How dare you speak to the public

In most people’s idea of a functioning democracy, government officials are allowed to tell the public what is going on. This is based on the startling notion that they are conducting the people’s business, and only in narrowly prescribed and exceptional circumstances is it justifiable to keep information secret from the public.

But not in Loudoun County!

Since taking office a year ago, the all-Republican Board of Supervisors has consistently taken the view that the public should butt out, that dissenting views should be stifled, and that anyone who dares to speak out of turn and express a view not sanctioned by the Loudoun Republican Cabal be subject to swift retribution:

• As one of its first acts, the Board summarily threw off of all advisory and regulatory committees all Democrats, independents, and impartial experts and replaced them with GOP party hacks and development industry reps.

• The Board drastically cut the number of public comment periods and opportunities, and cut them even more drastically this past January.

• The Board has repeatedly taken important actions without debate and with minimal or no public notice, adopting controversial measures by unanimous consent (or by simply voting 9–0 after minimal discussion).

• The Board introduced with much hoopla a new county website — that makes it difficult if not impossible to find what actions the Board took, what their votes were, and what the details of their decisions actually entail. Meanwhile, they have spent tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars sending out self-promoting “newsletters” that are full of distortions, omissions, half-truths, happy talk, and attempts to claim credit for things they have nothing to do with, and launching such PR BS initiatives as hiring a consultant to help them craft self-congratulatory slogans about their wonderful accomplishments to date.

• Members of the Board have repeatedly — under the guise that they are running government like a “business” — sought to stifle or fire citizens or functionaries who did not toe the part line: Supervisor Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) in one of her first official acts last year targeted for removal from the county’s economic development commission a business owner who had opposed her policies when she was a member of the Purcellville Town Council, offering the incredible explanation for her vindictive action that by exercising his right as a citizen in a democracy he was not being a member of the “team.”

• Chairman Scott York (R) recently made the equally incredible assertion that it was a matter of great pride to him how few members of the public were coming to speak to the Board — which he claimed showed what a good job the Board must be doing.

The arrogance, contempt for democratic process, and secrecy shown by the Board this week reached a new zenith, however. After first voting to fund a shortfall in the sheriff’s department — the $1.9 million cost overrun had been the result of county budget shenanigans that under the pretense of saving money by limiting new hires actually forced the sheriff’s department to spend vast amounts on mandatory overtime — the Board suddenly reversed its decision this week. The reason? Because they were annoyed that Sheriff Mike Chapman had the audacity to write a letter to the editor of a local paper explaining (truthfully and accurately) the reason for the cost overrun.

Supervisor Ralph Buona (R- Ashburn), who has been the most cocky and arrogant in swaggering about his wonderful “business” credentials, contemptuously said that Chapman had made a “rookie mistake.” York demanded that Chapman “explain why he wrote the letter.”

Gee, how about because he is an elected official answerable to the public and that he — unlike York and the Board — thinks he has a duty to report to the people, and not just to the local Republican Party machine and the developers who donated to their election campaigns?

 

 

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