Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Augusta County in minority without staggered terms

Augusta Board of Supervisors Meeting
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
7:00 pm - Government Center
Rt. 11 in Verona

If you have an opinion or want to be better educated about the issue of staggered terms for the Augusta County supervisors, please come out to the meeting Wednesday when the public will be allowed to address the board. They do not seem interested in pursuing it unless they hear from you.

Augusta County stands alone in the SWAC area (Staunton-Waynesboro-Augusta County) in keeping steady four-year terms for their supervisors instead of staggering the terms to allow voter choices in closer intervals. Staunton and Waynesboro city councils have staggered terms.

According to the Waynesboro News-Virginian, out of the 95 counties in Virginia, 59 stagger their terms and 36 (including Augusta) don't. That means almost two-thirds of the other counties stagger their supervisor terms.

Monday's staff briefing (which was open to the public) was the usual stand-off among the supervisors. David at the Augusta Conservative has the video.

Tracy Pyles once again made the proposal after it had been tabled a month earlier. All he wants is an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the decision of whether to pursue the issue of staggered terms. If it is shot down by the board, the public will not get a voice.

Larry Howdyshell flip-flopped by again saying it sounded like a good idea but then added that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." He also commented that "people don't want to have an election every year" and it would save money by not having a separate supervisor election. That argument doesn't wash because in Virginia we have elections every single year. The only way to change that is at the General Assembly.

Jeremy Shifflett and Gerald Garber appear to be passing on the issue, maybe hiding behind the other supervisors?

Nancy Sorrells initially suggested the issue should be studied, but then she flip-flopped by giving reasons why to keep the status quo. A big concern on her behalf appeared to be that three seats would always come up during an assessment year so those three seats could possibly turn over more often. With someone running for election every two years, she was concerned it would politicize the process more than it is now. Her final concern was that next year, 2011 when the supervisors are next up for reelection, was not the time to implement a new policy if it were to be adopted.

David Beyeler echoed the "if it's not broke, don't fix it" theme and cited his 22 years on the board, experience, institutional background, and said there's no reason to change the way it's always been done. He said if supervisors weren't out talking to their constituents, they weren't doing their jobs. I would argue that 10,500 constituents spoke up loud and clear during the 2009 real estate assessments by signing petitions to roll back the high assessment values during an economic downfall, and 1,000 county residents spoke up loud and clear at a supervisor meeting in March 2009. They were, for the most part, ignored.

Wendell Coleman also used the "if it's not broke, why mess with it?" analogy and opined that a board elected all at the same time provides leadership. He used Staunton and Waynesboro by saying there are some things people don't want to do, other people do want, and they are going in different directions. I was a little confused by that comment. He said he's worked for the state government all his life and on the board seven years, that the learning curve is steep, and it should be left alone.

The issue would have been dead Monday except Supervisor Pyles asked that it be put on Wednesday's agenda.

David has followed up with a post about the newspaper coverage of this issue.

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