CDN Editor: Two candidates are in the race for Virginia’s 10th House of Delegates District which includes The 10th Delegate District spans parts of Loudoun, Clarke (White Post and most of Millwood) and Frederick counties. This interview was conducted with David Butler via electronic mail.
CDN: Clarke County has long had the most active conservation easement programs in the area. Proponents of conservation easements say that easements reduce costly tax payer requirements to support residential sprawl. Opponents says that the program is simply a tax shelter for the wealthy that unfairly shifts the tax burden to small property owners and makes it difficult for new businesses to enter the county. What grade do you give Clarke County’s conservation easement program and why?
Butler: Clarke County’s conservation easement program is excellent. While it is true that having more land under easements will reduce tax revenue somewhat, and it will reduce land available for commercial growth, it will also reduce the amount of land available for indiscriminate residential growth and sprawl. This type of development can have a significantly negative effect on tax rates and quality of life; increasing clogged roads and commute times, increasing the financial needs for schools, and creating flooding problems. And once built, they will never have the land returned to its natural state.
CDN: Clarke County’s affordable broadband access is largely limited only to its population centers. While options like satellite and WIFI exist, such service is expensive, slow and often unreliable making it difficult to operate rural-based businesses that require Internet access. Do you have plans to address this problem?
Butler: The most likely long-term answer is 4G or 5G communciations and/or WiMAX (often called “WiFi on steroids). Both require towers that are problematic in some areas, but less disruptive, and easier to install than running cable or fiber to every home. As your legislator, I would investigate all of the options and introduce incentives for companies to provide connectivity to the County.
CDN: Clarke County’s education programs have seen significant cuts in funding from the Commonwealth. Elected school officials have said that there is a direct link between declining student performance and education program funding cuts. Has Virginia’s education funding dropped to the point where it is negatively impacting student learning? If so, what message are we sending to our next generation of Virginians?
Butler: Over the last 10 years, state education funding has dropped over 20% (after taking into account inflation and population growth). This is unacceptable, and has had a negative effect on education around the Commonwealth. As the economy recovers and the state revenues increase, my first priority will be to restore this education funding gap.
CDN: The Environmental Protection Agency is gearing up to implement new measures meant to protect the Chesapeake Bay. In Clarke County, these measures likely will place higher costs on local farmers. Similarly, Virginia Power has won approval to place a new power plant near Shenandoah National Park even though opponents argued that the power produced in the plant would largely be used in New York and New Jersey. How should local citizens view the costs and impacts associated with regional and national environmental issues like the Chesapeake Bay and acid rain mitigation?
Butler: Environmental protection does cost money. Clean air and water will always be more costly than dirty air and water. What we need to do, collectively, is to ensure that we find and promote the least-cost methods to protect our environment and implement them, with state help if the protections are imposed by the state. In addition, we need to do a much better job of ensuring that new development includes sufficient environmental protections at the time of development, so that we don’t have to go back later and add additional regulation.
CDN: With commercial development to the south in Warren County, commercial zoning to the west in Frederick County and the availability of a sewage treatment facility from the Virginia Corrections Department, many citizens see Double Toll Gate as a natural location for expanded commercial use. Yet the Clarke County Supervisors have decided that the cost of providing water and sewer to the area is simply too expensive for the County to underwrite.
Do you see a role for your office in facilitating inter-county discussions that could improve the economic health of the region?
Butler: As a Delegate, I would be happy to facilitate and support inter-county discussions on any topic, but especially those focused on economic growth. I would also be willing to investigate and provide financial assistance from the state, if necessary to move an important initiative forward.
CDN: Of the candidates that you’ve heard so far, who do you believe has the best chance of winning the 2012 presidential race? Who do you support?
Butler: I have been unimpressed with the entire Republican field of candidates. I don’t believe that any of them are concerned enough with enironmental protections, and in fact are trying to roll back necessary protections we currently enjoy. I also don’t believe any of their economic plans will achieve much for this country other than transferring wealth from poorer Americans to richer ones. While I certainly have issues with much of what President Obama has done (or not done), I don’t see any Republican candidate, at this point, that’s viable in a general election. Of course, the general state of the economy by mid-next year will be a significant factor, perhaps the largest factor, in the outcome.
CDN: Please provide a brief statement about yourself.
Butler: I am an engineer by education and disposition. Like all engineers, I can’t help but focus on solving problems and not creating new ones. When I was growing up, it seemed that most politicans were in “the middle”, with few on either fringe. Politicans were statesman, looking for the best solutions for everyone. Today, it’s not that way. I’m in this race because we need to get back to governing by consensus, and looking for the right answers for Clarke, Frederick, and Loudoun counties, and for all of Virginia. Not blindly following a party, but instead finding the best path to prosperity.