Too often we are hearing from those in City Hall that they are doing what is required to inform the public. Posting documents and notices on line, placing public notices in the paper for public hearings as per state law but without any context. This is tantamount to saying public involvement is something to be dealt with not embraced. This attitude, in part, has contributed to the decline of public participation. The result is a wealth of knowledge, new ideas, and different perspectives not being considered or utilized. At a time when the city is facing many challenges we can use all the help we can get. And there needs to be a realization of who the boss is–The public.
· Continue to go beyond, “the letter of the law,” to engage the public in city issues—blogs, FredTalk, Facebook, OpEds etc.
· Work with the local press to put issues in context to better inform the public.
· Actively engage civic organizations in the decision making process
THE END TO BUSINESS AS USUAL:
No matter the adversity there are always opportunities. While presenting significant challenges to local governments in providing levels of service expected by residents; the current precipitous downturn in the economy has given us a good kick in our complacency. Cutting spending by itself is not the answer. Neither is raising taxes when both residents and business are also under significant financial stress. With no end to this situation in the foreseeable future local government must abandon, " the business as usual approach." Instead it must not only restructure itself to do more with less; but also take a long term pro-active approach in planning for development which is sustainable, less susceptible to fluctuations in the economy, and provide the needed revenues to support the services residents expect.
· Work with our regional neighbors to identify where, through joint efforts, we can reduce costs.
· Working closely with our state and federal elected officials to deal with issues of unfunded mandates and over regulation.
· Looking beyond the next budget and better plan for expenses and d development.
I cannot understand those who justify raising taxes because our tax rate is lower than other localities or those who oppose tax increases on the basis that taxes are too high. The issue for me is not the level of taxes but rather the level of service residents expects, and as a community, we can afford. When that question is answered then we take on the issue of how we raise the revenue to provide that level of service.
· Have a community discussion to identify the services and priorities that residents expect.
· Look for opportunities to partner with the business community in helping with infrastructure and service costs.
· Revamp tourism and economic development efforts to bring in more revenue from business and visitors.
“Even before the recent economic crash it was evident the city needed to diversify its tax base. The retail boom of the '90s, which provided revenue for new schools, pools, and services, fell victim to regional competition, and as a result, revenues declined. Incentives were seen as an approach to deal with this problem.
Incentives through tax rebates were to be used to recruit businesses that provided higher-end employment or opportunities that would attract new visitors to the city. New businesses downtown would fit the city's historic character. Better-paying jobs and tourism would not only help the city's bottom line but also would help support existing businesses. The ultimate beneficiary would be city taxpayers.”
· Ensure that incentives meet city goals of diversifying the tax base. In the case of our historic downtown that businesses are compatible with its character.
· Work actively with the local business/educational community to identify business opportunities and infrastructure issues that need to be addressed and how.
· Be open to working with our regional neighbors on economic development opportunities
“As we consider the future development of our communities we must keep three simple truths in the fore front of our deliberations. That these parks are both unique and irreplaceable. That people do not travel from across the country or from around the world to visit a retail store. That the average positive impact of a retail development is around fifteen years while the positive economic impact of these battlefields (and other historic sites) will last for generations as long as we continue to protect them.”
In addition to the battlefield the city has a historic downtown and numerous historic sites and buildings for which the above statement would apply.
· Move forward with the recommendations of the Preservation Plan
· Revisit establishing a preservation advisory committee with the National Park Service, HFFI and the UMW Preservation Dept. and residents to assist the city in meeting preservation goals.
· Work on interpretive programs to make our historic sites more tourists friendly.
“You’re going to get a lot of people pushing to open that river up,” Kelly said. “Be very, very careful of taking an asset that we want to pass on to future generations and basically degrading it by granting everything everyone seems to be pushing for right now. …”
“At the end of the day, what I want to be able to do is say, alright, [GWRC], if you want to take care of transportation, these are the projects you’re going to need, this is how much it’s going to cost, this is how much we’re going to get from the state… if you want us to be able to come up with transportation solutions, are you willing to pay for it?” Kelly said.
Kelly called for reform of the way transportation projects are funded, specifically to give the population growth of a jurisdiction more weight in the formula that allocates funding. Communities that have higher rates should receive more funding to address the extra infrastructure required. He also said further devolution of responsibilities from VDOT to local communities will be necessary.
“VDOT needs to run the major highways and major arterials, but on secondary roads, if we had the capabilities to do that ourselves I think we as localities or regions… we could design and build them per VDOT standards, and I think we could get them built quicker and with less hassle and with less overheard than we’re currently doing,” Kelly said.
· Work with state representatives, our regional partners (FAMPO) and the Commonwealth Transportation Board, to address funding inequities for transportation maintenance and construction funding.
· Look for innovative regional approaches using FAMPO/VDOT to get local transportation projects completed faster and at less cost. More local control.
· Move forward with regional scenario planning to get a handle on future transportation needs to include making transit and trails more viable regional options.
What the Hell are You Doing?