Parrish for Senate!

At long last!  I have been hoping that Hal would run for Mr. Colgan's senate seat and what do I see when I open the facetube this morning?  It's official.  Hal's in.

I'm glad to see that it's official.  Hal's a good guy and he will always do what is in Manassas' best interest.  I know that he will continue Mr. Colgan's support of the City.  It is always comforting to know that your representatives in higher office are absolutely dedicated to the City.  We might not always agree on policy but that's ok.  Hal's long record of service to the community is admirable and, while I think he's got big shoes to fill, he's more than capable.

Hope that everyone gets onboard and supports Hal.  I know that I do.

Posted in Politics | 3 Comments

Aging

I've never been big on "milestone" birthdays.  When I turned 40 my wife got together a group a friends, rented a limo, and we went Vineyard hopping.  That was great fun until I decided it would be a good idea to go for a little skateboard ride.  That episode had a predictable ending.

I'm now 48 and will be 49 in June.  For whatever reason my 50th birthday looms large in my mind.  I don't think that I'm "afraid" of turning 50.  That's just a date on the calendar.  I think it's a fear of aging.  The late 40's – early 50's seem to be another shadowy line in life.  The first 20 some years of life are pretty easy.  Mostly you're healthy and everything just works.  Yes, there are some tragic deaths but most of those are of the accidental variety.  After that, everyone starts having children.  Again, some issues with miscarriages and fertility challenges which can cause a fair amount of mental anguish but the sun will shine.  Might have some challenges in late 30's as your doctor starts to fuss about your weight or blood pressure.  But usually not serious.  

Depending on when you elected to start churning out children, the late 40's can be a real golden time of life.  The early in life marriages have dissolved and the participants have re-married.  Most of the marriages that are still intact are stable.  People at this stage of life have developed a pretty firm sense of self and know when they're comfortable in a room.  So, by now, you've usually gravitated towards people who you can stand (except for family events) and have a good time with.  Again, at this age everything in your body still works ok.  The ladies in the crowd might be going through some changes and the dudes are aging a bit but that stuff is largely tolerable.  You can still pee standing up and sex typically has fewer consequences.  If you can stay awake.  (changing voices a bit)

However, the storm clouds aren't all that far off – (and I'm tempting fate here) there are a couple of friends lost to heart attacks and some cancers.  Your doctor is crabbing at you about your weight or blood pressure.  Cancer becomes scary as hell because it's real and largely invisible – until it isn't.  I well remember thinking about aging when I got my first real job out of college.  I was about 25 and thought, "holy hell.  I have a work life in front of my that is at least as long as I've already been alive.  That seems like a long time."  Well, I'm at that finish line now.

For me, I'm still young enough that I can work all day, hit the gym and then blast over to Bad Wolf on Wednesday night, knock back a couple pints with my peeps and be square in the a.m.  My crowd are all late 40's-ish and it's great.  We fight about politics, pop culture and everything else and then laugh it off.  Everyone's been to the show already – we've all had babies, raised (or are raising) kids, bought a new car and took a bath when we sold it, bought a house, had low points and high points and all of that other jazz.  It makes for an easy crowd to slip in to.   

But I worry.  I worry what it's going to be like to age.  In fact, it occurs to me that the preceding paragraphs are really an unconscious rendering of the reality that it is relatively easy to slip into middle-age.  I think it gets a lot harder from here on out.

 

Posted in Andy's Stuff, Information Only | 4 Comments

Moving the election – an open letter

Here's a copy of a letter I sent the Mayor and Council about moving the elections again:

Mr. Mayor and Council members:

I hope that this finds you well.  I know that some of you are new to the job and some are returning.  I congratulate Mssrs. Aveni, Elston and Mrs. Bass on your recent election!  I hope that you all work together to make the city a better place!  Before I left the Council I was asked about my thoughts on moving the local elections again – to odd-numbered years but still in November.  Since then, I've been asked by others about this topic and I'd like to share my thoughts with one and all.

When this topic came up some years ago my thought was that moving the election from May to November was a bad idea.  It would make running for office much more expensive and difficult.  Indeed, our own Mr. Randolph lamented that he was likely the last Independent to be elected in the City of Manassas.  In the extreme, that change could put local office out of the reach of "citizen legislators" and into the hands of those whose sole interest was political office and advancement therein.  May elections have obviously not precluded this outcome either but they did make the office attainable by most folks willing to knock on several hundred doors.  In any event, a referendum was held and the idea prevailed, moving our elections to November.  The people spoke and changes were made.  The most recent change (changing the year but not the month) being considered evidently does not require a referendum and only a vote of the Council to ask the General Assembly to amend our charter.  

I'm not troubled by the proposed change.  Getting local elections out from under the presidential election is a great idea.  It would give local elections more visibility and help keep costs down.  However, what does trouble me is that sitting Council members would be voting to both move the elections and extend their own term in office.  This is unseemly.  Current office holders shouldn't be voting to extend their own terms.  In addition, that most sacred voice – the voice of the people via the ballot box – moved the elections to their current date and time.  That voice must be respected.  

I would ask that you defer action on this item until next year and put a non-binding resolution concerning this matter on the ballot this fall.  In this way, the people still have a voice.

Regards, 

Andrew L. Harrover

President, Matrix Computer Consulting

Posted in Information Only | 2 Comments

Citizen Survey

The real, real, real, real – and I mean it – real – last meeting of my Council tenure was last Tuesday.  In that meeting a consultant presented his report on a "Citizen Satisfaction Survey" that the City Manager had commissioned.  My general thought on the survey is that it was well conducted and the guys that did it really seem to know what the hell they're doing.  It's a great value for the City as well as the contract allows us to send them queries about the results for up to a year and they will produce another report at no additional expense.  This is great as there is a new Council and they are going to go on a strategic retreat soon and more questions may come from that affair (hopefully this retreat produces actual strategic thinking and not a laundry list).

I think there are 3 distinct take aways from the survey presentation:

1.  The citizens are pretty happy with the services the city provides.  Many of our services, especially our public safety services, score well above a "best practices" level.  The only soft patch amongst services the City delivers for more than a year appears to be how Community Development is handling zoning enforcement.  Not sure what's going on there.  Last I checked we had four inspectors so either they just aren't getting it done or they're being used for something else.  That's happened in Neighborhood Services the past several years.  Since we dont have Parks & Rec, one of our 2 staffers in that department spends a lot of time managing the pool and the fields….and not on neighborhood services.  However, overall scores are really impressive.

2.  There's something in the results for everyone.  The "Steady staters" who believe the City should spend ever less on government and schools will see validation in the level of satisfaction with our existing services.  Those who want to see progress will agree that basic services are well executed but they will want to see more done along the lines of Parks & Rec., etc.

3.  To my mind, the most important takeaway is that Manassas is being judged by her residents based on what they see in surrounding jurisdictions.  Lack of Bike / Ped lanes and no Parks & Rec department have been noticed by our existing residents and they'd like to see something done about it.  They also rank our Economic Development efforts as sub-par.  Our ED director has been on the job less than a year but it's getting to be time he articulated a path forward.  If our existing residents cite these things as being important what does that mean to potential residents?  The Council has the stated goal of attracting well to do residents and business owners.  Given where we are, those individuals are likely to come from Fairfax and/or Loudon.  What are these folks likely to think about the City's current infrastructure and amenities?  Given that we have that goal and the fact that those people aren't moving here I think we all know the answer.  The Council needs to articluate a strategy to make that happen if it is to remain a goal and hope isn't a strategy….

The other takeaway from the survey is that folks really want the schools to improve.  I share that sentiment – a high performing school system would be a real game-changer for the city.  However, I feel as though the schools are heading in the right direction and we should start to see improvements.  They had a very deep hole to dig out of and have been making the difficult decisions to change things.

Posted in Information Only | 8 Comments

Back to the Back

Well, the back is out again.  Fortunately it has been awhile since it last fell apart.  See back when I was a kid (16) I was helping winterize the Red Cross building on West street.  I was helping remove the window air conditioners when the guy on the inside let it go.  It fell on top of me and injured my back.  I spent Christmas that year in the hospital.  Not fun.  Turns out that what was injured was actually a disc or 2 in my lower back.  For some number of years after that I was mostly fine but as I aged I frequently had issues with my back.

The "beginning of the end" occurred about 6-7 years ago.  I was walking back from a client who is about a block from my office.  About 50 fee away from my office I felt a sharp pain / cramp / weakness in my back.  It hurt like hell.  I felt like I should collapse but worried it might be too painful to just collapse.  However, it was also too painful to stand.  I couldn't do the "fall on your face and catch yourself with your hands" because I knew it would wrench my back even more.  Couldn't sit down as I couldn't bend.  So I just stood there.  It must have looked ridiculous and I'm thankful no cars wanted to come through the parking lot because I couldn't move.  After about 5 minutes I was able to shuffle over to the sidewalk and kind of lay myself down sideways.  At this point a car did come through the parking lot and I attempted a hasty "cool" look by propping myself up on one elbow.  It was about 40 degrees so I'm not sure how effective it was but it did keep the folks in the car from calling EMS.

At this point, I contemplated my options.  I didn't think I could walk the 50 feet to the office.  Frankly, the office might as well have been in a different state.  I noodled through what crawling to the office would entail and didn't think I would make it that way either.  Too much gravel involved.  So, I pulled the only option I had that would preserve my dignity:  I called my wife!  She happened to be in the office.  Naturally that involved 20 questions that further irritate me.  I cut her short and asked her to come over to the church.  She approached.  "it's cold, why are you sitting on the ground?"  

"I can't move"

"What?  Why?"

"Back is out"  

"Out of what?"  

"Out of whack.  I'm in a lot of pain"  

"OK, let's get you to the doctor"  

"no, just get me home"

"nope, I'm driving you to the doctor or leaving you here"

"ok, let's go"  

And that's how it started.  Since then, I've had to do physical therapy and embark on an endless program of core strength.  This normally keeps the back happy but every couple of years things just go to hell and once it starts, there isn't any heading it off.  It's kind of like the flu.  You might take some drugs to help it out but there isn't any getting around the suffering.  You have to do the time.  Biking doesn't seem to bother my back if it's settled.  Most weightlifting doesn't bother it either but I have to be careful.  Squats and deadlifts are great core exercises but I have to keep the weight low and move carefully.  Running is kinda outta the question but elliptical works pretty well.

The one exercise that I have avoided since the first is swimming.  One might reasonably ask, "Why?"  It's the exercise perfectly tailored to people that have back problems.  Look, I'm a fat guy.  What fat guy wants to be wandering around at the pool with 20 year old kids that have spent the last 5 years on the pool?  None.  That's how many.  However, over at LA fitness, they have a very under-used lap pool.  I figured I'd give it a try.  I didn't do swim team when I was a kid but I can do 3 or 4 different kinds of strokes so……why not.

Initial reports from the pool are mixed.  First of all, swimming is hard work.  I can do one lap at a time.  It's a relatively brutal affair.  I was swimming about 10 days before my back went out and just went back this morning.  I've lost a little traction but not much.  I do 30 laps for each workout.  Mainly freestyle but I'll mix in some breast stroke to keep things moving.  I think the weakest part of my game is my kick.

Second, while my form is passable I still think my swimming form is closer to "not drowning" than it is to "swimming".  I continue to think that I may need to get some help with my form but before I spend any money on that I want to see if I'm willing to stick with it.  I've watched a fair number of videos and have made some changes.  The changes help but I think the main problem is that I just need some time in the pool to get better fit.

Third, when I was just lifting, I'd come to the gym, do my workout and roll home to get cleaned up.  Didn't really even go into the locker room.  Now that I'm swimming I've got to change, dry off, etc, etc. Changing or showering in front of others really doesn't bother me but I'm circumspect about it.  I'll put a towel on.  I really don't get the dudes who wander around naked for what sees like forever.  Walk through the locker room with their towel over their shoulder….wander back to the bathroom.  Whatever but it's kinda strange.  I imagine it happens in the womens locker room as well but have elected to simply assume that this is the case and forgo any confirmation.  

I'll report back in a month or so.  Hopefully I'll be able to swim a couple of laps consecutively by then….

Posted in Andy's Stuff | 3 Comments