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.