Citizens for Balanced Growth

Category: BOCS Election Controversies (2011-2012)

“Prince William supervisors reject conflict of interest measure”

by Jeremy Borden, The Washington Post

8 August 2012

“The Prince William Board of County Supervisors rejected a conflict-of-interest measure late Tuesday that its proponent said would have led to more transparency and accountability among board members.

“Under the measure, proposed by Supervisor Peter K. Candland (R-Gainesville), supervisors would have had to disclose involvement in organizations that receive county funds and recuse themselves from voting to allocate funds to any group in which they or their relatives are involved.

“For the full board to consider the measure, Candland needed a second member to agree to a vote. None did, and the measure quickly died, but not before a lengthy debate. And not before supervisors took the meeting across the street, ending the broadcasting of the discussion on television and online.

“Candland said he revised his proposal before Tuesday’s board meeting because of an opinion issued by County Attorney Angela Lemmon Horan. According to Candland, Horan said that the measure overstepped Prince William’s authority.

“In Virginia, localities must have express permission from the General Assembly to institute laws. Although Candland said he disagreed with Horan’s assessment, he said he modified the proposal to make it more palatable to county officials and other board members.

“The revised proposal required board members to disclose when they or their spouses are volunteers with nonprofit organizations, but members wouldn’t have to recuse themselves from votes.

” ‘When you sit on a board, a nonprofit . . . I believe you have a fiduciary responsibility to that board,’ Candland said. ‘That’s information citizens of Prince William County should know.’

“While Supervisors Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge) and Michael C. May (R-Occoquan) said that too many changes were made close to the supervisors’ meeting for proper consideration, other supervisors substantially disagreed with the measure’s intent.

” ‘Serving this community is not a conflict of interest,’ said Supervisor Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles).  ‘If the only way we serve this community is by showing up every other Tuesday . . .then I don’t believe we’re doing our job well. It flies right in the face of what public service, particularly at the local level, should be about.’

“May and Nohe said they would voluntarily disclose any potential conflicts but didn’t see the need for a formal policy.

“Nohe’s wife, Kristina, addressed the board earlier in the meeting. She said she had never addressed the board while her husband has been in office but was compelled because she felt that the board’s policy was wrongheaded.

” ‘I am more than Mrs. Nohe,’ she told the board. ‘We [volunteer] because we love this county and not for some nefarious reason. Volunteerism and public service is something this board should be encouraging.’

“Candland said his intent was to ensure that supervisors were upfront when allocating taxpayer dollars.

“On June 5, the board unanimously decided to ban supervisors from doling out ‘discretionary funds’ to charities, nonprofits and other groups. Critics said supervisors used the money to build support among key constituencies, turning taxpayer money into political goodwill.

“With Candland’s measure, supervisors said conservative bloggers had tried to paint them into a corner.

” ‘No one wants to be accused and arm-twisted into this,’ said Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large).

“On Wednesday, the bloggers were also angry because supervisors held the last part of the meeting outside board chambers, where there were no video cameras broadcasting online or on local public-access television.

“Stewart said he decided to hold the meeting in a board room across the street where supervisors had a dinner meeting with the county’s Service Authority.

” ‘It was the one thing everyone was waiting for,’ said Al Alborn, who often blogs about Prince William politics. ‘It probably did more to unite those in opposition of questionable practices of the board .  . . than any single thing that happened.’ “

“Each magisterial district to be assigned its own planner: Will get to know the communities and the players, says PWC planning chief”

by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

28 October 2011, p. 47

“After Jan. 1 [2012], each magisterial district in Prince William County will have its own planning department person to handle cases, Chris Price, planning director, told those at the Mid-County Civic Association (MIDCO) meeting Oct. 20 at the Prince William County government’s development services building.

“He said each planner is working on 30 to 50 cases, scattered throughout the county.

” ‘We can’t expect them to know the players and the communities,’ the planning chief said.  Assigning planners by magisterial district will allow the planner to become ‘the go-to person,’ he added.

“Price also discussed the new consolidated public hearing process he introduced to the county Board of Supervisors’ meeting Oct. 4.  Under this process, cases that have staff and Planning Commission approval, with no community issues and with approval of the district’s supervisor, are fast-tracked through the public hearing.

“The planning director noted no staff presentation nor any presentation by the applicant or his attorney would be needed at the consolidated public hearing.

“Staff and the applicant or his attorney would be in attendance to answer questions, or to make a presentation, if the case were asked to be pulled from consolidated agenda.

“Members of the public could address the hearing if the case is on the consolidated agenda or the regular agenda.

” ‘If there are questions, the case can be pulled and put on the agenda with a full presentation,’ he reported.

“Price called the consolidated public hearings ‘a process improvement,’ adding it would allow staff to focus on the cases where there are issues to be resolved.

“He said the process also could be a negotiating tool, which could influence an applicant toward compromise in order to be placed on the consolidated agenda.

“The planning director said he was concerned that his department was spending as much presentation time at public hearings on items such as additional signs at Wal Mart as it spent on other matters.

” ‘Most jurisdictions already do consolidated public hearings.  We need to spend time on cases with outstanding concerns,’ Price claimed.

“The county’s Planning Commission puts cases on a expedited agenda, which is similar to the consolidated public hearing process.

“Martin Jeter, MIDCO president, told Price he is concerned with keeping citizens informed on what the county is doing.

“He cited the county requirement that residents within 200 feet of a special use  permit or rezoning public hearing must be notified, asserting the 200 feet should be more like 1000 feet.

“Jeter also mentioned two General Assembly bills that would remove legal advertising from daily newspapers.  He said the bills failed to pass but would be back.

” ‘I’m concerned that the casual citizen could miss out on the information,’ Jeter contended.”

“Chamber forum brings out candidates for PWC board of supervisors”

by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

19 Aug 2011, pp. 20-21

“A dozen candidates for positions on Prince William Board of County Supervisors told the audience at Northern Virginia Community College’s Manassas campus on Aug. 9 why voters should cast ballots for them.   The event was part of the leadership series of Prince William Chamber of Commerce.

“Speakers who are running in the Republican primary election Aug. 23 to represent Gainesville District were Martha Hendley, Peter Candland, Steve Botello, Michael High and Suzanne Miller.  The victor will face Democrat Ann Wheeler in the Nov. 8 general election.

“The Gainesville post is being vacated by John Stirrup, who is running in the Republican primary race the same day to represent the 13th District in the Virginia State Senate.

“Speakers who want to be supervisor from Coles District were Marty Nohe, the incumbent, and Robert ‘Bob’ Pugh.

“Also addressing the group were Brentsville District candidates Wally Covington, the incumbent, and challenger Jeanine Lawson.  Candidates who are running for board chairman in the Nov. 8 race also spoke.  There is no primary election for that contest.  Speakers were Corey Stewart, the Republican incumbent board chairman and at-large member, Babur Lateef, a Democrat, and John Gray, an independent.

Gainesville District Aug. 24 primary supervisor candidates

“In the Gainesville contest, the candidates addressed the Business Professional Occupational License (BPOL) tax.  The board of supervisors recently increased to $200,000 from $100,000 the amount a business can gross before it is liable for the tax.

“Candland said he applauded the hike, and suggested ‘we see how it works at $200,000.’  Hendley questioned whether the $200,000 could be raised so high it would become ineffective.  Miller suggested the county can’t just shift money from one place to another, and spoke in favor of more job creation.  High wondered why a BPOL tax should be paid if a company paid sales tax on equipment bought locally.  Botello agreed with the BPOL base increase, pointing out business people should be listened to, and the tax eliminated, if possible.

“Candland called BPOL ‘another tax on business,’ and said other counties don’t have the tax, ‘and their roads are not exploding.’

“Rob Clapper, the event’s moderator and chamber president, noted the BPOL tax originally was assessed to pay for the War of 1812.

“Asked whether they think there is enough housing in the county, High noted there is ‘so much, it’s sickening.’  He asserted slums are being created.

“Botello opined there are more than 100,000 units approved, but not built, in the county pipeline.  He said he supports moderate growth, but that ‘there are a lot of homes waiting to be bought.’

“Hendley said the number of approved but unbuilt units is 24,200, down from the 40,000 or more that were in the pipeline in 1998.  She added there was a glut of townhouses years ago, but the zoning ordinance was changed so there were wider townhomes, fewer in a stick or row of townhouses and more open space.

“Miller noted because of the economy, ‘developers are stalling.’  She suggested stricter proffer packages be required.

“Candland noted homes are being built in Gainesville, but asserted there is no infrastructure to support them.  He said he has a daughter at Bull Run Middle School who goes to class in a trailer, and that it takes him 20 minutes to get to a gas station.

” ‘We need the infrastructure for those who are here,’ Candland said.

“Clapper said that an additional 200,000 residents can be expected to move into the county in coming years, asking about candidate support for the Rural Crescent.

“Hendley remarked she backs off the Rural Crescent because of its financial impact on the county, High said the county has enough homes and Miller noted she supports the Rural Crescent, but is pro-business.  Miller pledged to get Innovation ‘filled if elected.’

“Clapper explained the chamber favors construction of the bi-county and tri-county parkways, asking the candidates’ opinions.

“Candland pointed out the need to investigate both roadways, and that the county’s access to Dulles International Airport ‘is a problem.’

“Botello and High agreed quick access to Dulles is important.  Miller suggested adding more jobs in the county would lessen the number of residents who have to commute, and that local jobs should be sought before parkways are built.

“Hendley reported she supported the tri-county parkway through Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun counties, noting Prince William taxpayers already own some of the land intended for the road.  She said the county needs to prioritizes, and ‘get the most bang for its buck.  The majority of our traffic goes east each day.’  She suggested concentrating assets on the east-west traffic, adding the bi-county parkway comes in west of Dulles Airport.

Coles District Aug. 24 primary supervisor candidates

“Nohe reported he’s ‘the most qualified candidate who’s running, not necessarily the most qualified candidate.’  He pointed out the county has the lowest property tax in northern Virginia.  He said the focus should be on developing high quality jobs.”Nohe said he’s lived in Coles District ten years.  Pugh noted he was in Brentsville District, but redestricting this year put him in Coles District.

“Both Nohe and Pugh agreed on BPOL tax reform and eventual elimination.

“Commenting on the Washington Council of Government’s (COG) idea that the county will have 200,000 more people by 2030, Pugh asserted the county shouldn’t go along with the COG’s ideas.  He claimed Nohe is taking a regional approach to the matter, which ‘is not best for Coles and Prince William County.’

In discussing the county’s housing supply, Nohe said it all is based on supply and demand. He said older neighborhoods ‘are filling back up’ after the Great Recession, and that county unemployment is low.

” ‘We must make sure we have high quality homes available,’ he declared.

“In the Coles District race, Pugh said ‘he doesn’t oppose growth,’ but feels ‘it’s been overdone.’  He contended that in the 90’s, the county was 70 percent residential taxpayers, but that today that number has soared to 82 percent ‘and is tax negative.’  He suggested a more balanced approach to development [relatively more commercial and less residential.]

Brentsville District Aug. 24 primary supervisor candidates

“In the contest to represent Brentsville District on the Board of Supervisors, Lawson reported she is a new chamber member and originally is from Iowa, moving to the county in 1992.  She noted Virginia has been named the number one business friendly state in the country.

“Lawson explained she is ‘committed to working with Martin Briley and the governor to get professional jobs’ for the county.  Briley heads the county’s economic development department.

“The candidate said the fact ‘two-thirds of our workers will leave the county daily’ for employment ‘needs to change.’  She added she wants to attract professional jobs so college graduates can remain or return to the county.

“Covington advised he has been elected to the supervisor’s post twice and has three children in county schools.  He said he ‘wants to continue what I’ve started.’  He pointed out he has the experience and has served on many different boards, such as the VRE and Innovation.

“Lawson said she is running because the county needs new leadership.  She accused current board members of ‘rubberstamping development,’ adding new leaders are needed ‘to represent the people, not special interest groups.’

“When it comes to housing supply, Lawson estimated there are 40,000 units approved, but not yet built.  She contended that Prince William Association of Realtors (PWAR) reports 60 to 70 percent of current real estate sales are short sales, and that at one time, the county led in foreclosures.

“Covington disputed the 40,000 figure, claiming it is closer to 30,000, and that ‘the private sector should choose how much housing is needed.’  He explained he was successful in getting developers to pay a project’s transportation dollars up front, ‘but that the state cut some of that power.’

“When asked if the candidates believe the county’s tax burden is too low, too high or just right, Covington said BPOL should be done away with because it’s unfair.

” ‘You’re taxed when you don’t make money,’ he contended.  He said taxes ‘are higher than I’d like,’ adding he would like to see more of the money the area sends to Richmond returned to the county.

“Lawson said taxes are too high, and that ‘families are suffering.  Raising taxes is dangerous.’  She claimed taxes are up because ‘we’re paying more than our fair share because developers don’t.’

“When it comes to transportation, both Lawson and Covington support easier access to Dulles Airport.  Lawson added she only would support a route that has limited access points.  Covington said he favored the bi-county route because the tri-county one goes through wetlands.

“Covington concluded by pointing out the county has made $200 million in new investments this year in transportation, that schools and infrastructure have been built, that the county enjoys a triple A creding rating and is number one in the state in job growth.

” ‘Think about your vote,’ Covington advised.  ‘Three years ago inexperience came into this country, and it hasn’t worked out.’

Candidates for board chairman Nov. 8 election

“In the chairman’s race, the three candidates commented on how they would address goals of the chamber.

“Lateef explained he favored reforming or eliminating the BPOL tax, calling it ‘a barrier.’  He added waiving the tax would stimulate business.

“Stewart remarked hiking the BPOL tax point to $200,000 was a chamber goal, but that it would have some impact on revenue.  The tax puts $21 million each year into county coffers, he noted.  He said reform of BPOL should be considered.

“Gray reported Stafford County has no BPOL tax, which gives it a competitive edge over Prince William County.  The candidate also decried the 80/20 rate of residential to commercial properties in the county.  He contended this county has overtaxed its residents by $18.5 million and should return that money to the taxpayers.  He suggested properties be reassessed every two years, not every year, as is done today.

“In speaking of county economic development, Lateef said work on U.S. 1 didn’t move fast enough, and that the county needs bus rapid transit (BRT) and the expansion of VRE.  He also suggested the need for a new stadium for the Potomac Nationals baseball team, mentioning the possibility of a mixed-use project on Interstate 95, Interstate 66 or U.S. 1.

“Stewart explained much development has taken place in the county’s western end in the last 15 years, but that ‘there’s an explosion now along Rt. 1.’

“He noted Hilda Barg, the former longtime supervisor from Woodbridge District, ‘dedicated her life’ to improving the roadway, and that the eight-mile road widening was nearly complete.

“Gray observed the revitalization plan has been in the works for U.S. 1 for 24 or 25 years, but that all of it changed in 2007 and 2008.  He mentioned investigating how this affects the tax rate.

“When speaking of support for the Rural Crescent, Gray said there is ‘no overwhelming support to kill’ it.  He added the county couldn’t afford the infrastructure costs of chopping ten-acre tracts into smaller lots.
” ‘Residential development doesn’t pay for itself.  Commercial development does,’ Gray asserted.

“In discussing K-12 education and the need for technical workers and those in the science fields, Lateef suggested math and science begin in kindergarten or first grade.  He contended it also is important for students to speak a second language.

“Stewart explained the county each year gives the school district 56.75 percent of its general revenue budget, ‘and the school board does the rest.  It’s not right for supervisors to micro-manage the schools.’  The chairman added the county is working with both George Mason University and Northern Virginia Community College on possible expansion projects in the county.

“Gray said the elected school board handles K-12, and that the schools have three times the number of employees as the county.”

“Names in the News: Weir runs for board chairman”

by Rose Murphy, Bull Run Observer

14 January 2011, p. 10

“Haymarket Town council member Robert B. ‘Bob’ Weir is all about open government and what he calls ‘fiscal conservatism.’

“Standing in front of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors [BOCS] last month, Weir told the board members as well as everyone else present that he is now a candidate for board chairman-at-large.

“A perceived lack of transparency by the supervisors, influence by special interest groups, inconsistent fiscal policies and the management of the county are some of the things which Weir indicated led him to decide to run for board chairman in this year’s election.

“Weir said he’s watched the board for the last seven years and that ‘the last two years have provided numerous examples of BOCS action wherein it appears the tail is wagging the dog.’ As an example, he asserted how the county’s comprehensive plan has been reviewed and amended.

” ‘Thousands of man hours on the part of county staff, citizens and stakeholders resulted in several drafts of each chapter of the comprehensive plan, each with some measure of compromise from the parties that created them. In each instance, subsequent to the public hearing, they were subject to 11th-hour amendments drafted by such entities as VRE or the chamber of commerce, amendments that were considered and enacted by the BOCS without public input and in the case of Mr. (John) Jenkins’ transportation amendments, without disclosure,’ Weir noted in a press release.

“Weir also questioned a recent sale of public land at Innovation and a memorandum of understanding on land proffered at the Avendale tract.

” ‘Neither was publicly vetted prior to the meeting, and in the case of the Innovation property, substantive details were withheld until moments before the public hearing, ostensibly in violation of the various FOIA and Sunshine statues,” he charged.

“The councilman contended that, in budget matters in recent years, the board has spent lots of time ‘trimming the margins and engaging in the politics of deflection.’

“He asserted cuts to senior day care, senior transportation services and library hours were designed to cause public outcry and obscure other budget items.

“Weir said that in recent nonelection years, the capital improvement plan (CIP) has been pared and projects deferred because the county was near the debt limit needed to save its AAA bond rating.

” ‘Curiously, despite current economic conditions, a forecast of significantly lower commercial property values and the potential for further funding cuts and deleterious legislation from Richmond, in this year’s budget guidance, the BOCS has instructed staff to include funding for popular projects such as road building and two libraries.’  Weir contended that policy direction is fiscally unsound and ‘smacks of electioneering.’

“Weir said the actual basis for the county’s AAA bonding rating is that general obligation bonds are based on the county’s authority to levy and collect taxes.

” ‘The rating could be maintained ad infinitum through the adjustment (raising) of the tax rates to maintain the acceptable ratio of debt to revenue. Let me underscore that it is based on the authority to levy and collect taxes, not whether or not the county’s spending and taxation policies are sound, popular or responsible,’ he said.

“The candidate reported that during his years on town council, he established ‘a record of transparency and fiscal conservatism. Although sometimes unpopular with other members of the town council, it is designed to protect the long-term interests of the town and its residents. It is that record, experience and knowledge that I bring to the table,’ Weir concluded.”

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