Please take time this summer to read our national documents. If you have children or grandchildren in school, be sure that the school is teaching about the formation of these marvelous materials and the great men who wrote and signed them.
If you read the Washington Post you may have seen these articles:
The Leesburg representative to the Loudoun County School Board in a letter endorsing Bob Marshall for Congress, agrees with Marshall on the elimination of the U.S. Dept of Education. The Department of Education (from the Loudoun Times Mirror article):
“…which operates on a $67 billion budget, establishes educational policy and administers and coordinates most federal assistance to education. According to the department’s website, its elementary and secondary programs serve nearly 16,900 school districts and approximately 50 million students attending more than 98,000 public schools and 28,000 private schools annually.
“Department programs also provide grant, loan, and work-study assistance to more than 13 million post-secondary students,” the department’s website states.
And how’s that working out for you so far?
Congratulations to Mr. Fox on saying what needs to be said: the U.S. Department of Education has not helped the quality of education in these United States in any measurable way, and is not worth the tens of billions of dollars we put into it as taxpayers every year.
The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors met with the School Board for a budget work session on Saturday to discuss the LCPS FY15 proposed operating budget. Trimming only a few million from the Superintendent’s proposed budget, the School Board is asking for a whopping $106 million more than FY14. That’s a 12.6% increase for a 3.4% increase in enrollment.
The BoS has already proposed a very generous increase of $68 million, or 8%, at the equalized tax. Supervisors questioned the need for nearly $40 million more than is being offered and asked for a lot of specifics. Several metrics were mentioned that would seem to indicate the quality of education is still superb and that LCPS still offers competitive compensation at current funding levels.
The budget calls for an increase of $45.5 million, or about 5.4%, in total compensation — salaries, health insurance, retirement system contributions, etc. Much of the increase would be spent on major adjustments to salary scales to straighten out a “sag” in the lower half of the scales, where School Board members say LCPS is becoming less competitive with surrounding school districts. Their budget presentation document includes the usual select comparisons to other metro area school districts. One table compares salaries for just one selected pay step (the FY14 salary scale for LCPS teachers has 30 steps and steps generally equate to number of years of experience), a teacher with a masters degree at step 9, where the salary LCPS offers is ranked last out of 10 districts. The adjustment would increase salaries for steps in the lower-mid range of the teachers scale by as much as 10%! Increases for other steps at the low and high ends of the scales, where salaries are considered more competitive, would be as low as 1%. Several supervisors point out that the “sag” took several years to develop and that straightening it out in just one year would not be practical.
Would spending so much more money really enhance competitiveness? There are several factors involved in staying competitive. One is the benefits package. Maybe LCPS offers less pay, but makes up for that with better benefits, particularly health insurance. There are no charts or tables comparing benefits in the budget presentation document. The WABE Guide does provide benefits comparisons and it looks like LCPS benefits are very competitive, especially compared to Prince William County. Another factor is the cost of living in a particular locality. The average home value in Loudoun is less than localities closer to the core of the DC area. The cost of housing is even less in adjacent counties to the west of Loudoun, where LCPS employees may choose to live and still have tolerable commutes. Property taxes are lower, too. The tax rate in Clarke County is just 63 cents and Frederick County is just 58.5 cents! Out of all the measures, attrition rates really sum it all up. It was mentioned that the LCPS attrition rate is a third of the national average.
The other major budget increase would be for growth. The School Board is asking for $33.6 million and 270 new positions to accommodate 2,375 additional students, plus $4.3 million and 65 new positions to open 3 new schools. That’s a total of nearly $16,000 for each additional student, when the overall cost per student is currently about $12,000. In FY14, only $17.5 million was budgeted for enrollment growth of 2,566 students and opening 2 new schools.
The School Board is asking for $7.1 million to lower the average elementary school class size, which is higher than Fairfax and virtually the same as Prince William, by one student from 23.4 to 22.4. The good news is that LCPS class sizes at the middle and high school levels are already much lower than Prince William, and lower than Fairfax for middle schools and virtually the same for high schools.
The other major increase would be $14 million for technology, over half of which would be for a computer refresh. Infrastructure improvements to provide much-needed bandwidth would only cost $2.3 million.
Overall, the School Board is asking for 459 new positions, which is 5.2 new positions for each additional student, when the overall ratio for FY14 is 7.3.
The cost of the proposed budget is a lot to ask for in just one year. Fully funding the proposed budget would mean a tax hike for the average taxpayer of several hundred dollars. Many other homeowners have had their assessments rise much more than the average and would pay even higher taxes. Granting an increase that is nearly twice as much as is needed for growth and inflation would be a return to the excessive spending years of the past decade that led to soaring tax bills. The 8% increase proposed by the County Administrator at the equalized tax rate is very reasonable and should be enough to accommodate an increase for growth that is commensurate with the actual enrollment increase, give reasonable raises to employees and start phasing in many of the other requests.
Another consideration is that the 12.6% increase the School Board is asking for is way out of line with the proposed 6.2% increase in the county general budget. School system spending already makes up approximately two thirds of the total county operating and debt service appropriations. Increasing the schools budget by $106 million, compared to the proposed $25 million county operating budget increase, would make that imbalance even worse. There are a lot of other needs in this county besides a good school system!
First, thanks for the job that you do working to preserve, protect, and defend the liberties and prosperity of Loudoun County citizens.
Second, I know that you receive a lot of emails on the topic of “fully funding our schools,” and that a vast majority of these are in the “pro” category.
You see, those who seek to pressure the Board of Supervisors into raising taxes (only 73 cents a day!) are the same people who tell you that everything is too expensive so they can’t afford to pay more in extracurricular user fees. They would rather, without any real acknowledgement of the real numbers seek to make sure EVERYONE pays more…so that they can receive more…or pay less.
That’s OK. It’s proper and good that citizens advocate to their elected representatives in a way that reflects their own enlightened self-interest. Democracy is (marginally) useful in that regard.
It makes sense for teachers to want their pay increased. It makes sense for parents to want to pay less in user fees. It makes sense for PTAs to not want to have to raise as much money in bake sales.
It’s logical and reasonable to expect that anyone who spends time in a classroom should seek to improve the lives of those who are running those classrooms.
But I’m not going to talk to you about the numbers. You’re all familiar with them. You know what’s in your control and what is not.
I want to talk about who isn’t reaching out to you. Who not only isn’t there at public hearings, but is not bothering to send you an email or call your offices.
Let’s talk about a small business owner who still hasn’t recovered from the downturn in 2007. He has not only laid off as many people as he can, but he has also had to cut 10% from his employees’ salaries (who have a higher workload), with no sign of being able to raise them. He’s cut his own salary as well…but his taxes keep going up.
Let’s talk about a mom whose child graduated from the Loudoun Academy of Science and didn’t make it through their first year in college because they couldn’t handle the math. How much should the teachers be paid who ushered through someone — with good grades, of course — without basic preparation in math? How many Loudoun County graduates have to take “College Algebra” (which for those of you who don’t know, is taught in the EIGHTH GRADE)? How many of those teachers are getting “step increases?” Do we know which ones failed these graduates (by giving students without the right basics good grades anyway) and which ones are doing their jobs in educating and holding the students accountable for their success?
Speaking of, let’s talk about the teacher who feels like a cog in a factory wheel every day. Grinding away in 15 minute increments so she can fill out whatever paperwork her “team leader” collects at the end of the week while the dreams of molding young minds through her own creativity and imagination and inspiration seems like a distant memory. Is she getting everything she seeks out of employment in LCPS? The question is not only what salary it will take to keep her, but what will it take to allow her to do her job and feel fulfillment from it? Is she getting a “step increase?” Don’t know. Would it solve any real problems if she did? Maybe she’ll be able to get those movie channels on her cable…eat out an extra time or two a month? Will that keep her from changing professions so that her talents can be adequately appreciated? Doubt it.
How about the retired citizen who volunteers at the local homeless shelter, at her church, at a pregnancy crisis center, and manages to squeak by on SS and her husband’s pension. Is she aware that she lives in the “richest county in the known universe?” Maybe. She IS aware that her children and grandchildren can’t afford to live here since real estate is still inflated with bad planning and zoning practices. Because of this she rarely sees them. But why should she move? She feels responsible for other people’s children and grandchildren. It’s how she was raised. What does “only $20 a month” mean to her? It could mean 20 books at the discount store that she could buy for the worlds’ unofficial teachers: parents of young children that she meets in her volunteer activities. Who knows. But it’s her money first.
What about the young Sheriff’s deputy with a family, who insists on living in the county which he is paid to protect. How does his pay stack up with other local jurisdictions? Are we seeing an exodus of cops to other counties? Does anyone know? I don’t.
How about the commuter? Moved to the DC area for a government-related job. Looked at the school systems, sure, (even though he hasn’t a family yet) but decided on Loudoun County to live based on a variety of factors. But he’s here for the job. He fights an hour and a half of traffic (each way) to get to it because he managed to get an affordable place to rent here. He’d like to stay here, find a nice girl, get a house, settle down, raise rugrats. His family moved around a lot, so he wants to put down roots…he’s involved in the “young professionals” world. Has some entrepreneurial ideas which would create jobs here in the county and give him that 2 1/2 hours a day back. Can he afford the real estate costs for his business? Can he afford to pay the salaries he needs to pay? Thinking of owning a house… commercial property… you think he scratches his head when he hears that “only” an 8% increase for a 3% increase in enrollment is painted as a pathway to Armageddon? Or do you think he sees that as more than reasonable with an equalized tax rate?
Lastly, I’ll tell you about a father who owns a small business here in Loudoun, and after keeping his child in private school for kindergarten, he and his wife managed one year with their son in the kid factory. The son is a talker, very social, and started first grade testing way ahead…getting a lot of “E”s and a few “M”s. He also started getting a lot of color-coded cards every day for his talkative nature. The parents watched as their son’s behavior improved, his performance declined.
The son who at the age of 4 could do multiplication in his head, was now more interested in Art and Music than he was reading and math. “E”s turned to “M”s and “M”s turned to “P”s. His testing results never budged, but the light of learning faded to dim.
The son is now in a private second grade class (less than half the class size for 30% less money a year — but of course all out of his parents’ pocket.) He is doing math work that an average fourth grader does in LCPS. And has a keen and abiding interest in history and science. He loves learning again (to include the aforementioned Art and Music).
The last example is, of course, yours truly, but all these people are real, and you can multiply each of them by 100 or more and begin to recognize the people who voted for you (or at least the vast majority of you).
The ones who are pressuring “full-funding” without an eye for the real problems and real solutions may or may not have voted for you. If you were running on fiscal accountability and reigning in the madness of our budget, they certainly didn’t work for you, or tell all their friends to vote for you, knock doors, stuff envelopes, and make phone calls. Many of them work against you daily and no matter how much they say “remember in [next] November” they will most likely support candidates who blindly hand out whatever is asked for, and will use the term “sustainability” in a MONSTROUSLY different, and twisted, context, than what you use it to mean.
You see there is an old and transfixed mindset at play here in Loudoun County — and indeed all over the country — regardless of party and purported “understanding about frugality”, which seeks to convince us all of two things:
1) That the administration (in this case the school administration, but it applies to regulators and bureaucracies of all kinds) is more well-meaning and selfless, indeed more fundamentally virtuous, and in all ways more knowledgeable and wise, than any player in the private sector (grandmas, job creators, volunteers, parents…anyone).
2) That the future belongs to the educators and planners. Of course we can’t educate our own children. Of course, less barriers to entry for business owners (through less taxes and regulation) can’t be made the focal point of economic growth and job creation. EVERYONE moves here for the schools (and “quality of life” as defined by them). ALL businesses are started here because our graduates are so well educated. ALL roads lead to the planners. EVERY extra expense in the public sector is an “investment,” but every extra expense (not spent because it’s taxed) in the private sector is a luxury that the proponents of the status quo — and that’s what we’re talking about, status quo — graciously say they are willing to go without, because they just care more. It’s about the children, you see. And every dime you take away from the planners and well-meaning educrats you’re taking from the childrens’ future success and prosperity. Generations of happiness depend on every penny and their control of same. You can’t see this, but (see number one) they do.
These two assumptions, this technocratic mindset, is not only flawed and ignorant economically. It is dangerous philosophically. You think these ideas don’t make their way into the classroom? They believe they own the future, because in many ways they do.
Should they? Is there evidence that we’re really getting a return on our supposed investment? Not sure. I’m skeptical, and so are the other people cited here.
So why are these moms, dads, grandmas, business owners, commuters, budding entrepreneurs…not showing up and sending emails?
Because they’ve done their jobs. They voted for you. They don’t feel they need to show up. They trust you to do the right thing. They know, as you do, how much downward pressure is going to be required to finally reform our school system. They know the status quo cannot continue to work.
They know the difference between investments and expenses, between actual returns on that investment and the circular reasoning of “full funding.”
They know what makes kids successful and what doesn’t.
They know what scare tactics look like, and they know how rational adults should respond to them.
They expect you to do what you were elected to do.
I have confidence you will.
The equalized tax rate of $1.155 is entirely too generous, but given the portion of the current budget increase which is (at least in a way, at the moment) out of the School Board’s hands, it’s understandable that you would be inclined to offer it anyway. If you can manage less, I would encourage it, but not a penny more.
Loudoun County Administrator Tim Hemstreet presented his proposed FY15 budget to the Board of Supervisors on Wednesday. It is based on an equalized tax rate of $1.155, which would result in no increase in the average homeowner tax bill. However, the rate can be increased during the budget process up to the advertised rate of $1.215 without having to be re-advertised. The BoS will be under pressure to increase spending, as well as your tax bill to pay for it, so please speak out if you think your tax bill is too high already.
The lower equalized rate is the result of the average house value increasing from $405,975 in January, 2013 to $422,985 in January, 2014, or 4.2%. Simply leaving the tax rate unchanged at $1.205 would result in a backdoor tax hike.
Because of improving revenue growth, Mr. Hemstreet was able to increase expenditures for both the county and schools at the proposed $1.155 rate. Here is a brief summary:
� Total real property assessments grew 8.3% from January 2013 to January 2014.
� Local tax revenue is expected to increase by $69 million from FY14 to FY15.
� LCPS state/federal aid and fees are expected to increase by $21.2 million from FY14 to FY15.
The county general operating fund would increase by $25.5 million, or 6.2%.
Loudoun County Public Schools would receive an additional $68 million for its operating budget, which represents an 8% increase. That is a generous increase considering that enrollment growth is expected to be only 3.4% and the inflation rate for 2013 was only 1.5%. However, it falls short of the $108 million, or 13%, increase the LCPS Superintendent has proposed. That amount is more than twice as much as is needed to keep pace with growth and inflation. It’s quite the wish list and would be the largest budget increase ever.
When discussing the level of funding LCPS needs to maintain a quality school system, the following facts needs to be taken into consideration:
� LCPS has received ample funding increases over the past 14 years.
� The operating budget has increased from $209 million in FY00 to $843 million in FY2014. The Superintendent’s request would raise it to $952 million.
� A major factor in the budget increase over the years has been the amount of per-pupil spending (PPS), which rose from $6,890 in FY2000 to $11,638 in FY2014. Had that spending level risen only at the rate of inflation since FY2000, the FY2014 PPS would only be $9,523 and the FY14 budget would be under $700 million!
� The increase in the LCPS operating budget had a dramatic impact on the average homeowner tax bill, which rose from $1,894 in 1999 to $4,892 in 2013.
� While LCPS enrollment is still growing, the growth rate has declined substantially and is now much more manageable.
� The expected enrollment growth for FY2015 is only 2,375 students, which is the lowest since FY1999.
� The expected enrollment growth rate of just 3.4% is a third of the peak of 10.5% in FY2001.
� Fairfax County’s expected enrollment increase of 3,369 next year is higher than what Loudoun is expecting.
Loudoun taxpayers should not forget that when property values dropped after the housing bubble burst, the tax rate was raised from 89 cents to $1.30 in just four years, from 2006 to 2010. The excuse was to maintain tax revenues. Well, now that property values are on the rise, shouldn’t Loudoun taxpayers demand a lower tax rate?
You can email the BoS at email@example.com or call the comment line at 703-777-0115. Better yet, sign up to speak at one of the public hearings.
Watch out, Loudoun taxpayers, your already high tax rate and tax burden could get higher in 2014. LCPS SuperintendentEdgar Hatrick has proposed an operating budget increase of $108 million that couldrequire a large increase in the tax rate, if funded by the Board of Supervisors.
By almost any measure, Loudoun’s tax rate and homeowner taxbills are already too high. Currently,only Prince William County has a higher tax rate. In fact, out of Virginia’s 95 counties, Loudounhas had either the highest or second highest tax rate in 5 out of the past 6 years! The same is true with the average homeownertax bill. And although Prince Williamhas a higher tax rate, the homeowner tax burden is not nearly as high becausetheir assessments are much lower.
Yet some are of the opinion that our tax rate is low. Over the years, there have been comparisonsto Fairfax’s tax rates during their high-growth years. We were able to find tax rates for Fairfax goingback to the 1960s in county profile reports. Indeed, the rate reached a peak of $1.74 in 1978 and remained above$1.50 until 1983. Those were very hightax rates by today’s standards, but was the average homeowner tax burden thatgreat? To answer that question we needto look at the other half of the equation — assessments. The average residential assessment in 1978was only $56,535. Do the math and theaverage tax bill was only $983. By 2013,Fairfax’s average residential assessment had risen to $465,713 and the base taxrate had fallen to $1.085. Higherproperty values allow for a lower equalized tax rate. Loudoun homeowners pay an average ofapproximately $4,900 today at a $1.205 tax rate. Adjusted for inflation, it’s still more thanwhat Fairfax homeowners paid at a $1.74 tax rate!
Only in the past two years have Loudoun taxpayers seen somefiscal restraint restored by the current Board of Supervisors. It has resulted in slightly lower tax ratesand tax bills. Do we really want toreturn to the tax-hiking and big-spending policies of previous Boards?
Public Hearings at the Loudoun County School Board (which controls roughly 2/3 of the Loudoun County Budget) are on the 16th and 21st, 6:30 at the Administration Building.
It’s that time of year again. The time when the Superintendent of Schools presents his budget (here are his initial projections, and he will make his formal presentation on Tuesday, January 7th) and the public (that’s you) has a chance to weigh in and give them your ideas on budget priorities.
A few weeks ago, the Secretary of the Department of Education, Arne Duncan, slipped up and told everyone what he really believed: “…[These] white suburban moms are finally waking up and discovering that their kids are not as smart as they thought they were, and their schools are not as good as they thought they were.”
Though patently offensive, the statement held a little truth to it. While opinions on the children will differ a little from parent to parent and child to child, the realization that our schools are simply not as good as we thought they were is kicking in all over the country. And if all the accolades of LCPS are among a field of mediocre schools…how good are we, really?
What are we getting for our investment? Are our children being “prepared for college” or are they being educated? These are serious questions worth asking.
The administration is all over the news painting doom or gloom unless they get every dime they ask for:
So it’s a foregone conclusion that true to form of years past, hundreds of defenders of the status quo will show up at these hearings to defend the budget. The teachers, who we endeavor to empower and set free from bureaucratic and regulatory bondage are simply unable to stand up for what is right in the budget process. Given recent history…they’re not even able to give a student a D who deserves a D without getting threatened by an administrator, much less make waves in a $billion budget process. It is up to parents and taxpayers to do our part to make sure another side of the story is seen. A story where there is little transparency in the budget and little explanation of why, in the most affluent (and presumably innnovative) county in America, we are stuck with a school system which is unable to think outside of a late-19th Century mindset of treating schools like a factory, and teachers like factory workers.
Something has to change. This isn’t about chipping away at the edges, and trying to institute incremental little band-aid fixes until the economy “recovers.” The days of an irrational and circular mindset where the number of dollars invested per student is somehow a measure of success…are over. The days where we ignore the fact that the District of Columbia spends double what we do with worse results…are over. The days where we can pretend the status quo is good enough, that we not only CAN’T “do more with less,” but that we SHOULDN’T even if we could…are over.
Ironically, the real “doom and gloom” could be more accurately predicted, if we keep doing what we’ve been doing. A recent book by Glenn Harlan Reynolds called The New School does a good job of summarizing some of the above, along with an unassailable truth: the education bubble is going to burst (it’s already started in higher education), and there are two options before us: the public system drastically reforms itself, and begins to give more power to teachers and parents, and protect taxpayer resources more carefully, or we begin to opt out — family by family, Virginians will find a better way — and solve our educational problems outside the public system. And the more we do that, the less likely we’ll be to continue to subsidize an outdated, outmoded, and hopelessly bloated system.
Things are going to change. Education in Loudoun County is going to change. Either the LCSB wants to proactively take part in it, or simply react to the fallout…it is up to them.
Hands are tied by too many rules, too many requirements from RIchmond? Then the LCSB legislative agenda should reflect that. Too concerned about “teaching to the test?” Fight to opt out of SOL madness (and yes, that may mean losing Federal money, and all the strings attached. Bummer.) Wish that teachers could have more autonomy and more interaction with each other? Throw down the barriers which prevent it and the innovation which can result from it. Want more charter schools and opportunities to support private sector education? Make the process to approve charter schools more streamlined and support bills which allow home-schooled students to opt-in to public-school sports and extracurricular activities within their district for a fee.
Innovation requires loosening (and honestly bending and breaking) the “rules” of the current Industrial Age model of education. Making learning more “fun” and “interactive” will not solve that which ails us. Focusing on more rigor in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) will not save us unless it is accompanied by acknowledging and seeking to fix a severe falling behind in language, reading, the social sciences, philosophy, and the arts. Replacing the current model with an updated version of “preparing them for the work world” is simply an UPDATE, not an UPGRADE.
The Philosopher, Eric Hoffer, once said:
In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.
The Information Age requires students who are LEARNERS. Giving them new avenues of obtaining information only works if they, and their instructors are given the freedom to develop a strong grammar, a didactic which reflects the views of their faith and conscience, and the ability to communicate those ideas with others, and develop new ideas. These are the skills which breed real success in the 21st Century. They are, of course, the skills which have bred real success in the latter third of the 20th Century…but we won’t let that stop us from making changes now…will we?
To do this, to accomplish what we need to accomplish, we don’t need new technology, and “best practices” of delivering information (new learning tools are already here, and every teacher and student with an internet connection can get to them). What we need are options. We need choices. We need…individuality.
We, the taxpayers of Loudoun County are here. We’re ready to engage. We’re ready for an open, free-ranging discussion on ways to increase competitiveness of our schools and our students. But we’re not willing to be bullied by talk of doomsday scenarios. We’re no longer willing to be told that we don’t care about teachers, simply because we want to give them more power over their careers and seek to reward them for their successes, instead of patting them on the head with “good benefits” for falling in line.
The game is over. It’s time to get serious. Starting right now.
The FY2015 Budget Public Hearings are on the and 21st of January at 6:30 pm at the Administration Building in Ashburn. Please come support education reform, and educationCHOICE.
So…are you coming?
LCPS School Board Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Email: email@example.com
January 7: Presentation of Superintendent’s Proposed FY2015 Budget
January 16th & 16th: Public Hearings
January 23: School Board adopts budget to submit to the Board of Supervisors
There is also an online survey process and writing letters to the editor is always a good idea…but nothing beats showing up in person.
In the Virginia race for Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General this November, the Democratic Party sees an angle to effectively distract from the fact that the Democratic Governor candidate (former DNC Chairman Terry McAulliffe) is about as much of a Virginian as Jesse Ventura.
From the Washington Post:
…Jackson’s words — sometimes eloquent, sometimes raw, often impassioned — are causing anxiety for many Republicans as the resurfacing of his past statements about homosexuality and abortion have threatened to disrupt the campaign.
Instead of promoting their new ticket, Republicans have answered for Jackson’s once calling gays “perverted” and “sick” and saying Planned Parenthood has been “far more lethal” to blacks “than the KKK.”
“The Republicans I’m talking to are saying, ‘What the hell are they doing in Virginia?’ ” said Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. “Is this, ‘101 ways to lose an election’? You’re coming out of the gate with comments everyone has to explain. You’re wasting a lot of time and energy batting that back when you should be doing other things to get the guy known.”
Now, the validity of the concern — substantively and politically — notwithstanding, what it’s REALLY all about is this:
That said, the Democrats could face a difficult political climate by fall. Low-turnout, off-year elections have strongly favored the GOP in recent cycles. At the top of the ticket, McAuliffe has to overcome criticisms that he’s not a “real” Virginian, but an ambitious, national figure who’s seeking office in the commonwealth because he happens to live in McLean.
The outlandish language from the GOP’s No. 2 candidate gives the Democrats an unexpected opening to counterpunch.
In other words, “Thank God, we have a good bit of ammunition to distract voters from the real issues on which the Democratic candidate has nothing really to say. It would have been terrible if we didn’t have the ability to throw around “war on women” ads like we did in 2012. Whew.”
(The Virginia Conservative Party has not yet endorsed any candidate for statewide office for 2013; so stay tuned in the coming weeks.)
Conceptual development proposals for Dulles Rail Phase 2 garages are being considered at a public hearing TONIGHT, Wednesday May 8, 2013 at 6.00 pm by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. More information will be available after tonight’s meeting.
Several points to consider:
1. The Desman Dulles Rail Phase 2 Parking Study report prepared for Loudoun County in April 2012 was premised on computer modeling results provided to Desman by WMATA based on outputs used in the 2002 draft Dulles Rail Environmental Impact Statement. A long time computer professional who has worked for a governmental agency with direct knowledge of the model used explained that the model was “custom made” for WMATA use on Dulles Rail ridership projections incorporating assumptions not used in other modeling studies for projecting traffic demand in Northern Virginia.
2. Desman reported to Loudoun County Board during its April 2012 presentation that WMATA could not/would not provide more current information based on subsequent modeling and analyses of projected Dulles Rail ridership with potential origins and destinations of Silver Line passengers. After the Desman BOS presentation, the project leader was asked why updated information based on current demographic and economic conditions was not used. He responded (words to the effect): “We were told by WMATA that the computer model was no longer available for our use because WMATA had either discarded or destroyed the model.”
3. The Loudoun County conceptual development proposal for garages does not include an option for the selected contractor and operator to provide some surface parking initially and/or phasing of garage development based on ridership demand using current economic and demographic conditions.
4. The actual demand for garage use will depend on factors and variables other than overall rail ridership demand including: garage pricing, local and express bus service provided to garages and elsewhere from various communities, its cost and frequency, pricing options for carpool and vanpools etc.
5. Nancy Gourley, head of Loudoun County Transit, confirmed last week that over 90% of their express bus passengers responded in a 2007 survey their wish to remain LCT passengers after the Silver Line opens, even if the local gasoline tax subsidy used to reduce bus fares, currently $7 each way with a pass, is removed and the cost of service becomes as much as $12 each way. When the 2002 draft and 2004 final Dulles Rail EIS reports were prepared, express bus service from Loudoun County was in its early stages of growth. It appears that WMATA and MWAA did not consider any of the updated demographic, economic or ridership demand factors and changed conditions in their 2012 Phase 2 environmental assessment report.
6. Thelma Drake, Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit Administrator, confirmed in an April 2012 conversation that DRPT is relying on Silver Line ridership information prepared and/or reviewed by MWAA, WMATA and US Federal Transit Administration.
7. Financing for construction and operation of any private developer built parking facilities will be contingent on prospective completed property value at stabilization to be determined by real estate appraisals and financial feasibility studies that account for the variables outlined above.
8. WMATA General Manager Richard Sarles made a presentation to the Loudoun County BOS in April 2012 and has not provided updated ridership and revenue subsequently. Sarles made a presentation at the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission on May 2, 2013. Supervisor Ken Reid, the Loudoun County representative and other elected local representatives to NVTC did not ask any questions about potential Silver Line ridership, revenues and costs.
The lack of questioning and due diligence by public officials with decision making responsibility for Dulles Rail Phase 2 reminds me of the Japanese proverb about three wise monkeys: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
If ever the reader desired to look at the slow decay of reasoning skills and sensibility in our country, one need look no further than the article in Leesburg Today (and especially the comments) about “Open Carry” night in Downtown Leesburg, VA.
First, let me tell a story. I’m chatting with a good friend of mine a few months ago about “green” this and “green” that, and how, though I believe we should be good stewards of our environment, that it’s the not the first thing on my mind in the morning and that the constant preaching about Mother Gaia bugged me about as much as Jimmy Swaggart would bug him. He then said, “It’s not always about politics…” To which I responded, “Then why can’t I go to my local Deli [Puccio's New York Deli] without seeing a RESOLUTION from our TOWN COUNCIL that it’s bad for the planet for me to eat meat?”
Flash forward to today, when another Downtown Leesburg establishment decides to inaugurate “Open Carry Wednesday” to support its customers in the law enforcement community (and otherwise) who believe in upholding and protecting their second-amendment right to bear arms.
The first reaction one might have is that it’s just not right to compare these two things…they’re SO different.
Well…that’s a proper reaction, because they ARE different.
First, with “Meatless Mondays” the businesses themselves didn’t have the idea…someone who doesn’t eat meat did. And they sold it to the businesses as a way to be “community oriented” and save the planet. “Open Carry Wednesday” was completely the idea of the business owner.
Second, with “Meatless Mondays” the folks who don’t eat meat (who don’t need a meatless Monday…because they don’t eat meat) strive to convince municipalities to ENDORSE their idea...to bless it…complete with a Mayor’s signature. The restaurant who started “Open Carry Wednesdays” asked for no such blessing.
So they are different. But there are similarities:
In both cases, the customers have the choice to eat at these establishments on Mondays, on Wednesdays, both, or not at all, and second, they can do so based on their beliefs in whether the restaurant in questions adheres to their political or philosophical views on the subject…or based on the food.
The first time I saw the Meatless Mondays ad at Puccio’s I thought, “Holy Schneikes, what is the world coming to.” Then I ordered the Gyro sandwich. You see, they made the choice to still provide meat for those who still want it…even on Mondays, and I made the choice to eat there, even though they expressed to me, through Town edict, that I was contributing to the collapse of the ecosystem.
When I heard about “Open Carry Wednesday,” I decided to show up…NOT carrying, and eat there anyway, because a) I support the idea, and b) I like the food. But they still served me even though I wasn’t packing. Imagine that.
Frankly, I believe everyone is simply taking themselves too seriously if they think that carrying a gun is “creepy”…my favorite comment on the Open Carry article, responding to someone else’s thoughts on how disappointed they were in the “civilized” DC Metro area having such an “uncivilized” establishment as this :
As civilized as the DC Metro area? Really? Are you including DC in that area? When did such a high crime rate become civilized? Which part of the DC population do you consider civilized? The criminals carrying the guns, or the law abiding citizens who can’t?
Not necessarily the safest place in town? Let’s watch and see who gets robbed or assaulted on Wednesday nights. And likely the victims (1st responders) will call 911 for some good guys with guns (2nd responders) to come help them.
I don’t know much, but I know that the safest place to be in Leesburg on Wednesday night is likely at the Cajun Experience, and that Puccio’s still has the best Gyro’s. So there you go…EQUAL…OPPORTUNITY.
One last thing: since that first Meatless Monday experience at Puccios, I’ve actually tried some vegetarian meals around town. Some of them are great. I fiercely still support the eating of meat, but it’s a learning experience. It would be encouraging for those who don’t know much about guns to show up at Cajun Experience on Wednesdays and chat it up with those who are openly a part of the “gun culture” (which means they know more about guns than those who aren’t) and ask their opinion about, I don’t know…THIS. You might learn something.
You see, being “open-minded” and deliberate in your thinking and making sure you’ve looked at things from all angles and listened to those who disagree with you and understand their thoughts on controversial topics…that door swings both ways. Doesn’t it?
(BTW, be sure and vote on the page (to the left) whether you would be more likely to go to the restaurant or not based on Open Carry Wednesday).