Ken Elston
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Monthly Archives: October 2014

SERVICE: MY PLEDGE TO YOU

Being elected to City Council is being elected to a position of service. My commitment will be to work on behalf of and in representation of all our citizens, and, in making hard choices and important decisions, weigh the greater good more heavily than any ideology. I will value diversity and bipartisanism and work to build productive dialog regarding issues in the community. I will focus my attention and energy while on City Council on the work of good government and on local priorities. I will work towards a government agenda that improves our city services and burnishes our community’s reputation.

Among government’s highest obligations are public safety and fiscal responsibility. All city services hinge on getting these two things right, and the character of the community is defined by attention to them. I am committed to supporting our schools and supporting economic development. Great schools and successful economic development depend on community security and amenities.

To enhance public safety, I support retention programs to stem the loss of experienced police officers. I support investment in fire and emergency medical services to right-size staffing, ensure quick response times, and improve our city’s rating- the rating that is a national standard that determines all our insurance rates (better ratings result in savings for individuals and businesses)- a fantastic argument for living in and doing business in Manassas. My priorities will always be based in community need, as expressed by the experts our city employs to make those judgments.

While on City Council, I will be an advocate for fiscal responsibility and good management. As the new City Council works to support the necessary services for our citizens- whether that refers to local services or seeking the best terms for our citizens in partnership agreements- I will always promote the lowest necessary investment by the individual taxpayer that still supports the needs and the goals of our city. Long-term strategic planning demands differentiating investment and expense. Taking advantage of favorable rates, fees and other costs of enduring achievement will require prioritization, and there will be great value in a new dedication to avoiding emergency-based shocks to the economic system. We must attend to the undesignated fund and reserves for the city to assure a strong credit rating. In the past, Manassas has had success using rate stabilization funds, insulating our residents from sudden rate increases, and we should think ahead and be proactive on behalf of our citizens in just that way again.

You can depend upon me to advocate for filling in missing pieces in the mosaic of our city profile. I advocate returning parks and recreation to Manassas as a priority in providing the kinds of amenities all great communities have. I believe in returning and right-sizing city staff positions to pre-recession levels to provide sufficient support to a city of our size. And, I will always work to ensure that all of our fiscal choices are grounded in the shared values and mandates of our community. Every dollar the city spends is from Manassas families and Manassas businesses. I will honor the trust given the City Council by being a good steward of those resources.

Manassas, you have a choice regarding the kind of representation you receive on City Council. It is a big part of what makes this country great.

GETTING FROM HERE TO THERE

Transportation issues represent a huge challenge for us here in Northern Virginia, and, in many ways, Manassas City’s needs represent pieces of a very large puzzle. It means that we must work collaboratively with our partners and neighbors in the public sector (Manassas Park, Prince William County, VRE, and the Commonwealth) and private sector to develop a comprehensive plan that must, inevitably, include road improvements, road development, and real transportation alternatives, including mass transit, and, I would suggest, some Twenty-First Century thinking regarding technology and infrastructure to benefit telecommuters.

The reason citizens need to vote for change on City Council is that this requires strategic planning, forward thinking and a common sense commitment to the future. There are examples of the ways in which our city leaders should be addressing transportation more seriously. Let us consider the need to support City businesses by providing customer and employee access, promote commuting with mass transit, and manage traffic patterns and flow on behalf of our residents.

Developing a comprehensive plan to handle parking in our city is in the Council’s purview. City Council has already skirted dealing with parking with regard to population density issues, neither have they addressed transportation requirements. Undoubtedly, we need more parking alternatives that support city residents first. Perhaps you are aware that the city could have made relatively small investments in the city’s future with preparation for a parking deck next to city hall. They passed on the expense. Just recently the city passed on purchasing a parking lot on Church Street, though we may be footing the bill to rent that same parking space back and, so, engage in periodic renegotiations on that contract. Such choices are perhaps penny-wise, but they are certainly pound-foolish. The need to manage parking will not go away, the costs for action will increase, and a continued lack of planning will put the burden on the next generation of leaders, if the City is interested in solutions. I am interested in solutions.

Similarly, any increase in high-density housing must require considerations of road use and commuter impact. The bottom line is that government’s commitment should be to increasing the time our residents spend with their families by doing what can be done to lessen time behind the wheel. Particularly if a City resident commutes north or south, the car is still the only real way to do that. New road development is complex, but plans exist, as does the formula for funding change. As part of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Manassas City has already voted to support new roads. That’s good, because we need our boundaries to be less limiting.

In addition, our whole region is dealing with the economic burden of unused business space. A model for public-private partnership might allow some of that space to be civically supported with communication technologies, and other incentives might attract businesses and government to fill them as flexible workspaces. Knowing that such space management is already successfully underway and revitalizing small towns in Europe might help us be confident in such an approach. Innovation at Mason was an experiment in shared space for non-profits, so this is not a new idea even to our community, but it didn’t leverage the major industries and employers of the region, nor take advantage of the potential for secure locations in the city. There are other best practices being modeled across the globe and across our nation, and Manassas should seize opportunities to lead in innovation for resolving difficult questions. With an imbedded university and with our major industry in innovative technologies, creative solutions to our major challenges shouldn’t be out of reach and would brand our community as forward-looking and supportive of economic growth.