Su­per­vi­sors Can­di­dates Fo­rum or­derly and in­for­ma­tive

Op­po­nents chal­lenge sta­tus quo on board

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By JoHn Mc­caslin Rap­pa­han­nock News staff

One thing was cer­tain at the con­clu­sion of the Board of Su­per­vi­sors Can­di­date Fo­rum held Mon­day night at the The­atre at Wash­ing­ton: all four can­di­dates have a tremen­dous love and re­spect for Rap­pa­han­nock County and its way of life and will work hard to keep it the same.

Oth­er­wise, the quite or­derly two-hour-long fo­rum, dur­ing which mod­er­a­tor Mar­i­anne Clyde posed the same eight ques­tions to the four hope­fuls run­ning for two open seats, re­vealed both shared goals and sharp dif­fer­ences on how best to man­age the county gov­ern­ment.

In­cum­bent Stonewal­lHawthorne Dis­trict Su­per­vi­sor Par­rish and his write-in chal­lenger David Kon­ick aired the most dis­agree­ments from the the­atre stage.

The lat­ter, an out­spo­ken lawyer and per­sis­tent thorn in the side of su­per­vi­sors when it comes to county gov­ern­ment pro­ceed­ings, re­called Thomas Jef­fer­son in his open­ing state­ment: “I pre­fer the tu­mult of lib­erty to the quiet of servi­tude. I hold it that a lit­tle re­bel­lion now and then is a good thing, and as nec­es­sary in the po­lit­i­cal world as storms in the phys­i­cal.”

For good mea­sure, he added: “If the wash­ing ma­chine didn’t have an ag­i­ta­tor, the clothes would never get clean.”

Apart from the in­creas­ingly bit­ter Par­rish-Kon­ick con­test, po­lit­i­cal new­comer Chris­tine Smith, who re­sides in Sper­ryville, is chal­leng­ing in­cum­bent Pied­mont Su­per­vi­sor Mike Biniek. Smith told the au­di­ence that she de­cided to run for the board be­cause with­out bring­ing to light the many chal­lenges the county faces would be a missed op­por­tu­nity.

Kon­ick echoed Smith, say­ing his fel­low res­i­dents in the Stonewall-Hawthorne dis­trict “are a lit­tle ag­i­tated from what I’ve been see­ing and hear­ing,” adding he’s been told cam­paign­ing door-to-door that “some­thing is just not right with our county gov­ern­ment.”

For Par­rish to say oth­er­wise, the lawyer said, is more “sun­shine and lol­lipop talk.”

With­out ques­tion it was Smith and Kon­ick, more than the two in­cum­bents, who rat­tled off po­ten­tial so­lu­tions to what ails the county, from the va­cant ad­min­is­tra­tor’s post to strug­gling fire and res­cue de­part­ments.

Par­rish warned the crowd that Kon­ick was ped­dling “twisted fig­ures” while cam­paign­ing, es­pe­cially sur­round­ing a pro­posed pri­vate­ly­funded multi-use trail sys­tem that the su­per­vi­sors voted last month to sup­port.

Kon­ick has warned that the county could be left hold­ing a multi-mil­lion dol­lar bill for the un­prece­dented coun­ty­wide project, while Par­rish as­sured the au­di­ence that he wouldn’t spend “$5,000” tax­payer dol­lars on “any trail” — in­clud­ing the $1 mil­lion, 1.2mile ini­tial phase that would con­nect the county’s two pub­lic schools.

“As I have gone around knock­ing on doors in my dis­trict — I would say I’ve prob­a­bly talked to 400 or 500 peo­ple over the last three weeks — and I met ex­actly one per­son that thought the trail was a good idea for the county to do. One!” the lawyer in­sisted at the fo­rum, spon­sored by Busi­nesses of Rap­pa­han­nock and the Rap­pa­han­nock News.

“This thing, who­ever is pay­ing for it, and the no­tion that it’s not go­ing to cost the tax­pay­ers any money I think is a ca­nard, that is just not true,” Kon­ick said. “The trail is go­ing to cost — from Wash­ing­ton to Sper­ryville, ac­cord­ing to the com­mit­tee’s own en­gi­neer — $5.9 mil­lion dol­lars, if they don’t hit cer­tain prob­lems.

“And 80 per­cent of that money is com­ing from some grant. Well, grant money doesn’t grow on trees. There’s no such thing as free money, and there’s no such thing as ex­tra money.”

Kon­ick was also crit­i­cal of the su­per­vi­sors for not sched­ul­ing ad­e­quate pub­lic hear­ings on the trails: “A project of this mag­ni­tude — the big­gest thing we’ve ever done in the county — would have to go to a pub­lic hear­ing and have peo­ple com­ment.”

Af­ter Biniek voiced sup­port for the trail — say­ing it was a safe place for chil­dren to learn to ride bikes, jog­gers to run, and mothers to push ba­bies in strollers “with­out get­ting run over” — Par­rish took his turn at the lectern. He told the au­di­ence that the pro­posed trail project had “turned into a po­lit­i­cal foot­ball.”

“I would never sup­port this bike path if I be­lieved that the tax­payer would have to pay for it,” Par­rish said. “And we voted to pass a res­o­lu­tion in or­der for this [ad hoc group] Rap­pTrails to ap­ply for this grant. The grant money has al­ready been taxed by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment, it’s al­ready in a pot” that would cover 80 per­cent of the ini­tial project.

Smith, a mar­ried mother of two older boys, con­ceded she’s “be­yond the ‘ba­bies in strollers’ stage, but I do still have kids who ride bi­cy­cles and ride skate­boards. And I do know safe places in the county to take them in the county that no­body has to pay for.”

“In talk­ing to peo­ple around the county I just don’t think there’s a lot of sup­port for this plan,” Smith con­tin­ued. “I just don’t see broad-based sup­port for it.”

Smith added that the so­called bike path isn’t a “pri­or­ity” when the su­per­vi­sors’ “dance card” is filled with re­vis­ing a long-over­due com­pre­hen­sive plan, up­dat­ing zon­ing or­di­nances, con­sid­er­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for Airbnb’s and a venue sites, restor­ing ag­ing county build­ings, and bol­ster­ing fire and res­cue ser­vices.

Par­rish, mean­while, took the op­por­tu­nity to “cor­rect some facts” aired dur­ing the cam­paign­ing, in­clud­ing a sug­ges­tion that $590,000 has re­cently been added to the county’s bud­get.

“No,” said the su­per­vi­sor. “There is ba­si­cally $66,230 added to the bud­get that is a per­ma­nent ad­di­tion.”

And then this dig at Kon­ick, who has gained a rep­u­ta­tion for fil­ing costly law­suits against the county and county seat amid his claims that the law isn’t be­ing fol­lowed by ap­pointed or elected of­fi­cials.

“There is an­other $38,000” added to the bud­get, said Par­rish, “that’s like one-time, this year only, not next year . . . and one of those is our lit­i­ga­tion fund be­cause we’re deal­ing with nu­mer­ous friv­o­lous law­suits.”

Among other is­sues de­bated by the four can­di­dates:


Biniek: Sup­ports in­creased broad­band and cell phone in­fra­struc­ture, par­tic­u­larly to help home-based busi­nesses and im­prove safety and emer­gency ser­vices at a time when lan­d­line ser­vices con­tinue to de­te­ri­o­rate.

Smith: Lack of broad­band and cell cov­er­age im­pacts work­ing fam­i­lies ev­ery day. Cites her back­ground in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions as a bonus if elected su­per­vi­sor.

Par­rish: Im­por­tant for all the ob­vi­ous rea­sons, and par­tic­u­larly es­sen­tial for fire and res­cue. Given it’s not a flat county, ge­og­ra­phy must be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion. En­cour­ages pa­tience over cell tow­ers, given technology ad­vances by the day.

Kon­ick: A press­ing is­sue. Su­per­vi­sors must dis­play lead­er­ship and find so­lu­tions. Cites his wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence in pub­lic util­ity mat­ters and reg­u­la­tions. Agrees that broad­band is con­strained and not eco­nom­i­cally vi­able given the county’s ge­og­ra­phy. En­cour­ages ap­ply­ing for grants to build and fa­cil­i­tate broad­band.


Biniek: Open spa­ces, nat­u­ral beauty, dark skies are all God-given gifts to the county, and it’s the job of res­i­dents to pro­tect them for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Prop­erty rights also have to be taken into ac­count, thus com­mon goals to­wards preser­va­tion must be reached.

Smith: Charmed by rural char­ac­ter of Rap­pa­han­nock, a “par­adise.” Night skies vi­tal; one of the few re­main­ing places in the East where the Milky Way is vis­i­ble. Thanks farm­ers for the sur­viv­ing open spa­ces. Pledges a strong com­mit­ment to pre­serv­ing county’s agri­cul­tural and rural char­ac­ter.

Par­rish: Com­mits to keep de­vel­op­ment out of county, pro­mote con­ser­va­tion, and scenic ease­ments. Ma­jor sup­porter of night skies; proud to carry in his pocket a map of the county as seen at night. Down­ward fac­ing light­ing im­por­tant.

Kon­ick: County su­per­vi­sors can do more to pre­serve night skies by con­trol­ling and lim­it­ing growth — more houses mean more lights. Key to pre­serv­ing land­scape is up­dat­ing com­pre­hen­sive plan, which has no men­tion of night skies. Zon­ing or­di­nance sim­i­larly needs to be up­dated. Farming needs to be en­cour­aged.


Biniek: Jobs for young peo­ple are im­por­tant, but as for box stores, gro­cery stores, re­tail and ship­ping out­lets “they don’t be­long here.” Doesn’t de­sire ad­di­tional traf­fic and in­fra­struc­ture, nor does the county have the de­mo­graph­ics or pop­u­la­tion to sup­port re­tail stores; county would be left with an empty build­ing. Ed­u­ca­tion of young peo­ple is key to cre­at­ing jobs.

Smith: County was once home to man­u­fac­tur­ing and ship­ping busi­nesses, jobs that pro­vided pri­mary and se­condary in­comes. Fu­ture busi­ness cre­ation is a ques­tion of bal­ance and ap­pro­pri­ately zoned lo­ca­tion. Sees room for job growth, par­tic­u­larly for young peo­ple, granted it’s bal­anced with the county’s agri­cul­tural and rural na­ture.

Par­rish: De­mo­graph­ics are chang­ing and county could use a phar­macy for its ag­ing pop­u­la­tion. Oth­er­wise, all points in county are 30 min­utes away from a ma­jor town or city. Week­enders are help­ing to cre­ate jobs for county res­i­dents. Against any large in­dus­try in county.

Kon­ick: County a decade ago tasked a com­mit­tee to study eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, but their find­ings vir­tu­ally ig­nored by su­per­vi­sors. Gro­cery stores re­quire wa­ter and sewer, which out­side the town of Wash­ing­ton don’t ex­ist. Is op­posed to large box stores.


Biniek: Fire com­pa­nies are manned pre­dom­i­nantly with older vol­un­teers, in­clud­ing se­nior cit­i­zens, a prob­lem shared with other rural com­mu­ni­ties. Be­lieves paid mem­bers will be a re­al­ity in the not-so-dis­tant fu­ture, which will in­crease taxes.

Smith: Hir­ing paid per­son­nel is a “slip­pery slope” — wants to in­crease call for vol­un­teers, en­cour­age vol­un­teerism, es­pe­cially among young peo­ple, or else taxes will have to in­crease.

Par­rish: Prefers a hy­brid sys­tem — a com­bi­na­tion of vol­un­teer and paid per­son­nel, es­pe­cially for EMTs, but only to a de­gree where there are gaps in fire­house staffing sched­ules.

Kon­ick: Paid sys­tem is costly — $600,000 per hire, given salary and up­grades to fa­cil­i­ties, in­clud­ing pro­vid­ing overnight ac­com­mo­da­tions. Will in­crease taxes by up to 25 per­cent; a huge bur­den.


Biniek: There’s been an al­most 100 per­cent turnover in the county gov­ern­ment, re­sult­ing in a big hole to fill — “and we are try­ing our best to fill that hole.” Su­per­vi­sors are be­ing forced to seek higher cal­iber em­ploy­ees, which could or could not be a good thing for the county and tax­pay­ers.

Smith: County gov­ern­ment has been through ringer in last 15 months; huge void from ad­min­is­tra­tor John McCarthy’s 2016 de­par­ture, leav­ing a lack of lead­er­ship. Cites her back­ground in man­age­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tion, and the chal­lenges and crises she’s faced that would help her to right the county ship.

Par­rish: Why he is run­ning for re­elec­tion. County is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a 30-year shakeup, like other gov­ern­ments do in time. Once straight­ened out, and with the right peo­ple put in the right places, county busi­ness will re­turn to nor­mal. Pledges to get ship back on even keel.

Kon­ick: Quotes Yogi Berra: “If you don’t know where you’re go­ing you’re li­able to end up some­where else.” Says su­per­vi­sors had no con­tin­gency plans in place postMcCarthy, and as a re­sult are “flail­ing about.” County needs new lead­er­ship, per­son­nel, and accountability; he has the man­age­ment ex­pe­ri­ence to get the job done.


Biniek: Sup­ports fund­ing

“soft tourism” — B&B’s, res­tau­rants, the­aters, art gal­leries, antique stores, and those who come out to view the county’s nat­u­ral beauty. Tourism also pro­vides much-needed jobs for the county. And the tourist dol­lar re­mains in the county.

Smith: Tourism is a no­brainer, but also a ques­tion of bal­ance. County is cur­rently earn­ing a quar­ter-mil­lion dol­lars in tourism rev­enue, so what should the county be ex­pected to in­vest in get­ting that re­turn? The cur­rent tourism level is just about right, although re­viv­ing the once-pop­u­lar Sper­ryville apple fes­ti­val would be a ex­cel­lent idea, among oth­ers, to at­tract tourists. Need to work on rep­u­ta­tion to be­ing open to the right kind of tourism.

Par­rish: Tourism helps county rev­enue stream, but is op­posed to a large bud­get for pro­mot­ing tourism. Tourism has “ru­ined” some coun­ties and their way of life, so must be “care­ful” not to over­due it.

Kon­ick: Tourism doesn’t gen­er­ate con­sid­er­able rev­enue for the county like in other places — par­tic­u­larly any­where near enough to jus­tify cross sub­si­diz­ing it out of tax­payer dol­lars. What the county is do­ing now is just enough and I would not pro­pose to in­crease it.


Biniek: “I’m not a big talker. I like to go to the meat of a fact or meat of an is­sue, get it done, get it over with. I think I can do a good job. I’m here for the peo­ple of the county. And I hope to cre­ate a fu­ture with you, peo­ple of the county, one that we can be happy with, that our chil­dren can be happy with.”

Smith: “This is my pledge to you: I will be com­pe­tent; I will be well pre­pared for meet­ings; I will fol­low through with my com­mit­ments; I will ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in com­mit­tees that I take on; I will ad­here to the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act; I will avoid con­flicts of in­ter­est; I will sub­scribe to records re­ten­tion; and I will fol­low cor­rect par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dure for meet­ings and en­cour­age my peers to do the same; I will work with the county to in­sti­tute job de­scrip­tions and per­for­mance re­views and tran­si­tion plans for county po­si­tions; I will be ac­count­able; I will make my own de­ci­sions based on in­put from the vot­ers of the Pied­mont Dis­trict, not spe­cial in­ter­est groups — you will never catch my say­ing ‘My lawyer told me to say this,’ and I will stand by them and not ex­pect the county to bail me out if my de­ci­sions are ques­tioned. And be­ing ac­count­able I will safe­guard your hard­earned tax dol­lars; I will be re­spon­sive.”

Par­rish: “I con­sider my­self kind of a bridge be­tween the old regime and the new regime. I’ve been here all my life; I’ve been go­ing to su­per­vi­sors meet­ings for many years . . . I’ve been in­volved all this time. We have some changes to make and I’m here to help im­ple­ment those changes.”

Kon­ick: “I’ve prob­a­bly been to more board of su­per­vi­sors meet­ings, more plan­ning com­mis­sion meet­ings, and board of zon­ing ap­peals meet­ings than any­one else in the room since com­ing to Rap­pa­han­nock over 40 years ago . . . Now the county’s fac­ing some very se­ri­ous de­vel­op­ment pres­sures, some very se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial is­sues . . . and some very se­ri­ous man­age­ment chal­lenges . . . I feel that my ed­u­ca­tion and my prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence . . . all make me uniquely qual­i­fied to help the board and more­over help the county nav­i­gate the very dif­fi­cult waters that are ahead of us.”


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