Page 22 Opinion New Alborn Photo.psd

Al Alborn

Joni Mitchell said it best: “You don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”  

The current Prince William Board of County Supervisors appears to be committed to paving over what little is left of the paradise we call home.

I respect people’s rights to sell their property. I also understand the government’s role in establishing reasonable limits on that right to protect the environment, water quality and our community.  As the proud descendant of a long line of Iowa farmers, I particularly understand and appreciate a farm owner’s interest in cashing in on what is in effect their 401(k).  

But our supervisors appear to focus on following the money (tax revenue) regardless of community feedback, environmental consequences and the opinions of people who actually live there. 

When it comes to the government, I am a cynic. Our five inexperienced Democratic members of the Board of Supervisors are easy targets for the slick sales techniques available to businesses and interests who would profit at the expense of the rest of us. The fact that the target of their ambitions to raise revenue in the western districts that four of them don’t represent (perhaps five, counting the chair) makes decisions without consequences easier.

I made my living talking people out of their money. It wasn’t that hard. My success was based on access, a good sales process, superior knowledge about whatever I was selling and “vision creation.”   

“Vision creation” is expensive. It requires a script, a really good Powerpoint presentation and a lot of glossy collateral (handouts describing the features and benefits of whatever I was selling, and why it was better than whatever the competition was selling.)  

Sales process is important.  I assume most involved attended the same schools I did: “Target Account Selling,” “Solution Selling,” “Selling Secrets of Attila the Hun” and many more.    

In the contest for defining the future of our county, the general public lacks the process training, support infrastructure, resources, expertise, money and sales experience to compete with people whose business it is to profit from the asphalt and construction and the consulting and legal teams they can use. The people with “plans” for Prince William work full time on them and are paid or profit from the decisions they are pitching. The rest of us work on our free time between jobs and families while fighting for community values and our quality of life.  

The board’s current land-use policy reminds me of Westerns of the 1970s. The U.S. Cavalry was often portrayed as battling the poorly armed and unprepared native Americans to take their land and destroy their way of life. Our four Democratic supervisors and the chair appear to be determined to do the same to the residents of western Prince William. It’s obvious that the citizen groups and supervisors in western Prince William are “outnumbered and not properly armed.”  

Perhaps Mitchell gave us some very good advice to plan for the future: “They took all the trees, and put ’em in a tree museum. And they charged the people a dollar and a half to see them.

I suggest we put a tree museum in the next Prince William County Strategic Plan, Comprehensive Plan and budget. When the county we love today is just a seamless extension of Fairfax County, people will gladly pay a dollar and a half to show their children and grandchildren “paradise lost.”  With a Board of Supervisors more interested in money than trees, the museum’s revenue would be ironically attractive. I am going to miss the trees.

Al Alborn is an award-winning columnist and member of the Virginia Press Association. His column appears every other week. You can learn more about Al on LinkedIn.

(14) comments

Janet Smith

Inside-the-Beltway Urbanist "Planning" - Coming to your outer-suburb suburban neighborhood sooner than you think with all its Urbanist in-fill gentrification jargon...thanks to left-of-center "Corporate Socialist" Pols who use revenue from in-fill gentrification redevelopment to reward their favorite Urbanist plans, planners, programs, and people, no matter what the costs and consequences.

Allen Muchnick

Building data centers in a designated rural area is clearly NOT "inside-the-Beltway Urbanist Planning" or "in-fill gentrification". For one, no people would ever live there.

Why do you persist with such idiotic comments?

Ralf Bee

A noble effort, but it's too late for PWC. After 20 years, we are leaving !

Fix Prince William

Those picketing for data centers are probably the same travelling clowns that protest against CRT. Ha ha! Jokers!

Fix Prince William

Money talks. This is the United States. The developers have the money. No one cares what you say, Al. It's been this way for developers in PWC for the past 30 years. Not you or anyone else is gonna stop it.

Pave away!

Betsie Fobes

Al, you have made some excellent points. I am also concerned over some of the spurious accusations made about the western end of the county by some who want to suggest social issues rather business growth patterns and road construction.

Donald Quella

Want to see where the VIPs who profit from destroying the environment live (including many Pols who rubber stamp approve the growth-for-the-sake-of-growth environmental destruction) live? Buy an upscale home-and-garden magazine at an upscale fresh whole foods supermarket.

Betsie Fobes

Al, you have made some excellent points. I am also concerned over some of the spurious accusations made about the western end of the county by some who want to suggest social issues rather business growth patterns and road construction.

Lynne June

The BOCS supporting this are indeed inexperienced but they are also looking for more revenue for their spending measures. If they have more commercial tax revenue to spend, they can make more people happy by giving that funding to support spending for their constituents. Thus, they essentially are buying votes.

Janet Smith

This has been occurring for 75 years, since the end of WW2 when the U.S. population was less than 150 million. U.S. population is now 335 million, to be 400 million by 2050. No concern by anyone about the U.S. food supply in 2050 when millions more acres of agricultural land are paved, never mind forests and streams. VIP decision makers (including Media owners and publishers) who have historically benefited from suburbanization live nowhere near the sprawl messes they created, never mind the expensive gentrified suburban renewal referred to as "Smart Growth" targeted at older inner suburbs.

Comment deleted.
Donald Quella

Dumb Growth? Urbanist aka infill gentrification charades like "car free diet", "affordable housing", urban village and "complete streets" inflicted for many years on residents of older suburbs. Not, however, on residents of luxury suburban enclaves where the plutocrat Urbanist developers and rubber stamp local pols live.

You Know

With the majority of the BOCS being democrats PWC is in trouble, especially when the Potomac supervisor doesn’t even know where she lives, (she thinks she lives in the rural crescent) so she wants the western end of the county to look like her district. The Neabsco supervisor thinks he represents the entire county and Antifa Wheeler don’t have a clue.

Fix Prince William

David, not sure how long you've been in the county, but you're blind--ironic last name. It's not a "Democrat Thing" or a "Republican" thing. These supervisors have been doing this for decades--lapping out of the hands of investors and developers. Look at our planning compared to Fairfax! Fairfax, although comprehensively developed, has open green spaces, numerous trails and parks, etc. Prince William is a zoning nightmare. Why? Corey Stewart and his horde, now we have Wheeler. Wake-up!

Bill Wright

You nailed it when you wrote: “Our five inexperienced Democratic members of the Board of Supervisors are easy targets for the slick sales techniques available to businesses and interests who would profit at the expense of the rest of us.”

I don’t attach bad motives to the eastern supervisors. Rather, I believe they have fallen under the spell of an aggressive misinformation campaign designed to facilely present this decision as a no-brainer for their districts. Fortunately, we require affected federal, state and county agencies to kick the tires on the applicant’s overly optimistic sales pitch, and a lot of hot air is leaking out.

Supervisors who don’t live in the western districts may be prone to overlook threats to the immediate surrounding areas they seldom visit, but responsible reviewers of these proposals have identified more far-reaching effects to traffic and water quality. The recent release of the Prince William County Finance Department’s analysis of the advertised economic benefits of the Prince William Digital Gateway have found them to be grossly inflated. If those fairy tales were what was propping up this lead balloon, it may soon start rapidly coming down to earth.

It's a salesman’s job to accentuate the positive attributes of their product. Elected officials are supposed to be our consumer advocates who scratch beneath the glossy veneer and protect us from the hucksters. In this case, they should do a bit more scratching.

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