The City of Manassas Park in Northern Virginia has three open City Council seats this fall — but only one candidate will be on the ballot. The situation is a stark example, suggests the Washington Post, of the apathy that is growing more prevalent among America’s small cities and towns.
Who can blame Manassas Park citizens for not wanting to run? The city has huge challenges and serving on City Council is a big time commitment, but the job pays only $9,200 per year. The mayor makes $9,800.
The Washington Post describes the challenges this way:
In recent years, the city took on debt — about $120 million — building new schools and other government buildings in hopes of competing with nearby Prince William County and Manassas City for jobs and shopping attractions. So far, there hasn’t been much economic activity. A downtown business district sits mostly empty. …
Meanwhile, local schools are becoming more crowded with the children of families who have moved to Manassas Park in search of cheaper housing. Many are Latino immigrants working low-wage jobs.
With an annual debt payment of $9 million — about 12 percent of the total operating budget — local leaders are anxious about the possibility of cutting services or raising property taxes beyond the $3,947 per year on average that homeowners are already paying.
Few people, it seems, want to take on those headaches.
Heavy debt, eroding economic base, civic apathy and difficulty recruiting qualified candidates for public office is a recipe for decline. Council member Michael Carrera suggests reducing the number of council seats from seven to five, which makes sense for a city of 15,000 people.
Better yet, the city should consider reincorporating with Prince William County and devolving into a town…. assuming Prince William would go along. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that Prince William would be willing to take on the city’s headaches and liabilities.There are currently no comments highlighted.