Board hails failure as success in sign cleanup effort

As one of its very first gifts to the real estate development industry that put them in office, the all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors voted back in January to eliminate the very successful volunteer program that had been cleaning up illegal signs along Loudoun’s roadsides.

A small sample of the fruits of the board's Keep Loudoun Ugly campaign.

At that time, Ken “Ken” Reid (R-Leesburg) provided a classic Orwellian rationale for the board’s action: he explained that the very success of the program was its failure—since the 50,000 illegal signs the volunteers had cleaned up had added to the stream of paper, wood, and “paint chemicals” choking the county landfill.

In place of the 100 or so volunteers who were able to attack the problem all across the county and do so on weekends when the developers blanket the roadsides with hundreds of their illegal eyesores, the new “program” the board adopted to replace it consists of a single county employee who devotes one weekday a week (with a break for lunch).

Having defined success as failure, it’s probably no surprise that Ken’s fellow board members have now added the nicely symmetrical argument that failure is success.

County staff reported to the board’s land use committee last week that the new sign cleanup effort had so far bagged a mere 300 signs, versus 1,800 collected under the volunteer program during the same period last year.

Now, most people capable of a simple logical inference would probably conclude that the reason 1/6 as many signs were picked up was because less effort was being made to pick them up, and also that the single county staff person out collecting them does not work on weekends, when the problem actually occurs. Most people, however, have not met our Board of Supervisors. The supervisors fell over one another to hail the data as proof that the problem was going away on its own, thanks to the efforts of “residents and businesses.” Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge), who has shown a facility for spin (not to mention smarmy sanctimony) that puts even “Ken” to shame, declared: “I am so proud of our community. What we thought would happen has happened.”

Yes, indeed, it has. Having sent a clear message that it is not serious about enforcing the law against such good friends as the development industry, the board produced exactly the predicted result: anyone driving around the county in the last few months has observed an explosion of illegal signs that rivals those of Fairfax and other garden spots.

Presumably the board will next cut the sheriff’s department by 83%, and when arrest rates subsequently drop will declare that crime is down. And also that War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, and Ignorance is Strength.

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