Quick City Update

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

Busy Week…..

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A Fall of lasts…

Change in life is inevitable.  I also tend to think life without change would be unbearable.  I know it would be for me.  Perspective and exposure to new ideas are crucial to the process.  photoThe most productive period in one's life is short – 15 years or so?  Not that the other parts aren't productive but the part where you somewhat understand how the world works and how to move stuff along.  Maintaining that sense, that perspective is important.  I don't really like traveling all that much but "seeing how other people do it" is more efficient than re-creating the wheel.  Honestly I'm not sure what the preceding has to do with the subject but I like it so I'll leave it.

For both my family and myself this will be a long fall season of "Lasts".  I'm transitioning off the City Council and my daughter is a senior at Osbourn.  Our family has had our "last first day" of school.  I've had my last "first fall meeting" on the Council.  It is tremendously exciting but all tinged with equal parts energy and sadness.  I'm more excited for my kid – "going off to college" is the ultimate life changer.  I'm sure I'll miss her and I'll miss that predictable school schedule where the whole family ends up under one roof at night.  I'll also miss having her around in the afternoon to help with the house!  To further bring that fact home, we met with the "college guy" over at OHS a couple of days ago.  His name is Mr. Gilligan – if your kid is at OHS and he/she is going to college, you should talk to this guy!  I thought he was outstanding.  In the college process, I'm trying to be helpful without bringing too much pressure to bear.  How successful I am in that probably depends on  who you ask but in my defense I'd say that at least I'm aware of it!  

As for the Council stuff, I'm enjoying sitting out the election.  I was chatting with a former elected official and he told me "once you're out of office, you'll resent anyone who wants you to leave your house at night".  I'm close enough to being out of office that I can see and understand that now.  I don't know that I would refuse to go out to dinner but I'll be pretty selective about what I do.  I know I'll miss the fraternity of folks that I served with but I really don't think the nostalgia will last long for the job itself.  I enjoy serving but it will be a relief to dedicate the mental energy from what has become a frustrating endeavor to other pursuits that may provide more dividends.  

Next up will our first college application and my last 5-year forecast meeting!!

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It all started, as most good stories do, a long time ago.  I was attending summer school at Longwood (don't ask).  At that time (1987 or so) Longwood was a fraction of the size photoit is now.  There was no off-campus housing to speak of and the physical condition of the college (not yet a university) was between faded glory and three newer buildings.  One of those newer buildings was the Lancer gym.  It had a built in pool, basketball courts and a great weight room.  It also had 4 or 5 outdoor tennis courts that were in great condition.  I was staying in the high-rise dorm right across the street.

That summer I was taking two classes.  An art history class that started at 7:30 in the morning (totally incongruent with our desired lifestyle) and a science class after that.  Every day was the same:

7:00 – wake up, shower and complain
7:25 – leave for class
11:30 – leave second class for lunch
12:30 – 2:00 – peak tanning hours!  layout on roof of dorm
2:00-4:30 – go to gym and lift weights
4:30-5:00 – shower and brag about how much we lifted
5:00-6:00 – go eat everything in the dining hall
7:00 – whenever – hangout, party or if there was some kind of crisis, study.

Yep, it was a tough life.  I really did enjoy learning to weight lift and it's an activity that I've returned to for long stretches of my life although currently it's been about 8 years.  My peak form came around 1993 (gawds that was forever ago) when I topped out my bench press at about 285.  I'll never forget that day (glory days indeed !!)  I was on the bench and, after running through a brief warmup session, plunked 285 pounds on the bar.  I had two spotters.  I got the weight up (easy part) and brought it down to my chest.  After a brief pause I started pushing…I remember two things from then on.  The first was that I thought the veins in my head and neck were going to explode.  The second was that I really didn't care because the bar was bending under the weight I was lifting!!  That's superstar territory right there.  Declare victory and leave.

I again got serious about weightlifting about 10 years ago.  I had a good routine where I would go to the gym, go home and takeover for Sarah and then drop my daughter off at daycare.  That program required that I get up at about 5:30 in the morning.  Not terrible unless it was winter time.  Even then, the problem isn't going in, it's coming out.  You're typically soaked in sweat which then instantly freezes to your hide when you leave the building.  Yeah, you can bring an extra shirt or whatever but you're already hauling too much crap to be bothered and it's 5 in the morning.  In any event, that stint lasted about 3 years at which point I transitioned to running.  My rotator cuff was giving me fits anyway and I needed to back off.

This time around is still early going.  Been to the gym about 4 times but I can feel the pull when I'm not there.  I want to lift.  However, it's different this time, I don't have a group of boys to hang with and I'm older.  Now, not only is my rotator cuff sensitive but I have to be careful with my back.  Yeah, my back talks to me on a regular basis.  The rotator cuff, not so much.  That'll be a use injury at some point.  While the physical limitations are starting to build, 90% of the game is half mental (go Yogi!).  It's a constant mental battle to throttle the effort.  You want to push just that little bit more or bang out another set – but you know…..oh yes…you know just how screwed you are if you go past that threshold.  And if a woman walks by while you're lifting?  Some things never change and Richard Pryor was right – "girls will get you killed, tryin' to be cool."  Even when you're 48 and should know better!  You've got at least appear not to shake while pushing….

So it's early going but I'm thinking it's going to stick for awhile.  The urge has hit at the right time of year – closer to fall when it starts to get cold – and I'll be transitioning from the bike to the gym anyway.  I haven't picked up any of the usual gear yet – gloves, etc as I'm holding off on that for a bit but it won't be too long before I make the pilgrimage to get the proper equipment.  I'm looking forward to it.  I guess the only part I'll really miss is the almost exclusive use of free weights.  I've always thought that free weight was a much better training medium than a bazillion machines but there are some things I just can't do with my back the way it is.  I guess it's a small price to pay.  Plus it's easier to look cool.

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Politics are heating up!…and something unexpected.

I'm starting to see signs in yards!  Mostly they are for the US Senate & House races that will be decided this fall.  For the local races – by way of recap – we have 2 democrats – Ken Elston & Patricia Richie-Folks running for Council and 2 Republicans – Sheryl Bass and Marc Aveni also running for Council.  I have seen on the Manassas GOP facebook that they have done a few door knocking events and had a table or booth at one of the city events.  I'm not sure what the democrats are doing but I have seen a couple of their local volunteers door knocking.  The School Board folks are running unopposed.

This is shaping up to be a possible "change" election in Manassas.  I think both groups are working hard and the results could have significant impacts on city politics.  Mr. Aveni is a staunch social & fiscal conservative whereas Mrs. Bass is more along the center-right lines.  I chatted a bit with both of the democrats and my impression is that both are center-left-ish folks when it comes to City politics.  I don't think anyone is in for any surprises in terms of positions when it comes to these 4 but the 2 democrats will certainly bring a new viewpoint on City matters if they are elected.  We'll have at least one democrat in any event.  I also haven't seen any campaign websites or lit for any of the 4 so I'm not sure what they're leading with.vote

It's my view that the left leaning folk, after being dormant for many years, are beginning to throw off their stupor and get positively engaged.  The school leadership (left leaning or no) also seems to be united (or very nearly so) in purpose and they clearly are not afraid to roll up their sleeves and try to go get what they believe is best for the schools.  I think this a pretty positive development for 2 reasons:  the first is that the more people who vote, the better.  There will always be concerns about people voting on things they don't understand but there is little that can be done about that and I don't think it's changed at all in the past 50 years.  Certainly a local paper would help but only a fraction of the electorate ever read it anyway.  The second is that it's always good to see a group get organized and go after what they want.  The social conservatives have been doing this for years when it comes to the abortion clinic in Manassas.  They've been very successful in driving both electoral politics and city policy for a number of years now.  They may continue to be successful but who knows?  However, if these other groups decide it is time for a change, it could be tough sledding for the social groups as they both compete for finite resources and votes.  I hear from a lot of different folks and, from my perch, I'm glad I'm not running.  My observation 6 months ago that politics in Manassas are getting nasty seems to be spot on.  People are pulling out all the stops.  I'm considering sending all of the candidates a questionnaire and posting the results.  Don't know yet.

Now, here's something a bit unexpected: it is well known that Senator Colgan is not running for another term.  Once that announcement was made all of the machinations started.  This is a state level race so I don't know what the timing looks like but evidently first-term Councilman Ian Lovejoy has decided that he does and filed to run for the seat!  I'm a bit surprised by Ian's decision but it's a free country and he's entitled to give it a whirl!  However, this may be a tough seat for a tea-party republican to get elected in.  I don't recall what percent the district leans but the last few elections it has returned solidly Democrat results.  I haven't heard from anyone else on this seat yet although one hears a lot about Mr. Parrish and Mr. Miller on the republican side.  Don't know if any of the PWC guys are interested.  Got no idea about the democrats in this district either.  I'd guess that guy who ran against Marshall might be in this district and maybe Mr. Torian down in the other end of the county?  It'll be interesting to see what happens!


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School News

The best piece of news about our local schools recently is that their SUP to build a new Baldwin school was approved on first reading last night.  Second reading is tonight.  The money for this school was approved on a very narrow vote but the SUP was approved unanimously last night.  This is a good step forward for our future!

The Bad news is that one of our Principals, a Mr. Toogood over at Dean, is alleged to have been working for the Schools under false pretenses.  It's alleged he actually has altered his qualifications.  He's worked for the schools for a number of years and nobody knew about it.  I (and many others) were understandably upset about this: to all appearances the sins of the past administration(s) seem to be like fish cooked too long on the stove –  it's a stink you'll never get out.  However I've got faith that the School Board has the fortitude to see this through.  I encourage them to keep making the tough decisions, the time to quit is not now.  Go find the problems and get it over with.

I have received the following communique from D-Mag, our illustrious Superintendent in an attempt to explain the situation:

On June 25, 2014, Manassas City Public Schools (MCPS) was contacted by Dr. Steven Staples, State Superintendent for the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), regarding information he had received alleging that Mr. Robin Toogood, then principal of Jennie Dean Elementary School, may have altered his academic credentials. An investigation was immediately commenced by MCPS staff, 
confirming that several of his credentials were indeed fictitious.

On Friday, June 27, 2014, Mr. Toogood was presented with the results of the investigation. He resigned from his position as principal and surrendered his Virginia license. The results of the division's investigation, Mr. Toogood's resignation, and his license were sent to the VDOE. Mr. Toogood's license was cancelled July 21, 2014.

As a result of this incident, the MCPS Human Resource Department will no longer rely solely on the Virginia Department of Education to validate transcripts for licensing purposes. As of July 1, 2014, MCPS began using a clearinghouse to verify the authenticity of the transcripts of all new employees regardless if they are licensed. This action will validate information that has been provided by employees to the Department of Education for licensing. Additionally, MCPS has also gone a step further and has begun the process of verifying the transcripts of all current licensed employees who have provided transcripts as part of their employment process. Ms. Billie Kay Wingfield, Director of Human Resources, who began working with MCPS on August 1, is leading the changes that have been put in place.

Mr. Toogood was hired under a previous administration, but records indicate that an application, resume, references and transcripts were collected and that references were also contacted by phone. He began his employment with MCPS July 1, 2009 after working with the District of Columbia Public Schools, public charter schools in the District of Columbia, and a school in Maryland from 2002 to 2009 as a teacher and administrator. Mr. Toogood received his Virginia license when he submitted his transcripts and his District of Columbia license to the Virginia Department of Education.

Currently, Dr. Zella Jones, who served as assistant principal at the school during the 2013-2014 school and is now serving as acting principal, has been leading the school and has worked to ensure that students have been assigned to classes and that everything will be in place for teachers and students when they return.


It's a pretty thorough explanation of the situation.  Sure, it's frustrating and I hope there's some re-examination of our policies and the records for our other deputies to ensure we have no other lingering issues but it doesn't change my thoughts on the schools.  I like D-Mag and think her a capable leader.  Keep to the course and make it happen Sista! 



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