Into the (Political) Arena

The subjects for this blog will be related to local, regional and, on occasion, state politics. It is NOT associated with any political party or special interest group. It is my hope that all sides will boldly venture into the arena to do battle on behalf of their candidate or to defend a position. As is the case in the rough and tumble world of politics rules will be kept to a minimum. However, keep the comments at least PG rated. If you resort to name calling you are admitting defeat.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tea Party-The Sequel-How will it Play at the State and Local Level?

A recent story in the Washington Post caught my attention regarding the Virginia Tea Party's plans to get involved in state and local elections to, "build a network of officials who someday rise through the ranks and compete for statewide (and I would presume federal) offices."

As one goes down the political food chain from federal to state to local not only does the amount of authority held by each level change but so does the focus. At the Federal level the debate focuses around programs, policies, and federal vs. state authority; while at the local level debates center more around service issues like education, pot holes, and trash pick-up. It got me wondering how the Tea Party message of overreaching, inefficient (corrupt) government and high taxes will translate to the more practical issues faced at the state and local level?

In my quest for losing a pound or two, and answering this nagging Tea Party question, I put aside my frozen, microwavable, Lean Cuisine entre, Google searched the Virginia Tea Party, and spent my lunch hour drafting a question or two which have now been forwarded on. So now we wait for a response...........

I read with interest the Tea Party's plans to get involved in local and state elections as a way groom like-minded individuals for higher office. I have been involved in Republican politics since the early 80's and spent the last eight years as a City Councilman in Fredericksburg. Up to this point the Tea Party's message has been rather broad--government has gotten too big, overreaching, and taxes are too high--and has been directed primarily at the federal government. I would be very interested in knowing what the message and agenda will be in dealing with state, and local issues. Below are a few questions regarding issues faced at the state/local level . Thank you in advance for taking the time to address them--

THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT--For some, the main issue is not whether taxes are too high, but rather what is the legitimate role of government--federal, state, and local. A major part of the debate regarding taxes would be dealt with if we first establish what we should be paying for.

Does the Tea Party have the same view that like the feds, the size and scope of state and local governments also needs to be reduced? What specific issues, if any, does the party have with state and local governments?

THE DILLION RULE (Mandates)-- As you may be aware local jurisdictions have only the authority specifically granted to it by the state. This places pretty stringent restrictions on the authority of localities to both govern and provide taxes to support services --some of which are mandated by both the state and feds. State and federal funding continues to be cut and localities are left to make up the difference in areas like education, Constitutional Officers (Don't know why we still have them), and law enforcement.

Localities are looking for more flexibility in dealing with mandates (funded and unfunded) and in having more options in covering the cost of services--yes taxes would be on the table. But at the local level revenues stay local and for the most part pays for services. And residents have more of a say over the decisions of local government than at any other level.

Would the Tea Party support the repeal or significant modifications, of the Dillon Rule? What would be the party's position on fed/state mandates to localities unfunded and funded (never fully)?

TRANSPORTATION--Transportation I would hope we would all agree is a governmental responsibility. I hope we would all also agree that transportation in the Commonwealth of Virginia is a mess. The cost of maintenance continues to grow, and traditional revenue sources such as the gas tax continue to decline, leaving less money for needed road and transit improvements. The Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization's (FAMPO--Spotsylvania, Stafford & Fredericksburg) 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan includes roughly $10 Billion in projects to maintain current levels of service. Over that same time FAMPO can expect only $3 billion in funding. A bit short.

Like many localities we are now looking at how the region will develop to see if changes can be made to streamline our transportation needs. We are also looking at funding alternatives such as toll roads. And there is no doubt that we also need to streamline the approval process for projects. But those efforts will not get us out of the hole we are in.

What is the Tea Party's position regarding future sustainable funding for transportation? Or are there other approaches to take short of additional funding that I have not addressed?

EDUCATION FUNDING (We will save a discussion on Education itself for another day)--The City of Fredericksburg has the lowest median income and the highest percentage of residents on fixed incomes in the region. It also, due to its size, has limited economic development opportunities. Currently the city is covering 80% of its school budget with local funds while adjacent counties which are more affluent, and have greater economic potential, are paying roughly 50%. The state formula for education is antiquated and ignores the current economic realities faced by localities in Virginia. This issue actually transcends just education to the issue of state support to localities in general. But for now we will stick to the educational component.

What is the Tea Party's position regarding the funding of education but also on how it is funded? Local vs. state.

These of course are only a few of the issues faced by state and local elected officials. Nor do they cover all aspects of the issues brought forward. Just trying to get an idea of the practical applications of the Tea Party philosophy at the local level. I look forward to your response.

I do hope I receive some answer's to my queries as my effort supports the Tea Party goal, " to encourage and facilitate citizen participation in the political process and empower all citizens with a voice and influence..." Should I receive an answer I will post it for further discussion.

I know there are many of you out there who would take issue with my questions and how they were posed. Please feel free to comment, or if you prefer, take a swing at a figurative sense.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Irene Egan (I), Aquia District, Stafford

Life was easier and less worrisome when I stuck to the routine of going to work, getting the kids to school, attending soccer games on the weekend and indulging in an occasional dinner on Saturday night with friends. Yes, that was easier, but I chose to make things a little more interesting by getting more involved in my community. I chose to not be one of those that sit on the sidelines Monday morning quarterbacking, and slinging pot shots at those who are in there making tough decisions, so I threw my hat in the ring and am running for Supervisor. It was a big decision for me and I stand by my decision to do so. As this campaign moves closer to November 3rd, I am reaffirmed each day that being an Independent is the right place to be. As I run into those on both sides of the aisle who subscribe to the beliefs and policies of the extreme wings of their parties, I wonder how they expect to ever get anything done. I’ve realized that with some, politics does become very personal – sadly, some being incapable of checking their politics at the door at any kind of public gathering or event. I have to wonder how some of those folks will be able to foster an environment of political compromise and goal setting if their inability to maintain the basics of civil interaction continues to be stunted.

Regardless of the outcome of this election, my hopes for this Board include gaining representatives who show respect and restraint with each other and the public - that each of us can agree to disagree even when ideologies are at their most polar opposite, and that each member can leave the Board chambers by saying “good night” rather than sounding like Lemmon and Matthau (rest their souls) in the film Grumpy Old Men. One can dream. But in the meantime, a little about me and my campaign……

I am the right candidate at the right time. I reflect the population of this county – I’m the wife of a law enforcement officer and mother of young, school-aged athletic children, a taxpayer, and the daughter of a retired widow on a fixed income. I am the daughter-in-law of a disabled, retired Marine veteran, the sister of woman who just lost her job and finally, the friend of many people who deal with the same difficult challenges I do on a daily basis. I have the experience and the availability to be the voice of my community members here in Stafford while they are spending their time commuting and working in order to make ends meet. Stafford residents can trust that they have a voice back here at home when they can’t be here.

When elected, I will concentrate on improving our parks and fields so that all Stafford children have a place to play – recreationally or competitively. I will work with our friends and colleagues on the School Board to ensure that our schools stay competitive and that we have the best teachers staying right here in Stafford. I will concentrate on making sure that every tax payer has equal fire and EMS protections no matter where they reside in the County – and that the Sheriff’s office has every available tool they need to keep our streets and our families safe. Education, safety, security and recreation make up the core of this community. It’s time to bring the focus back to our community and I’m asking the residents of the Aquia District to help me do that on November 3rd.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

(Some) Candidate's Vision

I e-mailed the Stafford and Spotsylvania Board of Supervisors candidates (except for Mr. Goss for whom I did not have an e-mail) providing them the opportunity to submit a piece of 800 words or less on any topic they felt was important for the voters to know. Six candidates acknowledged the request and three submitted posts. I would like to thank the three candidates who took the time to avail themselves of this opportunity.

Having been a candidate I understand the hesitancy to take the time to respond to a request which come from outside the jurisdiction and may be read by only a few. As an elected official I appreciate the effort to respond to a request for information regardless of the source. It's part of the job.

This area is the fourth largest fastest growing region in the Commonwealth. The impact of the decisions made in Spotsylvania and Stafford regarding such issues like growth and transportation will extend beyond those jurisdictional boundaries. Recognizing this reality should be at least a consideration in determining the outcome of these elections.

I hope that the other candidates will still consider dropping in a line or two. And again my apologies to Mr. Goss for not being able to reach him. I have posted the responses received below in the order that they were received. I encourage readers to comment and candidates to respond.

Gary Snellings (R), Hartwood District, Stafford

I truly believe the most important reason that any individual, regardless of party affiliation, would want to run for public office is the desire to see something better come when he/she is elected. With my experience and track record of success, I will be that representative who hits the ground running and is able to restore confidence in our local government.

I served on the Stafford Board of Supervisors from 2002-2005, representing the citizens of the Hartwood District. I am proud of our accomplishments on the Board, especially on the economic side of the issues. During my tenure, Stafford experienced a 45% economic growth rate, the second highest for any locality in Virginia. Employment grew by 5% annually, resulting in 7,000 new jobs for the citizens of Stafford County. We achieved this by preserving the principles that made Stafford the Business Friendly Community that it should be. Unfortunately since I left the Board in 2005, the current majority on the Board has been extremely unfriendly to our small business men and women.

During these hard economic times that are especially tough on the small business person, the Current Majority on the Board has levied the B.P.O.L Tax and Transportation Tax on Small Business Owners. This is in addition to large increases in our property assessments.

Outside of the obvious problems with the economy, I believe we need to take a different approach to our education in Stafford, one that is based more on commonsense. We have to put more money directly into the classroom. Nothing can substitute for happy teachers, excellent resources and the most technologically up to date classrooms for our students. The only way we can prepare our next generation for their time in the workforce or continuing on to higher education is by spending money directly on them. Unfortunately, the current Board sees this differently than I.

For the first time in memory, Stafford’s teachers make less than their counterparts in Spotsylvania County. This overtaking of Stafford Teachers also came in the same year that the majority on the Board gave themselves a 22% pay raise, led by my opponent.

The other major issues that have fueled my desire to regain this position are Transportation and Public Safety, both of which touch on the overall safety of our community. We need to focus on making improvements to our primary and secondary road systems to ensure a car ride is as safe as we can possibly make it. Unfortunately, the County does not have the proper funds to undertake any monster projects or road widening, but that does not mean there is not enough to correct hazardous intersections and stretches of road.

Even with the Economy, Education, Public Safety and Transportation, the most important issue in my campaign is the voters. The citizens of Stafford County deserve a more civil, productive Board of Supervisors. That is why I invite anyone and everyone to call me, send me an email or attend any of my public functions to get to know me, my campaign and the issues. Only together can we make our community better, which is why I need your help to understand what issues are important to you, the resident of Stafford County.

If you have any questions about my campaign, please do not hesitate to contact me via email at or visit my website at

Susan Stimpson (R), Falmouth District, Stafford

I am seeking election as the Falmouth District member of the Stafford County Board of Supervisors and I’m running as the candidate of unity, opportunity and personal freedoms. I have a vision for our county of how we can create a stronger local economy by having business-friendly policies.

Of working toward creating a Science and Technology Center that would allow the many talented people who live in Stafford to work in Stafford, which allows more time for our families and community.

Of managing growth with better planned roads and making developers pay their fair share for things like transportation and schools.

Of returning to a partnership between the Board of Supervisors and the School Board. Both boards have the same constituents and it is a joint responsibility to ensure that every dollar is put to its best use. Those dollars need to find their way to the classrooms. No more hollow words that teachers deserve a raise. Let’s make it happen.

I’m a graduate of Mary Washington College and have my Masters in Public Administration but I have real-world experience of bringing people together and solving problems whether it's through my leadership as the Chairman of my homeowner's association or as the Children's Ministry Coordinator at Falmouth Baptist Church.

I married a Marine (Go Navy!) and we have lived around the country and raised our family while Dan served. But we chose to return to the area that I fell in love with during college for his retirement.

While it’s true I have enjoyed leading the Stafford GOP as their Chairman and sharing in its many successes, it has become obvious to me that good local government is not about partisan battles. There are many differences between those Democrats in DC and Stafford Republicans but this race is not about those differences.

This race is about choosing the most effective leader for Falmouth; someone who will work with the other members of the Board to move Stafford forward. It’s not about today’s partisan bickering. It’s about results for Stafford and I am ready to lead.

This is an important election because many of the things we hold dear are in jeopardy.

Our world is in unprecedented financial turmoil. Business is slow. Our savings and 401k's are shrinking. Almost every family has either had someone who lost a job or knows someone who has, or worries at night about their own job. It has affected us all. And the new majority on the Board of Supervisors is more interested in partisan infighting than they are in you and me.

The worst and last thing a leader should do in these times is prevent new jobs from being created. Yet that is exactly what the current majority has done. They have adopted anti-opportunity measures such as levying taxes on businesses that want to create jobs here in Stafford County.

The current majority believes that, having come to Stafford and achieved opportunity for themselves, they want to now cut if off from others.

They have even, in their arrogance, gone so far as to cancel the county’s membership in the Chamber of Commerce.

It’s time we had leaders who operate out of what is best for their constituency.

Secondly, where there’s arrogance there is sure to be strife. The current majority has become so politically motivated and polarized, they spend more time fighting than passing legislation that makes the lives of all of us here in Stafford better.

This doesn't make them representatives this makes them just politicians.

I want to represent the people of Falmouth because I am, quite simply, one of them. I'm the mom with the school-aged kids. As having recently completed a government contract as a Budget Analyst at the State Department, I was the commuter who wished I could work here in Stafford. I'm active in my church because I want my community to be stronger.

My commitment is to bring to the current board:

1. A vision for Stafford both long and short-term.

2. A boldness to act on behalf of the citizenry to live their lives in unfettered freedom.

3. To be a force of unity, seeking common ground inside the board and between the board and other governing bodies.

4. To return Stafford to a pro-unity stance so that new, clean safe jobs are brought to the area.
To this end, I propose to work toward the establishment of a research and technology center here in Stafford– where the jobs of the future will come from.

I have the commitment, energy and passion to make the lives of Stafford families better year by year through increased opportunity. I have the real-world experience as both a professional in the work force and as a leader in the community to take my vision for Stafford and work with other members of the Board to make Stafford the best place to live, work and raise a family.