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Council Flubs An Important Vote

By Greg L | 27 February 2007 | Manassas City | 13 Comments

While last night’s Manassas City Council meeting was the subject of a big VCDL protest over second amendment rights, a critical zoning enforcement plan presented by Andy Harrover got badly weakened by the City Council and went largely unnoticed.  Councilman Harrover’s proposal, which got discussed and vetted over at My Side Of The Fence was intended to enact a comprehensive  proactive zoning enforcement plan which would combat blight, improve livability and enhance neighborhood preservation.  The council discussed the plan briefly, and then crafted a substitute which seriously weakened what could have otherwise been a very effective and demonstrably fair means of confronting this issue.   Instead, Manassas residents saw the council duck.

Councilmembers Aveni and Randolph joined Harrover in support of the plan, with Way, Parrish and Smith opposed.  Mayor Douglas Waldron broke the tie, and the substitute which removed any proactive measures was enacted.  I expect Councilman Smith to consistently disappoint, and it’s not terribly unusual to see Vice Mayor Parrish do this as well.  Newly minted Councilman Jonathan Way, who promoted himself as a conservative and declared his steadfast committment to effectively tackling this issue when he ran for the appointment to fill Jackson Miller’s vacant seat, apparently is a lot less committed and a far less conservative than he had presented himself to be.  That is a huge disappointment, and Manassas residents should be loudly complaining for his running as a conservative but governing as a squishy moderate who lacks the philosophical anchor of principle to keep from drifing wherever the wind happens to blow on a particular day.

I’m going to give Mayor Waldron a pass here, since the way he tends to govern is to vote to change as little as possible unless there’s a clear consensus on the council to make changes.  I don’t interpret his vote as a reluctance to improve zoning enforcement, but as a reluctance to support change in general absent a clear consensus that the council wants that change.  Although I would have liked the Mayor to support Councilman Harrover’s proposal as introduced, his voting style seems to be rooted more in consensus management rather than legislative priority.  That’s been a consistent part of his tenure, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

With this action, Steve Smith keeps digging the hole he’s firmly ensconced himself within, Jonathan Way decides to borrow Smith’s shovel, and Parrish continues to demonstrate political irrelevance.  The real legislative leadership on the Council clearly is being demonstrated by Marc Avenu and Andy Harrover, along with independent Steven Randolph.  Mayor Waldron’s role of herding these folks towards consensus is likely quite a challenge, but as the political ramifications of decisions like these become more clear, perhaps it will become easier.  There will be another election in 2008, and if Parrish, Way and Smith want to have any hope of remaining on office, they better clean up their acts quickly.

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  1. Batson D. Belfrey said on 27 Feb 2007 at 1:28 pm:
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    Maybe the Mayor gets a pass from you, but not from me. This “study” is the equivilant of a non-binding resolution. Harrover’s initiative is needed in the City. A few trashy homes and commercial buildings can screw up the character of entire neighborhoods.

    The city cannot afford to be reactive any more. That is how small problems turn into big ones. GTS is a great example. The City had a handle on it, when it was reacting to the deterioration that occurred during the early 90’s, but had to expend terrific resources to deal with the problem. Now the neighborhood is backsliding, and we’ll have to do it all over again.

    Smith has got to go. Parrish is quickly approaching the same status. Way? He wasn’t elected, but I am sure that if the trend continues, he won’t make it through the next convention.

    The biggest disappointment is the Mayor. At a time where decisive leadership and action is needed, he chose to maintain the status quo. UNACCEPTABLE.

  2. compassionate conservative said on 27 Feb 2007 at 1:55 pm:
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    I agree with Bats. I thought the Mayor started the backslide on this issue. Everyone was ready to vote in favor, when the Mayor made his comments about government overeaching and causing problems with the citizen’s.
    Mr. Smith actually stated he was in support of Andy’s motion! After the Mayor’s comments, he began playing with the wording. The council seems to be shying away from controversy.

  3. WSGFN said on 27 Feb 2007 at 2:50 pm:
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    If Mr. Smith would listen before trying to “re-word” everything HE MIGHT actually learn something. But this “ATTORNEY” doesn’t listen…instead he tries to analyze EACH WORD instead of a complete thought (maybe this is something he learned in law school or was he absent on the day they taught law?!?!?!).

  4. Batson D. Belfrey said on 27 Feb 2007 at 3:11 pm:
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    “Mr. Smith actually stated he was in support of Andy’s motion! After the Mayor’s comments, he began playing with the wording.”

    I guess Steve Smith was for the motion, before he was against it. Quite Kerryesque don’t you think?

  5. Had to Say said on 27 Feb 2007 at 3:52 pm:
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    Way was appointed to council for just this reason. To have a majority vote.

  6. Uncle_Salty said on 27 Feb 2007 at 6:00 pm:
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    Had to Say
    absolutely spot on…

    I’ve said it before and I’ll restate my assessment of Johnathan Way - Status Quo aka Rubberstamp Man. …Mr Way sir, you’re No Jackson Miller. That fact now more than ever, is abundantly clear!

    Last nights Council action(or lack there of) relegates the initiative for proactive code enforcement regarding defined issues such as: unmaintained properties, appearance standards, neighborhood preservation and existing zoning laws.

    Seems as if the Council ‘majority’ perfers to simply read about the blight/issues found within our city rather than take appropriate action.

    Blight - Something that impairs growth, withers hopes and ambitions, or impedes progress and prosperity.

  7. jway said on 27 Feb 2007 at 10:23 pm:
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    I think maybe we haven’t adequately explained the point.

    The vote to refer Andy’s resolution back to staff was NOT a rejection of his resolution, it was simply reflected a need to clarify what was meant by “implement a proactive program.” Some members were concerned it might implicitly endorse a heavy handed approach by city staff. Some members (me) were concerned it might implicitly endorse a big increase in inspection staff and attendance increase in taxes. We all just wanted to understand exactly what we are voting to approve. If you are willing to vote without knowing what you are voting for, then you deserve just what you get.

  8. Frustrated Voter said on 28 Feb 2007 at 8:02 am:
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    I don’t usually contribute comments, but felt moved to do so. With all due respect to Councilman Way, the city voters would appreciate a “heavy handed approach by city staff” as the light-touch approach is not working. This week my neighbors who have three children in Manassas City Schools and who are contributing positively to this community in many ways put their home up for sale at $45K less than market value as they “need to get out of here”. They cited blight in the neighborhoods and serious issues that they have with the schools as their main reasons. This is the reality … my friends with school-aged children are moving away from Manassas. We see trash in the yards and cars parked fender to fender on our streets with seemingly no attention being paid to it by the city. Just when we feel encouraged by Councilman Harrover proposing something that actually addresses our issues, his proposal gets watered down by a council mired in “analysis paralysis”. This is incredibly frustrating to us all. I watched the council meeting on Monday night and I understood perfectly why the vote went as it did. There are those on council who like to pontificate and not be proactive. Please Councilman Way, don’t become one of them.

  9. jway said on 28 Feb 2007 at 10:20 pm:
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    I am confident you will see the satisfactory resolution of this issue at the next council meeting. There is nothing wrong with recycling a pending resolution until a majority of council members can agree on it.

  10. Anonymous said on 1 Mar 2007 at 1:51 pm:
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    Don’t sound conservative to me

  11. Frustrated Voter said on 1 Mar 2007 at 5:47 pm:
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    Councilman Way, I will be watching the next council meeting and I hope that you are right that I will be satisfied with the results. Past experience has shown me that when things are tabled for further analysis, the proposal comes back watered down. That is my concern, and it is a valid one as past experience usually predicts future results. For the sake of my neighborhood and in the hopes that more of my friends do not leave Manassas (BTW, the house two doors down from my friends mentioned in my last post was put up for sale today), I hope that something impactful is done about this issue.

  12. long time resident said on 2 Mar 2007 at 7:36 am:
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    I too look forward to this coming to fruition, and was disapointed with the perceived inaction by Council. Frustrated is right, good long time residents of our fine City are leaving. They are NOT leaving because of high taxes, they are leaving because the City is overcrowded and turning into a slum ridden failing inner city. This resolution is a start.

    Much of this could be addressed if we would leave our fear of no new taxes at the door. Fees on excess water useage and excess waste (at the risk of sounding liberal it would promote recycling too) are examples of ideas that would discourage multiple families from living together. At a minimum it would mean that families like frustrated mentions aren’t subsidizing them.

    Here’s another analogy; amidst all of the second amendment speakers Monday, Joe Johnson reminded everyone of their civic responsibility to remove the snow from their sidewalk. He’s close to 80 and shovels his sidewalk. Yet, as I drive the City I would assert 1/3 to 1/2 of the sidewalks frequently remain snow packed. There’s an ordinance to remove snow. It’s one of the many we choose not to enforce. The result, kids walk to school or bus stops in the street.

    I agree, it’s time for some “heavy handed enforcement”. We need to get rid of the blight infested properties now.

  13. Dave Core said on 2 Mar 2007 at 4:33 pm:
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    Andy has a great plan. When we see Councilmembers passionate about an issue to make some changes, whether or not you agree, that’s when we see government at its best. We saw that with Jackson and illegal aliens, we saw that with Andy and blight, we’ll see that with Marc Aveni. Finger-in-the-wind, go-along-to-get along Councilmembers need to step aside. This city is facing far too many serious issues to tread lightly. Bold initiatives are needed to save this City with people on Council willing to fight for them and let the public see and then remind the public before convention or election day what you stand for and what you fight for.

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