Friday, December 6, 2013

We want to know what turns you on

Please take just a few minutes to fill out the survey for our Bent Mountain Center.
 
 
 
Here is the link to get you there: http://bentmountaincenter.com/survey.html
 
Thanks so much for your help!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How do you Rejuvenate a Community?

Find a non-sectarian, non-partisan, a-political Gathering Place
 

You can start by visiting a new webpage for the Bent Mountain Center:
 
 
To begin, we refer you to the About Us Page where you'll find:

We are a  non-profit organization offering educational, recreational and social activities.  We are housed in the former Bent Mountain Elementary School and hope to maintain the facility as a pillar of the Bent Mountain Community as was the school.
For over 100 years, Bent Mountain Elementary School offered  individuals and families scattered amongst the ridges and valleys of Bent Mountain  a reason and place to gather for school activities as well as for community get togethers.  The closing of the school in 2009 shut the door.

With the opening of the Bent Mountain Center, we are striving to bring back a place where our community can come together once again. 


So, come join us and experience the wonders of our idyllic community!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Transparency of the Governmental Process


 
Most Americans have a weak understanding of how our "Self-Governance" (the envy of the Free World) is operating
Understandably distracted by the overwhelming availability of public information and responding to fulfilling the "learned" needs of everyday life, most citizens have been forced to delegate their civic responsibilities to a much lower priority. This has opened a void that paid government personnel have found that they must fill. Although unintended, this evolution of governance has led to an extreme imbalance in our governing process. The lack of citizen participation has opened fertile ground for manipulation by a wide ranging variety of special interest groups ranging from Non-Governmental Organizations to Corporate Lobbyists.
The present condition of our "treasured" form of self-governance is in great jeopardy and not easy to mend. Recent Polls indicate that the current sentiment of the populace overwhelmingly favors replacing all members of our Federal Congress with new "true" representatives of the people. Yet, we are experiencing governmental dysfunction on local levels as well; most likely due to an accumulation of local citizen apathy.
The fundamental premises of our governance in the Commonwealth of Virginia is very sound. However, as a "Dillon Rule" state, we must, as citizens, keep tabs on the actions of our state representatives as well as our local elected and appointed representatives.
Recently, Roanoke County established a Stormwater Advisory Committee. Of the twenty-one members appointed to the Committee, only five were directly appointed by the Board of Supervisors. The remaining sixteen were identified by the Roanoke County Administrative Staff. The significance in this example of the exercise of governmental power lies in the fact that ultimately, the determination of additional revenues for the County to "administer" future stormwater management programs will lie with the recommendation of special interest groups.
Certainly the decisions made in Roanoke County have an impact on our neighboring localities, but this does not mean that we should grant our neighbors the opportunity to make our decisions for us. Unfortunately, this is exactly what has happened in recent years regarding a variety of issues. It has happened primarily as a result of the lack of an effective governmental process that prioritizes the views of its constituency above all others.
Certainly we should welcome the input from all with outside interests, but we should be sure to strongly represent the viewpoints of those persons who actually financially support the governance of our community.
Due to a similar dysfunctional government on the national level, we are now quickly approaching a financial catastrophe of epic proportions. This should be understood as an alarm call to all citizens on a local level to respond by correcting the dysfunctions in local government.
Recently, Windsor Hills magisterial district Supervisor Ed Elswick has been attempting to persuade his fellow Board Members to adopt a resolution that would lead to a re-examination of our current procedures as related to land use planning. He titled his proposal a Property Rights Resolution. Within it procedural changes are proposed that are quite different from those that other Board members and Administrative staff have accepted as "normal" through decades of use. Business leaders as well as planning professionals have also become comfortable with the current processes. So, once again, a plea for a return to civility is lost on deaf ears.
Yet, repeatedly, in legal disputes all over our nation we find evidence that those property owners most affected by zoning changes and variances, have the weakest position with their local government. In a recent Forbes magazine article about the recent Supreme Court decision  Koontz v. St. John’s Water Management District:
Many things are broken with respect to rights in real property... ineffective or outdated land use and zoning plans, the propensity for elected officials to make ill-conceived changes to those plans, and the fact that so many interests and agencies can come forward to involve themselves in the permitting process, make the process unnecessarily hazardous and cumbersome. Applicants denied entitlements are forced to fight as individuals against agencies with unlimited resources. Those with the ability to work the system often receive approvals inappropriately.
                                                                                                                                       -Robert Bridges
On Tuesday, November 5, citizens in the Windsor Hills Magisterial District will have the opportunity to re-elect Ed Elswick, the most conscientious Supervisor we have had since Lee Eddy.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pandering is NOT an aceptable form of Government

Who Do You Think Listens to Citizens' Concerns in
Roanoke County?
Board responses to pleas for transparency in government and responding to citizen concerns.
Paraphrases from recent board meetings follow:
Moore: I worry about  choosing one citizen's rights over another, so' I'll vote NO.
Flora: It's all too vague, so I'll vote NO.
Altizer: If we poll citizens regarding contentious issues, we might not like what we hear (from a previous work session), so I'll vote NO.
Church: Since I'm the fourth vote, I'll be friendly with the suggestion, however, for political capital I'll vote NO.

The Resolution offered by Supervisor Ed Elswick was killed with a resounding NO rather than seeking compromise through mutually acceptable goals. The Resolution was about revising and improving the process of government and, ironically, the current process caused the effort to fail, even though some comments by board members suggested opportunities for improvement.

Lost within the confines of a carefully orchestrated public meeting and "hearing," one wise offering by a Planning Commissioner, to hold a joint work session with the Board of Supervisors and the Planning Commission to give the two bodies an opportunity to discuss proposed Zoning Ordinance amendments, gained NO traction or support. When the same proposal was made earlier in a Planning Commission Work Session, the Staff Director of Planning immediately countered such a proposal by suggesting the Planning Commissioners would be far more effective discussing the amendments one-on-one with their District Supervisors.

The most effective lobbyists exercising control over our elected and appointed officials in local government is our "civil service" staff. They are in near constant communication with their designated employers and establish service to those individuals as their highest priority. Indeed the Board of Supervisors are the people who determine their pay scale and their indispensability.

Our elected and appointed officials are obligated to understand their task of carefully balancing the best interests of our entire community and the individual rights of our citizens including civil servants. The task demands individuals with the wisdom of broad experience in both the public and private sectors as well as those willing to grow as we evolve.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Don't Do Today, that which, You can put off 'til Tomorrow

An unfortunate credo for our elected and appointed representatives in government

As we once again face another Federal government shutdown solely based upon differing ideologies, we must seek somewhere to turn to seek the essential support services of "civilization." For years, I have believed that we should collectively focus upon improving the responsiveness of and our access to local government beginning with our families, our neighborhoods, our communities, etc.

But first, even though we might recognize the need to improve the processes of dealing with our social issues, we must improve our ability to communicate with and listen to each other.

Our own community of Bent Mountain is, without reservation, Paradise. It is only through our unique individual perspectives that we can change that fact, and even those deviating viewpoints don't necessarily change it for others.

Several years ago, Ed Elswick recognized the paradise of Bent Mountain. Early on, he sought to acquaint himself with all of the elements of his paradise including "rare yellow lady slippers" through friendly neighbors. He expanded his quest to include all of his now native Windsor Hills District of Roanoke County and our Roanoke Valley region at large. He found an opportunity to protect and enhance his newly found "garden of paradise" by serving as a Roanoke County Supervisor representing the best interests of his constituency.

During the past four years as a Supervisor, very few have recognized his level headed attempts at refining and enhancing citizens' participation in the governing process. I has been a rough experience for Ed, a retired executive from General Electric who sought, obtained and enhanced corporate efficiency. He has expressed understandable frustration in attempting to apply his skills in the public sector on behalf of his constituency.

Ed won office as a conservative Republican. Very shortly, he announced his decision to serve his constituency independent of any party influence. Traditional political party demands are, all too often, not in the best interests of a representative's constituency. As a result of his action the Republicans abandoned him, the Democrats, including many of our local journalists, jumped to castigate him as a Tea Party sympathizer. Yet, for nearly four years, Ed Elswick has continued to plead with his colleagues on the Board and Roanoke County staff to work more transparently with ALL of the citizens of Roanoke County. Clearly they have felt that to do so would not be in "their" best interest.

As with his predecessor, Joe McNamara, they are most often attracted to protecting the perks of their positions such as supplemental income, health benefits and sense of power associated with their positions. On one occasion, when Ed suggested to his fellow Board members that a poll of citizens might be a way to better understand citizens' opinions regarding County issues, another member stated, on record, that if they did such a thing; they might not like what they would hear.

More recently, under an admittedly questionably named "Property Rights Resolution," Ed sought to provide citizens with more transparency and opportunity to participate in local governmental zoning issues. His efforts were based upon numerous citizen complaints related to constraints on citizen input and the lack of response during public hearings from elected and appointed officials. His colleagues on the Board chose once again, to find fault with his efforts and accompanying requests from citizens, rather than proceeding through negotiation to re-craft and refine Mr. Elswick's self-initiated efforts.

Most of the current Supervisors obviously prefer to be guided by our local bureaucrats rather than to engage in the hard work of governing. Working retreats of the Board of Supervisors were a regular activity in past years. This provided the Supervisors with an opportunity to informally discuss ideas to improve our local government. Today, they have limited themselves to stifling sound-bite style discussions encouraged by our bureaucratic staff.

Ed Elswick is our last opportunity to re-elect a "Statesman-Style" representative of the people on our local level. He will always be available and open to your ideas.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Work Session Induces Sleep

Sept 17, 2013 Roanoke County Planning Commission
Work Session Accomplishes Little
 

After eight months of "excruciating work" developing unexplained proposals to accomplish "simple housekeeping" amendments to the Roanoke County Zoning Ordinance, the Commission prepared to address more difficult Zoning Ordinance issues as the second part of their 2013 work plan.

Instead the meeting as guided by the Roanoke County Planning staff under the direction of Chairman Jason Peters offered a 45+ minute presentation by Roanoke County's new Chief of Police and another 40+ minute presentation by a planning staff member praising staff's accomplishments providing grant funding for a sign (with landscaping) at Richfield Retirement Community.

The remainder of the work session conducted by the Director of Community Planning focused upon discussions of  preparing for the Planning Commission's Work Schedule for 2014. At the end of the meeting one commissioner, obviously somewhat bewildered, asked about pursuit of previously identified elements of the Zoning Ordinance on their current agenda.

The Planning Director responded by informing the Commission of his frustration with the Board of Supervisors who have already gone through 2 or 3 work sessions without agreeing to adopt the "housekeeping elements" presented to them by the Planning commission earlier. At that point some Commissioners suggested scheduling a joint work session with the Board of Supervisors to accommodate dialog regarding the reasoning behind the proposed amendments. The Planning Director instead suggested each Commissioner speak one on one with his own District Supervisor.

The meeting ended without direction for the next work session.

Unfortunately, this meeting conduct is the norm for most of our elected and appointed citizen boards and commissions on all levels of government. Should we begin questioning the "political agenda" of government staff? Should we continue paying stipends to elected and appointed officials when they are discouraged from pursuing their responsibilities?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Six Months of Silence

The mission of this blog from its beginning has been to protect and enhance the lifestyle of a small rural community on the northernmost tip of the great Blue Ridge Plateau. Bent Mountain is a geographically unique area, steeped with a rich history predating European settlement in the 18th century. Geographic uniqueness has provided the area with rich soils with plentiful water resources. The surrounding terrain has uniquely isolated the area from surrounding regions in the garden of the Southern Appalachian Mountain chain.

Although this blog has focused upon environmental protection and enhancement, I have avoided direct involvement with current local politics. Currently, however, our Windsor Hills Magisterial District Supervisor, Ed Elswick, is running for re-election to his post on November 5, 2013. Mr. Elswick has represented the interest of his constituency very well over the past 3-1/2 years of his term, quite often, contrary to interests of elements outside of his district.

Supervisor Elswick is basing his campaign for re-election on the concept of "Principles Above Politics." This slogan has become a challenge to every other Supervisor representing the other four magisterial districts in Roanoke County. Sadly, the other Supervisors, with the sometimes exception of "Butch" Church have failed to even comprehend Elswick's intent. Mr. Elswick won his election four years ago over the incumbent opponent, Joe McNamara, based upon his commitment to respond directly to his constituency.

In fact, he has repeatedly called for a process during his tenure as Supervisor to clearly assess the opinion of his constituency on all issues.

Mr. McNamara lost his bid for re-election four years ago because it became clear to his entire constituency that his interests were limited to himself and his party and not those of his constituency.  Mr. Elswick declared independence from his party, shortly after becoming elected, because the same party did not want to relinquish power to his constituency.

Ed Elswick is and continues to challenge the status quo of local politics.

His opponents quickly attempt to identify him as "Tea Party affiliated" though such a tag is maliciously applied to a man who has no axe to bear other than the welfare of his constituency. Mr Elswick has declined the health insurance benefits offered to his colleagues on the Board of Supervisors because he does not need the "perk."