort over the same period, and (3) the magnitude of median adjusted gross income. The fiscal stress index scores are ranked. A rank of 1 represents the highest stress to the rank of 134, the lowest stress

  • LarryG

    geeze – “streaming videos ARE a reality for the GA”

  • Steve T.

    Actually, the question of who are “career politicians” on this Board is an interesting one, I was talking with someone about that this week.

    Depends on how you define. Consider:

    Benny: government employee for 25 years then retired, becoming a supervisor for most of the next 15. Maybe politics as a “second career”?

    Logan: owns a small business. Supervisor as a second career for 10 of the last 15 years, I think.

    Hap: works as a lobbyist and supervisor for the last 9. Never had a nonpolitical job.

    Skinner: works for a govt contractor after a career as a marine; supervisor for the last 4.

    Emmitt: supervisor for the last 31.

    TC: Sheriff for 19 years, Supe for 12.

    Jackson: Fed govt employee, supe for 12.

    LOTS of careers in politics, surprisingly little private sector or “real world” experience. Explains a lot about the disconnect I mentioned earlier.

  • Steve T.

    Havingfun- yes it has been a very eye opening and disappointing story about the foster children. In many ways we do have a fragile community here.

  • LarryG

    seeing how we don’t pay enough for that to be their only job, I’m not sure how you would characterize them as “career”.

    There is so much involved in the BOS work that I really don’t see how a person with a full time job and a family would not be pushed pretty hard.

    And it’s pretty much a thankless job since no matter what you do you’re gonna have folks chewing on you.

    I don’t buy the “no real world experience” blather. That’s just more partisan pejorative blather in my book.

    We have two farmers, A small businessman, two govt people (in an area with a LOT of govt workers) and a retired person and a non-government worker.

    Mr. Jackson can securely be labelled as a budget hawk and has always had a sharp pencil on costs and cost effectiveness.

    I was around when we had some “businessmen” on the BOS. Yup – they were involved in land development and we ended up with a bunch of new rooftops, crowded schools, congested roads and no money for any of them until tax increases were voted to pay for them.

    I’m not opposed to more businessman on the BOS but the reality is that most businessmen have to be 100% devoted to their business in a lot of cases.

    We need diversity on the board. We need BOS that understand the various constituencies in the county of which business is just one – an important one – and one with a bottom-line perspective as Mr. Logan has.

    I just don’t care for the negative way of portraying board members who work pretty hard and get a lot of guff in the process.

    Focus on the positives. Find new blood that has better ideas yes but hitting on people because they work for the govt or are not businessmen is myopic and counter productive in my view.

    Every one of the current BOS is the genuine deal. The show up for board meetings. Most o them have done their homework and they know the issues and they have relevant and useful input to offer. They do contribute. And they rely on bond counsel to guide their financials which are by all accounts not bad at all comparatively to peer counties.

    But we need challengers will vision not criticism.

  • Steve T.

    Well Larry, I’m not one for quotas but if the Board looked like Spotsy, it would have:

    A retiree (probably from Berkeley or Livingston)

    A tradesman (also)

    2 who commute north to govt or govcon jobs, from the other 5 districts

    A stay at home parent who homeschools

    One teacher/ff/cop

    And an independent businessman

    Further, there is a great chance that one rep from Salem/Batt/LH is African-American.

    That would be a Board representative of the county by the numbers. How does it stack up?

  • Steve T.

    Now let’s look at it politically. We currently have:

    3 Liberal Dems who are too scared to run as Dems

    1 Byrd Dem who votes like a Dem

    1 Byrd Dem who votes like a Republican

    1 Republican

    1 Republican-leaning indy

    If it was representative of Spotsy, it would have:

    -At least 5 Republicans. There is a 50% chance all 7 would be (all 25 precincts in Spotsy voted Republican the last 2 elections).

    -There is nearly a 100% chance that Livingston, Berkeley, Courtland, and Chancellor would all have Republicans or Conservative indies representing them

    -LH, Battlefield, and Salem would have the greatest chance of Dems representing them at about 35-40% each.

    The Republicans on the Board would come in different flavors; rural vs suburban etc. 1 of the 5 would probably be a moderate.

    Of the 2 Dems, only one would be a liberal, the other moderate.

    THAT would be representative of Spotsy politically, by how it votes. The fact that Dems are too scared to run as Dems confuses a great many voters who don’t much pay attention to local politics.

    Any by the way Larry, there is a LOT more to business than land development- though you wouldn’t know it by how this Board votes.

  • havingfun

    Hey Steve – WHO CARES what party they belong to? I sure don’t! It is as relevant to me as their blood type. Stop lumping voters into a big pile and saying that we “are confused” when people don’t list the party. That is just like saying we are all sheep that just vote the party line. Maybe some people do (which is probably why you want the party listed), but not everyone does. I don’t think any party should be listed when running for local office.

    I want to hear how they are going to vote on the issues that affect Spotsy. I don’t care how “the party” wants them to vote. I don’t care where they work or what they look like….I care that they have common sense, an ability to listen, problem solving skills and ethics. If they have those skills, then their ability to lead and make decisions should better serve all Spotsy citizens regardless of the party. Oh, and they should be able to communicate and play well with others! :)

  • LarryG

    The absolute last thing we need in Spotsylvania is litmus-test Republicans who are paying more attention to the Republican party than voters.

    And we have ample evidence of that these days and I don’t Spotsylvanians are going to hunt that dog – thank goodness.

    We need good old fashioned fiscal conservatives tempered with some common sense.

    And if push comes to shove on how much people want to pay (or not) for additional facilities and services, put in on the ballot as we have in the past and I think Steve will find out that more than a few voters want schools, roads, and better Fire/EMS, parks and libraries.

    Lucky for us most Spotsylvanians know the difference between a knuckle dragger and an honest fiscal conservative.


    The heck of this is that Steve is a nice guy but he hangs out with the wrong crowd.



  • Bill Haas

    There is absolutely NO place for “party politics” in Spotsy. We do not need the “national rancor” adding to our woes locally.

    If there are “closet partisans” in our government, they need to leave their politics at the door while conducting local business.