Christmas in Manassas

In  my household Christmas over the past few years has been pretty predictable (I suppose you could say Christmas has been pretty predictable for the last couple thousand years but I'm referring to Christmas in terms of our municipal life…:)).  There's the Merry Old town celebration – Santa shows up on the train, we participate in the tree lighting and have a great dinner out.  I've spoken at a few of the tree lightings and it was an incredible experience and honor.  The museum lawn is normally filled with people, your friends and family are there and it's a cold! but a quick ceremony.  At the podium you can't see anything anyway:  the lights blot out the entire crowd.  This year we decided not to go as the weather was lousy and the daughter was off with her friends.  We stayed home and binge-watched some tv….parade-selfie

The Christmas parade is the next day.  I've been fortunate over the past few years to walk or ride in the parade with my daughter.  I have always enjoyed walking with her and waving to the assembled folks although I'm sure she attaches no particular value to it and would rather be elsewhere.  Indeed, this year I did want to walk in the parade with her but she elected to help with the Rotary interact club and ride on their float so, instead of walking with the Council I decided to volunteer to work the parade.

As "The New Guy", I was assigned to work what is, for one day of the year, the busiest intersection in Manassas.  It's far removed from the parade route (indeed, you can't even see the parade) but it controls access to the "back door" of the staging area.  If you are facing the bowling alley on Mathis avenue, it's the route that goes to the right of Bowl America and allows you access to the alleyway behind the shopping center.  At the back corner of Bowl America you can go right down to Reb-Yank drive or left up to Portner and/or Sudley.  If you go right towards Reb-Yank you'll encounter a street full of floats, children, etc but you can't see that from the bowling alley so the alleyway – to the right-  behind Bowl America is closed.  Of course, if you just use cones and don't put a body there it'll be about 10 seconds before somebody gets out and pulls the cones out of the way and the net result of that is chaos over on Reb-Yank drive.  

It's an important, if very un-sexy job.  One minute you're there doing nothing, the next there's a traffic jam on both sides….but you can't have all these yukapucks trying to drive through a street packed with kids, horses and floats.  Jobs like this often provide some amount of time to reflect on things…indeed I found myself pondering the following:

1.  Is it possible to operate a car without a cell phone in your ear?  My car is a couple of years old so maybe this is a new feature….. However, If I don't have my phone my car still works!  Honestly, these people appear to be conducting important business too!  Driving the car is really secondary.  Waving their arms around and yelling…it's amazing.  I don't seem to have this problem and I admit I'm conflicted about it.  I get about 2 calls on my cell phone a day.  They're usually from my wife (daughter doesn't seem to be able to operate a phone although she can text like a demon).  These calls usually last about 2 min.  These people are clearly far more important than me.  Honestly, I appear to be clinging to the bottom of the evolutionary ladder here.  I'm not sure what happened.

2.  How is it that almost nobody that stopped to ask me for information seemed to know that the Christmas parade was going on?  I had one guy – from Manassas – who stopped to lament all of these "new parades" that jam up the city.  I pointed out that this was the 69th year of the parade but he was unconvinced and very angy he would have to go to Westgate to get to the ABC store.  The closest I came to a fight was one guy driving a giant Escalade who started cussing me because I wouldn't let him down the alley.  I explained to him "sir, I do this once a year.  I don't do it to piss people off, I do it to serve my community.  If you really want to go down this alley, I'll move the cones.  When you get down there, you will find a street clogged with children, animals and floats so go right ahead."  He mumbled an apology and turned the other way.

Here's what about 4 minutes looks like in that alley!!

3.  This one verges on "you kids get off my lawn" but I'll risk it: why can't anyone give their fellow man a couple of feet or a couple of seconds of accommodation?  Honestly, if people slow down a bit the guy behind him swerves around him and passes him.  The closest call all day long was when a minivan slowed down to let a mother with a stroller cross in front of her and 2 guys in a minivan (the driver was yelling at someone on his phone) swerved around her – didn't stop and wait and then get frustrated, just swerved – and almost ran over the stroller.  If I hadn't have seen it coming and started walking towards the van and yelling he would have killed that baby and maybe the mother.  Cyclists are killed regularly by the actions of impatient drivers so I'm used to it (which is a sad commentary) but it's a frigging parking lot!

4.  Far too many people are still texting while driving.  A teenage girl drove up to the cones with her turn signal on.  She looked up long enough to not run me over but then returned to her phone, furiously banging out what was certainly an urgent text message upon which world peace must certainly have depended…..and didn't look back up for about 10 seconds.  I'm pretty sure she expected me to just move the cones.  I just stood there.  She looked back up, perplexed that nothing had happened.  I think she probably wondered, if just for an instant, she could send me a text message wondering what the matter was?  I pointed the other direction.  She dashed off another text and turned around.

5.  I was far enough away from the parade that all I could see was people moving around but I've always found parades to be very curious things.  Not just the Christmas parade, any parade.  Think about it.  We are going to, more or less, close down the town so that groups of people organized around "floats" can walk down the street and everyone else is going to watch.  Maybe it's just me.  It isn't that I dislike parades, I just find them curious…

Posted in Andy's Stuff, Information Only | 6 Comments

What Happened tonight?

I've gotten some questions about what happened tonight.  Mainly "Whaaat?  Why aren't you Vice Mayor?".  "Did you get kicked off the Council?"  Briefly, I decided some time ago that making Steve Randolph the Vice Mayor this fall would be a great tribute to his long service on the Council.  I think that Vice Mayor is the only job he hasn't held on the Council!!  I was trying to figure out how to do this when the Mayor broached the subject with me at a lunch meeting.  He was very careful – it's a tough thing to ask someone – but he was very relieved when I admitted that I was actually trying to figure out how to make it happen.  Turns out it was easy!  Just resign and make a motion.

So, that's it.  I'm still on the Council until the end of the year but Steve is now the Vice Mayor and it's an honor well-deserved.  Thanks for your service Steve.

Posted in City Council | 10 Comments

Lake Manassas Update

This election access to recreation on Lake Manassas became an issue.  Mr. Aveni has stumped for renewed access to the lake throughout the campaign.  The other candidates were a mixed bag but you could probably summarize their thoughts by saying: "it's not a terrible idea if you can figure out how to do it safely and without more cost to the citizens".  I'm not here to beat up on Mr. Aveni or anyone else but I did want to provide an update on the matter as there was some interest in this on the campaign trail….

There will be a meeting of the Finance committee this coming Wednesday.  5:30 in the second floor conference room at City hall.  Item 4 on the agenda is to allocate $45,000 in city funds to study the re-opening of Lake Manassas.  Here is a link to the agenda.  Just thought all those who were interested might want to know.

Posted in City Council | 24 Comments

Election Results

In the Senate: finally.  It's now time for the GOP to get it together and begin stacking workable legislation on the Presidents desk and challenge him to actually do something.  For a change.

Governors:  lawdy, are there any Democratic governors left except ours?

Local:  the results are pretty much what I thought they would be.  Mrs. Bass had a good organization and is obviously popular in the City.  She ran a good campaign and killed it, garnering a thousand more votes than the next nearest challenger.  Mr. Aveni ran a tough, bare-knuckled, no-holds-barred campaign for reelection.  I worked Baldwin all day long and his poll workers weren't distributing the republican sample ballot (which included Mrs. Comstock and Mr. Gillespie) until Sharon shamed them into it and were instructing voters to only vote for one candidate.  He came in second.  Mr. Elston had a tall hill to climb but his performance in the debates really stirred interest in him and were a difference-maker in his election.  He came within about a hundred votes of the two-term incumbent Aveni.  A strong showing.  Patricia, who I really like, suffered from a slow start but performed much better in the later debates just had too far to go to get there.  I hope she stays involved in the community.

What do I think it all means?  That's tough.  On a personal level this was pretty much what I was trying to avoid – two more years of navel gazing – so I'm glad I am on the sidelines from here on out.  As a general electoral comment, moving the elections really had no practical effect on the outcome this time around.    Why?  Well, we'll have to explore that in blog posts to come….

Posted in Information Only, Politics | 21 Comments

Election – possible trends

I'm actually writing this on Sunday afternoon so we'll see how politically astute I really am.  Based on my political career the answer is "not very".  People frequently ask me how I think the election for local office will turn out.  I usually shrug.  There are so many moving parts to this particular election:

1.  Moving the election to November is bound to have a profound effect on the results.  There will be an entirely new group of folks voting in the fall that didn't vote in the spring elections.  Manassas has gone democrat the past 5? statewide and federal elections – elections conducted in the fall.  The first Obama election I discount somewhat as he could have defeated George Washington at that point in history.

2.  The top of the Democratic ticket – Mark Warner – has had some recent struggles but will help down ticket candidates.  Of course, Mrs. Comstock will perform well but the democrats are making predictable (and deserved) hay concerning her support of that crazy trans-vaginal ultrasound bill down in Richmond.  Stuff like that will limit her crossover appeal.  Mr. Warner has always enjoyed healthy crossover support amongst moderate R's so net-net I think Warner is a stronger influence on the down ballot races.

3.  The Schools – a couple of board members and a bunch of parents – have roused themselves from their decade long slumber and are active in the election.  Some bemoan this, I think they're an interest group just like the pro-life crowd who wants to advance an agenda.  I think there are two positives to take from this: the first is that the more people who are involved in improving the schools and our wider community, the better.  The schools are among the most important things we do.  The second is, the more folks who get out and vote, the better.

4.  The democrats have a couple of local candidates at least one of whom will be elected.  This has the potential to drive some turnout amongst local democrats who might not otherwise bother.  

5.  The social conservatives will turn out to support Marc.  That's normally around 1,000 votes in the bag for him but may be more since more people are voting.  They're unlikely to vote for anyone else on the local level.

6.  The democrats have located their offices inside of the City for the past 4 election cycles.  The republicans have moved theirs to the west.  I think it's more than symbolic.

7.  More people appear to be paying attention to what's going in city politics and how their elected leaders are voting – and forcing those elected folks to defend their votes.  I've had it happen to me over the past few years and I see Marc and Sheryl having to explain their positions during the candidate forums.  This trend could turn ugly at some point but I don't think it's happened yet.

8.  We don't have a newspaper anymore.  Most information about the candidates is coming out in social media, blog posts and YouTube.  This is both interesting and troubling.  We need a newspaper or news website again.

9.  The Tea party.  I really don't have any idea how active the Tea party guys are in Manassas.  I know that there were members at Marc's rally in the park but that's all I know.  Their website is currently offline with an error about the "votemarcav_app" which would appear to be something they're doing in support of Marc.  They've been involved before and can make a difference but I don't know about now.

That's about all I have and these comments obviously ignore the power of incumbency, etc, etc.  This is all pretty specific to Manassas.  I'm not going to handicap this race – there are just too many moving parts.  For anyone that cares, I'll be working for Sheryl at Baldwin most of the day.  Didn't hear from the republicans about an organized effort until Ian forwarded me their email – guess mine landed in the spam bucket…but Sheryl asked me last week to help her and I'm happy to help a sista out.

Posted in Politics | 15 Comments