Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What does it take?

Henrico County government dropped the ball again keeping their libraries open until 9:00 PM long after any sensible person was safely at home. Chesterfield County libraries closed at 7:00 PM which, frankly, was a couple of hours later than should have been.

What I find frustrating is that no news outlet in the Richmond area has seen fit to do even a back page story on this issue. I guess it will take someone's spouse, parent or child getting killed before anyone pays attention and maybe not then unless it's an otherwise slow news day.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow Days

Every time it snows decisions have to be made such as whether to close offices or cancel meetings. My preference is to err on the side of safety. That is why I postponed yesterday's Chesterfield County Planning Commission meeting from yesterday afternoon and night to tomorrow. On the other hand, Henrico County's preference seems to be not to worry all that much about safety of its employees. I thought that attitude might change when a new county manager took over but that has not proved to be the case.

Here are two examples. Yesterday in Chesterfield County government offices, including libraries, closed at 5:00 PM. Salaried employees sent home in the middle of their shifts were paid through the end of their shifts. In Henrico County, libraries closed at 7:00 PM reflecting a decision that wasn't announced until 6:15 PM. It remains to be seen whether salaried employees will have to use vacation time if they want to be paid for those two hours off.

This morning Chesterfield County government offices opened at 10:30 AM. Salaried employees who made it in by that time will be paid for a full day's work. In Henrico, employees were allowed to report at 10:00 AM but if they did and wanted to be paid for missed hours, they had to use personal leave time.

Sure, serving the public is important but I'm not talking about emergency services provided by fire fighters, police officers and EMTs. I'm talking about mundane, easy to put off stuff like going to the library. Given last night's weather, there weren't even a handful of patrons taking advantage of the fact that Henrico's libraries were open two hours later than Chesterfield's.

So, Henrico County, I know you're going to say you do care about your employees along with a bunch of irrelevant blah blah blah about serving the public ad nauseam. But, putting employees at risk to provide services that aren't going to be used accomplishes nothing except to cause people to conclude you really don't care much about your employees' welfare.

You Don't Know What You've Got Until It's Gone

Most of my regrets relate to things I failed to say or do. I have another such regret to add to that list.

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of my friend, the Reverend Doctor James F. McClellan, Jr. I wish I had made the time for him that would have allowed me to say "my close, personal friend."

I had probably heard him or someone else say, before yesterday, what a great baseball fan he was. In September, my sons and I were in Kansas City, MO and one of the things we did was visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in that city. I wish I had sat down with Jim to talk about that visit. I'll bet he would have had some tidbits of information that would have added to my understanding of what it was like for those players. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that he had knowledge or memorabilia or insights that would have made a great addition to that museum's collection. Based on what I heard yesterday, he would have enjoyed such a conversation as much as I would have. I wish ...

Jim McClellan was a great contributor to our society. All of us should try to be like him. He will be missed.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

In Home Day-Care

There was a time, not too long ago, when applications for a conditional use permit to operate a family day-care home breezed through the Chesterfield Planning Commission with little controversy and no opposition. If any neighbors showed up at a community meeting or the public hearing, it was to express support for the applicant.

This article on CBS 6's web pages, Daycare dilemma; owner fights to keep doors open,  about an application for a family home day-care in Brandermill is an example of the controversy and opposition that some of  these cases are now generating.

There is a lot that could be said about this issue but this post is about one specific sentence in the linked article. The sentence reads, "The county is looking to the BCA for guidance." That is not precisely accurate because the implication is that the contents of restrictive covenants on residences in Brandermill will determine the recommendation of the Chesterfield Planning Commission. Some members of the Commission do hold the opinion that we should consider restrictive covenants when making recommendations to the Board of Supervisors. I do not agree with that view. 

In my opinion, it is not the role of the Planning Commission to consider contractual relationships in making its decisions. Restrictive covenants are contracts among home owners. If disputes arise among the parties to a contract, those disputes are properly resolved by the parties themselves or, as a last resort, by the courts. Neither the Chesterfield Planning Commission nor the Chesterfield Planning Department has the expertise or the resources to make judgments on contracts. Due process, rules of evidence, and a host of other legal requirements are likely to be violated if a bunch of amateurs (even intelligent, highly motivated amateurs) start trying to act as judge and jury in legal disputes between adversarial parties. Our job is to determine whether such things as applications for rezoning and conditional use (among others related to land use) are in the best interest of Chesterfield County and its citizens.

Therefore, when this, or any other case, comes up for a vote by the Planning Commission, I will not consider opinions or assertions on what contracts require the applicant or other interested parties to do or not do. I'll make my decisions on the merits of each case related to land use in Chesterfield County and on the health, safety and welfare of the residents of the county.