The summer of our discontent, survey reveals

Not surprising: Albemarle's registered voters want to protect the county's rural areas. Surprising: Fewer than half of those surveyed by a local group are satisfied with the government's efforts to do so, in sharp contrast to a county survey that showed a more satisfied citizenry.

Nonpartisan development watchdog and information conduit Charlottesville Tomorrow released the results of a $51,000 public opinion research project Monday that surveyed 1,000 registered voters and conducted four focus groups.

"There was strong dissatisfaction with the government's ability to prepare infrastructure," says Charlottesville Tomorrow's executive director Brian Wheeler, pictured above. Nor do respondents believe government is responsive to voter concerns, Wheeler says.

Another big surprise from the survey of the mostly 50-plus-year-old, highly educated, and well-heeled respondents: 78 percent not only support land use policies like phasing or time-based zoning, but they know what the heck those are.

A mere 32.8 percent of respondents think local government is doing a good job making sure infrastructure is in place to support new development, and only 42 percent think developers pay their fair share for infrastructure. And despite the plethora of public hearings on almost every issue, 60 percent of the surveyed don't think the government pays enough attention to them. And while citizens squawked loudly about the latest round of property reassessments and the inevitable highter taxes, 56 percent of Charlottesville Tomorrow's respondents would support a modest tax increase earmarked for transportation– as long as it wasn't tacked on to property taxes.

Local Republican Paul Wright is skeptical about Charlottesville Tomorrow's nonpartisanship and the timing of the survey in a year when three Board of Supervisors seats are up for grabs.

"They claim they're nonpartisan, but I don't recognize a single local Republican on their board. I recognize a number of Democrats," says Wright, who is involved in several local Republican races.

He wonders about the lack of survey questions about property rights and "Should we compensate people for taking their property rights?"

Wheeler points to a survey question that that says property owners should be able to do what they like with their property, regardless of the impact on neighbors, with which only 34 percent agreed. "Any question about how we use the land or zone is all about property rights," contends Wheeler.

He also disagrees with Wright's perception that Charlottesville Tomorrow is a hotbed of Democrats. "Our vice chairman, Paula Newcomb, is Republican," says Wheeler. "I think that's not an accurate critique of our board."

He encourages those who doubt the organization's nonpartisanship to check out its donors on the Virginia Public Access Project website. [Disclosure: Hook owner Ted Weschler is on that list.]

VPAP tracks who gives money to state political candidates and how much. Wright contends that Albemarle County races are on there because Charlottesville Tomorrow donated $6,000 to VPAP. "There would not be online use of VPAP [Albemarle] data unless they donate money," he says.

"The donation was to support the initiative overall," replies Wheeler, who calls the donors' list "another example of nonpartisanship. We're bringing that transparency to the local level."

County spokeswoman Lee Catlin is not surprised that citizens were more satisfied with government in the county survey than in Charlottesville Tomorrow's because the county measures a wide variety of services such as fire, police, and parks.

"A lot of services are not as controversial as development," says Catlin, noting the narrow focus of the Charlottesville Tomorrow survey. "It's a very understandable discrepancy when you ask people about the one thing they're not very happy with."

She compares the most recent survey to those brought to the BOS by other advocacy groups like the Chamber of Commerce, the Free Enterprise Forum, or Southern Environmental Law Center.

"We are always anxious to find out what people are thinking and how government can be better," says Catlin. "We have to pay attention."

Still, "We do feel very confident in the credibility of our survey," she says.

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11 comments

WE NEED MORE ROADS. Even without any further development our road system in the county is grossly inadequate. Thats why there are so many accidents, delays, wasted fuel, added pollution, There should be a road from 250 on the east side of Pantops to RT 29 in the area of Lowe's. It would reduce the obscene traffic in the Pantops area dramatically. There is not a county in this country that can get by with only 2 Roads, 250 and 29 alone are not cutting it, Driving bumper to bumper at 20 mph on Rio is not an answer and God forbid if one of those routes is blocked and someone needs emergency services, There are virtually no alternate routes

Lindsay Dorrier has been Mortimer Snerd to Ken Boyd's Edgar Bergin for four years now. That's why the GOP isn't running anyone against Dorrier. They don't want to mess up a real good thing.

As for the survey, I was one of the 1,000+ surveyed via telephone. I thought they did a good job. The results didn't surprise me. Actually I thought the County got off easy.

The fact is our elected officials do not listen to the general public. They listen to special people who receive special treatment. They are a shameless and arrogant bunch -- ALL of them -- regardless of party affiliation.

It's time for a clean sweep in November.

That survey will come back and bite ALL TAXPAYERS [the nominal 50% of us who pay about !00% of the nation's taxes]. Thus instead of developer welfare, we get eco-welfare, farm-welfare, u-name-it welfare recipients in the taking of tax monies. It's a swap of one duper for another orchestrated by the same dupervisor, paid by the same dupees, the taxpayer.

Nowhere is the fundamental issue of the taking of tax monies addressed in thes polls...instead narrow proposals are issued as if they were representative. They would only keep the tax burden and gift the narrow interest groups...just like we do now with developer welfare. So it boils down to another distribution of wealth to those who have chosen to whine alike a Slutzky and not earn wealth.

The criticsm of partisanship is valid...the gang who authorized the defective survey are tax and spend folk who will earmark our earnings now for farm-welfare, eco-welfare, etc. Why not have a few Republican party folk around to provide another perspective? What will you do to them? Demonize them? Thanks to the relentless mob-hate, they already have so much scar tissue that it does not hurt anymore.

We will never come together on this if we buy into polls which only deflect our attention from central issues and make some folks look great on flawed premises. This is a popular gambit to narrow the focus alike Hitler blaming his governance problems on German Jewry...aka steer attention away from central issues. It will keep dupervisors in office granting earmarks for a few of the loyal dupers who vote for their local optimums while breaking the system down just as surely as the developer-duper crowd with their local optimums.

Watch out...the real issue is not one one or more little group's agenda items...the real misery-maker is one that we all suffer under, i.e., the looting of our earnings to satisfy dupers and dupervisors...the rationing of water...the crowded roads...the sewage treatment...the hauling of garbage to some other doofus county administerd by dupervisors too.

None of the political parties care to address this...and yet it is the biggest vote getter they all could hope for.

Best regards,
Tony Deivert

This survey just scratches the surface!

"County spokeswoman Lee Catlin is not surprised that citizens were more satisfied with government in the county survey than in Charlottesville Tomorrow's because the county measures a wide variety of services such as fire, police, and parks." Commentary: Fire and police services in Albemarle are not so hot, as press-secretary Catlin would have us believe. Fire departments here highly are dependent upon volunteer participants, which mode no longer is functional in our complex society. As for police service, that is abysmal. The police chief himself has admitted that we are around 8 officers short, and maybe that additional number is too few. When was the last time you saw a Albemarle squad car on US 29, US 250, VA 22/231 et al.? You see them occasionally on I-64, because police officers are coming and going from headquarters which is on south side of area. In the rush hour police wait until a wreck or fender bender occurs before appearing. Albemarle refuses to allocate or raise additional money for hiring more police, yet our population increases all the time. We have no Homeland Security. If we have more congested roads due to failure to expand the road system, then we need more supervision of roads we are using more intensely. We need more police out there, and more police is cost effective in the long run. Which costs more: another police officer or a spinal cord injury? All services of Albemarle County are on the short side, and that situation is due to failure to supply services in conjunction with growth and sprawl of population.

Average Joe -- here's where you come in.

The County grants millions of dollars in property tax relief to folks who own property in the Rural Areas -- the purpose is to defer development by-right in the Rural Areas. Phasing is another way to slow development in the Rural Areas. Unlike Land Use taxation, phasing doesn't cost anything. If we could implement phasing and do away with Land Use taxation, your property taxes could go down.

Last year Albemarle County said Land Use taxation "cost" the County $13+ million. Based on the prices paid for parcels formerly in the program, the "real" cost was more like $40 million.

We can slow growth in the Rural Areas for $40 million a year (and rising) or we can do it for free -- that is of course, if the residents really want to slow growth at all. I'm not convinced that is a goal of the majority of current residents. Seems more like a '70s ideal the "Dupervisors" keep parroting. The world has changed a lot since the '70s.

Time to phase out three "Dupervisors." That would be ideal! LOL

He encourages those who doubt the organization's nonpartisanship to check out its donors on the Virginia Public Access Project website. [Disclosure: Hook owner Ted Weschler is on that list.]

And, further to the topic, Ted Weschler is very much a Republican. As his VPAP profile shows, he's given $173,500 to Republicans since 1997. 77% of his giving has been to Republicans, which includes $31,000 to Rob Bell alone. He's clearly a very generous man, but his support of Charlottesville Tomorrow highlights the nonpartisan nature of the organization.

Speaking of disclosure, the quoted Paul Wright is functioning as campaign manager (Paul, I hope you'll correct me if I get this wrong) for Republican BoS member Ken Boyd. Mr. Boyd has been famously supportive of development, notably w/r/t to the NGIC deal, and no doubt his opponent Marcia Joseph (a Democrat and chair of the planning commission) has plans that align more closely with Charlottesville Tomorrow. Knowing both Paul and the good folk at The Hook as well as I do and as long as I have, I don't doubt for a moment that this lack of disclosure was a simple oversight, but I think it's well worth mentioning.

Great survey.....now if only our elected officials can keep the County from being consumed by developer greed.

Waldo, there is no secret that I am working several republican races. It says so in the article- where's the lack of disclosure? The article wasn't about me; my criticisms are valid regardless of my partisanship.

I think Charlottesville Tomorrow is a group of concerned citizens trying to do good work but have a provable bias that makes there constant claim of non partisanship an open question. The Board of Directors is dominated by wealthy democrats who make policy. Democratic candidates in Virginia received 94% of all the money donated by the Charlottesville Tomorrow Board of Directors and their immediate family. It's all available at vpap.org.

I think their lack of disclosure about the focus groups brings the entire study into question. Who picked the focus groups? Was their selection random? The demographics of those surveyed was not typical of the average Albemarle county resident. The average household income for this survey was in excess of $75, 000, the average age over 50. This among other things make county wide conclusions difficult at best. Does the fact they paid $51,000 make it a good study or just they that they have a lot of money.

Waldo, you mention Ted Weschler and no one else on the board or other donors- is that a lack of disclosure from you? The rest of the CT's board political giving significantly out paced Mr. Weschler generous republican giving by over $400k to Virginia democrats. Further there are no local republicans on the board of directors active in local republican politics. I can name several active local democrats who work to defeat local republicans in the last election and now are their board. Can you name one board member or donor who has ever worked on a local republican election? I believe their Executive Director was even an officer of the Albemarle Democratic party before coming to CT (I'm not 100% about that so please correct me).

Lastly, you or I can't become of member of Charlottesville Tomorrow unless we are invited. Go to the website and find where you can sign up to join- it's doesn't exist. They will take your money just not your active participation in making policy. Charlottesville Tomorrow is simply a group of 10 people lavishly bankrolled to make their voices heard about their concerns of growth and the future of Albemarle County.

Paul,

I imagine Waldo and Charlottesville Tomorrow can speak for themselves, but I'm personally curious about the fallacy of your argument here. Lindsey Dorrier also voted againsts rural preservation, and phasing and Clustering and he's a Democrat. If this was all a partisan issue then why would they do something that could potentially hurt the campaign of "one of their own"? That said, the Daily Progress suggests that Dorrier might reconsider his position on growth issues, but if so, then he still doesn't have a whole lot of time to prove that with his voting record.

Besides I think I can explain the so-called "bias" that you perceive. I think it'd be no different if there was a non-partisan group looking specifically at the environment. It isn't that all Republicans are "anti-environment", but you certainly must see that it isn't exactly one of their favorite topics as a party. On an individual level though, there are plenty of Republican environmentalists (just as I imagine that there are plenty of Democrats that'd are pro-growth). Percentage wise though, they might not make up a large number of any group that decided to tackle such issues. By that logic, would that make conservative environmental organizations like the Nature Concervancy a tool of the Democratic party? Don't tell the hunt clubs that rent TNC properties that!

(As a side note, why aren't Republicans running anyone against Dorrier in the Scottsville district?)

While local politicians and Gadflies squabble about this, your average Joe (like me) doesn't readily know, but could certainly figure out, what THIS means:

"78 percent not only support land use policies like phasing or time-based zoning, but they know what the heck those are."

This comment alone makes me think the survey was most likely a bit stacked. I don't know many people who are that well schooled on this subject. I appreciate all the debate but this kinda makes me wonder how politicians and activists (who certainly have a lot to SAY about the subject and have been talking about it for a LONG time) ever plan on getting to some kind of END in the whole thing.

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