Thursday, October 20, 2016

Free Speech Comes with Consequences...

On Thursday, October 20, 2016, I posted a link to an article that was titled, "F@#! You, Trump. My Baby was "ripped out of my womb" because I was going to die." Here is a link to the clean version of the story. 

I read the article so that I could see what prompted such a forceful title. In reading her story, which was laced with expletives for emphasis and showed her extreme angst at this horrific decision she had to face, I came to feel her anger too. I felt the anger at the ignorance and the lies that are repeatedly told to reverse a woman's right to chose her reproductive health.  

So, in my anger, I shared the post on my personal Facebook page. I prefaced the article with an apology for the profanity and explained why I thought her story was important to share.

One of the most thoughtful comments was from a friend, who I believe is a Trump supporter. She expressed her angst at what he said and shared her story of loss. Another friend expressed her disdain for abortion and it started an insightful back and forth. No ugliness. Just civil discourse where we women were learning and sharing which is how it is supposed to work.

A few hours later, I got a call that one of my Facebook "friends" had posted my post to a Conservative Facebook Group and people (specifically women) were eviscerating me. I called my mom to get her opinion, and she said she saw it, and although she understood the intent of the post, she didn't think it was wise to post since too many will misinterpret and distort it. So, I deleted it.

I thought about it and then posted a follow up on my Facebook:

The first comment on my follow up was from the woman who supports Trump. We have had discussions on various topics, and though we don't always agree, we have a mutual respect for each other and opinions. Her response was as follows:
I have to say, I try to read as much of other's opinions especially those that have lost a baby like myself. It's tragic, and I was smart enough to read through the words others considered profane, but are part of reality. I do think those words reflected her anger, disappointment, and grief. They didn't need to click the link and read. I believe in the Constitution and all of the rights within. Obviously, that person is NOT your friend. Stay strong.  

Instead of misinterpreting the entire article or the post, my friend read it, digested it, and commented her thoughts. Not once, but twice. She posted to the article that contained profanity and to my follow up post.   

My post was not pro-abortion. My post was not a promotion of the writer's profanity. My post was to show another side to what a woman faces when she struggles to make the decision to end a unviable pregnancy that was distorted by a presidential candidate during the October 19th debate.  

An article posted after the presidential debate hit home poignant points about how distorted "late-term abortion" has become. One look at Twitter today and it is clear that everyone who has an unwavering pro-life position believes that Hillary Clinton is ripping babies from wombs that have gestational viability. As the article sums up, "it's a mischaracterization of Clinton's position, it's a mischaracterization about what abortion looks like in the United States, and it's a mischaracterization of how obstetricians treat late-term patients."  

The article also went on to state, "if you rip a baby out of the mother's womb at three days before it was due, that is a C-section. If you intentionally harm or kill the child, that is infanticide. It is not abortion - and it is NOT what Clinton has ever supported.

It certainly isn't what I support. 

What someone chose not to grasp when I posted that article is that just because I believe a woman should have the choice about whether to end an unviable pregnancy and make that decision with her doctor, I do not want to kill unborn babies. Ever. 

I am the mother of three children. I was asked during my third pregnancy to have an amniocentesis because of my age. I was too worried to have one for fear sticking a needle into my womb would cause me to lose my baby since there was a risk for that. I told the doctor that I would keep my baby no matter what. Of course, if the physician discovered after my ultrasound that my unborn baby had no brain, brain stem, spine, or some horrible deformity which would rob that baby of a life to live, I would have had to face that gut wrenching decision that so many women and their partners must face. I don't know what I would do. I won't dare try and make that decision for another woman. 

I do feel though that I must have empathy for my fellow human. I can only give my hope and prayers to the women who are faced with that decision and trust her to make an informed choice. I grieve for my friends who have had to go down that dark abyss and experience the profound loss of a wanted baby. As a mom, I feel such hurt for the women who belong to one of the saddest groups in the world.....they carried babies that had no hope and made the heartbreaking decision to end their pregnancies for medical reasons. The anecdotal stories that women have that their doctor told them their baby would be born deformed and they were born perfect are just that. Those instances are few and far between with the technology and medical advances we have today.  

I am grateful I have never had an abortion or faced the news that my baby is not viable. My personal beliefs or lack of context don't give me the right to hold other people to my standard or anyone else's standard.  

I have yet to meet a women who has had an abortion after 20 weeks because she is evil and heartless. I have yet to hear women retell the story of how she got knocked up and ignored her condition until halfway through the pregnancy and ended it because it was inconvenient for her selfish lifestyle.  If she exists, I have never met her. So forgive me if I feel like she may be a myth perpetuated to create fear. This is why I was moved to post that article because a presidential candidate tried to use this myth to perpetuate a position. 

I apologize, again, to anyone who read my personal Facebook post and was offended by the profanity it contained in the article. If I had to do it again, I would not have posted it. I would still post her story of pain and her angst at the candidate (the cleaner version which I found later). Yes, the profanity may have been unnecessary and in the context of the writer's story, it was integral to her story. The manner in which I posted that article was not a personal vulgar outburst or a vulgar tirade toward anyone I know.  

But that isn't the whole gist of why I decided to write this post. What unnerves me is that someone felt compelled to attempt to suppress my freedom of speech, which was my opinion on her late term abortion, because they seemingly do not agree with what I posted. I don't know the specifics of what was posted to that Conservative Facebook Group, but no doubt it wasn't in context, it didn't include my full comments, and it was likely full of distortions. Nevertheless, that post to that group generated this complaint:  

This complaint was written by someone who I do not represent and does not live in my town.  More importantly, my post was not a "rant about abortions." If the complainant had read my personal Facebook post and the comments it generated, I believe the outcome may have been different. But this person didn't get to see my original post. In fact, I have no idea what they saw, but based on the complaint, I think I do. 
As a member of a local town council, I deal with zoning, ordinances, and other local legislative actions. I am glad I don't have to deal with the topic of abortions or face the vitriol on the subject in my elected position (this was plenty).  

What is disconcerting is that someone feels that I am not entitled to have an opinion. This person seems oblivious of the many in higher elected office who "post things of that nature." Many of my Virginia elected representatives have quite a few opinions on the subject. I am offended by many of their comments on the topic. When I disagree with them, I do what most people do, I write to them. I also don't vote for them because they actually represent me on those issues.  

Should the public decide to not support me in the future, though I have done right by them on many other levels of service and actions, over an issue that I do not legislate on, then so be it. I respect that. That is our democracy. My freedom of speech comes with consequences. 

Regardless, it is, in my opinion, cowardly of the person, who is one of my Facebook "friends" to share my post in an attempt to disparage me. Instead of reaching out to me directly, they did what cowards do.  

Humanity is about lifting other people up and giving them strength when they need it. We should be supporting other women and not judging them. I chose to support a woman's anger and validate it, which I did. 
I have many friends who are Trump supporters who are pro-life.  I am enriched by their views the same way I am enriched by those who are pro-choice and are Hillary supporters. A lot of different flowers makes for a colorful bouquet. Hearing from those who think differently from us provokes more thought and empathy. 

“Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

A little Civil Disobedience now and then can be a good thing.....

Social media has a way of bringing out the pitchforks and making demands before anyone's due process has occurred.  The recent detainment of a Loudoun County School member at a Trump rally has garnered some harsh commentary on social media and an unnecessary demand by the Loudoun County Republican Committee for Mrs. Maloney to resign. In my opinion, it is premature and pointless, and the stories about what was witnessed are contradictory and confusing.

Hundreds of politicians have been arrested through the years while attending protests of various kinds. Often, they are slapped on the wrists no different than the civilians who were also arrested. Some were arrested for disorderly conduct for sitting down and refusing to leave a roadway.  Others because they broke an ordinance.

I don't advocate anyone breaking any laws, rules, or regulations regarding protesting.  Believing in the first amendment, everyone should have a right to voice an opinion, regardless of that view.  On the whole, most protesters do just that. Frequently, it is miscommunication or misperception that causes problems. The right to protest is critical to our democracy.  Sometimes, though, our governments and law enforcement unintentionally aid in silencing this right.

What is misunderstood is that protesters who engage in civil disobedience are not protected under the First Amendment. A protestor does not have a right to block a building entrance or physically harass people. I don't believe she did either.

Mrs. Maloney gave an interview to Voice of America and in doing so the line moved forward. During her interview, Mrs. Maloney was measured in her answers, calm, and did not indicate in any way any intentions to be disruptive.  It seems she may have tried to get back in line, and because she was wearing a "Love Trumps Hate" sticker on her shirt, it may have created fodder for those who felt inclined not to offer her any courtesy to allow her back in line. It seems that her wearing that sticker was more than enough to exclude her and that is where the confusion begins.

I can't say I would have conducted myself in the same manner, and I understand the frustration of having stood in line for several hours to be treated with such indifference. Instead of removing herself, she may have sat down making a declaration of her place or that she felt she had a right to go in. Perhaps she was refused entrance and sat down in protest. That act alone can't be considered obstructing the line, though if you are so inclined to find a reason for dismissal it seems to be an easy one.  It may have been helpful though for Mrs. Maloney to understand the rules of engagement at a campaign rally. 

Campaign events are open to the general public and nondiscrimination laws apply in all public places. Campaigns can't exclude people based on race or religion but they can exclude protestors from rallies for various reasons.  When a campaign rents a space, they get the right to exclude people for "trespass" and they get law enforcement to facilitiate this.

Someone wearing an anti-Trump shirt, sticker, or sign can be considered interfering with the candidate's messaging. They control the political theater. Simply put, if the campaign tells law enforcement to keep anyone with anti-Trump type apparatus out or a specific directive, they can prevent those people from entering.  Mrs. Maloney had on a sticker that let it be known her feelings about Trump. If the campaign had declared no purple shirts, she could have been refused entrance. Unfortunately, there was likely no sign declaring their right to refuse entrance or the conditions for refusal and therein lies the confusion.  

What is truly disheartening is that both parties seem to obstruct distractors or non-supporters in an effort to project to the world they are well-liked and that the people are receptive to their message. By not exposing themselves to those who object to them, they can never fully engage and then represent the population as a whole.  

The resistatnce to compromise seems to stem from the principle of encouraging mistrust of opponents. Each seems to argue that they have a better platform or governing principle and sadly this is good for campaigning but not governing. Refusing compromise means we never adapt to our principles and respect our opponents. Simply put, it means we never get anything done.

I recall a time when Republican and Democratic politicians would willingly pass legislation for the greater good. Today, refusal to engage the other party lest they get any credit for progress means we have none at all. We are left with no legislation to address the problems of the day.  Our nation suffers when there is a Federal Government shut down when politicians resort to conditional threats to press their agendas.  We all loose in this type of government.

I empathize with Mrs. Maloney. I also understand that she was there as a citizen and not a school board member. No one got hurt. No major disruption occurred as a result. Had she been someone who I disagreed with politically or otherwise I would not demand her to be fired or recalled. After all, suffragists were arrested and beaten with impunity. If they had not done so, my right to vote may not exist.  

Dare to do things worthy of imprisonment if you mean to be of consequence. ~Juvenal 

Loudoun County Schools Regulations regarding the rental of school facilities:

§6-27 4. School authorities shall have access to any meeting or activity held in or on school facilities. 

§6-27 Use of School Facilities. School facilities may not be used by non-school groups if the use would interfere with any school activity or program.

  • Loudoun Times Mirror Article: While the timing was something the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office and Fire Marshall were prepared for, Briar Woods apparently was not, as it had sports tryouts and other student activities scheduled. School Board member Eric DeKenipp (Catoctin District), a Trump supporter, credited incoming BWHS principal Chris O’Rourke for making the wise decision to cancel all activities for the day. DeKenipp also said he would push for the public schools to have a clearer notice policy for the scheduling of non-school events.
If I were a parent who had arranged my schedule for those school activities, I would be none to happy to see that school policy was not followed.  

A. Authorization and Responsibility School facilities, including buildings and grounds, are designed and constructed to support the educational programs of the school. Use of these facilities for school purposes shall have first priority. When not needed for school purposes, school facilities may be made available to community organizations for use in accordance with applicable policies and administrative regulations. 

I hope the LCPS collected their money in advance.  Trump is known to either not pay or try and negotiate a lesser fee. Wonder who will FOIA that payment? 

7.    Approximate fee charges for approved requests will appear on the returned request form. Regulation 6-29

Monday, April 25, 2016

Statement Regarding False Allegations

Some of the candidates who are running for town council who do not have my support and several local citizens associated with their campaigns have falsely alleged that I gave a vulgar hand gesture during a public forum and luncheon. I unequivocally state for the record that I never have and would never make a crude gesture to any of these candidates. Simply put, they are using this false claim in an attempt to discredit me as an elected official and conceivably those candidates I do support in this election.
It goes without saying that those who have made these false allegations are those who have been critical of me, who are politically opposed to me, and who do not align with me on Town issues. I believe the voters see this for what it is and will take full advantage of their opportunity to tell those who orchestrated this appalling attack what they think about this tactic when they vote on May 3rd.
I do not intend to make any further statement regarding this matter and will leave these candidates and their associates to themselves in the political gutter.
Karen Jimmerson

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Double-Edged Sword of Politics

Elected officials have done some pretty despicable things while serving in office. They range from bribery, beating a spouse, cheating on a spouse, obstruction of justice, and various forms of corruption. I have done none of these things. 

A candidate running for office in Purcellville, a person who seemingly is against everything I do and stand for, has made a baseless and untruthful accusation against me in what appears to be an organized campaign of misinformation, censorship, and half-truths.  It is a petty attempt to distract from the campaign issues.  I am not running in the election this year, so this character assassination against me is even more incomprehensible.

Social media is a double-edged sword: it can be a great platform, but it also exposes you to direct feedback, including negative comments about false information. People can incorrectly take a comment you make out of context, share hurtful opinions, and take part in a hate campaign. 

Everybody in the public eye gets his or her share of attacks. You can’t fight fire with fire, especially when you refuse to use the same destructive personal attacks and manipulations as the other side. However, the strength of their propaganda is also its greatest weakness.

I have built strong relationships with residents over the years and received enormous support from the community during my tenure. So far, I have seen people I don’t know but who support my policies, actions, and advocacy defending me against the negative postings about me. 

It is said that when a person resorts to attacking the messenger and not the message, they have lost the debate. Others simply can’t accept or handle disagreement on the issues. Those who lack the ability to enter into thoughtful discussions degenerate into insults.  I believe this attempt to discredit me is motivated by political, financial, and ideological gain. 

I don’t believe this untruth will convince people of who is right or wrong.  I think people are much more complicated than that. Public opinion often centers around who’s saying it, how it’s said, and the history of the individual saying it. I will leave it to them to determine the veracity of the claim.

Since the candidate wants to work for the public, he may ultimately face the same treatment down the road. A person’s actions and reactions highlight their character and provide information on how the candidate will act in office.

I am still navigating the sometimes murky political waters. I try to find common ground among our diverse views, negotiate with those who agree and disagree with me, and do so without betraying my core beliefs.  Demanding all or nothing and launching personal attacks may seem like a good idea on the stump, but it's guaranteed to get you pushed to the sidelines when it counts.

I think that hate is a thing, a feeling, that can only exist where there is no understanding.
~Tennesse Williams

Thursday, March 31, 2016

When is something more than what is seems?

When Bob Lazaro and his propaganda machine is behind it. There has been far too much misinformation about Fireman's Field. Former Mayor, Bob Lazaro, wrote a Facebook note about Fireman's Field filled with distortions. He has since either removed or limited the access to the post. 

For ease, I have posted quotes from his post in red italics and my responses are listed after each one. 

It is crystal clear. On October 27, 2015, the Town Council voted 5-2 It is crystal clear. On October 27, 2015, the Town Council voted 5-2 (Patrick McConville II and Joan Lehr voting no) to begin the process of attempting to sell Fireman’s Field to the County. No public input whatsoever was received on the proposal.
There is no requirement to hold a public hearing for something that is merely being explored or discussed.  There was no action taken to actually sell the property, therefore no public input was required.  The discussions were held at a public meeting and reported on by the local papers.  The public could have responded by writing and coming before the council in October.  In this time, the council has gotten no emails against this proposal and most importantly we received no communication of opposition from our former mayor who has decided to be publically defensive of it without any substantive action behind it.  

 In fact, the Town’s own Parks & Recreation Advisory Board was not even made aware of the proposal until after the fact.
The Town Council is tasked with legislative authority.  Our responsibility and authority involve the following:  Legislating for the town, setting and interpreting the governing rules and delegating those powers. Transacting the town’s business, conducting the town’s intergovernmental affairs, protecting the town’s welfare and its citizens, providing community leadership.
Directly from the Purcellville Town Code, the following are the powers and duties of the Park and Recreation Advisory Board:
Sec26-34. - Powers and duties.
The parks and recreation advisory board shall have the following powers and duties:
(1) Adopt rules governing the conduct of its business and meetings.
(2) Make general policy recommendations to the public works committee regarding park development and recreation opportunities.
(3) Identify and pursue grant funding for park and recreation purposes.
(4) Review proposed annual budgets for town expenditures related to parks and recreation development and make budgetary recommendations to the public works committee.
(5) Recommend policies for the expansion of the town park system and the provision of an array of active and passive recreation opportunities.
         (6) Help identify possible improvements to community services, both public and                      private, which enhance the residential and business community

The Parks and Recreation Board is NOT tasked with managing the debt service of our recreational facilities.  They are not tasked with making sound financial decisions on behalf of the citizens. The P&R Board did not increase town taxes a few years ago by 17% with a Fireman’s Field tax. Our town code does not dictate that any financial decisions made by the council should be put forth to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. They report to the council, not the other way around.

Perhaps in hindsight, we should have provided the P&R Board with a summary and kept them more apprised. Regardless, I have my druthers that if there was a different Mayor seated that this would have never been made an issue. 

 With 88% of residents approving of the improvements to the facility (according to the last Town survey) it absolutely makes no sense.

This statement is disingenuous. In the 2015 Survey, residents were not asked if they were satisfied with all of the upgrades and debt service, tax increase, and additional funding to constantly rehabilitate the facility.  The question was if they were satisfired with the parking accommodations and improvements.  From the survey, "Overall Citizens are 88% satisfied with the parking accommodations/improvemnts at Fireman's Field."  It was a misleading question and poorly phrased.
Creating fiscal sustainability should drive our decisions and not just emotions.  Everyone agrees that Fireman's Field is a treasure and no one on this council and in this community earnestly believes that this council would take action that will put it in peril.  

Let me be clear; at no time should the Town ever relinquish local control of Fireman’s Field.
We have already relinquished control.  The County leases the field and manages the schedule and most every aspect of the facility.  We have an outside contractor who manages the skating rink. Both are great stewards of the property and the arrangement, at this time,  is the most sustainable option we have.  
Why would we put the facility in the control of the Board of Supervisors where Purcellville residents have only 1 District representative out of a body of 9? 
There are numerous facilities in Loudoun County that are located within the various towns that are owned and operated by the county.  A revenue sharing arrangement with VDOT dictates we allow control of our roads to be governed by an outside agency. 

Municipalities chose what is economically viable and what isn’t. Often, it is based on economy of scale. 
It is no different than your personal finances.  You either can afford the car of your dreams, or you can't.

Council member Lehr feels that our debt is rational and acceptable, stating at a meeting that it reflects the average household's debt.  According to her statement of financial interest, her personal debt is tens of thousands more than my own and what personal finance managers would likely recommend for a household, even if she made double the average household income in Purcellville. Perhaps the people of Purcellville should look more closely at the financial acumen of those who govern them.   

 Purcellville was fortunate for several decades as the property was owned by our Volunteer Fire Department who were very good stewards. The Department, however, in the long run realized the future of the property would be better off in other hands as the Department worked to meet its own organizational goals.

According to the August 2009 issue of the Virginia Municipal League Magazine, the Fire Department could no longer afford it. “Maintaining the property, however, became more expensive and time-consuming…..Looking after the property not only was proving expensive, it was cutting into the volunteer fire department’s primary mission –  providing fire services and rescue assistance for a large portion of western Loudoun County.”
This Washington Post article also confirms that increasing cost on an aging facility was a factor: "The fire department decided to sell the 12.5 acre property because it could no longer afford the upkeep....and the building needed constant work. One year....the department had to pay $240,000 for a new roof." 

Ironically, Mr. Lazaro led the preservation and purchase of the old Purcellville Baptist Church that was known by all to be decaying and in desperate need of reapirs the church could not afford.  The Town took on the liability and paid three time the assessed value for the building and to date has sunk in excess of $8,000,000 into the project. This year, the town is spending more than $100,000 to replace and fix a critical HVAC system and more than $50,000 to replace the cupola.  Loudoun County representatives made a recommendation against the purchase of the building. 
The Town purchased the property for $1.7 million (1/2 of its value) from the Department with a 0% loan for 20 years (the Department did not want the cash all upfront).
Further, the Department with the consent of the Town placed a scenic easement on the property which protects it from development. A good deal all the way around for all parties.
The Fire Department placed the property in Conservation Easement to get the monetary benefit before it was sold to the town.  Selling it to the Town below assessment was made possible by the amount earned by placing it into Conservation Easement before it's sale to the town.
Fireman’s Field is a great model of a public, public, private, private partnership. The Town owns the facility, a private sector vendor runs the Tabernacle returning $50,000 per year to the Town…

Fact: The annual lease to the Purcellville Teen Center is $31,200 and far below the annual cost to keep and maintain the facility.  The lease amount had to be lowered because the tax-exempt bond that was used to finance this property limits the amount that the town can receive in revenue from private entities and that was discovered during a review of the lease process this past year.  The Bond structure does not restrict the amount the Town may charge a governmental entity, such as the County.    

...the County maintains the main playing field at no charge to the Town and volunteers maintain both Haske Field and the tot playing field. A total win-win-win-win.
The County earns income from the various entities they allow to use the field.  They don't charge a fee to the town because they lease the field for zero dollars. 

Fireman’s Field is not only an important historical and recreational asset to our community (literally tens of thousands of children have played on the fields over the decades), but a critical economic development one as well. When you take into consideration the number of visitors to the Bush Tabernacle, plus the special events and the sporting events 75,000+ visitors annually use the facility. 
When this town council was tasked with our first budget, it became clear that many of the events that Mr. Lazaro started, albeit great for tourism and community events in Purcellville, cost the town far more than the benefits touted by Mr. Lazaro.  The Purcellville Wine and Food Festival was costing the town in excess of $50,000 to run and the tax revenue and a study showed that visitors were not having much of an impact on the businesses in town.  If our town had little debt, no traffic issues, a police force (that at the time had no updated tasers and upgraded technology) and public works department that had no needs, sure, spend the money on some fun town events.  This town council decided to prioritize the people of this town and respect their hard-earned tax money, taxes that are used to fund the town. 

Despite the rhetoric by some, the Town’s finance are very strong with more than $5 million in the Town’s Rainy Day Fund (undesignated reserve) and a Triple A bond rating. Purcellville is the smallest government in Virginia to achieve that result. While of course there are always challenges, the Town is well positioned.
Here is where Mr.Lazaro (and Council member Lehr) needs an economic lesson. The Town has $60 Million in debt obligations.  With an estimated population of eight thousand, that is $7,500 debt per person. In 2012, the national average for local government debt was $5,137 per person.  Purcellville’s is 32% higher than the national average. Should we dismiss this amount?  I personally don't believe so. If we ignore it, how can we possibly lower the tax burden on our residents?    

When debt is used in excess, it steals from our future since it has to be repaid.  A dollar borrowed today requires that a dollar plus interest be repaid in the future.  This reduces the amount of money available for future spending.  If the amount of the debt accumulated is significant and the period of accumulation is long, the required debt payments will have a negative impact on economic growth.

As a member of the Town Council and then as Mayor I took hundreds of votes and hold myself accountable for each and every one. Not once did I pawn an idea off after voting for it as a staff proposal.
 The Town Council was presented with a staff report in October 2015 (page 195) outlining the concerns about the facility and the continuing high expenses for its upkeep. From the report:  “Over the last nine years, the Town has put over $5,378,972 into the facility and complex and that does not count the County’s grant funding of $658,485. The Town’s existing outstanding debt service is $3,630,864 with annual debt service of the facilities running at approximately $286,000."  The County leases the facility for no cost.

Because of the age of the facility and the challenges of operating a heavily used recreational project, the Town will be facing large capital expenditures on a frequent basis and that could put additional fiscal strain on the Town. At this point, the public, Town Council, staff and County have discussed multiple options on how to best move forward to ensure that this gem of our community is preserved for public use and recreational opportunities for years to come. While there are many different options and solutions, the Town has received suggestions on the following alternatives that Council should review and  provide input and direction to staff as we begin the upcoming preparation of next fiscal year’s budget.” 

Let it be noted that Council member Packard made the motion and of the five who voted, Council member Packard and Nave voted in favor of it, both who were candidates Mr. Lazaro supported in their elections and during their tenures. 

 No surprise some of the loudest noise criticizing Sam is coming from folks who don’t even live in Town -- respectfully, please butt out.
Ironically, most of the praise for Mr. Chapman is from those who do not live in town, nor in Purcellville.  I am disgusted that candidates and others are trying to make this a campaign issue with the May elections coming up.  It is sad that they are trying to use false pretenses to drum up support. This didn't work in 2014 and I hope the people don't fall for it in 2016.  
A private citizen is promoting this sticker online. 

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters” ― Albert Einstein

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Funding of Youth Sports

A new candidate for Town Council recently lambasted Mayor Fraser and me on social media for our vote against the approval of the Sports League Funding Program.  

This Council candidate stated: 
Purcellville Facts -- Several years back our Council set aside a small amount of money ($4-5K) in the Town budget to support youth athletic organizations. I don't need to elaborate on the importance of youth sports. This is a no brainier, right? Last night I witnessed the Council vote 5-2 to support this effort. Yes, two Council members did not support this action. Today, we should all say thank you to Joan Lehr, Patrick McConville II, McCollum, Fuller and Nave for supporting this effort. Some of the best memories I have link back to Fireman's Field and Haske Field.

And our former Mayor Bob Lazaro also chimed in:
Interesting to read about Town politicians talk about their concerns for youth, but when they have a chance to support our kids they vote against their interests. Several years ago we put small amount of funds ($5K) in Town budget to support youth athletic organizations. No doubt of the importance youth sports has in keeping our children out of harms way. Last night the Council voted 5-2 to support this effort. Thank you to Council Members Joan Lehr, Patrick McConville II, McCollum, Fuller and Nave for supporting this effort. Actions speak louder than words.

The Purcellville sports funding program started in 2008 and has allocated typically $5,000 per year to leagues who requested funds through an application process. This past week, the majority on Town Council voted to spend $5,200 towards this program, to include $300 to both Woodgrove and Loudoun Valley High School's athletic scholarship program. [Note: Mayor Fraser initiated a fundraiser volleyball game to raise funds for school athletics.]  

I wanted to take an opportunity to explain the rationale behind my no vote. 

Sports programs are one of the most practical activities that promote youth development. These programs are unique in their ability to impact health, educational, and behavioral benefits. Our kids have sporting opportunities through private organizations and school athletics. The big question for sports is, who should pay and what should we pay for? 

An estimated 70% of all of youth sports programs are operated by parent-led interest groups, which use public facilities that are provided by our community tax dollars.  Purcellville residents pay taxes that support Fireman's field and some recreation activities. These same Purcellville residents also pay taxes to the Loudoun County, which supports playing fields and citizen's need and desire for recreation and leisure activities.  

Loudoun County Tax Breakdown. Purcellville Residents pay Town and County Taxes. 

Communities don't build or maintain fields to make money and turn a profit; we do it so that our citizens can play sports. Private individuals and private sporting organizations cannot build and maintain sports fields on their own because they’re just too expensive. That is why these facilities have become the responsibility of local government.

How tax dollars are spent on public sport and recreation facilities in the U.S. 

In April of 2008, the Town of Purcellville purchased Fireman's Field and Bush Meeting Grounds to preserve and protect the facility and grounds. Everyone agrees it is a wonderful resource and treasure, but no one wants to confront the economy of scale that burdens the 2800 households in Purcellville with a facility that cost millions to restore and funds to maintain while the vast majority of users and visitors for team sports to this facility are county residents. 
The debt service covers the cost to refurbish and purchase parks and recreation properties. 

Services which benefit everyone, or, at least, the majority, can be paid for with a fair tax instead of high fees. Public agencies supply many services that benefit the vast majority of the public. When we grant $5,000 to a sports league, that money helps a few.  Parents, on average pay an estimated $671 a year to cover the cost of uniforms, fees for registration, lessons, and coaching, and at least 1 in 5 parents spend over $1,000 per year, per child. No one doubts that the cost to participate in sports has skyrocketed, but the real question for sports is how should communities pay for kids to take part in private youth sports?

One of my council colleagues stated that even though many families look like they are doing well, they can't afford sports for their children or are may be going through financial hardship. No one argues there are folks in our community who are in need. But what defines needy?  

If someone appears to be doing well, my first impression is perhaps that they should reevaluate their personal priorities and spending. Why should their neighbor pay for their child's sports involvement when they probably bought too much home or stretched themselves to look like they are doing well? A family who suffers a layoff or a financial devastation or who lives in poverty is an entirely different situation, and many teams have grants to offset the cost of participation.  

Loudoun County now has roughly 350,000 people living here. Of that amount, just over 100,000 are children (person under 18 years old), and the percentage of children living in poverty in Loudoun County is estimated to be between 20-30%.

This sports funding program, however, is NOT going directly for the benefit of children and families in need.  The Town can't control how those funds are directed. Private sports programs remain essentially unaccountable to public scrutiny. Most of the kids that benefit from this funding do not live in Purcellville. Most of the children participating on these teams have families able and willing to pay for their participation. We are now subsidizing families who can afford team sports. There seems to be little concern about taking money from struggling Purcellville residents who contribute their taxes to this program and get no benefit from it.   

If we wanted to expand sporting opportunities, we would be looking at bringing sports to those who are shut out due to finances. I expressed this at our meeting last Tuesday night. I would rather the money be spent toward a dedicated scholarship for Purcellville families who cannot afford to participate in these sports leagues.  

When making a choice, something always has to be given up. When a municipality chooses to use taxpayer dollars on anything, we must consider what the alternative uses of those funds could be. 

Both the Council candidate and our former Mayor referred to this grant funding as "a small amount of money."   

Keeping the $5,200 in our town coffers would not make a significant dent in our structural deficits and spending -- but if we were to put together all of the "small amounts of money" that exist in our budget, pretty soon we are talking real money. Most budgets don't identify, track, and measure wasteful practices. That's why the waste occurs. Little things add up.  "Small amounts of money" add up to significant sums of money.  

Poll after poll shows that most Americans think our government is too big. Many of us would agree we should be realistic about what local government can and should do with our tax money. Concentrating on the basics will create a more sustainable community and perhaps help our Town debt from growing.  

Follow Up (9:30 pm Friday):
The use of semantics along with dishonesty is once again being used to make a judgment about my decision.  Our former Mayor had this to say on the subject: 

The Parks and Recreation Committee reviewed the process, and it was presented to the Town Council at our December 2015 meeting.  Here are the minutes from that night:

I can support changes, and I did so. The Council was not asked to grant the funding or to discuss the merits of the program, even though at the time I had my doubts about it. There is no conflict with voting for the changes. It wasn't an approval to create the funding or to disperse it. 

Mr.Lazaro is incorrect in his conjecture that we were looking for a return on investment.  Discussion centered on whether or not the teams and the players were from Purcellville, if the money was going specifically towards needy children (which could not be substantiated or accounted for), and if the teams were charitable organizations as opposed to some that operate in Loudoun as for-profit businesses (only two of the organizations marked their applications as charitable non-profits).

There is an important distinction between changing one's mind, changing direction, and being a flippant flip-flopper.  Being able to alter your course means you want to move ahead with prudence. Do you expect anyone to charge forward without ever making an adjustment? Leadership is about making tough decisions even when everyone else wants to go in a different direction.  

Mr.Lazaro seems to subscribe still to the notion that "there's nothing so absurd that if you repeat it often enough, people will believe it."  

I got a nice note from a former Council member today in response to this blog post.  It included this blurb:  
One time there was a motion to provide a donation in memory of a citizen...... I remember the Town Manager saying that citizens pay taxes to the Town to provide the necessary infrastructure for living in Town.  They do not pay taxes so you can donate to the causes you choose.  If they want to support those causes they will.

I think that pretty much sums it up!