Suzanne Volpe, candidate for Loudoun BoS, Algonkian District

One of the things about politics and voter participation that has always perplexed/surprised/annoyed me is the huge interest people have in the national (specifically presidential) elections while exhibiting no interest in the local elections. While it’s not as much the case these days under the current Administration that you’re more affected by your local government than the national one, it’s certainly not the reverse, either. Who gets elected as one of the 9 Supervisors in Loudoun County’s government is every bit as important if you happen to live here.

With the recent redistricting I am no longer part of the Potomac District. I’m now in the newly-minted “Algonkian” District. Our current Supervisor, Andrea McGimsey, has been “districted” out of the area and, therefore, this is an open seat. At present, there’s exactly 1 person who has announced her candidacy, Suzanne Volpe, a Republican. Suzanne has been a long-time activist here in Loudoun and is very active in the LCRC. While it’s true that you can’t be active politically and not generate enemies and general ill-will in certain people, the level of rhetoric against her candidacy from people who are supposedly on the same side of the political spectrum has gone from “opposition” to “foaming at the mouth.” Kinda crazy. Rather than engage in some kind of nebulous name-calling exercise, how about we look at Suzanne’s positions on the issues and actually address them? These issues and the position statements are take from her web site’s “Issues” page.

The first group is called “Getting the Most Out of Our Government.”

  • Conduct a government wide management audit; implement its recommendations
  • Reverse the upward spiral of property taxes through more efficient government and building a broader business tax base
  • Restructure and simplify county operations to be less top-heavy and more consumer-friendly with fewer departments and department heads and more front-line service personnel
  • Improve the relationship between the county government and HOAs through collaboration and cooperation to improve services for our neighborhoods

OK, these are issue positions not detailed operations plans so I expect them to be more broad-brush. I have no problems with any of these stances. Putting more people in actual public-facing service positions is especially nice. Volpe’s past work experience with an HOA would make her more sensitive than I to the relationships between HOA’s and the County government. I’d like more detail on what she means by “collaboration” but it’s a good thing to look into.

Next up, “Taxes & The Budget”:

  • Professionalize the budget process by moving to biennial budget instead of a rushed, three-week process
  • Properly fund our rainy day fund, allowing for better planning for changes in the economic outlook
  • Adjust the tax rate to level tax collections

Anyone who has an issue with the first of these positions hasn’t paid attention to the ridiculous circus of a budget process that’s in place now. I’d like more detail on what “properly funding” the rainy day fund looks like, but I certainly want a cushion there. I’m a strong believer in tax rates being pretty much the same for everyone.

Next is “Economic Development”:

  • Put in place a world-class, professional investment promotion program that rivals the success of neighboring jurisdictions, with a focus on attracting businesses to Loudoun County.
  • Conduct first-rate events to showcase Loudoun County to potential investors.
  • Establish a “one-stop-shop” where customer service representatives can help current or new businesses navigate the county government´s regulations.

If you want the business, you have to market yourself. Loudoun County is no different. Acres of trees and grass might look lovely in a painting, but they don’t generate revenue that keeps your property taxes down. i especially like that last one. There is no reason to make starting and maintaining a business a regulatory maze or to make business owners jump through hoops to comply with our laws. Getting those owners the guidance they need in 1 place will only make Loudoun a more attractive place to open a store.

Education:

  • Provide a more hands on approach for parents and school officials, giving them more input in the education of our children.
  • Improve planning and school design to end the irregular movements of kids from school to school due to poor planning, overcrowding, and underutilization of schools.
  • Analyze school operations, spending, and performance in an effort to end the annual threats of teacher layoffs and punitive reductions in popular programs to extort even larger budgets

I would argue that school officials already have input into the education of our children. In fact, I would argue that they’ve shown some cases where they had too much input and parents not enough. I firmly believe that any approach to input be 100% transparent – these are public schools and the precise answers to who makes a given decision and who was involved needs to be publicly available. So far as I’m concerned, there should never be a closed-door meeting where any kind of school policy or curriculum decision is being discussed. This one’s a little vague, though, so I’d need to hear what she means. School operations should be examined and audited regularly to assure that what’s being spent for is actually done as well as determining whether the schools are engaging in activity outside the mission scope of what our schools should be doing.

“Public Safety”:

  • Boost community programs such as neighborhood watch to in order to improve our ability to eliminate gang activity.
  • Develop and implement effective solutions to deal with illegal immigration and its effect on neighbors
  • Modernize Fire/Safety Services, while addressing the ongoing conflicts between the volunteer and paid staff
  • Equip the Sheriff.s Office with the means necessary to firmly and efficiently crack down on the increasing prevalence of violent crime.

In order: Good, good idea but what do you mean?, didn’t know there was a conflict between paid and volunteer emergency teams, and, again, good idea but what do you mean?

“Transportation”:

  • Relieve the overstressed transportation networks by improving regional planning, finishing feeder networks, and introducing a traffic hotline.
  • Introduce smart transportation innovations to keep traffic moving and to improve safety
  • Complete a review of all outstanding transportation proffers to determine methods to expedite completion of developer-proffered transportation improvements
  • Make the transportation budget a priority

As long as the regional planning has as its primary goal the relief of traffic congestion and not maintaining someone’s “viewshed” I’m in. I’d also like to know what she means by a traffic hotline and what good she thinks that will do. Smart transportation innovations are great, but what is meant in this context? All of the proffered transport improvements should be audited and builders who made them should be pressured to get them complete before  they get to complete their building projects.

In all, I’m not finding anything objectionable here, which tells me the issues people have are with Volpe’s personal beliefs. So someone’s going to have to get quite specific about what those things are and why they would be a problem if they intend to have people listen to them
and consider them anything but noise.

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