My Side of the Fence

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


One quick thing: filing deadline for Republican primary is April 11th!!  It's the first step in our new November-centric electoral process.

Ya know, when I "got into" local gubbmint" I couldn't begin to imagine the issues I would eventually be facing.  We were in the middle of what has been termed an "immigration event" where the face of the city was radically changing.   The Federal lawsuit over definition of a family was in full swing.  Our schools are now majority-minority.  The percentage of latino residents doubled in 10 years to around

Yet the face of the governing body hasn't changed at all.  It has, in fact, gotten less diverse.  Manassas is now goverened by 7 white dudes.  For some, that's a problem as the government no longer reflects the electorate.  I guess I could agree with that but the government really doesn't reflect the electorate at any level.  Half of those in federal office are millionaires.  How many women in the GA?  That's certainly not how the country looks.  I suppose that as long as the government is responsive to the problems of the electorate it isn't that big a deal.  However, I'm not sure the city government has done much to address the issues facing our changing city other than hire more police and fire personnel.  That's been a major frustration of mine for awhile now.  

Just to clarify, in a typical precinct (district, parrish, whatever) system, people that live in a certain part of the jurisdiction are reperesented by a single person.  Manassas is a bit different in that all of our elected officials are "at large" meaning you get to vote for (or against I guess) every elected official in Manassas.  Manassas already has precincts but that's only to determine where you vote.

As with most issues there are ups and downs on both sides of the thang.  Those that support precincts have pushed them so that the elected body more accurately reflects the population.  They may, in fact, do that but as my friend Steve rightly points out – elections are won by them that show up.  If you want to see a woman (or whatever) elected to office, round up a candidate, some supporters and get after it!  I hold no dogmatic predisposition for or against more accurate (whatever that might mean) representation but given my experience on Council so far it seems like a reasonable idea.  It's still no substitute for an involved electorate but in the absence of that….

One downside that many do not consider: when precincts are involved: you literally have 1 member of Council who is "yours".  Currently all 6 and the Mayor represent you.  They have an interest (presumably) in whatever your issue is because they are your representative.  If we were to switch to a precinct system and away from at-large, you are not represented by anyone but the person from your precinct.  You could certainly lobby those other members of Council but they would no longer directly represent you.  That might not matter much if you are trying to get a pot hole patched but when there's a question that affects one particular part of the city – a new development comes to mind – you might want to be able to influence all 6.  Again, you could call the Council members not representing you but if it's a tough vote?  They're going to vote with their peeps.  Hell, we don't have a precinct system and we already see that happening.

What do you think?


  1. Do the residents of Baldwin precinct really have different concerns from the residents of Weems?  In a large jurisdiction, precinct-level elections make sense because one elected official can't be farmilliar with all parts of, say, the county.  In a small jurisdiction like Manassas, they can.  Voting by precinct would just pit different sections of the town against each other, driving our little city apart rather than pulling us together.


  2. Maybe.  Take the debate over Hastings Marketplace for instance.  People in Old Town were like,  "cool, Harris Teeter!!".  People over in Oakenshaw were furious at first – they saw more cut-through traffic, noise, cooking smells, etc.  Those two neighborhoods are about a mile apart…

    Others would point out that vast swaths of our population are essentially unrepresented.  Like GTS.  800-odd housing units.


  3. I think its about time.  The Council doesn't seem to care a whit about anything that isn't an old town problem.  If Mr. Harrover is to be helieved, the most substantive discussion are still on how to cut the budget.  This council/mayor bumbles from issue to issue not caring about any problem that isn't on center street.  Time for some new blood.

  4. When people discuss our City issues, I like to sometimes refer to Charlottesville….population is about the same at around 44,000 and is just a few acres or so less in size than Manassas.  Interesting enough, their Mayor (South Asian and follower of Sikhism) and City Manager (African American) are male, and the three Council Members are all White female.  Smaller Council, but interesting flip from our all white male.

    Charlottesville has many similar issues as we do, and yet, seem to find the solutions.  I had recommended a year or so ago when the Parking Districts issue came up, to look at what they did.  And it has stood up to two court challenges!  Their City Council Strategic Plan makes interesting reading:

    Now, as for precincts, they pretty much match what we do.  They use a combination of Schools, the Boys & Girls Club, and Rec Center for 9 precincts which divide up the City.  And they, like we do, have no specific precinct "assigned" to one Council Member.  And like us residents out and about, the Charlottesvillinians can call one, two,or three.

    Of course, in my habit, there are times I write our Mayor, Council and City Manager (with copy to our City Clerk so she knows its in the building).  Most times, I am select with a couple of Council as I know they are the ones listening.

  5. I like that the city budget is so lean but I agree that our Council aren't problem solvers.  They're plodders that don't provide much leadership.

  6. andy

    March 29, 2014 at 11:57 am

    Well, I suppose I don't think much of being called a "plodder" but I can appreciate your sentiment.  I share your frustrations.  I don't agree that the council spends its time on only OT problems.  

  7. Where is the outcry that the current set of "white guys" aren't meeting the needs of the citizens? Sorry I don't see it.

    Another thing to keep in mind is with some sort of precinct system you run the risk of certain electeds becoming entrenched.

    And think of gerrymandering brought to our City.

    Plus a Steve Randolph type independent would have much less chance making it onto Council.

    i could go on and on.

    Leave it alone. We don't need representative precincts.


    How about we fix REAL problems like the ridiculous schools funding situation that means for every dollar some part of City government needs we have to raise taxes something like $2.50 so there's a buck left for government after the schools take their 58%.


  8. andy

    March 30, 2014 at 10:14 am

    I guess it really is dependent upon what you believe the problems are.  I think the city has long term structural problems that we need to address.  I know that we have also never revisited the services the city provides (other than to reduce them) in the wake of the immigration wave.  Seems like it would be a good idea.

    I've been trying to not do posts on the city budget but I might break down and do one.

  9. Why are you not doing budget posts?  Is there something we should know?

  10. andy

    March 30, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    You should know I'm not a reporter…:)  Seriously, in the past, I spent a fair amount of time on budget posts and I just don't know what it accomplished.  The meetings are on tv and the budgets are all public info so…

  11. For not being a reporter, you're doing a great job, between the blog and the dias cam. Hope you'll expand to podcasts and Skype interviews from the glass-enclosed Matrix front window 🙂  Thanks for keeping us informed. Sorry I missed the Friday coffee.

  12. Steve Randolph

    March 31, 2014 at 2:57 pm

     "The Manassas Democratic Committee intends to take up the

      standard for a ward system for Manassas City Council elections.

       A press release issued by the committee on Wednesday quoted

      committee Chairman Dawn Hunt as saying ' Manassas should adopt the

      system voluntarily and avoid the legal expense and negative publicity the

      town of Warrenton recently received in losing a case to the NAACP and ACLU.'

        Warrenton Town Attorney  Robert Bendall, who is also assistant city attorney for

      Manassas, said the suit was settled, and Warrenton has agreed to set up a

      mixed at-large/ward system with two councilmen elected at large and five

      elected by wards.

        Response from Manassas officials has been lukewarm at best."


      Manassas Journal-Messenger (5-15-1986)




  13. Andy,

    Interesting comments here. You mention that council is composed by " seven white dudes". I would like to point out that previously we have had women on council and blacks on council, I honestly don't remember any other minorities but the point here is that if a minority wants to run he/she can get elected in Manassas. At this current time the only folks who have been willing to step forward and run are a bunch of white dudes and I personally thank each of them for having the "guts" to run and serve as I've thanked each of our previous council members for serving in their time.  Agree or disagree with their positions on any topic, those folks had the "guts" to run and serve. They all deserve our thanks and respect.

  14. The webpage for the City's Zoning Ordinance Update Project is up and running!  My compliments to the City Staff for the layout and content!

  15. Something to think about… Virginia Beach has a unique hybrid system in which seven council members represent districts they must live in but all are elected by voters citywide. The City Council also has three at-large members and the mayor, who are elected citywide.

    From the Virginian-Pilot:

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