Okie, I haven't done much in "covering" the local election. There seem to be many more moving pieces in this election than there have been in any of the ones that I can remember! I've watched two of the candidate forums and that's new to me as well. I never had to go through one of those although it looks like it would be cool to participate in. Below is a video of the forum put on by Osbourn's Model UN club. There have been three others as well. I'm pretty sure this is the last one.
Before I get going, I feel compelled to put this out there: I've heard from a couple of different quarters that somehow or other I blindsided the republican leadership by not running. It is true that I never publicly indicated that I wasn't running. I did, however, have dinner with the republican leadership just about 20 months ago and told them that if they wanted to be assured of a full slate that they would need at least 4 candidates as I wouldn't commit. That dinner was at a sushi restaurant and there were 4 of us there. If the leadership was blindsided they must've encountered some sort of medical problem. I'd also point out that if the only thing holding someone back from running was my decision that they didn't want it that bad anyway.
The sign stealing continues unabated. The democrats are being hit the hardest although Sheryl is suffering some losses as well. Many of the signs in old town had the metal supports stolen last night – my Sheryl sign took a hit but I had metal supports from one of my signs to use. It's juvenile and ridiculous. I'll be happy when this is over. Some sign loss is expected, I had one run over and Steve Randolph had one set on fire (!) but this is well beyond that.
I've just blown back into town from a convention in Atlantic City. A quick 2-day affair for an Information Technology Trade Association that my firm belongs to. I was never much of a believer in these things previously but they've proved their worth over the longer haul. Expanding horizons is a good thing. I seem to end up at one of these events about every 6 weeks. Some folks think that the travel is glamorous or some such but after awhile, it can be a real grind, especially if you're traveling alone. I do better with the fam on travel.
Atlantic City is really experiencing some significant head winds. The opening of casinos in surrounding states is really hurting the economy there. They have 4 casinos that have closed and expect to lose a 5th in December. This has the potential to really feed on itself. The lack of investment in the older casinos was really showing the last time I was there about 5 years ago. The boardwalk is kind of cool and Caesars is nice but I walked down the beach and went into the Plaza….the word that comes to mind is "grimy". I stayed at Bally's this time around and, while it ain't bad, it's getting close to faded glory. The weight room appears to have been stolen from a 70's Bond flick. I half expected Pussy Galore or OddJob to walk out of a door. The rooms were passable but clearly outdated. Wifi was $10 for 2 hours!!! and there weren't many outlets in the room. The mattress was old and had been "topped" with one of those gel things. I know because I did the same thing to save money but rapidly concluded it, well, sucked.
AC still does have several significant Casinos that are newer that will provide good anchors and the outlet stores when you first come into town are really nice. It's hard for me to tell how this works out. Remember Jersey is a very different place than VA – I don't think the government there will hesitate for too long to get involved. In addition, the Hotel Workers unions are also trying to get the closed casinos sold and back in business but that doesn't seem likely to me – especially for the old ones. The Revel, which is 3-4 years old probably has the best shot but that isn't for certain either. Surrounding states continue to open casinos and, if you're a gambler, you really don't care if you go to Maryland or Jersey to gamble.
In addition, about 30% (if memory serves) of the visitors to AC also make day trips to other Jersey shore towns – Cape May, Wildwood, etc. so the damage isn't limited to just AC. Thats a big impact on those towns as well….
Well, well….looks like we're gonna have us a little candidates forum. Mark over at HMI asked me to put this up here so folks would know that it's happening. Since we don't have a paper anymore, I agreed. This should be a relatively interesting deal. We have 4 candidates and 3 jobs. The candidates are also pretty diverse in terms of worldview and experience. You have Mr. Aveni who has 8 years in office. He is pretty far to the right and his priorities are social and budget issues. Also in the mix we have Sheryl Bass who has a bunch of years in government experience divided between the School Board and Council. She's a bit right of center and her priorities will be oriented more towards what I would call traditional local government activities.
Also up for election are Ken Elston and Patricia Richie-Folks who are with the newly resurgent democrat party in Manassas. They're both newcomers to elected office and I've chatted with both a bit. I think they'll be pretty centrist (at least on local issues) in their thinking and voting. However, you just don't know until you actually have to vote! Ultimately at least 1 of the democrats will get elected and that's bound to change the Council's thinking somewhat. That has the potential to be positive. I'd rather they were republican candidates but new blood and thinking can be useful in the life of any organization. Hard to tell how that will emerge or what it will look like but whatever happens we need to pull together for our shared success! Come on out and see the candidates for yourself!
This will not be televised as the City's TV channel can't be used for political activities. I wonder who gave that opinoin and intend to seek clarification. I can understand that we can't run ads for the republican party but the citizens interest is certainly served by being able to see their candidates in action…
Mark another notch in my long Fall of Lasts: College Night! I have a confession: I was not tremendously excited to go to college night. I knew it would be mobbed and outside of Manassas – but my daughter thought it would be important so I went. It was, indeed, mobbed and at Patriot HS but tolerable.
A little about the setting into which I ventured: I've heard a lot about PW County's new High Schools. Patriot is a nice school, the layout is a little wonky and the parking lots were shoe-horned in but it's beautiful. There were, as expected, legions of teenage girls in "the uniform": jeans tight enough to threaten some interstellar maxim, knee-high boots, whatever shirt and a smartphone dangling perilously from their back pocketses. Easily snatchable whenever an urgent text needs to be dashed off. The boys, as always, suffer from the same malady that teenage boys have always: "huh"? That sort of "other" state teenage boys inhabit. Somewhere between too cool to be bothered and keeping an eye out for the previously mentioned girl….whilst hanging out with his bros. The layout of the cafeteria at Patriot is a bit of a divided affair. The kitchen seems to be in the middle of the space and so divides it in two. This does keep noise down but constrains the space a little. I'm sure it works fine for serving kids lunch but when the space was filled with bewildered parents, children and colleges it got pretty jammed. We were not, however, window shopping. We had a plan and a list of colleges to visit.
We visited with the normal big VA schools – VCU, VT and UVa and the I-81 corridor list of schools – Hollins, Mary Baldwin, etc. We also chatted with folks from Alabama and Kentucky, mainly because they were there. See, Sarah and I have been oddly fortunate – our daughter is a diligent student and scored well on her tests (SAT, ACT). This means she has options! And the options are so much easier to quantify these days. I don't remember if we had college visits when I was a kid but I certainly had almost no information about all of the different colleges in Virginia. I think there was a huge guidebook that was published and I might have had some info from guidance…but that was it. These days, there is a website where you put in your preferences (small school, hard to get int, etc) and it'll give you a list of colleges! In any event, the recruiters were very nice and, since most of the parents had the same motivation – to get the hell out of there – it went as well as can be expected. The only thing I would have done differently would have been to put Va Tech and VCU in the main cafeteria rooms instead of the side hallways. Those are big schools and lots of people wanted to talk to them so it was a bit of a mess.
Overall it was enjoyable and Erin did better as the night went on in interacting with the college recruiters. The recruiters are, necessarily, approachable people but they're still adults and it can be a bit of a challenge. So, that's done and we have a little more information about the college situation. No, we haven't made a decision yet. I really don't expect that will happen for some months yet.
Just a couple of quick hits:
1. For all of you that were wound up about the re-write to the zoning code, the draft of the first stage will be reviewed in a Land Use meeting on Thursday night. This would be the definitions section and the review appears to be right on schedule. No, I don't know if there is specific language on abortion clinics but I'm guessing we'll find out on Thursday.
2. The "Stormwater Utility" is one step closer to reality. I really don't like the thing – it's essentially just another tax that will fund Chesapeake Bay related stuff. I think if the Feds want the bay cleaned up, they should have the guts to pay for it themselves but that isn't the trend these days. We'll cover that on Tuesday. Plus, it just distracts our Public Works and utilities people who seem to struggle somewhat with their current workload.
3. Yet another work session on opening Lake Manassas. Why on earth we continue to beat this particular dead horse I don't understand. 2 things: 1: if you think it can be done at no cost to the citizens of Manassas, you're dreaming. If the water utility wants to spend money on recreation, they can fund a Parks & Rec department for the citizens. 2: why we spend time considering funding & opening a water attraction 10 miles outside the city while we have no Parks & Rec program is beyond me. I'm sure the residents of PWC would appreciate it but we should be spending our time on sorting out the problems we already have….inside the city limits. Also on Tuesday