My Side of the Fence

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

Open Thread

Open Thread – have at it.


  1. Andy, it is a shame, but I’m not sure what can be done to change that. It seems to me when people move to this area the primary cultural decision is inside/outside the beltway. Once that is decided, the big four considerations are cost, commute, schools and safety. Frankly, Manassas (and even the county) can’t compete with other jursidictions on commute, schools and safety.

    When we first moved to the county it had more of a unique flavor and did not yet feel like just one more suburb of DC. I feel like the rapid growth has erased a lot of its cultural uniqueness such that now it seems like just the smaller, less impressive sibling of Fairfax. At least Manassas still has Old Town, but outside of that it struggles to compete even with PWC. If we had had a crystal ball 15 years ago, we probably would have stayed in Ffx. (of course, if I’d had a crystal ball 20 years ago, I’d have taken the NC bar and made Robert follow me!)

  2. Andy,

    I went on a hike around the City this morning, and made to the mountain bike trail. Nice job.

  3. andy

    March 19, 2012 at 7:09 am

    Thanks! We’re going to expand it soon. Mainly we’ll be riding sewer easements so it won’t require much work. It’ll also cost the city $0

  4. andy

    March 19, 2012 at 7:18 am

    @Patty: PWC does, at least, have a strategic plan that they try to follow and make spending plans around. Taxes have gone up in PWC a couple of years in a row and I haven’t heard much about it.

    In Manassas, we sadly have no such focus. Our sole guiding principal has become flat tax bills. Nothing wrong with that but my belief is that the leadership needs to start with what ailes the City and come up with solutions to address them and – then – figure out how to pay for them. The Mayor and Council are looking in the wrong end of the telescope…..

  5. Our individual tax burden did go up slightly a couple of years in a row, but before that it came down signficantly a couple of years too. Right now I believe it is comparable to where it was when we first moved to this house eight years ago. So looking at the big picture, the county has been fairly stable. It will go up this year because our assessment rose more than 5 percent, which I believe is ridiculously optimistic. I don’t mind my taxes going up, but I hate them raising the assessment rates if they don’t reflect reality. I believe they are only doing it so they can raise taxes while simultaneously lowering the tax rate. They think we’re stupid, but we’re not.

    I may not be normal (yeah, I know), but I don’t mind paying county taxes. That money pays for police and fire and schools and roads, all things that benefit the citizens of this county. Those are all things necessary to life in community, and I’m happy to pay my part. Of course, you know I’m no conservative. Federal income taxes, however, are another story. I do resent how much I have to pay to feed that beast, but that’s a whole different conversation. I think a lot of people feel the same way, though, and only complain about taxes when something happens they don’t like. For the most part, I’ve been reasonably happy with the county government. The only real complaints I have are around the way the county has handled real estate and growth. It’s the schools I have the biggest beef with.

    I think you’re right though. A plan makes a tremendous difference. Then when people ask questions, you can point them to the plan for justification. I think the city in the way it does business still largely reacts to individual crises rather than being proactive. I see you are trying to change that, but I imagine it takes a lot of time and effort and money, all things in short supply these days.

    One thing I noticed about Raleigh, or really Wake County. They only reassess property values every eight years or something like that. I imagine that provides a lot more stable tax base and makes it easier to make long term plans. Cynically, it also keeps the tax fight down to once or twice a decade. I don’t know why VA does that every year. Is it a law or do inividual jurisdictions have a choice? If there’s choice in the matter, I wonder if that is somthing to think about. I don’t know; just putting it out there.

  6. @Patty….Virginia law says annual assessment. You mentioned NC and, having lived years ago and grew up there, your correct on the reassements happening within a range to 5 to 10 years, depending on the real property type. Both States have individual and business property taxes, but NC further breaks out the property held by the various nonprofit groups (organizations, churches, etc etc under IRS Code) unlike Virginia.

    So, they have a more balanced approach for things which also takes in account that “Fair Market Value” has a high yearly fluctuation, and basing it more on a 10 year run for individuals is a more “fair” tax which also matches the US Census, and then it is ranges 5 to 10 years for businesses and nonprofits. Of course, there are the in-between years with their own rules when nonprofits close, sales of property, etc etc.

  7. Strategic Plan: well, folks who watched or where there for the first Public Hearing on the City Manager’s Budget heard me sing the praises of the first time aligned with the 2005 Strategic Plan. And although it is 7 years old, the main goals under each heading are still pretty relevant – the specific objectives under various goals though need tweeking.

    Of course, what could go hand in hand is as the Comp Plan 2008 finally comes to full circle and relooked and reworked is go back to the Strategic Plan (since the theroy is that is the beginning leading to comp plan) and tweak out goals.

  8. Thanks Raymond. There’s always a law, isn’t there? Too bad, because it does seem less frequent assessments would allow more stability. It would have been a better way to ride the real estate bubble. One thing I find interesting. I’ve begun paying more attention to what’s going on in NC since my (?) year high school reunion last summer, and as popular a place as Raleigh is right now, it is also experiencing a ton of controversy. A lot of newcomers hate it there – find it too sprawling, too slow, too provencial, too backwoods. And even though their school system has a great reputation, lots of people hate it too. In fact, there have been arrests at school board meetings. As big as some of the controversies here have been, I’m not aware of any arrests at meetings, are you? PWC has had “the law” and math investigations and the city has had “the shop,” but as rowdy as those things were, I don’t remember any law breaking. So I guess we can be grateful for that.

  9. Andy,

    Thanks for the update. Are there any set dates? I’d like to help out if I’m free.

  10. Patty, I just had to laugh when you wrote: “A lot of newcomers hate it there – find it too sprawling, too slow, too provencial, too backwoods.” The more things change, the more they stay the same. Raleigh had that reputation back in the 70s before I left NC….the joke used to be as you drove into that City and passed WRAL Channel 5 with their big TV broadcast tower with the star on top, it was the “Star of Bethle-Helms” since Jesse Helms and his family owned a good chunck of that City, plus he was one of the most powerful Southern Senators in Congress.

    As for fights, been over three decades in PWC since there was one. The last one was at a BOCS meeting back around ’74 or ’75 where the arguement started in the Chambers and lead out into the parking lot.

    One could almost hypothesize when looking at our City and the whole Prince William Area the same things you mentioned about Raleigh – newcomers would say it is trying to hold on to too much of the small town or country living when we are an urban area, and not thinking urban planning, leads to too many issues because not moving fast enough to deal with the changes.

  11. Steve Randolph

    March 20, 2012 at 8:10 am

    My grandchildren live in Holly Springs and are getting a world class
    education in Wake County Public Schools.

    Have noted that many friends and neighbors are newcomers,
    many from the Boston and New York areas, who have sometimes found
    Raleigh “different”, but seem to like it enough to move to it and buy
    a home. It has experienced some sprawl but nothing like N. Virginia.

  12. Steve, I went to high school in Wake County Schools and thought I received an excellent education. I also agree with you about the sprawl. It has grown tremendously since I lived there, but it doesn’t seem to be anything like what we have here. While I was there, everyone kept warning me about how bad traffic was, but traveling from Raleigh to Durham never took me more than about 40 minutes, even when I left at 8 am. Here I can’t even get from Manassas to Centreville in 40 minutes at 8 am. It really is a matter of perspective.

    Ray, I thought the same thing. The details may be different, but the fight is still the same. I have mixed feelings about it. Having lived in several different places and not ever returning to my hometown, I have been grateful when communities have accepted me as part of them and allowed me to change and be changed by them. On the other hand, my children have never known anywhere but PWC, and I see the security and comfort they gain from some things always being the same. Change can be very hard for them, particularly my older one, and I try for his sake to keep his life as consistent as possible. I do wish there were some way to make it so that those values didn’t compete and create so much tension. Wherever managed to solve that age old problem would be a magical place.

  13. Steve Randolph

    March 20, 2012 at 9:41 am

    Going to Raleigh this weekend for the baptism of my youngest
    grandchild, Charlotte, at Cary Presbyterian Church.

    No doubt her Dad, as he did with her siblings, will also soon
    give her a “baptism” in love and respect for the US Marines,
    and not too far behind, University of North Carolina basketball.
    Can already see her running with the family, her Dad calling cadence
    and the shoot arounds until dark on the b-ball backyard court.

    The big news in Raleigh today isn’t the Republican primaries or
    Iran, but UNC’s injured point guard. Fifty years from now,
    nobody will remember who was on the Raleigh City Council,
    but if you win the NCAA tournament they will never forget you.
    (And, yes, I like NC State too, unless they play the Heels)

  14. Go Heels! I was fortunate to be at the very first basketball game at the Smith Center and had the pleasure of watching Carolina beat Duke. I’ve been a fan ever since. You know you have something special when it takes an NCAA rule change to stop your offense. I never cared much for NCSU or Duke, but if Duke Children’s manages to save my nephew’s life, I may have to relent on them.

    Enjoy the baptism. Those are such special days.

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