Perhaps no greater and more desperately needed change happened in Tuesday’s elections than in Manassas Park. The election of Preston Banks and Brian Leeper, along with the re-election of Suhas Naddoni could potentially herald the long-awaited recovery of this troubled locality — if they can find a fourth horseman to join the three. The apocalypse for the kleptocracy may be at hand, but it’s going to take a lot of citizen engagement to help make this happen, as elected officials don’t fix things on their own. They need citizen support. They need your support.
Banks, Leeper and Naddoni are well aware of the troubling issues that put the very existence of Manassas Park at tremendous risk. Finances are a disaster. Taxes are among the highest in the Commonwealth. Civic engagement is pathetic. Illegal aliens and residential overcrowding remains a persistent problem. City services have been slashed and the effects are becoming evident. Commercial development, which the city bears financial exposure for, is financially shaky at best. Lavish infrastructure investments have left the city with debt that has at times exceeded the state’s mandated limit. On top of that, the stink of corruption reeks out of every nook and cranny beneath the surface. The place is a mess.
At the same time, the potential here is tremendous. The locality is blessed with some great people, many who are long-established residents, a terrific location, a pretty durable identity, and a potentially vibrant business community. Although some severe structural issues in regards to the commercial vs. residential tax base need to be resolved in order to make this a financially self-sustaining locality, as a community Manassas Park has a whole lot going for it. That potential has been wasted for the last decade, and it could be restored, if only there were a few dedicated people who cared enough to do that.
So finally, after years of watching a persistently opaque Governing Board run roughshod over the interests of the community, there are three votes on the seven member Governing Board who really seem to care and are willing to fight to make things better. I’m desperately hoping they do that, and as they do inspire one other member of the board to throw away their allegiance to Frank “Dear Leader” Jones and join them. I’m also hoping that the three seize the lesson delivered by some the local organizations that have actually accomplished something in the area, like the Tea Party movement and Help Save Manassas, and start reaching out to the community to not only inform them about important initiatives but plead for their attendance and support at Governing Board meetings to help them push for the reforms that Manassas Park so badly needs.
Reform such as getting rid of that sign on the door people have to enter in order to attend Governing Board meetings that says “employees only.” Seriously, I’ve never seen a more deliberate effort to discourage citizen participation in government than communicating to them that government meetings are held in restricted areas not open to the public, even if they actually are open to the public. It might be a little thing, but for goodness sake, why would anyone ever want to communicate such a message?
Reformers in Manassas Park have occasionally popped up, and they’ve gotten harassed and abused with bogus criminal charges into leaving, as was the case with Peter Farrell. The reformers of the past showed up pretty much alone, and a corrupt local government can dispatch the single nuisance pretty easily. They can’t dispatch three troublemakers, especially if they’ve got a bunch of constituents following in their wake, ready to raise hell if and when the dirty tricks come out. It’s too dangerous.
If you’re a resident of Manassas Park and you give a crap about what happens in your community, you need to reach out to Preston Banks, Brian Leeper and Suhas Naddoni and ask them what you can do to help them succeed. When they need you to be at a Governing Board meeting, you have to bite the bullet and show up. When they ask you to talk to your neighbors and let them know what’s going on, you need to do that. Whatever they ask you to do to help this community rescue itself, you have to be ready to answer the call. As elected officials they can do a lot, but they can’t fix all this without every one of you. Throw away the party labels, forget which political banner they ran under, none of that matters now. Their banner is now Manassas park. Your banner. They’re doing this for you, and they need you and everyone they know to make things better.
Three local residents stepped up to take responsibility to fix things. One Republican, one Democrat and one Independent. The three horsemen. Now they need the rest of you to help create a majority of four on the Governing Board, and they can’t do that without you.
Now it’s time for you to show up. It’s your city.
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