Back in the days of innocence, businesses that didn’t like being regulated tried to block or repeal regulations. Then they wised up. Far better, they realized, to have toothless regulations that provide the illusion (to the public) of doing something while letting the businesses do exactly what they wanted all along.
And so it is with the Loudoun Board of Supervisors’ continuing attempts to kowtow to the development industry while pretending to be responsive to the citizenry.
As one of its very first acts upon taking office back in January—you didn’t know that this was part of their election platform, did you?—the all-Republican board voted 8–1, with virtually no discussion and a heap of completely fabricated arguments, to eliminate the very successful volunteer program that cleaned up the roadside junk in the form of advertising signs dumped on our county every weekend by Beazer Homes, Toll Brothers, Selma, and their kin.
The Board clearly believed it would be able to slip this one by as it had all of its other prepackaged gifts to the commercial development and real estate industry (eliminating pesky site review steps, packing commissions and boards with developer representatives, amending zoning regulations) and was caught off guard a bit by the vehemence of the reaction that ensued.
The brilliant compromise solution now being advanced by the perpetually confused Suzanne Volpe (R-Algonkian) is to have a “hybrid” program in which volunteers, “alerted by an e-mail blast,” as she explained, thereby demonstrating her awesome techno literacy, would go out with a county employee to collect signs. This brilliant idea is due to come up at next week’s Board meeting when the committee it had been referred to reports to the Board. Volpe (“this is my story and I’m sticking to it”) insists that if volunteers were permitted to stray from the watchful eye of a county employee, they and the county would be rendered dangerously vulnerable to “liability” concerns, even though such concerns never arose once in the course of the volunteer program.
The ludicrousness and toothlessness of Volpe’s “hybrid” program is of course obvious to anyone who has picked up this roadside junk. Two basic problems:
(a) the signs are dumped on roadsides in the hundreds every Friday evening by the developers, and county employees do not work on weekends
(b) having volunteers traipse along all under the watchful eye of a single county employee, like kindergarteners on a field trip, will result in no more signs removed per hour of effort than a single volunteer could do on his own. The real volunteers under the killed program spread out and covered a lot of ground each on their own. None of them in their right mind would have imagined than an effective way to pick up this garbage would be to all cluster together in one pack, sticking at all times within eyesight of one another.
But then this Board has amply shown already that it doesn’t care about (a) facts (b) reality (c) talking to people who actually know anything or (d) listening to the citizens. What it cares about is PR stunts, gimmicks, behind the scenes agreements, and the industry that donated half a million smackeroos to their election campaigns.