Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas.
Henrico County Manager John Vithoulkas.

Addressing the Henrico Business Council, County Manager John Vithoulkas made a familiar case for a 4% meals tax yesterday. The county, which has already cut to the bone, faces another $100 million revenue shortfall over the next five years, due in great part to the recent recognition of its massive pension obligations. A meals tax is the least bad of the alternatives, he said, because 40% would be paid by non-residents.

According to the Times-Dispatch, Vithoulkas repeatedly used the phrase the “ungovernment” as he spoke of Henrico’s AAA bond rating, low tax burden and reputation for well-run government and schools. Pretty catchy. I like the phrase. But I hardly deem it descriptive of Henrico County, a county I know well because I live there.

Henrico has mastered the art of late-20th century governance. It has disciplined finances, lean government and competent county employees. That’s nothing to take for granted. But otherwise, there’s not much to to distinguish Henrico from any other jurisdiction. It provides the same array of government services in the same way as everyone else. It just does the ordinary more cost-effectively than most.

It’s the 21st century now, however, and 20th-century solutions aren’t good enough. Cities and counties around the world are embracing the smart cities mantra, using data to improve the quality and cost of government services. The IT revolution is percolating through the educational sector, creating new paradigms for pedagogy that can transform our K-12 schools. The smart growth movement offers new tools to reform transportation and land use, making communities more fiscally efficient and livable at the same time.

Henrico officials are running around bragging about what a great job the county has done mastering 20th-century government but the world is passing them by. The meals tax is a short-term palliative that allows county supervisors and the county administration to coast another five years. Henrico citizens should vote down the meals tax in this fall’s referendum and demand that the Board of Supervisors get serious about re-inventing government from stem to stern.


Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


3 responses to “Another Tired Defense of the Henrico Status Quo”

  1. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    “New paradigms for pedagogy?”

    You are kidding, right?

    1. DJRippert Avatar

      Would you have been happier with “a moden manifestation of metacognition”?

  2. larryg Avatar

    if the only issue for Henrico is the unfunded pension obligations – at least part of that problem is pretty common – not only for govt but for private industry as well as individual 401(k)s – all of which have taken hits from lower levels of stock market performance than predicted – by a phalanx of “experts”.

    In a county that straddles I-95 – a meals tax is not unreasonable for a county that is but one of about 7 in the state with a AAA rating.

    I’d ask for a short list of other counties in Va or in other states that might act as a model of better efficiency than Henrico.

    the problem that I have is – ideology – it seems to be the enemy of “good” in more than a few cases and in this world with the problems we have – we cannot afford this kind of thinking.

    we not only need to be dealing with solutions – we need to be dealing with realities – not economic theories…of which there are no practical examples … in other words, ignore the reality and the fact that there are no other “better” examples.. we must instead shoot for the “theoretical better”.

    there is a pension funding issue. It was not caused by malfeasance on the part of the govt or the pension handlers. It needs to be paid for. The county abuts I-95. If there are obvious cuts that can be made – instead of a meals tax, let’s hear them but let’s also do what our forefathers designed – let the people speak on them and if the loony libertarian folks lose – so be it.

Leave a Reply