May 6, 2012
Christiansburg, VA, Citizen Participation, Economic Development, Education, Local Government, Your Tax Money
Christiansburg, city, council, economics, elect, Finance, School, town, VA
It came as a bit of a surprise at the end of the May 1st Town Council Meeting when Councilmember Steve Huppert requested that the Town Council again look at moving their meeting dates so that they do not conflict with the Montgomery County School Board.
I’ve been supporting this move for some time now. It has become even more important to me now that the Town of Christiansburg is making it’s own videos of meetings. You see, I’ve got this camera that for several years now I’ve been using to record Christiansburg Town Council Meetings. It’s gathering dust. I haven’t figured out how to be 2 places at one time, but I would love to be able to provide for the Montgomery County School Board what I provided for the Town of Christiansburg, citizen recorded public meetings of the School Board posted online to share with the public. The decisions made by the School Board AND their discussions/deliberations are just too darned important not to provide access to citizens. If the Town of Christiansburg moves it’s meetings to another date, it will mean that I lose more nights of prime-time TV (like I have time to watch that anyway), but it would give me a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the School Board and to be able to share that information here.
Then, came an even bigger surprise when Councilmember Cord Hall asked that it be put on the agenda of the next meeting to begin discussions of the Town of Christiansburg moving to City status. Wow! I’ve heard this discussed previously and I had been against such a move. However, now that I’ve had some time to really look at a LOT of budget numbers for a lot of different jurisdictions, I’m no longer sure that this is not the best move that Christiansburg could make. Christiansburg is growing and even in this “down” economy, continues to grow. Christiansburg has a tremendous retail base for which the taxes are now directed to the County School System.
Christiansburg also has superb resources in the Recreation Center and Aquatic Center that could be used with a City School system and we could become the home of future Olympic Champions!!! Christiansburg citizens already take great pride in the schools located within it’s boundary even though those schools are part of the Montgomery County School System. How much greater would that pride be in a situation where they were truly Christiansburg Schools!
Christiansburg citizens would have control over their schools! They would have their own School Board, and we know how to use our votes to get the biggest bang for our voting “buck”. We would have to have our own library. Maybe one with more computers and greater public usage? It would be responsible to the citizens of Christiansburg, not to the whims of the County.
Perhaps more importantly, our elected officials would have more control over services. We’re already “donating” money to social services, the library, and other such services. There is grant money and other resources available to Cities that is not available to Towns.
But, all this really means is that an honest and true cost-benefit analysis would need to be done. It would need to be done without any bias and, for me, that means contacting the Weldon Cooper Center (Economic and Policy Studies section). This is not a decision to be taken lightly, nor is it one to be discounted out of fear of the unknown. I hope Town Council will take a serious look at this, but as far as I can see, with the research that I’ve managed to do, Christiansburg is in the perfect spot to go to City Status. All of those jurisdictions who have dropped or are planning to drop back from City to Town status have not had the retail network that Christiansburg has (with more to come) developed. We’ve got it and we should maximize the use of it by keeping that money here.
August 4, 2010
Christiansburg, VA, Citizen Participation, Land Use, Local Government
Christiansburg, citizen, government, planning, town, VA
You really need to take the time to watch the videos or show up at the meetings to really get a good understanding of everything. The newspapers and blogs can only give you bits and pieces of the whole process. Unfortunately, time and space constraints mean that neither newspapers nor bloggers can give you the full story. What is provided generally focuses on certain ‘key issues’, but are those the issues that are key to you?
I try to focus on key issues, particularly those relating to the statutes and codes because I find them so fascinating. I learn something new about them every single day. In the first psychology course that I took I learned one key lesson about being human. ‘ There is no such thing as an unbiased opinion’. Every piece of information presented to you through someone else is either intentionally or unintentionally screened through the values and beliefs of the person giving that information. Being unbiased is a goal to work towards but is never achievable. Some people come closer to that goal than others.
Enough of that, now on to my ‘not totally unbiased, but striving’ report of today’s activities:)
The Planning Commission met at 3pm today but did not have the quorum necessary to take any action such a voting on a recommendation to the Town Council. After some discussion on other items not requiring a vote, the meeting was continued to 6:30pm. At 6:30pm there was still no quorum but shortly after 7pm a 4th member appeared and the 3 items to be voted on were addressed. PC voted to recommend approval of the Main Street Baptist Church and the 1225-C Roanoke St game room Conditional Use Permits.
A major ‘hitch in the get along’ occurred when a motion to approve the rezoning of the Albert Land, LP property (Ivy Ridge/Sage Lane) died on the table without a 2nd to the motion.
At the Town Council meeting the 2 items with PC recommendation to approve passed handily with only a little bit of discussion. A second ‘hitch in the get along’ involving the Albert Land property came up the motion was made to approve but after a lengthy discussion, the motion was pulled from the table and, instead, it was decided that the issue should be returned to the PC for another assessment and possible recommendation in 2 weeks. It was verified that there was ample time for this to occur without TC losing control of the situation and having it default in favor of the developer due to in action.
Unfortunately, sending this back to PC only means that the PC will need to vote or possibly end up with another ‘no vote’ or tie situation. The public hearing has already occurred so no modifications to proffers can be made without starting the process over and holding another public meeting with any new proffers included.
Part of the discussion centered around the issues that all of those nice drawings are pretty worthless if there are not things in the proffers that insure that the concepts such as greenspace, trails, etc. would be followed. (If you want to see the particular issues that Mr. Barber and Mr. Stipes pointed out, you’ll have to watch the videos which I am working on while I write this – hopefully, they will be available early tomorrow.) Once the property is rezoned, the developer can do any by-right development desired. There is no guarantee that there would be any sort of special development requiring a CUP with TC could have some control over. The 4 per acre proffered in the rezoning request, is the same that is required in the requested rezoning. Where the drawings display extensive green space and open space (20-30%) it was not proffered as such so when the subdivision ordinance is applied, it could actually be developed with a minimum of 10% green space. This is a perfect example of how it is that people believe one thing is going to happen but something else is the reality. And, it is all perfectly legal.
I’ll let you know when the videos are ready, in the meantime, suffice it to say that the Albert Land deal is doing a great imitation of a Carousel, going round and round without making any forward or backwards progress. (This soap opera may ultimately top the Edge of Night for run time.)
August 2, 2010
Christiansburg, VA, Citizen Participation, Land Use, Local Government, Your Tax Money
Christiansburg, council, economy, government, participation, planning, public, town, VA
On Tuesday, August 3, 2010, there will be Planning Commission and Town Council Meetings with a break long enough between the two for you to grab a quick bite to eat. Both agendas can be found on the town’s website at www.christiansburg.org. There are a lot of things going on! More
July 25, 2010
Christiansburg, VA, Citizen Participation, Local Government, US Government, VA government, VOTE
Christiansburg, citizen, code, Freedom of Information, town, VA
Read the Virginia Constitution lately? All elected and appointed officials of the Town of Christiansburg must complete the oath of office before taking office. They use this standard form of that oath as set forth in Article II Section 7 of the Virginia Constitution. More
July 15, 2010
Christiansburg, VA, Citizen Participation, Land Use, Letter vs Spirit of the Law, Local Government, VOTE
Christiansburg, citizen, council, EPA, Freedom of Information, open government, participation, town, VA, VOTE
While the EPA does not hold control over the uses of mirrors, the billowing clouds of smoke coming from the vicinity of the Christiansburg Town Hall should be setting off alarms all over the place. More
July 14, 2010
Christiansburg, VA, Citizen Participation, Environment, FOIA, Land Use, Letter vs Spirit of the Law, Local Government, Your Tax Money
Aquatic, Christiansburg, citizen, commission, council, DCR, erosion, Freedom of Information, manager, open government, public, town, VA, Virginia
Now that is a $1,000,000 plus question. (By the way, videos of the meeting are at: http://myvaresources.com/VideoFiles2010/2010_07_12PC/2010_07_12PC1.html
Here are a few observations/questions about why this and many other development issues have come up. More
July 10, 2010
Christiansburg, VA, Citizen Participation, Local Government, Your Tax Money
charter, Christiansburg, code, council, foia, Freedom of Information, government, open government, town, VA
Something I have been waiting to see addressed in relation to the 3 year contract for the Town Manager is a part of the Virginia State Code.
§ 15.2-1503. Tenure of officers and employees; suspension or removal.
A. All appointments of officers and hiring of other employees by a locality shall be without definite term, unless for temporary services not to exceed one year or except as otherwise provided by general law or special act.
B. Any officer or employee of a locality employed pursuant to subsection A of this section may be suspended or removed from office or employment in accordance with the provisions of §§ 24.2-230 through 24.2-238, if such sections are applicable. Otherwise, any such employee may be suspended or removed in accordance with procedure established by special act or by the governing body, if any.
C. In case of the absence or disability of any officer or employee, the governing body or other appointing power may designate some responsible person to temporarily perform the duties of the office.
(1997, c. 587.)
This rather makes it appear that the Town Charter and/or Code would have had to have been changed before said 3 year contract could have gone into effect. The other localities that I found to have gone with a longer contract for Town Manager, have specifically generated ordinances/charter changes in order to support those. My guess is that the reason for that was this state code.
So, should the town council have been looking at such a contract without having first established that there was such a need as to warrant Charter and/or Code changes. I never heard of any discussions concerning those changes except for some mumblings on how they could enter into the contract first, then change the Charter/Code afterwards. Maybe there are some lawyers out there who have a better understand of the intent of this State Code and would care to comment.
Is it possible that the 3 year contract was merely a ‘smoke screen’ simply to get people riled up so that they wouldn’t see what was really going on. If so, then you have to wonder who the ‘they’ is in this situation. Certainly with Showalter and Carter being the last to find out anything, they are ruled out.
Of course, the town attorney was in the meetings so if this was actually an issue, one would expect it to have been raised.
Fortunately, the State Code also makes sure that the public will know the full extent of the severance packages of any individuals to which they have or shall be awarded. If it is consistent with the document read by Mr. Barber, there are some pretty vague places that I hope will be clarified before the deal is finalized.
§ 15.2-1510.1. Public announcement of severance packages for certain officials.
Severance benefits provided to any departing official appointed by a local governing body or school board shall be publicly announced by the local governing body or school board, respectively, prior to such departure.
(2006, c. 254; 2007, c. 257.)
It sounds like the details should be pretty specific to me, but I am sure that someone can argue that the Letter of the Law was met in Mr. Barbers statement. However, I wonder if it will truly meet the Spirit of the Law. After all, it is the citizen’s money being used for any such severance benefits.
July 6, 2010
Christiansburg, VA, Citizen Participation, FOIA, Land Use, Local Government, VOTE, Your Tax Money
Christiansburg, citizen, council, DCR, foia, Freedom of Information, government, open government, town, VA, violations, VOTE
Town Manager Contract Survey: It is not just about the contract, but also about the timing where outgoing elected officials are pushing to make the decision now rather than to wait for newly elected officials to take office. The people spoke, quite loudly in the last election, as to who they trust with making such decision. Now, there is an end-run going on to try to push through this contract with the Town Manager without the chosen representatives of the people having a voice. For those who voted for Cord Hall, this means the current Council is changing a decades old pattern in order to exert the last bit of control. More
June 29, 2010
Christiansburg, VA, Citizen Participation, FOIA, Letter vs Spirit of the Law, Local Government, VOTE, Your Tax Money
Christiansburg, citizen, council, DCR, government, open, open government, participation, public, town, VA
In case you haven’t heard, the most recent (of many) hot button issues in Christiansburg, VA has to do with a sudden push to get a contract in place for the Town Manager before the newly elected officials of the Town take office in September. It is at that same meeting that, historically, the Council has decided whether or not to enter into another 1 year verbal contract with the Town Manager for his services. Not only has the timing changed, it has now become important to make sure that it is in writing and for a time frame roughly 3 times longer than in previous contracts for that same position. (See these two Roanoke Times articles for further information and ‘the’ sample contract here.) More
June 17, 2010
Christiansburg, VA, Citizen Participation, FOIA, Local Government, VA, VA government
Christiansburg, citizen, council, documents, foia, Freedom of Information, government, public, town, VA
While there were a lot of unusual things occurring at the last Christiansburg Town Council Meeting (open discussion, raising of issues, asking questions, paring the budget), there was one event during the last few minutes that captured my attention because it revolved around my personal pet peeve, FOIA (Freedom of Information Act).
During the last few minutes, an event occurred which has not been seen in Christiansburg Council Chamber in decades (if not in forever). More