Retirement Ceremony

Well, the day is drawing nigh where I'll no longer be able to actively pursue the ruination of our fair city.  At least not from the inside.  To celebrate this the City staff put together a retirement party for Mr. Randolph and myself.  It was a brief if poignant affair.  The City Manager, Mr. Pate, was running the show along with the Mayor.  It was one of those events that you dread to attend but once it is underway it is a lot of fun.  The City Clerk's office really outdid themselves and the department heads for the City were very generous.  Thanks to all of the staff.  There really isn't much that I could do without their help.  I believe all of the Council members, except Mr. Aveni were in attendance as were Senator Colgan, Del. Miller, Mayor Waldron, Mayor Weber and many of the School Board members.  Thanks to those guys for taking the time to attend. 

I was struck by how often people asked the following:

1.  Will you miss it?  This really requires a nuanced answer but I most often just blurt out "no".  Truth is, I miss crafting legislation and getting things done.  I wanted for the Council to pursue big picture strategy planning and then craft legislation to make it happen.  It's necessary for us to thrive.  We did some of that early in my tenure but little since.  Certainly the economy had a hand in some of that but it shouldn't have stopped strategic planning.  What I won't miss is the drain of mental energy necessary to deal with people who really aren't interested or are more interested in playing politics.  There's far too much of that recently.

2.  Will you run for Mayor / Council / Whatever in a year or two?  First off, I'm gratified that people believe I can do good things for the City.  That's cool.  However, the current answer is no.  Could that change?  Sure.  But it isn't as though those jobs will go unfilled if I don't seek them.  I can also tell you that if I ever decide to run for office in the future it will be a well considered move and not a rash declaration.  Sitting through a raft of personal attacks and then getting your ass kicked in a convention will do that to you.  

What I will miss least is politics and being a "politician."  I'm not sure I ever was a politician and, in the current political environment, being a politician is akin to being a liar, thief, cheat and a scumbag.  I'm not those things.  The overwhelming majority of local government electeds are just guys who got involved.  Dealing with personal attacks and single-agenda crap isn't what most signed up for.  I know it isn't what I signed up for and when I ran into that, it took a lot of mental energy to deal with.  Too many nights laying awake in bed.  There was much more of this as things moved along.  The Council spent more and more time on agenda items that really had very little to do with City business and more to do with political agendas.  That got pretty frustrating.  In the final analysis, most local government guys aren't politicians.  The ones that are politicians move up the ladder.  That isn't bad, it just is.

I'm humbled that the staff thought enough of me to put on the event and that many of my neighbors attended.  I'm humbled to have served and possibly contributed to the success of our City.  Continue to watch this space, I'll continue to blog and I'm going to be involved in some pretty interesting things.  The real momentum in Manassas is currently with the Schools.  If the Council spent the past few years winding our collective watches, the schools have assembled a unified board, a great executive and are thinking long-term big picture.  Things are starting to happen and that's maybe a place where I can help make more stuff happen.

Thanks to my family for putting up with all of this and supporting me. It takes alot.

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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.

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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….

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