Detroit on the Appomattox

Downtown Petersburg is rich in historical architecture, not much else.

Downtown Petersburg is rich in historical architecture, not much else.

by James A. Bacon

For its 2016 fiscal year, which closed June 30, the Petersburg City Council enacted a $75 million General Fund budget. Somehow, the city managed to close the year with a $17 million deficit.

Last week, council members knew the situation was dire. Staring at what they thought was a measly, $7.5 million deficit, they unanimously approved a 20% cut in personnel costs. Then, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch, they learned that the deficit was actually $17 million.

Holy moly! In a state that constitutionally requires a balanced budget, how can a government body be 20% off? How can things go so far wrong?

Mayor W. Howard Myers sounded clueless. “I had no idea. I’m like, wow, where is this coming from,” he told the Times-Dispatch. Vice Mayor Samuel Parham only hinted at the problem: “This is a problem that has compounded over many years, so the  balloon has blown up and it has popped here on us.”

The city’s financial woes became apparent early this year when an audit found overspending in the General Fund by $1.8 million and anticipated a budget shortfall of $6 million. City Council fired City Manager William E. Johnson III, and appointed Dironna Moore Belton in his place on an interim basis. With Belton at the helm, a team of state auditors dug deeper into the books and found that about $4.5 million had been depleted from some “internal accounts” without the city’s knowledge.

Petersburg is a case study in how a municipal government can run up deficits without calling them deficits. The Times-Dispatch article refers to $2.5 million in financial obligations to the city school system, the regional jail and the Virginia Retirement System carried over from the 2016 budget to the 2017 budget.

“When you have a deficit, it just keeps rolling forward, Belton said. “We are working very diligently to do long-term finance restructuring, and we’re still trying to break down exactly the causation (of the deficit), but we do know the number of delinquent accounts that we have.”

Bacon’s bottom line: Fiscal negligence of this magnitude is just extraordinary for Virginia, and it raises all sorts of questions.

First, is this incompetence unique to Petersburg, or is it widespread and Petersburg is just the first to “blow up,” as Vice Mayor Parham put it? The situation calls to mind the chronic inability of the city of Richmond to complete its Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, which suggests that at least one other jurisdiction’s finances are in disarray. If I were a resident of the City of Richmond, I would be very concerned.

Second, Petersburg apparently used a number of tricks to hide the deficit, which allowed liabilities to build up unbeknownst to elected officials. Stretching out payments to vendors is a classic — Illinois is notorious for the late payment of its bills, incurring more than $900 million in late payment interest over six years. Petersburg apparently did the same thing on a smaller scale. How many other Virginia jurisdictions are slow-paying their vendors?

Third, what can be done when a deficit this large has built up? Petersburg, a jurisdiction of about 32,500 people, is already down on its luck. The city has a hollowed out economy, a large population of poor minorities, and one of the worst-performing school systems in the state. Its challenges are immense. Going into drastic budget-cutting mode can only make matters worse. For now, city officials seem determined to take drastic action to get their fiscal affairs in order. But the task will be painful. Which brings us to the fourth question…

Fourth, what happens from a constitutional perspective if a jurisdiction runs a deficit? Are there any sanctions? Or is the requirement to balance budgets every year merely aspirational — desirable but not mandated? What provisions are there for the state to step in? Who initiates the process — the governor or the General Assembly? We’d better get answers because my guess is that the problem is not going to go away.

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36 responses to “Detroit on the Appomattox

  1. One question that comes to mind with this post (and many other posts about Virginia cities/counties): What is the 21st century rationale for every city in Virginia being an independent city? I believe the only other 2 independent cities in the entire country are St. Louis and Baltimore.

    Why should Petersburg taxpayers fund a school system, 5 constitutional officers and staff, social services dep’t, and their own police dep’t with a population of 33K? That makes no sense. Plus, the city gets to set different tax and fee rates which can be a burden to attracting business.

    And yet, from reading a Times Dispatch article, it seems that even if Petersburg wanted to “revert” to a “town” as part of Chesterfield County, the process could take 5 to 10 years. That’s ridiculous.

    Is there any hope that the General Assembly might address this antiquated system? Not a “study”, but action. The only action on this question for decades has simply been a moratorium on a city’s ability to annex land from a county. Why isn’t anyone in Richmond looking at abolishing independent cities or at least setting strict parameters on how a city can remain “independent”? It shouldn’t take a decade for cities to revert to town status.

  2. Aside from Cville Resident’s provocative question – which does need discussion – and I’m sure if Don and TMT are reading will weigh in with views about Dillon and Home rule…

    two things –

    1. what makes anyone believe that a state-appointed “overseer” would do any better than Flint or in Va – Metro, or UVA, or US 460 or PPTA or name your own State agency you don’t trust… to do any better job than the locality..

    2. – if something like this goes on for multiple years -then I wonder who the auditors are and that includes the State Auditors – the Virginia Auditor of Public Accounts; something is bad wrong if the auditors are not raising red flags… and we’ve seen some of this locally in the Fredericksburg Area where apparently auditors for one of the school systems did not find out that the school had actually created a real slush fund from unallocated funds – aka like UVA style.

    but I do hope Cville Resident’s question does get a good discussion also.

    Virginia has has more than 190 towns.. that are neither city nor county.

    • LarrytheG,

      You bring up very good points about auditors.

      I forgot to add in my post about independent cities: Don’t they all have independent court systems as well? Is a city of 33K in need of a completely separate court system?

      • CR – indeed… they operate in different ways… some have their own schools others rely on county schools. Other mix and match arrangements on other municipal services and functions exist.

        there’s a lot of duplication as well as a real justification for imposition of State mandated standards or else things would be even dicier.

        I note when you look at which localities don’t have VRS pensions – many are these smaller jurisdictions.

        With the requirement that all Virginia jurisdictions must now use Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAP) including the newly added ones(http://goo.gl/tTuDkX) that require full reporting of pension and other employment benefits liabilities – we may well see more than a few Virginia localities with questionable/suspect finances… and potentially more that will want to shed even more formal financial and administrative control and turn it over to counties.

  3. Here’s my somewhat different take on Petersburg from two years ago:
    http://www.styleweekly.com/richmond/remaking-petersburg/Content?oid=2124452

    • I remember that article. You did a good job of capturing Petersburg’s hoped-for transformation. Too bad those positive developments have not carried over to the administration of the city’s finances.

    • had not seen your article… I’m always impressed with your journalistic gifts and hard work!

      And you demonstrate what a disservice short sound bite perspectives can be when they also don’t take into account the other aspects that you’ve well documented.

      so THANKS – once more!

      and what Jim’s article demonstrates – once again – is that it’s not “govt” that fails or succeeds – it’s people who perform as govt and we have the full range of good, bad and indifferent – and it’s not static …. it can change when the people change. One person can set up a good govt then good-for-nothings can take it over – and vice versa… unfortunately -those who govern are those who aspire to – i.e. those who seize opportunity – are not necessarily those who will do good and right – that’s a separate skill that requires character and integrity – characteristics different from opportunistic.

      I don’t know the folks who run Petersburg – now or in the past – but things have sure look to have gone sideways since Peter’s article.

  4. Reversion’s time frame depends on a lot of things, like if the affected county wants to fight it all the way to the Va supremes.
    Petersburg’s effort would be the first city with a totally separate school system; South Boston, Clifton Forge, and Bedford had share schools. That would add time.
    Also, there is a financial settlement aspect that protects the affected county from some harm. Negotiations on that would add time.
    As I recall, a city bordering on more than one county can chose which one to revert into.
    Then you have the problem of Constitutional officer who have their own constituents. Upon reversion, the city’s would lose their jobs, so they and their supporters would form a powerful lobby against any reversion effort, as would teachers and school administrators who would not be guaranteed a job in the merged system.
    Finally, city residents may wonder how they would fare under county management of schools, constitutional officers, health, social services, courts, etc. Bosun

  5. I guess I’d wonder if a locality is in the hole financially and laying off people left and right that the idea that they’d not be guaranteed a job under a recursion may not work as such a disincentive especially if employees have the option of leaving that sinking ship anyhow.

    Its sounds like they already are not able to pay employees…

    Maybe the bigger question as Jim surmised was – what happens if the folks currently running it – can’t bring it to financial balance and stability?

    Are there are prior situations like this in Virginia? What provisions does Virginia have in code for intervening (or not?).

    but again – I would think if the locality is going down the financial tubes – employees are going to flee . not try to hang on . unless they have no skills in demand at other places..

  6. TMT-what the paper reported was the very end. The Bedfords negotiated for a number of years. Once the agreement was reached, the reversion had to be reviewed by the Commission on Local Government then approved by a special court. Once that happened, then the city and county approved the agreement. So the whole process likely took five or more years. Bosun

  7. The concept of “reversion” is interesting – even fascinating.

    So I’ll posit what I think it means and others who know more can correct it and in the process perhaps we all learn more.

    if you get right down to the basics – I mean REALLY basic – for any given locale – what is the purpose and motivation for a more formal governance structure beyond just being an unincorporated area with no services or functions unless provided by the state? Don’t laugh – that’s been a real condition in the not too distant past and with today’s politics if you put it to a vote -some places would dissolve their local governance whom they would view as little more than takers of their money under the guise of taxation – for things they don’t want and don’t want to pay for – for others either.

    think – not Fairfax or even Bedford – just patches of unincorporated territory with no taxes and no services – no local schools, no local law enforcement, dirt roads not maintained by any entity other than those who choose to do their own property or group up with other property owners to share costs.

    Such places DO exist – and HAVE existed in the US and still would if it were not for the “State” stepping in and requiring some level of order and services – imposed and provided for by the State – e.g. state police, state health dept, state courts, state transportation, etc.

    In fact – local governance which might seek to provide services and levy taxes to pay for them – would likely not even exist if it were not for some higher level governance that would “authorize” such local governance to actually levy taxes, maintain Constitutional officers, and enforcement of that authority through state-provided courts and law enforcement.

    So is that what “incorporation” is really about and the opposite of incorporation is “reversion” – i.e. a desire to NOT tax and NOT provide services – beyond what the State requires?

    so – is “reversion” a STATE concept where the STATE basically sets the rules for what level of local governance is a minimal required level to included taxes to support basic fundamentals such as schools and such?

    If Bosun and/or others know more about this subject – I’d love to encourage Jim to let them share what they know about the subject in Virginia.

  8. Other Virginia examples of reversion (also called consolidation):

    – Princess Anne County and Virginia Beach, now the city of Virginia Beach.
    – Suffolk and Nansemond County, now the City of Suffolk.

    In the 1980s, as I recall, there was a movement to the city of Roanoke, Roanoke County and the city of Salem. Never happened.

    Parochial interests often conflict with the ideal of economic rationality.

    • 100% agree. Most of Virginia’s independent cities are irrational.

    • but you’d think that consolidation would cost top level administrators and Constitutional officers their jobs – right?

      Virginia actually does encourage, incentivize consolidation of infrastructure and services among the jurisdictions.

      You’ll see many regional water and sewer systems, libraries, transit, jails, courts, etc…

      Virginia – long ago – created regional planning districts to collaborate regionally on services and infrastructure and the Feds do this also with things like Transportation Planning entities called MPOs as does Va with VDOT “districts”.

      from my very limited knowledge – I thought that Va also – gave greater taxing powers and other higher level authority to localities that formed higher level governance structures.

      but some independent towns in Va, are neither fish nor fowl.. many are just too small in geography and/or population and lack a critical size to really benefit on a scope and scale basis.

      Counties in Va actually create UDAs – Urban development Districts that are bigger than many of these smaller towns – and they are much stronger financially to be able to float bonds for major infrastructure.

      There are even gated communities in Va that are bigger than many of these small towns in fact.

  9. interesting paper :

    Richard B. Kaufman

    VIRGINIA’S COUNTIES AND TOWNS

    http://www.via.vt.edu/fall99/county.html

  10. Scary stuff, sad to see it happening in Petersburg, although its not surprising by any means. I’ve been watching their antics from afar for awhile now, and I constantly am finding similarities between Petersburg and Portsmouth…this is yet another.
    Newport News was bordering $250m deficit a few years back, so count them in this boat very soon; on that note, Hampton seems pretty destitute as well.
    And I just remembered the small SW town that you blogged about…was it BV?
    It would be grand if local/state leaders worked together and created legislation requiring officeholders to a) pass fiscally sound budgets (no deficits), and b) in transparent manners/ways so that we can be involved.

  11. Larry-reversion was created, in part, to address that unique Virginia situation, the independent city. Any city under 20K can petition to become a town. The process was intended to be somewhat expedient with two reviews and hoping to minimize the financial impact on the affected county. However, some counties do not want a “deadbeat” county regardless. Henry County has done everything it can to discourage Martinsville from reverting.
    Both the Clifton Forge and Bedford reversions were fairly amicable, but Halifax took South Boston all the way to the supremes in the first one.
    Generally, the State sets the standard as to what services and at what levels (the latter are known as state and federal mandates) for cities.
    Towns are all over the place with respect to services. A JLARC study of towns in the 1980s found no uniformity across the 190 or so towns. And if they do provide a particular service they generally have to meet the same mandates as cities. Heck, there are two towns, West Point and Colonial Beach, that have their own school system.
    The state also has a process by which a town can annul its charter and return to unincorporated status. Three have done so, the latest being Columbia as of July 1, 2016. Bosun

    • Bosun,

      You bring up an interesting point about Martinsville:

      That is a “city” of around 14,000 people. It has its own independent school system, police force, court system, and 5 constitutional officers.

      Meanwhile, Henry County has around 52,000 people. It’s not like Martinsville becoming a town would overwhelm Henry County.

      In what universe does Martinsville as an independent city make any sense?

      • re: ” In what universe does Martinsville as an independent city make any sense?”

        stupid question time. what size SHOULD be a city OR what specific things constitute a City as opposed to a town?

        I think originally counties were not in the business of providing services but rather they were governing extensions of the state – to insure that State laws and regulations and critical functions like voting were done and done per state code and standards.

        In that context – towns were the critters that would form to provide urban services … with the idea that they would be “islands” within the geography. Cities would be “big towns” but at that point I am clueless to what services a city might offer than a town could not … by law or even by fiscal ability – for instance many towns simply do not have the financial resources to have their own schools. Others do – but some on a pretty stressed basis and probably could not at all without the composite index concept of state support .

  12. thanks for the further education Bosun – and I wish you had the time and/or inclination to do more!

    this fella Richard B. Kaufman who wrote this “VIRGINIA’S COUNTIES AND TOWNS”

    was also information and got into “overlapping powers” and “double taxation” as problems between towns and counties.

    He was also of the view that counties were designed as agents of the state – originally – and not as providers of urban services – that’s was what towns would do but when counties got into the business of providing urban services – they were duplicating what towns often provided…. which led to issues.

    this got a little off the subject of Peterburg – and independent cities … versus towns and counties… so I’m still in need of more understanding.

  13. Larry-unfortunately after 33 years dealing with local governments in Virginia, I know so much minutiae about them to be boring…
    Counties, with the exception of Arlington, Fairfax and a very few others, existed as non-providers of urban services into the 1950s. If residents of a county wanted urban-type services, like water and sewer, those were handled by the county government creating authorities and special districts so that only those who used the service paid for the initial capital costs.
    After WWII as people left the cities for residential developments in unincorporated areas [aka, sprawl], the general assembly gradually gave counties the authority to provide most every urban service formerly provided by cities/towns. As Gerald Baliles once penned at the end of his administration, there were very few differences between counties and cities. The main one, albeit important to some people, is that almost all cities and town can issue general obligation bonds without a referendum; counties cannot. There are also some tax authority differences that favor municipalities.
    As you point out, there is the problem of overlapping powers between towns and counties. Richard Kaufman’s piece is very enlightening, but you have to remember that he speaks from his experience as attorney for Blacksburg, which is larger than most cities, and, I think, Leesburg; two ‘powerhouse’ towns. Having just returned from the Eastern Shore where there are 20 towns between the two counties. I suspect that for most of them, there are few overlapping services, as with most of the other 190 or so towns in Virginia.
    You hear many towns complain about double taxation-why should they pay for the law enforcement services of the sheriff when they have their own police department, etc. The Commission on Local Government did a study back in the late 1980s-early 1990s that looked at the double taxation question and found that it was mostly a non-issue, mainly because of schools, social services, mental health, health, and elections; things that towns are not authorized to provide. There may be instances where there are large towns and/or towns that are the overwhelming retail center of their county [e.g., Farmville] where the double taxation issue may come close to being ‘real’, but the value of school services outweigh the taxes paid by town residents. Indeed, the few towns that have seriously considered making the transition to city status have quickly abandoned the effort due to the administrative/legal issues and the cost of providing an independent school system.
    Towns historically have been retail/small manufacturing or agricultural centers that arose around road junctions or train stops. They attracted residents who needed more services that a county could or would provide so they went to the general assembly, got a charter, and incorporated. Over time the reason for the existence of most of the towns slowly diminished as transportation shifted to roads and manufacturing moved on for the reasons we all know. What was left was the government having to deal with the needs/expectation of their remaining residents and businesses.
    US 13 on the Eastern Shore does not go through the “urban core” of the 20 towns out there. If you get off the main highway and go into their “downtown” you wonder why many of them continue to exist. Most of the relatively “prosperous” ones survive because they have incorporated the retail that grew up along the main highway or through tourism. Bosun

  14. well – you did it again! some of what you’ve said I sort of knew but other insights I did not until you provided them and now things tie together much better.

    the part about service districts and authorities is obvious but a “duh” for me until you said it – and an interesting issue when the county discusses the availability and quality of services that are not the same county-wide – like water/sewer, even fire/ems… but now E911 does appear to have become a universal monolithic “service” no matter the type of jurisdiction (I think…but perhaps don’t know for sure).

    I was not keenly aware of the difference in General obligation bonds authority, still fuzzy on Charters and how they work ….between cities, towns and counties.

    So I’ve never heard Jim Bacon opine about the “sprawl” aspect of Counties providing services beyond their original purpose of administering and providing State functions. Perhaps Jim could be encouraged to have you write a few blog posts on these things.. for perspective!

    Ditto for Don R who hates Dillon with a vengeance… especially when he thinks it is an inappropriate exercise of authority by the state on issues that should belong to counties do decide.

    This is one thing that originally attracted me to BR – was the Virginia orientation of these kinds of issues…. which I still find more than interesting -they explain the how and why of how Va and it’s localities operate and how that in turn affects the services and functions that we all use – and pay for.

    thanks once more..

    • “Perhaps Jim could be encouraged to have you write a few blog posts on these things.. for perspective!”

      I have extended an offer to Bosun to contribute to Bacon’s Rebellion but he politely declined. But that won’t stop me from re-extending the invitation. Please, Bosun, please, won’t you write for Bacon’s Rebellion? Absolutely no pressure. Just contribute a piece now and then when the spirit moves you.

  15. here’s a few topics:

    ” | The legislature passed bills to eliminate the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and replace it with an authority that will have a board of directors and a chief executive officer to be appointed by the governor and confirmed by the General Assembly.”

    ” CHARTER SCHOOLS | Lawmakers passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would grant the state board of education the authority to establish charter schools. Previously, only local school boards could establish charter schools.
    If the legislature approves the proposed constitutional amendment again in 2016, it will go on the state ballot in a 2016 referendum. If voters then passed it, it would become part of the state constitution in 2017.”

    or perhaps this one:

    “RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) voted on the first wave of transportation projects scored by Virginia’s new data-driven prioritization process. The process (formerly called House Bill 2 or HB2) has a new name, “SMART SCALE, Funding the Right Transportation Projects in Virginia.” SMART SCALE stands for System for the Management and Allocation of Resources for Transportation. It is a prioritization process that evaluates each project’s merits using key factors, including: improvements to safety, congestion reduction, accessibility, land use, economic development and the environment. “

  16. oops – I think the first two are not 2016 … but prior years – OBE – my bad.

    but I KNOW that Smart SCALE is ongoing – the first round progressed and produced a list of fully-funded projects – i.e. from PE to Construction – which is a huge departure from the past when projects got on the 6yr list but had no guarantee of full funding or even incremental funding…

    so that’s a huge change …

    Now the second round is going forward – with new submittals due in the Fall timeframe … then I understand the NEXT round will be two years because I’ve been told the first two rounds probably will take most of the funding for the 6yr cycle…

    another topic would be the State policy towards tolling and toll collecting arrangements with 3rd parties like Transurban.

    Lots of “skeptics” up Fredericksburg way on the whole idea of HOT tolls and having private sector companies involved in “owning” the toll lanes and collecting tolls as a “for-profit” venture.

    Then we do have a new proffer law which completely overturns the existing process… and some say – and the Gov apparently agrees – was abused by some counties and deserved to be done away with.

  17. Jim – thanks again for the offer, but having been away from local government affairs for four years, I find that my little gray cells are losing much of what I use to know. In responding to the comments here, I kept continually referring to the Commission on Local Government page and the wealth of data about counties, cities and towns there.
    Larry – charters are what are known around the political class that meet every year as special legislation and require 2/3rd vote for approval. They over-ride general law, the many bills you see passed each year that only need a majority for approval. So, if there is a general law that says meals taxes are limited to 2%, a charter usually says that the meals tax within the City of Dismal Swamp can be whatever the council says it is.
    All cities and towns have charters. Many charters for small towns are a few pages long and are being updated yearly as time and money permit. [e.g., many town charters use to contain reference to the town sergeant who was the police]. City charters can be fairly extensive and detailed, like Richmond’s. You can go online at the Division of Legislative Service and read almost all of the charters.
    Either the last revision of the Constitution or one of the last great compromises on city-county affairs allowed counties to come to the General Assembly and be granted a charter. Chesterfield has one but I cannot remember the others. They have not proved to be the promised land for counties that they hoped. Counties, just like municipalities, have to go begging to the General Assembly to get their charter and to have it amended. In the process, all of the interest groups line up to oppose whatever the county hoped it would be able to do. For example, many counties wanted a charter provision that would allow them to be able to impose a meals and lodging tax without the required referendum [currently required] and without restriction on the amount, but the restaurant and lodging lobbyists made quick work of that during the legislative process
    And finally to add to the confusion, there are semi-hybrids called alternative forms of county government that give certain counties a tiny bit of leeway in how they conduct their affairs. Fairfax, Arlington, Henrico and some others are those hybrids.
    You can see how confusing things are and that is why I retired when I had the chance and why my brain can no longer keep up with it all. Bosun

  18. Bosun – you seem to know more in your handicapped gray matter than most who think they have 100% grey matter…

    I think you could help Don a little. He thinks Fairfax should be 100% Home Rule… and that Dillon is evil.

    Now I’m confused as to the THEORY of Charters in general or what a county would have to do – to convince the powers that be – to grant said Charter and/or why one would be denied.

    why don’t all counties in Va have charters by default?

    • Do away with Dillon!!! And miss all those local government pip-squeaks begging General Assembly members yearly for authority to make people cut their overgrown lots or to prevent the parking of semi trucks on subdivision neighborhood streets! Besides, having a local elected in your debt may be worth something in the future.
      Home rule is something of a mirage. Sure, the law says that local governments can do anything not restricted by the state. Guess what happens next? The legislature then begins passing laws that limit local authority. Home rule or Dillon rule; either way local governments get shafted.
      I am not a scholar of government, but here is my theory about charters. They were first used back in colonial/post-Revolution times to incorporate localities by the General Assembly. Also, I suspect that back in the days when counties were primarily instruments of the state and municipalities needed more authority to provide a higher level of services, charters were the solution. Rather pass laws with broad authority available to all municipalities, charters were enacted so as to taylor the authority to a specific city or town’s needs. It also gave the General Assembly a voice in how an individual town or city conducted it affairs.
      Why no county charters by default? There are many counties that like that the state restricts what they can do. When a group of angry citizens complain about a problem, the county leaders can say, “We would like to help, but the state will not let us to that.” Keeps government small. Also, those counties that became urban/suburban powerhouses did so not by any grand plan, but through a series of small steps taking place over 20-30 years. The General Assembly felt that by passing laws incrementally that applied, for the most part, to all counties or to a specific set of counties, they could keep their “oversight” on county government. Until one man, one vote and the final demise of the Byrd machine, there were powers in the state that wanted to keep urban things confined to cities/towns and leave counties rural.
      Counties can petition to have a charter granted but that would not necessarily make them like municipalities. I am not sure a county requesting a charter would be turned down unless there was objection from the residents of the locality.
      In the end, in my opinion, it all has to do with control by the legislature. They want to control what local governments can do, be it the smallest town or Fairfax County. They want localities to be in their debt. The local legislator wants to be able to exercise a certain level of power over their county, city and/or town. Never know when a client you represent will need that rezoning or special use permit. Bosun

  19. good explanation and not too far from what I expected.

    but – some things probably should be standardized – like criminal laws and some functions – like State Police and Roads and schools.

    or perhaps that’s a personal opinion… though all of the 50 states are similarly configured whether they be Home Rule or Dillon…

    and yes – Home Rule is whatever the state chooses to not restrict explicitly as opposed to anything not specifically authorized is presumed not allowed without explicit permission.

    certain amount cynicism in your views and I suspect you’d say it’s based on realities that you know… not some ivory-tower perspective of folks who “study” government!

    ;-0 much appreciate your insights!

  20. Larry – I guess we have beaten this topic to death. Yes, I have a pretty jaded view of things; my bride calls me the eternal pessimist.
    I began working up close and personal with the General Assembly in the late 1980s. At that time, most of them were statesmen. Despite some having very disagreeable character traits, they always did what was best for the Commonwealth regardless of party affiliation.
    Sadly, when I left in the early 2010s, there were few statesmen and women left; all the others were politicians who did only what their party leaders told them to do and only wanted to get reelected. Bosun

  21. yes that horse is well flapped… 😉

    and your comment on the politics of the General Assembly is duly noted and sadness shared.

    stay in touch on BR and please share your views.. more often if you can and are so inclined.

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