No Democrats, Independents, or impartial experts need apply

It could of course be simple incompetence, but the new very–developer friendly all-Republican (but I repeat myself) Loudoun Board of Supervisors has been stretching out ad infinitum the process of filling positions on the county’s many boards and commissions.

More likely is that this is a calculated tactic, intended to divert attention from the fact that they are packing these commissions with major campaign contributors, developers, and local GOP party hacks—and that they are hoping that that by announcing the appointments by dribs and drabs the cumulative effect of their purging and packing will be blunted.

The dance-of-the-seven-veils theory is supported by the fact that the new supervisors have shown themselves perfectly capable of moving swiftly when that is the politically shrewd move. At their very first meeting, in January 2012, for example, the board magically produced a complete roster of the new Government Reform Commission and approved the entire slate without discussion. No one from the public had had a chance to propose nominees, no one had a chance to comment on the board’s choices: it was a swift fait accompli (that’s French for “bum’s rush”).

Not a single Democrat was named to the reform panel. Not a single representative of the rural economic community was named. Not a single representative of ordinary citizens who care about protecting and maintaining Loudoun’s scenic, historic, and natural heritage was named.

Among those who were named:

• Scott Hamberger, a business executive who contributed $8,950 to local Republican candidates in the recent election, including $2,000 to the supervisor who appointed him to the panel, Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn).

• John Whitbeck, who lost to Randy Minchew in the Republican primary for state delegate, and who personally contributed almost $4,000 to local GOP candidates

• The never-at-a-loss-for-words Barbara Munsey, a local Republican Party functionary who, as a member of the Planning Commission under the last GOP-controlled board (2003–2007), was famous for mocking citizens who tried to speak in opposition to developer plans that came before the commission. (Munsey is also a familiar Internet presence on Loudoun political forums and newspaper “comment” sites. I am always reminded of what Bertie Wooster once remarked to Jeeves about Roderick Spode: “Jeeves, one can either be a successful dictator, or a designer of ladies’ undergarments. One or the other—not both.” Similarly, one can either be a responsible member of a government body charged with a public trust, or one can spend hours each day posting dozens of schoolyard taunts and retorts on the Internet to anyone expressing the slightest difference of opinion—not both.)

Many of the myriad county boards, panels, and commissions are of course fairly powerless, ceremonial, and meaningless. But some are not: they exercise real influence in determining how the county grows and whether its heritage will be protected or sacrificed in the process.

The supervisors have been slowly and systematically purging these important panels of anyone but the industry that put them in office. Several longstanding members who have a record of impartiality, expertise, and non-partisan service appear to be getting the boot:

Su Webb, who served for years on the parks board, was not reappointed.

Lori Kimball, president of the umbrella organization of Loudoun preservation, conservation, and history organizations, has not been reappointed to the Heritage Commission.

Vernon Wong, a professional engineer who retired from the U.S. Navy after a 32 year career as a civilian engineer, has not been reappointed to the all-important Facilities Standards Manual Review committee. Wong is exactly the kind of person who ought to be on this board that oversees the developers: he has the expertise without being an interested party. But in his place, the board is packing the FSM panel with engineers who directly work for the development industry.

Taking the places of such disinterested volunteers are such very interested parties as Hobie Mitchell, former Toll Brothers executive and current big name in Loudoun land development, appointed by the new board of supervisors to the water commission—which decides where new water and sewer lines will be run. Mitchell had to resign from the Commonwealth Transportation Board back in 2005 owing to conflicts of interest.

Here we go again!

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