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Board’s Agenda Includes Payback

With a full plate of important issues, some Supervisors focus instead on getting even.

Payback is sweet, some say. It also seems to be inevitable when there is a changing of the guard in government, especially in Loudoun County.

This year, when the Loudoun County switched from a majority of Democrats to all Republicans, the question wasn’t whether there would be payback, but rather who the first victims would be.

The answer, so far, includes (EDC) member Stephen Mackey and the volunteers whom the county had authorized to collect illegal roadside signs.

Less obvious victims are the supervisors themselves.

Blue Ridge Supervisor Janet Clarke yielded to the payback impulse at her very first Board meeting when she tried to block Mackey’s reappointment to the EDC. It seems that she had some bad feelings about Mackey dating back to her time on the Purcellville Town Council.

But she succeeded only in shooting herself in the foot. It turned out that Mackey had a year remaining on his term. Thanks to what Mackey described as a “clerical error,” according to Leesburg Today, his name was mistakenly included in the list of EDC members who were up for reappointment. In the end, Clarke was the one who was wounded, and Mackey lives on to serve another year on the EDC.

At its next meeting, facing so many weighty issues that it must hardly know where to start, the Board chose to take up the matter of illegal roadside signs.

during the last election season, when I pointed out that the vast majority of illegal election signs that I had seen – they were either too large or were located in the public right of way – were signs supporting Republican candidates.

Since Republicans won nearly every election in Loudoun County, one might think they would be satisfied with the system that was in place. But it apparently irked the board members that a bunch of environmental do-gooders who place a value on safe and scenic byways had collected and disposed of more than 50,000 illegal signs last year.

So the board voted to kill the county program that trained and authorized volunteers to collect the signs. They said they were concerned about the safety of the volunteers, and the possibility that the county would be held liable if a volunteer were involved in an accident. They also expressed indignation that some signs on private property had allegedly been removed.

Normally I try to avoid questioning the motives of elected officials. After all, no one can really know what is in the mind of another.

But I have also seen enough board meetings to be able to recognize payback when I see it, especially given the timing of this decision so early in the board’s team. To believe otherwise in this case would be naïve. After all this was a program that empowered more than 80 volunteers to remove more than 50,000 illegal signs at very little cost to the county.

Sterling District Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio revealed at least some of the motivation behind the board’s action when he referred to the volunteers as “sign Nazi’s” who were conducting a “reign of terror.” Leesburg District Supervisor Ken Reid referred to the volunteers as “vigilantes.”

Delgaudio also berated the staff member in charge of supervising the program and urged his colleagues on the board to “hang him high.” The staff member’s “crime,” of course, was doing his job, carrying out the directive of the previous Board of Supervisors, and enforcing Virginia law.

Broad Run Supervisor Shawn Williams was the only board member to oppose killing the volunteer program. In his e-newsletter to constituents, Williams said that he “respectfully disagreed” with his colleagues on that matter.

“I am proud that our Loudoun roads are not cluttered with signs like many roads in Fairfax,” Williams said in his newsletter. “The volunteers in this sign group were providing a public service and the program cost almost nothing.”

Political payback is by no means limited to the Board of Supervisors. Last week I wrote about Sheriff Mike Chapman’s . In the absence of an official explanation, that decision, too, smacked of political payback.

The temptation for newly elected officials to exact payback must be very strong. But it is often said that we only get one chance to make a first impression. Again this year, some Loudoun officials have chosen to take actions that make themselves appear petty, small minded and vindictive.

I hope they get it out of their system quickly, and get down to the business of tackling serious issues.

joe brewer February 05, 2012 at 01:51 PM
How about some negativity where it belongs. Since we don't have sign volunteers anylonger how about giving the supervisors a roll of bumper stickers that states this sign posted illegally and sign it with the boards members name.
Charlie McKeon February 06, 2012 at 05:20 AM
Laura, I would save the word "extreme" for someone like Delgaudio, who takes the Glen Beck tack of trying to smear anyone and everyone with the label "Nazi"–a very offensive insult showing no moderation at all–and describes a program of keeping right-of-ways beautiful "a reign of terror." I have read some of his other stuff aimed at stirring up homophobia (and putting dollars in his pocket) and that too reads like a dime-store novel, full of overblown phrasing.
Dan M February 06, 2012 at 12:20 PM
It's funny that Delgaudio is so concerned about property rights when his signs more than anyone's were placed on other people's private property without their permission. Look in the mirror, sir, before getting all steamed. Isn't it nice that no one can get arrested for removing an illegal sign? This board has taken a program which added safety and education to road clean up and thrown it out the window. The signs will still be removed when they're illegal. Now, without the education, we're likely to see more legal signs removed, as well....and no one will know who did it since there's no volunteer registration.
Brian Virgo February 06, 2012 at 02:35 PM
So they are not representing, but just doling out to their donors. How very Newt of them. Glad we don't have any casino moguls in Loudoun!
joe brewer February 06, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Excuse me but why is the post office still open downtown? It run at a loss. If Mr Minchew is willing to make up the loss to the taxpayers so he is not inconvenienced then let him put his money where his mouth is. Because he has had a P.O. box for 18 years is a dumb reason to keep it open. If this is a indication of how he wants to spend taxpayer money then he needs to be defated next election.

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