Ken Elston
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Monthly Archives: September 2014

ECONOMICAL THINKING

There are multiple and equally valid answers to the question of what economic issues are most importance to the future of the City of Manassas. With your indulgence, I will go down two paths of thought in short order.

Path one: SCHOOLS! Excellent schools are the catalyst for a strong economy nationally, regionally and locally. Great schools attract businesses, as well as homeowners. Property values are tied directly to the success of the schools. Great schools mean higher property values. First and foremost, our children are most important to us. In terms of assets, for most of us, our homes top the list of most important. City leaders have a responsibility to protect and support our kids and our home values. Supporting great schools achieves both goals. My wife and I are products of great public schools. Our two kids attend Manassas City Public Schools. Our public schools should be a point of great national pride. Our city schools: a point of civic pride. As a member of City Council, I will work collaboratively with our elected School Board and support the goals of our district’s administration.

Path two: The need for long-term strategic planning is the single most important economic issue facing our city. Our City’s ability to offer a high level of services and meet economic challenges demands a serious commitment to economic growth and diversifying our economic base. Voting for change on City Council on November 4, 2014 would be a vote to build a stable and sustainable tax base. As costs go up, population grows, and infrastructure ages there are essentially two tools available to city government to meet the needs of serving the population effectively and keeping Manassas a great place to live: taxation and economic development (which, in turn increases the tax base with less impact on families and the individual tax payer). As a citizen and father expecting college tuition bills soon, I am not particularly interested in raising the individual tax rate, and it is clear that the existing Council Members agree with me on that. So one wonders what these councilmen have been waiting for with regard to funding a comprehensive economic development plan. We have invested in sector plans for our city and we employ a talented City Manager and staff to develop a Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The sector plans go largely ignored and the CIP largely unfunded. In point of fact, only 20% of the CIP (those investments which our leaders deem most important to keep Manassas on track) are represented in a near-term, multi-year budget strategy. In other words, 80% is left unfunded, or, to put it more bluntly, there is no actual plan for capital improvements. Let’s fix that. Let’s return to the visionary leadership our city once enjoyed and prospered under.

For more information, please look at the issues page at www.kenelston.org/issues/

LESSONS FROM BLESSINGS

A week ago I was in a car accident. A person turning left from the opposite direction failed to yield the right of way at an intersection. So, my car was totaled, I knocked on fewer doors last week than I intended, and I went to work less than I intended, too.

A colleague suggested that maybe the universe was suggesting I slow down. Perhaps, but I would have preferred a note or a dove.

In any case, I find myself counting my blessings in all this, and they are many:
• I saw the other car coming and hit my brakes. If I hadn’t, that Expedition may well have centered its impact in the middle of my driver-side door.
• Insurance is taking care of the messy business that inevitably follows an accident.
• Though we may have to make some hard choices, we will be able to secure a replacement vehicle soon.
• My colleagues at George Mason have been nothing but supportive in allowing me time to heal.
More so:
• Family and friends warm my heart with expressions of sympathy and support.
• Everyone was able to walk away from this event.
• Witnesses slowed their own busy lives, stayed at the scene, and shared what they saw happen with the police.
• Trustworthy professionals are doing their best to sort out all the complexities involved.

Because this campaign for City Council is so often at the forefront of my mind, I cannot help but find the lessons in all this reflected in the needs of that job:
• Look down the road.
• Plan for emergencies and insure the system to ensure the future.
• Remember that hard choices are necessary.
• Be grateful there are options.
• Know we are in this together.
• Appreciate the professionals who are trained to manage complex issues.

There is always a silver lining. It did take slowing down to really see it, though.

POLITICAL HUMOR

Laughter really is the best medicine. I have been getting a few chuckles reminding people that there are a few of us who would do just about anything for Manassas and the neighbors we love. Some of us would even run for City Council.

As we make that run, it is important that we do not lose a sense of fun and adventure in meeting challenges along the way. We have to keep a sense of humor. Others have kept their humor, and we do well to remember.

“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.” -Mark Twain

We use the word “politics” to describe the process so well.
”Poli” in Latin meaning “many” and “tics” meaning “bloodsucking creatures”.

“Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘We should never judge a [politician] by his age, only by his works. And, ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying.” –Ronald Reagan

Statesmen tell you what is true even though it may be unpopular. Politicians will tell you what is popular, even though it may not be true.

“My esteem… has gone up substantially. It is so nice now when people wave at me, they use all their fingers.” –Jimmy Carter

A political pollster knocked on the door and a sour-faced lady answered. ‘What party does your husband belong to?’ he asked.

The lady responded curtly, “I, sir, am the party he belongs to.”

“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” –John Kennedy

And a quote I hold dear because it is a good rule of thumb in all circumstances:

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by ignorance.” – I first heard this attributed to Thomas Jefferson (probably not in a conversation with Ronald Reagan). Since then, I have heard this attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte, Robert Heinlein, and Robert Hanlon. In any case, never assuming bad intent is a good practice. Let’s try and be clear, truthful, patient, and, for goodness sake, keep a sense of humor.

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Double-checked my memory for the quotes at About.com and found some of the jokes there, too.