January 2013

York’s Foreign Trips — Nothing Lost, Nothing Gained

By Lloyd the Idiot

Today’s Loudoun Times makes much  of Loudoun BOS chairman Scott York’s foreign travel in 2012,  representing the county in England, Germany and Taiwan ostensibly to encourage investment in the cCounty.  The actual cost of these five trips is unclear.  Although the county’s portion of these trips was $5,800, the Northern Virgina Regional Commission, a taxpayer funded entity, paid for the trips to Germany.  The trips to Taiwan were primarily covered by the Taiwanese government (why? you say).

Although York says he met with a pharmaceutical company considering a relocation to Loudoun, I’ve never seen anything that would suggest that  foreign travel by any local politico  ever has been a relevant factor in a company’s decision to move business to the US.   Indeed, there’s really no question that these trips are primarily for the benefit of the elected officials (or private parties seeking to make inroads with them by sponsoring the trip).  That said, it’s not implausible that these goodwill tours could bring some benefit, and  so throwing some bread crumbs on the water (that is, $5,800) is not entirely a bad idea.   It’s certainly not like he’s taking Air Force One with a huge entourage of cronies.

Bottom line on these foreign trips:  little value, but little expense.

Retch For Fetch, Part 57

By Loudoun Insider

Geary Higgins is using his official county newsletter to pimp the Always Promised Never Playing Loudoun Hounds, who still need all sorts of approvals from the Board of Supervisors.  Realloudoun has the details.  More special service for the special campaign contributors.

Best Schools for Everyone — at a Cost

By Lloyd the Idiot

I’m beginning to feel like Wayde Byard here, but I want to relay some news on the Loudoun County Public School budget  which is always a hot topic here.

With an increase of more than 2,500 students (a 3.8% increase), the LCPS last week approved a budget of $860 million – about $37 million more than last year, a 4.5% increase.  That comes after more than $16 million in reductions from Superintendent Hatrick’s proposed budget, primarily in reductions in IT outlays and health plan expenses.  Jill Turgeon’s Face Book post has more, but below is what I’ve culled from it:

* No existing positions or programs were cut [although it appears that new positions were cut including five bus drivers and an assistant principal].

*There were no discussions of closing ANY of the schools. [Personally, I don't see why Lincoln Elementary got off the hook]

*The health care plan that was recommended by the Personnel Committee was adopted.

* Other reductions included a reduction of new vehicle purchases for the vehicle fleet, as well as operation and maintenance line items in the Support Services and Planning departments.

* Included in the proposed budget is a $12 million placeholder for employee compensation increases.

I certainly appreciate all the hardwork of our board members in keeping costs under control.  I really do.  On the other hand, I can’t help thinking that, with an average expense of $12,000 per student which increases disproportionately with the number of students, an aggressive voucher program could be a better way of controlling costs (in other words, outsource it all).  Indeed, the tuition at many good private schools is less than $12K.  Public schools simply are doing something wrong if they can’t achieve greater cost efficiencies than the smaller private schools.  It’s not a knock on the LCPS per se since virtually all school districts in northern Virginia are that way.  It’s just that the “math” doesn’t seem to add up.

The Best Schools For Everyone!

By Lloyd the Idiot

An article in today’s Washington Post on the growth of the school age population underscores the brilliance of a decision this week by the Loudoun County  School Board allowing parents to send their kids to any school within the Loudoun school system with openings even if it’s not in their district.  That’s any school as long as it’s not at capacity (which is only about 50% of the schools).  This is a great decision for several reasons:

  • First and foremost, it holds school administrators accountable.  Parents with kids in under-performing schools have a ticket out without having to move.
  • It reduces boundary fights by lessening the consequences of being redistricted.
  • It reduces the administrative expense of evaluating thousands of exception applications, not to mention removing the school administration from being in the unenviable position of verifying and weighing the validity of the exception request.
  • It equalizes property values.  Folks looking at housing in bad school districts will have the option of sending their kids to other schools, making the properties in bad school districts less undesirable.

While the majority of the school board continues to impress with refreshingly simple and pragmatic solutions, looming in the background of this decision are the board members who opposed it, arguing that the program is unfair because some parents will not be able to drive their kids to other schools.  Really?  Is that the best the teachers union could  come up with?  I mean really, how “fair” is it to stick a kid in an underperforming school?

At any rate, kudos to the school board for making some meaningful and tangible progress in improving the school system.

Bobby Jindal Gets It

By Lloyd the Idiot

Boby Jindal, in urging fellow Republicans to not be  the “stupid party,” shows himself be be a follower of  my First Rule of Politics (scroll to the bottom) as written several months back in relation to the local Republicans:  “Don’t be stupid.”

Awesome.

Hold On To Your Wallets, Loudouners

By Loudoun Insider

The government contracting sector continues to slow down and that marvelous decision to opt into Mismanaged Money-losing Metro looks better with every money grabbing announcement made with each passing week!

Today’s announcement that Metro only needs $26 BILLION to upgrade its crumbling and inadequate infrastructure is just marvelous news for Loudoun taxpayers, who now get saddled with a nice hunk of that obligation for a couple stops and a couple miles of track on the edge of the county.

“The projects would require major financial commitments from local and federal governments and would take several years to plan and several more years to complete.”

“Shyam Kannan, Metro’s chief planner, said it will take a “reliable, sustained stream of capital funding from a combination of local and federal” moneys to pay for the slew of proposed projects.”

Well, at least the campaign contributors that get the Metro windfalls are happy!

Obama Second Term Predictions

By Liberal Anthropologist

Time to put down some very early predictions for Obama’s second term. What will happen by or on Election Day 2016 in:

1] Unemployment
2] GDP
3] Debt
4] Deficit
5] Obamacare
6] Terrorism
7] War
8] Foreign Policy
9] Climate Change Policy
10] Immigration

And finally: Election 2016 prediction: R or D?

We are all going to be wrong, so no fear of making guesses….

Sickening Redistricting Proposal, 2013 Edition

By Lloyd the Idiot

Don’t get me wrong, I think the Dems did some outrageous things and, frankly, violated the state constitution in setting the senatorial districts in 2011.  Look at Barbara Favola’s district, for example.  It’s primarily composed of precincts in Arlington, yet meanders through Great Falls all the way into Loudoun.  How that comports with the constitutional requirement for “compact” districts can only be explained by despicable, crass party politics.  At any rate, the Republicans lost unfair and square.

As despicable as the 2011 redistricting was, what the Republicans are doing now is arguably worse.  The Republicans, having lost that bitter battle in 2011, are now moving a plan for off-cycle redistricting.  Again, not quite sure this one is constitutional either, but, regardless, think of the precedent it sets.  Now, every time the chamber changes control, every district could be revamped — just as a means of ensuring the majority party remains the majority party.

Politics at its worst.

Yep, Dick Black Is Still A Dick

By Loudoun Insider

And a wimpy one at that.  Of course our State Senator (isn’t that ridiculous???) would oppose the confirmation of an evil abomination of a gay man to be a Virginia judge, but he couldn’t even stick to his guns and vote no:

Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) initially voted no. The vote was reconsidered moments later, with Norment restating that opponents should leave the chamber. That time, Black left.

Just for you, “Senator”:

General Assembly – Week Two

By Lloyd the Idiot

I picture the 45-day  ”short” session of the Virginia General Assembly as Olympic ice skating on the short track: a fast, crowded sprint with elbows flying and many participants crashing in spectacular fashion.

Indeed, legislators have introduced more than 1,500 bills for consideration each jockeying for position to get his bills through the sausage grinder.  Let’s just hope they all learned something from last session’s disastrous foray into social engineering, and focus on things like ensuring the Commonwealth remains business-friendly and improving our transportation infrastructure.

Something tells me that’s just not going to happen.  Sigh.