An earlier post on Blue Louisa asked if the CV’s readers were ready to be subjected to more “just the factoids” coverage of important local issues, like the County’s Comprehensive Plan? If their last three issues featuring opinion pages filled with syndicated stream of consciousness pieces and no local content is any indication, they will continue publishing conservative narratives at the expense of other voices.
In light of the Board of Zoning Appeals 4-3 vote upholding the county’s height restriction ordinances this week; the CV’s readers should expect to see many letters about the Confederate flag off of I-64 in the weeks to come.
And as meetings about the County’s Comprehensive Plan unfold over the course of the next seven weeks, additional local commentary about the plans merits and shortcomings.
What the CV will print remains to be seen, but what gets lost in the conversation is the fact that over the past few months they have been doubling down on ultra-conservative narratives with misleading op-eds from national politicians and syndicated “experts” in an effort to frame the issues. Narratives which are reinforced by letters from political operatives, like Tyler Adams, who this year had four of his brain droppings … ahem agitprop pieces printed.
To the extent that everyone is entitled to their opinion, well thought out letters, even Republican ones should be welcome. Although in the case of serial ranters like Jerry Reynolds, Robert Merto and Jim Hogan exceptions should be made. What the CV’s reader might not have noticed is how effectively their editorial practices have consigned most meaningful local commentary to the back of the bus so to speak.
Whether this is a byproduct of their “must run” policies, or are the result of deliberate actions is immaterial. The fact remains that local letters, particularly progressive ones are increasingly being written in reaction to something previously printed in the CV, not discussing relevant issues. Like the five letters debunking Dave Brat’s deceptive April 19th op-ed. Lies which were shamelessly repeated in several regional Buffet controlled papers.
IMHO, the CV's journalistic practices go well beyond cutting and pasting factoids, and misleading op-eds. It’s a wholesale commitment to conservative ideology regardless of any inconvenient facts. For their readers, it’s like the story about the frog sitting in warm water which is being slowly raised to a boil. And like the frog, by the time their readers realize anything is amiss, it’s too late.
Take for example, their coverage of the County’s Comprehensive Development Plan, a working blueprint for the County’s economic and residential growth over the next decade, where they have printed two articles and one unsigned editorial. Now compare that coverage to their eight articles and one editorial about the County's broadband project this year.
While both issues are of great interest to their readers, given the importance of county’s development plan what kind of continuing coverage the CV will be give this story as it moves forward remains to be seen. Thus far, their July 5th piece has been the most useful for county residents.
Where Andrew Williams, chief operating officer of The Berkley Group, a planning consulting firm which advises towns and counties throughout Virginia, commented on how difficult it can be to draw broad interest in the planning process. “You can have as many forums as you want, but unless there’s a hot issue, a lot of times people don’t show up,” he said. Adding that “[You have] to cast a wide net throughout the county and have different types of forums for different audiences, and not rush through it.”
With the first of seven meetings taking place on Wednesday the 25th, and continuing every other Wednesday until the first week of September, it should be noted that most of the meetings will taking place during the dog days of August when many are on vacation, and it remains to been seen how that affects the County’s ability to engage people. Mr. Williams specifically recommended that the county concentrate on local festivals, and churches and other groups which are active in the community.
Williams noted that his group often starts the process by sending out a survey to raise people’s interest and then organize forums. To that end, the Community Development Department has placed advertisements in the last two editions of the CV. And in a conversation with their staff , they said that they weren’t aware that their first advertisement (July 12th) had an incorrect number for their office, and stated that the county is currently in the process of putting up notices at their trash and recycling centers, and have plans to put additional signage at key intersections.
Comprehensive plan notice
The biggest concern everyone should have about the Comprehensive Plan is whether the Board of Supervisors is serious about getting “… the community involved as much as possible.” When in light of the last major overhaul of the plan in 2001, the Board was “skittish about too much public involvement in rewriting the document …”
One indication of the Board’s ambivalence is the fact that they “directed the Louisa County Planning Commission to update data in the plan about the county’s demographics and economic indicators, but not to make more substantive changes to the document, and that since the Commission approved those updates in March the Board has yet to approve them. Whether this is out of an abundance of caution“ … fearing a chaotic and time-consuming process,” and is part of the normal process remains to be seen.
According to Jeff Ferrel, assistant county administrator, county residents attending these meetings will be given paper copies of the plans goals and objectives, along with comment cards, and will use color coded stickers to place alongside the posted goals and objectives.
Some might ask why such elaborate preparations are necessary for what are likely be non-substantive changes. And the more cynically minded might see these meetings as another exercise in Kabuki Theatre, and that the entire process was always going to be a dog and pony show, and not a more substantive community based review of the plan.
That being said, the issue of how to make local government more transparent and responsive to the needs of the citizens they serve remains one of the biggest challenges of a representative Democracy, one which only works when the people have real choices, and are informed enough to make educated decisions.