Mike Johnson on the issues:
Our Albemarle County Board of Supervisors dodge tough issues by delegating them to the board-appointed Planning Commission and to County staff. Supervisors then rubber-stamp the proposals of these bodies when brought back before the Board. Discussion takes place in closed meetings with no public debate. Supervisors routinely vote in lock-step — 6 to 0 — on many issues. Board meetings often are empty because residents know that their input will be disregarded.
Two cases in point: The unsuccessful “Rain Tax” and the recently successful Climate Action Plan.
How did the “Rain Tax” ever get to the voting stage? Was this absurd scheme ever discussed openly in the community? Luckily the Farm Bureau launched a campaign against and generated wide-spread – and vocal – opposition to it. Our supervisors reacted to the opposition with surprise – indeed, they were prepared to vote for it!
The second case is the County’s adoption of the Climate Action Plan (CAP). I attended the “Climate Monday” meetings – each one attended by 25 or so people, the majority of them lobbyists and businesses looking for subsidies. I was one of five or six taxpayers at any given meeting.
The CAP will cost taxpayers millions and millions of dollars. By supporting this disastrous County staff generated plan, our supervisors – and my opponent – has pushed aside the welfare and prosperity of local residents and put their allegiance to an outside organization – the United Nations — first. Our residents will be burdened with heavy – and unnecessary – taxes so that our supervisors can follow the U.N.’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) guidelines. The County will then hand over to another U.N. organization, ICLEI (International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives) access to every physical detail of our County. ICLEI will be telling County staff how “well” we’re doing with the County’s adopted IPCC guidelines.
The County’s climate plan is just another Rain Tax scheme. Residents do not know what they are in for.
I am running because County residents need more transparency, and they are entitled to a public debate on every issue, especially those that involve taxpayer dollars and excessive regulatory intrusions on their daily lives.
GET SPENDING UNDER CONTROL
Albemarle’s population is around 109,000. Roughly 37,000 households pay real-estate taxes.
The County’s budget has gone up 90 percent in the last 15 years. Property taxes have been raised six times in the last 10 years. In the most recent year, real estate taxes increased by 5.25 percent and are likely to go up another 2 percent or more next year.
I will do everything in my power to get the County’s spending under control, and to stop throwing taxpayer dollars out of the window.
This represents real money for many Albemarle residents, many of whom are living on low and/or fixed incomes. This money comes straight out of household budgets. Some residents may be forced to move to lower-tax jurisdictions. This has happened in my opponent’s former home in Los Angeles County, California.
My opponent, Bea Lapisto Kirtley, told her WINA interviewer Rick Daniels last June 7:
“…if we can flip the legislature to Democrat in the fall then maybe we can modify or eliminate the Dillon rule that hampers us from being more creative with the kind of taxes we can implement.” And “….we will come up with new and creative ideas” to tax, she added.
My opponent, Bea Lapisto Kirtley, supports extravagant programs that will not improve the daily lives of Albemarle County residents. The taxation required to support her programs will add to the burden of living in the County. For instance, the County plans to hire three more planners, each earning a salary of roughly $90,000 plus benefits. Is this necessary? For a population of 109,000? Our current spending levels are simply unsustainable.
Just a few examples of what my opponent, Bea Lapisto Kirtley, wants to spend money on:
- The County’s “new economic development” plan that gives taxpayer funds to businesses who want to locate here.
Just how solvent are these companies? And wouldn’t a business-friendly environment make our County even more attractive? There are a lot of ways to attract new business without taxpayers footing the bill. Our hard-working taxpayers should not be asked to invest in a business they know nothing about.
- Pre-kindergarten for 3 and 4 year olds in our elementary schools.
Very expensive – and should our elementary schools be in the business of offering daycare?
- A yearly line-item in the County budget to buy up houses and put them in an “affordable housing stock.”
This program will require an entirely new layer of bureaucracy to administer. And will neighborhoods be a part of the decision-making process on which homes to purchase?
- Ride-and-share lots built in the rural areas of the County
- More expensive electric buses to replace the standard ones.
And….. just replacing our 222 school bus fleet with electric buses will cost taxpayers an additional $44 million.
- “Public-private partnerships” in the County’s real-estate ventures like Places 29. Should taxpayers be silent partners in potentially risky business deals? And which developers will be the chosen favorites? This is an invitation to corruption.
- The County’s Climate Action Plan will cost taxpayers millions of dollars. See the section below on the Climate Action Plan.
Our County government’s role is to provide basic services that directly benefit residents: Schools, public health and safety and roads are some of the basic items. But the County’s expenditures have been lopsided, as Supervisors have long ignored the needs of rural residents. One-quarter of the County’s current 872 miles of paved rural secondary roads remain unpaved!
In 2008, Marcia Joseph, then chair of the Albemarle County Planning Commission, said, “I’d much rather put aside money for a park in the urban area than set aside money to pave a road in the rural area.” The sentiment of this statement holds true today amongst our current Board members. Thus, many County residents feel abandoned by their elected officials. (See: Daily Progress, Jan. 9, 2008, p. 1, “Rural Roads: Should Albemarle Pave them”?
All expenditures—other than the most routine— should be subjected to cost-benefit analysis – something the County rarely—if ever—conducts on its proposed programs, expenses, and “investments.”
County staff continually come up with phony “surveys”— with no statistical validity—to justify spending on unnecessary items, further bloating an already inflated budget. I will subject these “surveys” to mathematical scrutiny, and work to eliminate unnecessary budget items.
We all want our residents to be able to afford a home, but too often government action can make things worse.
I think taxpayers going into the real estate business is opening a huge can of worms. I most definitely do not want – in my opponent’s words – a “permanent affordable housing fund” to “buy up properties when they become available and put those as part of our stock of affordable housing.”
It’s not clear if this “stock of affordable housing” would be for sale or for rent. Either way, the county would need an entirely new and expensive layer of bureaucracy to find, purchase, and sell or rent, and to continue to administer a yearly growing stock of taxpayer-funded properties. That would cost taxpayers millions and millions of dollars. Would the neighborhoods have anything to say about this?
And what if buyers defaulted on a loan, or failed to pay rent? Or, if they bought a cheap, taxpayer-subsidized house, then resold that house to make a profit – at taxpayer expense?
Look at what’s happening in the real world: The lack of affordability in housing has to do with the red tape that the builders have to navigate just to get to the construction stage. There could be three or four design and architectural reviews, more meetings and reviews with the Planning commission, more public meetings with more demands, and, as always, thousands of dollars in proffers – all of which get added to the housing price.
Plus, there are the “inclusion” requirements that a certain percentage of those homes be sold at below the builder’s cost. These demands raise the prices of all units by thousands of dollars.
You cannot solve this problem by throwing taxpayer money at it. But you can pull the county back from its overbearing regulatory environment which is the direct cause of the lack of affordable housing.
I want our kids to have the best education possible, and that’s why I’m a big believer in back-to-basics education: a strong and demanding curriculum of math, science, English, history and languages. Our students should not need remedial courses when they enter college. We should empower teachers to do what they do best — teach. And we should give teachers more say in our education process
With a broad academic background, our students will have the widest possible choices when they graduate. And it will be easier for them to change their career choices later on in life. Creativity is finding links between things that no one else can see. You need broad and deep knowledge to start the creative process.
I am skeptical of the new Project-focused high school center model. The same goals could be accomplished with summer internships and apprenticeships – and save the county millions of dollars in infrastructure. It would also avoid shuttling students all around the county – increasing the already traffic-congested roads. I worry too that time studying the core subjects will be minimized.
I should add, however, that I support building a new high school to serve the students in northern Albemarle. This will take hundreds of vehicles off the Rt. 29 corridor, and save students the hours they spend on school buses. Many of our Rivanna Districts support the building of a school in their area.
Our technical school, CATEC (Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center) is also a valuable and underutilized resource in educating a well-rounded and productive population. I appreciate CATEC’s contribution to the sound and prosperous future of our younger residents, and the opportunity it gives to our older residents to reshape their future. Our students should be encouraged to discover what they love to do, and then pursue this activity for for a life-long fulfillment.
Our population needs to be mobile, to get to work on time, to spend less hours in traffic. Our residents should not be spending an hour on a bus to go 3 miles. Maybe that’s why are our buses empty most of the time. The system is clearly not meeting our residents’ demand.
We do need smaller buses, but not the high-dollar electric kind that will cost taxpayers in the millions. And the bus routes should be studied and redesigned – what a great summer “project focused” effort for high school students using data and programs and real-time experimentation, and a great way to earn extra credit towards college admission.
Perhaps we should be considering free-market “microtransit” solutions that could save the County tons of money – and transit riders lots of time. The County—perhaps in conjunction with the City using the county’s revenue sharing funds—could contract with a rideshare provider such as Via, Lyft or Uber. The services use apps and smart phones to group travelers in a single vehicle that share a destination. This also works well for disabled constituents who need a more direct service.
This is being done in Arlington,Texas and in Innifsil, Ontario.
I would not like to see the countryside defaced with (expensive taxpayer funded) rideshare lots. Carpooling should be a voluntary effort and individual decision.
I am proud of our clean air and clean water. Our County has no heavy industry, and 72 percent of County acreage is tree cover. We have a large and thriving agricultural and a growing viticultural community—all of which we must protect. These are the jewels of Albemarle County.
I do not think that our County staff —who are not farmers— should be micromanaging our farms and vineyards. Farmers remain the best stewards of their land.
Climate change is a complex issue involving the high-level, scientific understanding and interaction of geology, oceanography, meteorology—and astronomy. Some of the biggest climate alarmists have retreated from their positions. There is hardly a “scientific consensus.” And “renewable” energy is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Unlike my opponent, I attended and participated in Albemarle County’s “Climate Monday” meetings. In the staff reports that emerged from these, and from the invitation-only morning staff meetings for “key stakeholders,” County staff proposed an exorbitantly expensive “Climate Action Plan” with no cost-benefit analysis and no measures of effectiveness.
Absent was the participation of the Community who would be footing the bill. Again, empty seats.
County Supervisors should not be spending public money on directives from outside organizations and special interest groups; they should not be serving the citizens of any jurisdiction other than Albemarle County
Some of the measures discussed during these meetings involved taxpayer subsidies of 200-plus acre solar farms, and “free” electric charging stations for the private vehicles of County employees. Taxpayers should not have to spend $300,000 on specialized school buses when they can spend $100,000 on a comparable or superior standard bus.
What I was also hearing from these Climate Monday discussions is that basically farmers cannot be trusted to conserve their own land – when it is clearly in their interest to do so. My wife and I live in the country. We look after our wells, our soil. We would never poison the environment we live and work in . People who sit behind desks cannot micro-manage a farm through overbearing regulations, taxes and fees, and expect it to stay solvent.
An entirely new layer of bureaucracy — costing millions — would be required to monitor and enforce a huge array of regulations for householders, farmers and businesses.
The County’s “Climate Action Program” is a classic case of hidden, behind-the-scenes, government. A host of expensive ordinances, regulations and “incentive” programs were formatted, with no input from residents, with the support of well-funded lobbyists and businesses looking for County subsidies. Twenty-five people attended these “public” meetings, and lobbyists, cronies, and profiteers made up three-quarters of the participants. And although the County’s “Climate Monday” meetings were open to the public, they were barely publicized —hence the meetings were largely unattended. Sadly, those who did attend and questioned costs and cost-effectiveness were summarily dismissed.
The reports that came from these “working” meetings with the “key stakeholders”— the lobbyists, cronies, and profiteers cost taxpayers 2,000 hours of County staff time. And the resulting plans, when they were unveiled to the public, bore no resemblance to the “Sector Reports” that were issued by the County staff. The details never made it to the simplified poster versions at the final two “Climate Monday feedback” sessions. Crucial information had been omitted.
County taxpayers remain oblivious to this plan which will further burden lower- and middle- income residents. This money will come out of family budgets – it’s grocery money, rent money, tuition money, and utility bill money.
My opponent is completely on board with this expensive project, and has voted for similar measures in the past, when she held local office in Bradbury, California, (population 850), in Los Angeles County. My very strong position is that our elected officials should serve the needs and welfare of Albemarle County residents first and foremost. Expensive schemes such as this should be subjected to close public and professional scrutiny, with an eye to what benefits can be achieved and at what cost.
At some point, with all of the lavish spending and taxes needed to support these plans, people will vote with their feet – and move to lower tax counties. The same is true for newcomers looking for homes. That doesn’t bode well for the rest of us here in the County. Our property values could go down because there will be fewer buyers looking for homes here.
The County’s Climate Action Plan is a fantasy project that, along with other expensive schemes, will ultimately bankrupt the County.
LINKS AND SUPPORTING DOCUMENTATION
“One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy, with problems such as forest dying or ozone hole.” [Google translation]
On the Green New Deal:
“Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti continued. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”
The Real Arctic vs.The Imaginary Arctic: https://youtu.be/8hNQZhAXrjE
The Rice Video – Carbon Dioxide in perspective by The Galileo Movement
https://www.amazon.com/Climate Counter consensus Independent Professor Robert/dp/B00DO8N2P0
https://www.amazon.com/Climate Confusion Pandering Politicians Misguided/dp/1594033455
“Secrets of the Ice Ages: The Role of the Mediterranean Sea in climate change,” Robert G. Johnson (University of Minnesota), Glenjay Publishing, Minnetonka, Minnesota
Secrets of the Ice Ages: The Role of the Mediterranean Sea in climate change,” Robert G. Johnson (University of Minnesota), Glenjay Publishing, Minnetonka, Minnesota
See: Wall Street Journal, “If You Want ‘Renewable Energy,’ Get Ready to Dig,” by Mark P. Mills, Aug. 5, 2019