So that was how my weekend began on Friday, a surprise phone call from Corey Stewart. Corey pitched an idea to me about creating a new citizen land use committee to help formulate a better land use chapter for the county. Although initially I was excited, upon some deeper introspection, I realized, the very idea of another land use committee was actually a poor idea. Calling Corey back the next day, I shared my trepidation and ultimate decision not to participate on such a committee. You see, Corey shared his frustration with the land use process not having enough citizen input. I agreed, wholeheartedly, with his analysis.  But, forming a new citizen committee,  beyond the scope of the formal public process, in my opinion,  could be interpreted as another, behind the scenes, ” business as usual”,  closed government strategy. 

The real underlying problem is that our process in this county is broken. The Land Use Advisory Committee (LUAC) had members who had CLEAR, actually BLINDING, conflicts of interest. In fact, one of the glaring issues with Robert Duecaster, beyond his immigration rhetoric, was the very fact that he had NO Human Services experience. Who are the people that are appointed to these committees? Should there be a level of knowledge on the specific subject in order to participate? 

Apparently Wally Covington reached out to Katherine Gotthardt(click here to read more) to be on a land use committee also. Is it the same land use committee as Corey? I don’t know? But the reality is that the public process is well on its way, and has been for two years. The Planning Commission, having two plans to choose from as Charlie Grymes so eloquently points out in his commentary, will make their decision on April 15th.

Land use decisions effect each and every one of us, and the “business as usual” paradigm in Prince William County must be resolved. If it is not, if we continue down this same path, we can only expect to see our taxes increase, our infrastructure become even more burdened, and ultimately, our quality of life diminished irreparably. 

48 Thoughts to “Ring Ring…..”Hello”….”Hi Elena, its Corey, lets talk Land Use””

  1. Opinion

    Elena, It’s always better to be inside the tent than outside the tent… because the door out is always open. The power to resign from a Committee in protest should you disagree with its direction is a powerful tool that you don’t have unless you are on the Committee.

  2. IVAN

    Perhaps this is a case of “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.”

  3. Yeah, I was pretty surprised! LOL! Not a usual happening for me, but you are pretty used to calls I ma sure!

    If you read my post, you will see why I said I could edit but not make decisions.

  4. Mom

    What a disaster, a LUAC with potential conflicts, a renegade Planning Office, split Planning Commission, competing land use texts being published, overzealous supervisors stepping on the process, and now the potential for yet another review body. It smacks of damage control and political posturing, truly “business as usual” in the county as it likely won’t effectively address the underlying problem which is continued developement (commercial or residential, it doesn’t make a difference) without infrastructure improvement.

    Until the underlying infrastructure is addressed, all the talk about stopping residential growth but creating more office and retail space is specious in that both will continue to exacerbate the problem. The other thing that everyone on the Board seems to be overlooking is the hundreds of thousands of square feet of vacant and millions of square feet of approved but unbuilt office/retail space, particularly in the western end of the county. Combine all of that with a likely continued drop in commercial property values (they usually lag two years behind residential property in assessed value trends) and you truly have a recipe for even greater fiscal and physical disaster in the coming years.

  5. Anon

    Somewhat bad taste, don’t you think Elena, to take a private conversation and post it on a blog? If someone reaches out to you and you bite them in the hand, do you expect them to reach out to you again?

  6. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    I look forward to learning more about the unique qualifications of these individuals as pertains to land use policy. In KG’s case, the skills needed for developing land use policy must not include the ability to construct a coherent sentence without invoking the name of Hitler and Nazi party.

  7. Opinion

    Anon (…bad taste…), that thought also crossed my mind… I just didn’t verbalize it.

  8. UlteriorMotive

    Clearly there’s an ulterior motive, probably always is with politicians.

  9. You Wish

    Why did neither of you take this opportunity? As much as both of you complain about politicans and Corey specifically, a chance is given to make a difference and you both balk at it? I don’t get it. One of you turned it down flat and chalked it up to business as usual and the other voluntered to “edit” the writing. There was your chance, ladies – you blew it.

  10. You Wish

    @Slowpoke Rodriguez
    Word, Slowpoke, word. Hear you loud and clear.

  11. You Wish, if you read my post on my blog, you would have noticed first, I don’t have any related skills and second, I had conflicts. Mr. Covington completely understood and asked me to keep in touch.

    I write for a living, so my offering free services is a pretty good bargain for the county, wouldn’t you agree?

    Slowpoke, the county has a variety of people serving on committees including Robert Duecaster on a Human Services committee.

    That said, I am sure the county would appreciate any of you volunteering your services in your field specialty.

  12. Alanna

    Sounds like turning this down and shedding some light on the process is in the best interest of the county. I prefer transparency in government where nothing is sacred. Everything should be done in the light of day. Backroom negotiations where the relationships and dealings are kept hidden from public consumption are probably the most treacherous. A conversation between an elected official and a sitting board member of an environmental organization is exactly what I want to know about. Elena, are you a board member of Prince William Conservation Alliance?

    I don’t understand the mindset that implies Elena or Katherine should want to become part of the Corey or Wally team?

  13. Alanna

    And where’s my invitation from Stirrup to serve on a land-use committee? I’ve been glued to the phone for days but no call. 🙁

  14. Happy Harry

    I’m just still wondering how Pinko read an article on Sunday night that wasn’t posted until Monday morning. But according to MH, I’m just nit picking and should shutup and be quiet.

  15. You Wish

    Posting As Pinko :You Wish, if you read my post on my blog, you would have noticed first, I don’t have any related skills and second, I had conflicts. Mr. Covington completely understood and asked me to keep in touch.
    I write for a living, so my offering free services is a pretty good bargain for the county, wouldn’t you agree?

    I’m sure they have paid staff members that already do that. And I did read your blog and still don’t understand – because you can’t read a map or read the zoning code you can’t serve on a committee? It just seems like it was an easy out for both of you. “Oops, sorry – I can’t read a topographical map so instead of trying to help the county, I’ll just proofread – for free!”

  16. LOL! Alanna!

    I don’t think I’ve ever said anything really bad about Wally. I have major environmental concerns about this area (i.e. no trees, historic sites compromised, etc.) and I wonder about developers’ relationship with him and the whole BOCS, but I don’t remember calling him “evil.” I actually told Mr. Covington in our conversation, “If I don’t like you, I will tell you.” 🙂

    There seems to be some concern over open government, but committee meetings are all open to the public as far as I know. The more people who know and attend, the better, I think.

    On the other issues, I confess I don’t fully understand the political or “version” issues. It’s a bit over my head, and I think I might prefer it that way.

  17. Incidentally, I DID ask Elena if Wally was evil, and she said no. So that’s a good thing. 🙂

  18. Elena

    Hi Anon,
    I pondered the entire weekend about how to handle this issue. The reality is that I felt it important to remain upfront and open myself. If the committee was suppose to be some completey private affair, which Corey never indicated, than I am doubly even MORE troubled. I have said nothing uncomplimentary towards Corey in land use, I am simply pointing out the underlying problem with how this county creates policy. I understand Corey’s frustration, but the way to combat these systemic problems must be dealt with in a holistic approach. @Anon

  19. Elena

    Yes Alanna, I am a board member for the Prince William Conservation Alliance 🙂 @Alanna

  20. Moon-howler

    Dearest Happy Harry (who isn’t really happy),

    Did I say THAT? I am very short of patience these days, especially when I feel people are coming here just to prove a point and not to discuss the issues.

    Let me ask you why you care when Pinko read the newspaper? I often read the next day’s paper late at night, online. Could that have been the case? Why should she share that information with you?

  21. Elena

    Hi Anon,
    I just assumed this land use committee was for public consumption. As I said in my commentary, I was “excited” that Corey had called me. I don’t think you give Corey enough credit. I doubt very highly that Corey would approve of, or involve himself in, a secret committtee. In fact, I was quite pleased that when I shared my concerns regarding the “perception” of a new and seperate land use commiittee, he seemed to totally understand my point of view. I am glad that Corey is interested in working for a better land use plan and therein, improving the process! I am totally willing to aid him in that endeavor, but my belief is we need to deal with the broken process in a comprehensive manner, not by simply forming more committees.

  22. Mom

    Elena, I agree that fixing the process should be a priority but, other issues aside, I don’t know how that can be accomplished without first gutting the Planning Office hierarchy (perhaps they should look at younger, “cheaper” administrators in this time of budget crisis) and then dealing with those certain members of the Board who seem to drive the poor land use policy bus.

  23. Elena

    You Wish,
    The process of updating the comp plan has been evolving over the last two years. It’s a little late now, with only three weeks before the PC votes on what plan to send the board to make a real difference. Land use is VERY complicated, I certainly, am no expert. @You Wish

  24. Simon Stone

    Hard to imagine a private conversation with a politician around here. There are people out there who seem to think everything is their business and will file a FOIA request at the drop of a hat. So what difference does it make?

    Glad to learn Corey can compartmentalize his politics and not hold a grudge. Most people would.

  25. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    By the way, I have to add, that I read KG’s blog entry (thanks for the link), and she acknowledges that she is not a land use expert. It just struck me a little odd (as it did KG) that Covington would ask her to do that.

  26. Slow, it IS kind of odd. Then again, I know they like to get citizens involved on committees, and I know he knows I’m big on citizen input…..ALL citizens, not select groups. He probably figured since I supported keeping the rural crescent intact, I at least have an interest.

    Covington asked me before if I would be interested in working on travel and tourism. That would make more sense to have me on travel and tourism, since I’ve done research on the history and am a proponent of the Hallowed Ground project which would bring tourism into the county and hence, money without having to build. And I wouldn’t have conflicts with that. (Come to think about it, I might email him on that again. That committee might be full, though.)

    You Wish, I wish you weren’t such a nit-picky griper. You rarely have anything useful to say and you obviously have some personal problem with me and Elena. You really ought to go find something useful to do. Why not volunteer or something? If you’re really bored, feel free to come over and do my laundry.

  27. Anesthesia

    Hi. I’ve been lurking here for awhioe, but i was wondring why people like you wish are so mean? those comments have nothing to do with the blog post?

    Anyway, i have been reading this for while and read bvbl too. it’s interstring to see both side. and there’s mean people over there too. i hope i never meet them in person.

  28. ladyblue

    Anesthesia, i don’t know. i noticed it too.

  29. Anesthesia

    Sorry about the typos! Those were pretty bad. I have my coffee and contacts now.

  30. food for thought

    Pinko said, “Slow, it IS kind of odd. Then again, I know they like to get citizens involved on committees, and I know he knows I’m big on citizen input…..ALL citizens, not select groups. He probably figured since I supported keeping the rural crescent intact, I at least have an interest.”

    Just playing devil’s advocate here, so don’t attack me…but by this rationale, what was wrong with putting what’s his name (Stirrup’s guy) on the Human Services committee? Even if he didn’t know anything about that subject, maybe he just “had an interest” and was “big on citizen input.”

  31. Duecaster has a major conflict of interest, IMHO. Human Services folks work with vulnerable, impoverished people including immigrants. Duecaster doesn’t separate out legal from illegal. He believes babies are “anchor babies” and has attacked specific religions. How is supposed to add unbiased policy on a committee like this? How is he supposed to make decisions on say, whether or not to give “anchor babies” or Catholics health services? He can’t do it objectively.

    My primary reason for not wanting to make decisions on land use is that I had a conflict of interest–not that I didn’t want to help out. My second reason is I don’t know a thing about it. The third thing is I don’t want to get in the middle of a political row. I just don’t need that in my professional life. I keep my professional life and my “other lives” separate. I consider being part of a county committee professional. Members affect the entire county when they propose something, and that is not to be taken lightly.

    I think you SHOULD know something about the subject you are expected to make decisions on, and you need to do that in a way that doesn’t hurt the county. I don’t believe he is capable of doing that. His private affiliations are too close to what he is asked to be doing and I would say those affiliations have gone a long way to HURT the reputation of this county.

    Again…my opinion.

  32. Incidentally, based on the criteria above, I would NEVER accept an appointment to a committee on say, immigration. There is NO way I could be objective.

    We have to be honest with ourselves.

  33. food for thought

    I think that is a fair response, Pinko.

  34. JustinT

    Elena, thanks for sharing this.

    I think it’s a good sign that Corey Stewart and Walling Covington are reaching out to concerned citizens who have been involved in the community for many years. That’s how it ought to be. I also agree that at this late juncture it wouldn’t have amounted to anything other than a surface appearance of public input. But it is a step.

    This step needed to be shared with the public, and I’m glad they did. Corey and Elena have an interesting history that is at the center of our county government. She supported his initial run for Chairman and even held a fundraiser for him. But then she was forced to stand against him on the immigration issue, and rallied the silent majority to help the county right its course, and not suffer million dollar lawsuits due to a profiling policy that was ill-conceived however politically expedient.

    In reaching out to Elena, Corey is saying to the public that he has not gone permanently “Duecaster” on us. That is GREAT NEWS.

    I’m glad that Elena is not withholding important information like this, because the biggest problem we have had is lack of transparency, with only certain lobbying groups working with certain Board members to craft policy for the whole county.

    This is good news. Glad it was shared. Slowly but surely, the people and the government are getting on the same page again.

  35. Elena

    Thanks Justin T 🙂@JustinT

  36. The problem is because of all the immigration stuff, the way it was decided and from whom they got the policy, we are so distrustful of our local government, we question any time people like Corey Stewart and company even talk to us!

  37. Emma

    Elena, can Corey ever do anything right in your eyes? He reached out to you, disregarding your incessant attacks on him and his character, and of course you castigate him publicly for such a bad idea, criticizing it as “business as usual.” Sounds like accepting his olive branch would take away anti-bvbl’s reason for being, now, wouldn’t it?

    I agree with anon–very poor taste just when I thought this blog was becoming somewhat more reasonable.

  38. Anesthesia

    Do you have to be nice to politicians? I’m just wondering.

  39. Moon-howler

    Anesthesia, I don’t think you have to be nice to anyone if you don’t want to be.

    Emma, there you go with that broad-brush again. Read my lips, each person here is an individual. The admins all have different views about various things. Actually, I don’t have an opinion about Corey one way or the other on this issue. Elena, on the other hand, has stated her feelings above.

    So, how have you been? It has been a while.

  40. Elena

    Hi Emma,
    I am wondering, exactly where did I “castigate” Corey? You are not giving Corey enough credit. In my response to Anon, Corey ALSO did not want the perception of closed government. He agreed with my concerns and saw where there could be “perception” of back door dealings. Why aren’t you willing to give Corey the kudos I did?

    I’m not sure how involved in county policy you have been in the past, but especially where land use is concerned, citizens have often complained of the “back door” negotiations that happen out of the public eye. Instead of attacking me, you should be wondering to yourself, “how ARE policy decisions being made on a county level ?” . Land use decisions effect each and every one of us, one way or another.

    You may find this hard to believe Emma, but I like Corey. One on one, he is funny and engaging, those are qualities that make him a successful politician. My hope IS that Corey is searching for a way back to what made him popular initially, his stance on smart growth, open government, and conservation.

  41. Emma

    I’m fine, Moon-howler, thank you for asking. I’m not broad-brushing–just click on the “about” tab and on this site and you get the video of Elena criticizing Corey. That gives the impression of what this blog is “about”–I wasn’t saying everyone shared the same opinion. I just thought this particular phone call was a friendly overture that should not have been turned into critical comment material, that’s all. Just another opinion amid the din, I guess 🙂

  42. Emma, Corey did do something right in Elena’s eyes, and, if you read the comments on this thread, a majority of people agree. Our Chairman wants to enlist the input of citizens (who agree with him) on an important issue, and he is doing so by reaching out to a influential community leader (who agrees with him).

    To many residents of this county, and many in the greater metropolitan region, Corey Stewart is best known for reaching out to the likes of Greg Letiecq and Robert Duecaster, and then conforming his views to theirs without taking the time to think things through. Whether or not you agree with Elena on land use, you have to be encouraged by this development, if for no other reason than the fact that Corey Stewart is seeking to form alliances with opinion makers based upon shared ideas … rather than seeking out opinion makers based on political expediency, and then conforming his views to those of said opinion maker no matter how extreme or how deleterious to our county’s future.

    Like Elena, I have always thought that Corey Stewart was an affable, indeed charming fellow, and a capable politician who had the potential to be the sort of centrist Republican our county and our country will need as we our nation inevitably moves left of center. I supported Corey Stewart when he campaigned as a green Republican for smart growth and open government.

    Unfortunately, Corey had a bad spell where he painted himself as the worst sort of right wing extremist. It’s a reputation he needs to live down. And, as a county, we should encourage him to live it down. Right now, his reputation is our reputation, and our future is being damaged by that fact day in and day out. As I have long suspected, the GregNCorey Show, as I used to call it, was a marriage of convenience, made only because Corey mistakenly thought the political winds were blowing in Greg Letiecq’s direction. Now he knows better, and the gesture of reaching out to Elena is just one of the ways he is trying to show it.

    (Over the past year, I have been relieved and also heartened to see Corey Stewart free himself from the hooks that Greg Letiecq and his followers had sunk into him. Recall: a year ago, Corey Stewart would not so much as wipe his nose without asking Greg Letiecq for the go-ahead. Now, my guess is they aren’t even on speaking terms.)

    Whether Elena accepted Corey’s invitation, or respectfully declined, the fact that he offered it reflects favorably on both of them … particularly on Corey. It shows that he was never truly owned by immigration issue, at least not with the same hysteria and hatred that defined the other high-profile proponents of the “Immigration Resolution.” It shows that he doesn’t see Elena as his “enemy” just because she opposed him on that one issue. In sum, it shows that Corey Stewart is not a hateful or vindictive man. He lost his head for one election cycle, and he wants the public to forgive him. For the time being, I am prepared to do so.

  43. JustinT

    That’s basically the difference between Corey Stewart in an election year and Corey Stewart otherwise. Come 2011, he’ll be running after who ever he thinks will help him get elected, and assuming whatever position he’s told to assume. I’m tired of politicians who assume the position. I never know what to expect from year to year. Forgive and forget? Not on election day.

  44. JustinT

    I do appreciate that he has seen the error of his ways and is trying to make amends. I don’t want him to go back the other way. I just can’t trust him, so I don’t know what he’ll do. That’s all I’m saying.

  45. Moon-howler

    Emma, perhaps we need to update that about page. On the other hand, Elena’s appeal to the supervisors can be seen as the turning point of the debate. Many people sat up and took notice of what she was saying.

    I know of 2 incidents that I bet 100 people have commented on as having a pivotal influence on their thinking. One was Elena’s speech before the BOCS, involving the dog thread on bvbl. The other was HSM going after Chief Deane for treason. That was a very poorly calculated political move.

  46. JustinT

    M-H, I agree. The attack on Chief Deane was the tell tale sign that Corey Stewart’s brain was infected with the Greg Letiecq illness. That was when we realized the anti-immigrant insanity was never going to stop unless the people stood up and held their ground. Alanna was the first to really do this, and Elena was right behind her. Then the rest of us were like: if two ladies can stand up to these crazy rabid nutjobs, how can I be afraid?

  47. Bryanna

    Let’s take a step back and look at the big picture for a minute.

    Each Supervisor appoints a Planning Commissioner. Each Supervisor appointed a representative to serve on the Land Use Advisory Committee and there is the county staff’s input.

    Now Corey and Wally are considering a fourth entity and for what specific purpose? What is the precise definition of the ultimate goal of a Citizen Committee. Will this Committee serve at the luxury of the Planning Commission or the Supervisors?

    If more information is needed on the direction of land use, perhaps each Planning Commissioner should host a Town Hall or Charette to gain a better understanding of their constituents desires.

    Doesn’t seem like it would add more bureaucracy to the process rather than seeking ways to improve efficiency?

    If the desire is for community input, then I suggest the supervisors use technology and create an on-line community forum for all to participate. Much like the White House did last week.

  48. Anonymous

    Bryanna, This is a great idea. I know that Supervisor Mike May and his Planning Commissioner Kim Hosen recently held a charrette in the Occoquan District. Supervisor Frank Principi and Planning Commissioner Russell Bryant also recently held a charrette that covered a portion of the Woobridge District. Maybe others will follow their lead soon.

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