My Side of the Fence

The danger isn't going too far. It's that we don't go far enough.

What’s ailing Manassas?

Prince William County actually does a citizen satifaction survey every year (pretty sure it’s every year) and use that to help them address weaknesses that citizens identify.  I think that’s a pretty cool idea.  We have never done that in the City but I’ll probably suggest it this year as a way to conduct a survey to hear from citizens that we normally don’t.  As a practical matter, fewer than 500 citizens normally select the republican candidates and about 1,000 vote to elect them in the general.  However, we’re the City Council

However, there’s no reason not to just conduct our own little forum right here!  What do you think is right or wrong with the City?  Do you have a solution?  Only one rule for posting: your solution has to be legal.  Not kinda legal or “should be” legal.  Just legal.


  1. Do more to improve the schools; do more to oppose illegal immigration; do more to fight blight.

  2. Beverage the Younger (formally Andrew)

    February 27, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    @AndyH couple questions for clarification:

    What do mean when you say nothing suggested should be “kinda” legal or “should be” legal? I just thinking about hot-button topics like illegal immigration (like Rich as already brought up) and I wonder if the City is limited by the GA on what it can do. I.e. At the last Council meeting, the City Attorney involved the Council that the E-Verify requirements the Council wished to do couldn’t be done because the law passed by the GA only said Commonwealth agencies could require E-Verify and the GA would need to modify the law before any local government could start requiring E-Verify. How do things like that fit in here? Are they considered to be “fully legal” despite possibly requiring action by the GA and not just the City? Or if something were to require action by the GA would it be just in the category of “kinda” legal or “should be” legal?

  3. andy

    February 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    I see nothing wrong with advancing something like e-verify that might need GA action. Maybe a better term would be “Constitutional”.

  4. There are many blighted areas that are run down, i.e. Route 28, South Grant Avenue, Mathis Avenue. There is probably no incentive for redevelopment because the demographics for upscale development is no longer here in Manassas. Just go down the road to Gainesville, Bristow, area. Just a few minutes away. Big difference.

  5. The schools affect everything. It’s about the schools stupid!!

  6. Schools, schools, and schools. Did I mention schools?

    And lets avoid lawsuits and national ridicule while we’re at it

  7. Mary Ann Tayler said it all. Andy, why would E-verify need GA approval? The City should study what other Cities have done with regard to illegal aliens and copy what has passed legal mustard. Attempt more private/public projects. Open Lake Manassas back up, after the lawsuit has been settled.

  8. When City passes an ordinance, put the backbone from Council into it and enforce it. Case in Point: Fire & Rescue. Two years to get a Fleet Plan, and now last night resolution for Strategic Plan. And by the way, I agreed with you comments at Council last night about cost of maintenance of the “hanger queens”.

    That Strat Plan was first and foremost and we lost a fine young man as FRS Chief because of no teeth behind what was written in Code.

  9. Citizens surveys are great, if they don’t cost 6 figures like the one they do in PW. The county has done theirs in conjunction with UVA for two decades almost. I would suggest if the city were to do one, that they partner with GMU-PW Campus. Probably, not near as costly as we pay big time for coming from Charlottesville.
    Thanks for letting this county girl give her two cents worth.

    I would love to take my daughter fishing at Lake Manasssas again. She was just a toddler the last time she went.

  10. Does anyone know what is going on, or in this case why nothing is going on with the Wellington/Nokesville overpass? It seems like weeks ago since any work was done.

  11. FourKidsnaDog

    March 1, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Issues like this are what add to my concern…..”Council extends public hearing on special use permit that would allow Pierce Funeral Home to build and operate a crematory on its property until the next regularly-scheduled council meeting on March 12″.

    With all the questions about what impact a crematory has on air quality why is this even being considered. Our city has enough issues why add air quality concern to the list? Schools that don’t make AYP, crime, gangs, poor air quality…yeah BABY, that’s where I want to live..people are going to flock to the City of Manassas.

  12. Andy,
    Any specifics you can share regarding the crematory? Questions already asked and answered by council or presentation given that might be posted on the website?
    It’s huge concern for us!

  13. INFORMATION! and that leads to several things under this heading:

    1. FIRST and foremost, we should have a Public Information Officer – to use a standard government position title. ONE person compiling and publishing on the web, sending out press releases, etc. for BOTH the City Gov’t and MCPS. This person would write up both good and not-so-good information, but put the FACTS out there. Example: The Mayor during his decision on the Prescott House started at 1989 and brought it forward – a PIO could have put that all in a memo and published it. Facts enable decision…like a lawyer I knew once told me: “Don’t tell me the truth, don’t tell me what you feel, just tell me the facts.” Good or not-so-good, at least citizens are provided the information.

    The City does an excellent job with the quarterly newsletters, although the one for the MCPS disappeared long ago. But often by the time those hit the mailing in the Utility Bill, the information is dated. Our Police does an excellent job of the press releases – and I thank SGT Rivera for his time. To the City’s credit, when the newsletters are done, they are posted in the news feed section of the website as fast as possible.

    But things are happening at a rapid pace today, so a PIO could get it out fast. This though leads to a major leadership decision – do the wrong thing and keep it all politically correct till it blows up in other sources or be a leader and get the information out – again, good or not-so-good facts – and head it all off at the pass? Will there still be emotions? Sure, but at least the Leadership of the City has put it out there.

    2. Link ALL agendas for meetings posted on the City Calendar. Mainly for the inner-government meetings, but not that difficult to link to external meetings such as NVRC or PRTC.

    C’mon, folks….Hypertext has been around and in use by folks in popular form for the last two decades. Being able to add that one little line is not that difficult anymore – not like in the beginnings when you had to open your computer, stick in a specific card for HTML, and then code (personally glad those days are gone). We have a mish-mash of it now….you can find Council, Planning, and many others but I should not have to do a search to find the Finance Committee, Education Forward, or a slew of others. Get it standard across the City.

    Put these links on the calendar – especially for those meetings which do not have a full webpage such as Finance Committee, Education Forward, etc etc etc.

  14. @Tenacity: good question you have, and adds to my comment on information –

    The full Agenda Packet (a lot may skip downloading since they are huge and just grab the Agenda) for last Monday’s night meeting had all the Staff report on the crematory, but not the specific presentation.

    Often, when there are presentations either from an outside group or Staff, no copy exists. Now, you can call the Clerk’s Office and our most excellent ladies there will send you a copy via email, or provide a paper copy if requested – no FOIA needed.

    But a PIO could grab those and post them.

    As for questions and answers, and given that our Clerk now has an Ipad and is typing as the meeting goes, perhaps consideration as this evolves could be given to posting draft minutes. This is not an unheard practice within government of posting a draft prior to full approval at next regularly scheduled meeting.

    At the moment though, we at least have replays on the Council Sessions posted at the Media Center.

  15. Thanks Ray and I agree with PIO position! Media center access is nice but not realistic for all (not that I think you were implying that!)

  16. Good idea and even better to suggest a current employee can handle the responsibility rather than create a new position that would add to the City budget.

  17. COM, it is a nice idea to say “let some other employee handle it”….Pat Weiler in her budget presentation on Monday referenced the 2008 Reorganization, the cuts in 2009 & 2010, how the Reorganization is stable. She stated though their are people working outside of their positions on additional or other duties. We have reached the point where this “additional duty” is – in her words – not fiscally prudent.

    Looked at the two gov’t channels lately either Comcast or Verizon? Both of those are ones the City gets money from the franchise, and both underutlized. The City Gov’t Channel often has slides that are outdated; and the MCPS is just pure junk. Lot of potential there if there was someone who was paid to coordinate, add, and maintain both of them. Years ago, when there was an IT person maintaining, even over on MCPS channel there would be videos of various school events.

    When you look at the Stategic Plan (and I think Pat did a fantastic move in including it in the Budget and relating specific targets), one of them is Community Engagement. But to engage people, they need to be informed.

    This City has reached the point it is nice to say “not add to the City Budget”, but that is getting old fast. Not adding to the City Budget for years left the Fire & Rescue Fund deplete – and now with an approved Fleet Plan and a slight raise in the Fire Levy – what is needed is planned once more for Public Safety. But having someone paid to put the word out such as Andy’s statements last Monday on the Fleet Plan and adding more to Fire Levy would educate the community. Do folks like paying taxes? No. Show them where the tax dollar is going and reasons why? Ok, they can swallow the pill.

    Adding this PIO position will only be a benefit – and it SHOULD be a cost-sharing position by both the City and MCPS. And the best feature about it is the colloquial line “City Hall does what it wants” may finally die on the vine.

  18. Just a general statement here, but it’s a rare public official that says we can do with what we have. I’m not surprised to hear people in the City Government say they need more and need to spend more, etc. Not too many who are willing to forego spending more and more. The budgets from 2002 to 2006 or so, were huge budgets, that seemed to be based on an attitude the case cow was never going to die. If the focus has always been on thift and taking care of the basics, I’m willing to give some slack. But, I think that’s has not always been the case.

  19. Charles Sutherland

    March 5, 2012 at 7:10 am

    The City does nothing to deal with the illegal aliens. It’s about time that the City at least has its own E-verify laws. Admittedly, under existing law, the only penalty could be to deny a company a license to do business; but it is a step in the right direction: because there could be penalties for companies who do business without a license. AND, as word gets out that the City is doing “something” the illegal aliens and their friends will wonder what is coming next… and move to Maryland.

    So far the only thing the City did was to add a sentence to the annual business filing that the signer is aware that it is illegal to hire illegal aliens. The “illegals” are costing the taxpayers of this City and Commonwealth millions of dollars each year, in education, social services, criminal services, incarceration, free lunches and breakfasts, etc. etc. and this City Council does nothing about it. You could at least pass a local E-verify ordinance.

  20. @Raymond:
    Very much disagree over your comment regarding loss of a “fine young man” as FRD Chief. I was at EVERY FRC Meeting during his tenure, and never once did HE step forth with any strategic vision for the Service. And then in his “leaked” resignation letter he took shots at all involved while of course not taking any of the blame himself. I wouldn’t call that “fine”.

  21. @Andy: I agree with those promoting more open posting of information. In this world of instant information via Twitter, BlackBerry, etc, it really is not conducive to community that it so long to be able to access minutes of meetings. Clearly watermark the PDF’s as DRAFT and get ALL City meeting minutes posted on the web in days, not weeks or months.

  22. As for the PIO, it would be covered under the existing budget. There’s already money in the budget for a firm that does this on a contract basis. We would take that money and split the cost with the schools.

    COM: The Manassas City budget has declined about 15% over the past several years. In contrast, the County has raised taxes for the past 2 years and is proposing to raise them again this year. The one part of our budget that has increased has been fire and rescue and the only real way to fix that is for more folks to volunteer. That’s happened somewhat over at the fire house but not as much at the squad.

  23. Andy,

    That might be true for the last few years, but I believe the time frame I mentioned early to mid 2000’s the budget, it seemed to go up double digit each year, and while the tax rate went down, there seemed to be no real cut in taxes paid.

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