Polls Open at the CDN

Life is full of hard decisions, and local government is often an extension of those hard decisions. The vote on Monday to decline the proposal from the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority that would convert the Virginia National Golf Course into a Civil War Battlefield park is a prime example. However, while those decisions are made by elected officials, many residents are unsure whether the full voice of Clarke County residents is being heard. So, in the wake of the Cool Spring vote, the Clarke Daily News will begin implementing polls in certain stories to gauge public opinion. Many people already use the comment section to voice opinions on subjects, but a larger percentage of our readers do not. Our new polling system lowers the barrier for participation and we hope everyone will use it to let their opinions be known.

To roll out the new element of the site we are including three questions in this article that Clarke County residents have shown a keen interest in. Future polls will be included with articles to track opinions as the issues emerge.

Enjoy.

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Comments

  1. nonhermit says:

    Regarding the poll on Cool Springs Park, could you clarify “If” the annual cost would be forever covered by others…or covered for a few years as has been offered?

  2. klpplus3 says:

    thanks CDN – sometimes a visual is necessary ….

  3. Right Winger says:

    The third poll is mighty telling. It tells me that the minority still run this county.

    • Sage of the Mountain says:

      If only a minority get involved then here will be no change. Thanks guys for the polling op. This couild be very telling.

  4. kellcsmith says:

    What a wonderful new feature! However, it doesn’t look like you have to “sign in” in any way to participate in the poll. Do you have mechanisms in place to ensure readers do not poll more than once on any given question?

    CDN Editor: The polling system that CDN has implemented will allow our readers to offer a statement on an issue without the complexities of formulating and posting a textual comment. The polling system tracks the “vote” source by the computer’s internet protocol (IP) address. One IP address, one vote per issue. Based on the experience of other online systems using the same software we think that it will add a valuable new reference point for issues facing Clarke County.

    • kellcsmith says:

      Perfect! That answers my question. Thanks for the answer and for the new polling feature. I believe giving a voice to your community is a great service.

      • Sparkey says:

        Yes but anyone anywhere in the world can vote so it wont be just Clarke County Tax payers so there will be no accuracy to the polls only a referendum can tell the true story.

        • kellcsmith says:

          I’m not altogether sure CDN is going to have many trolls lurking about…..

          • Sparkey says:

            Trolls wouldn’t be the problem but others from outside the county voting on polls for county things will be like everyone that works for NVRP could vote for the park that don’t live in the county and make the poll inaccurate

  5. Stonebroke says:

    I’m sure that each morning starts with a peek on this site by our Board Members to see what everyone is saying about them, so with that being said, I think CDN should email the results to our LEADERS. Just to make sure they are seeing/hearing what everyone has to say about their performance.

  6. Sunshine says:

    Many readers of CDN apply their opinions by making a comment while others do not. Some utilize the “rating” by implementing the method of thumbs up or thumbs down demonstrating their rating by affirming or rejecting a single opinion. To review an article and then the following comments gives the ability for readers to sometimes understand more than originally written. It provides an opportunity for more information or concerns to be presented and many times that information can modify a person’s judgment of the situation.

    As reported, “many residents are unsure whether the full voice of Clarke County residents is being heard”.

    To be heard and make a true difference requires being a registered voter. Our BOS are elected. As registered voters and truly interested we all should attend as many meetings as possible and ask questions of our elected officials when our concerns have not been answered.

    I don’t believe having this poll reflects informed responses.

    Also think “very” interested parties trying to prove their point would “stuff” the poll by utilizing employees and friends regardless of their location.

  7. I do not think the BOS should pay attention to any poll that includes anonymous names, If enough taxpayers had contacted the BOS personally the park issue may have gone to a referendum or the vote may have been different. CDN is a wonderful forum and lets all of us voice our opinions but should not influence BOS decisions.

    It is not just teachers who may need a pay increase. The techers are not the only employees of the County.
    How about County Staff who have not had a pay increase for 4 or 5 years.

    • Well, Jean. Are we not anonymous when we go to the polls at election time?

      I imagine this poll is just a finger on the pulse of the community and any reasonable person would understand the sample of the population is restricted to readers of CDN who have access to the internet, etc. People want to speak up, but not all wish to reveal their name. I like to think we still have that right in the U.S.A.

  8. County staff is overpaid and under worked as it is…if they want a raise they can join the private sector and drive into Winchester or over the mountain like everybody else.

    I’m tired of government employees whining. I pay for their healthcare and their retirement..for what? I would consider giving the county employees a raise once they remove all the unnecessary duplication and combine the Town and County into one entity.

    We’ve only got what…approximately 14K people living in the county (and town)…we don’t need a Town government and a County government it’s a joke.

  9. Lonnie Bishop says:

    The county employees pay for their healthcare, too; combined, the family plan comes in at some $900 or possibly a tad more. The VRS system…they only get about 54% of what their avg. salary for their 3 highest consecutive years was, so that’s not much, either.

    Nice to know you think so highly of members of your community.

    • Come on Lonnie…they pay a small percentage of the cost. I’m assuming your $900 figure is an annual number, I’ve paid as high as $700/month for family healthcare in the private sector.

      Cities across the country are going or have filed for bankruptcy and the central issue every time is pension and healthcare promises. It’s time for people to wake up, these folks should pay for their own healthcare and retirement, just like I have to do.

      Regarding VRS…that system is broken and is unfunded to the tune of $19B, you don’t even want to begin that discussion. Furthermore, they should be enrolled in a 401k type plan, fund it themselves and WE the community members should provide a small match, similar to the private sector.

      Why should they be GUARANTEED a future benefit?? They should be save and invest like everyone else has to do, be responsible for themselves and reap the benefit of investment gains while accepting the risk of investment losses.

      • Lonnie Bishop says:

        No, dirk…that $900 is the per month amount the employee pays for family coverage. My boy, even a teacher selecting the single-person options, has to pay some – unless they choose the high-deductible option for the county to pick up the 100%. For all other folks, they DO pay out of their checks each month.

        The VRS is underfunded because Richmond keeps dithering with it. Mr. “I wanna be VP” McDonnell borrowed some $650M from that fund to “balance” the budget, then crowed about a $500M “surplus” last year. Please…$1B in catch-up funding was shifted onto the localities by Richmond. Still..it don’t change the fact that this is the system in place, and the localities need to honor the commits made to the public workers. A 401K-type thing might be a good thing to switch to down the road, but – where do ya draw the line? Who has to switch, and who gets to stay on this plan? Heck…this county can’t adequately manage its financials now with the outdated system they got…and you want to add an additional level of paperwork?

        You certainly seem to have some bitterness in ya towards them who work for the government entities. I think ya need to back off the bluster a bit and not make such hateful quips about folks ya just might live beside.

        • Lonnie:

          You can’t be blind to the problem going on in this country. Public sector employees have been given a sweet deal for too many years…a deal that is not sustainable. Why do you think the majority of the private sector has done away with defined benefit plans and “free” healthcare for employees?

          I believe the teachers got the raise they were looking for…we’re on the hook for and additional $850,000 to pay for their retirement, healthcare and life insurance…is that not enough or do we owe them more? If you spread this among all employees and average the salaries, this comes out to roughly an 8% raise…once again I would say pretty good.

          Sure Richmond and the political hacks have played games with the money, but only to hide the true cost from the taxpayers. The reason the public sector deals have been so sweet all these years is because people didn’t know about it. Now that we are out of money this stuff comes to light and we really see the problem for what it is.

          “You certainly seem to have some bitterness in ya towards them who work for the government entities. I think ya need to back off the bluster a bit and not make such hateful quips about folks ya just might live beside.”

          – I suppose the thought that comes to mind is “the truth hurts”. I’m not being hateful, I’m just exposing the facts. And yes, I suppose I am a bit upset when I look at how much of my private property (earnings) is being taken from me to pay for a sub-standard service.

    • From the Clarke county government website:

      “Clarke County Government Full-Time Employee Benefits
      Paid by Employer Health Insurance.

      Clarke County currently pays 100% of the premium for the employee selecting the least cost of three Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans. The plan is administered by the Commonwealth of Virginia as the Local Choice Program. It includes dental benefits. Rate sheet and information regarding the current plans provided by the County, and the employee share of richer plans, as well as links to details of the Local Choice Plans available on Employee support page.

      Retirement. Clarke County currently pays 100% of the required annual contribution to the Virginia Retirement System to provide a traditional defined benefit pension for its employees. Life Insurance.

      Clarke County currently pays 100% of the premium for a term life insurance policy in the name of its employee. This policy provides a benefit of two times annual salary for natural death, and four times annual salary for accidental death. Leave.

      Clarke County awards 1.5 days of leave per month for the first 10 years of service, and 2 days per month thereafter. These days can be used as annual leave or sick leave. Holidays. The County provides 12 paid holidays annually.”

      — Not too bad – 100% paid healthcare / 100% paid retirement / 100% paid life insurance / 3.5 weeks vacation (up to 10 years svc) and almost 5 weeks after that…plus 12 paid annual holidays

      LONNIE…how do you defend this??

      • Dirk,
        You are correct regarding 100% employer paid heathcare premium for a SINGLE employee who selects a High Deductible Plan. The following, from the Feb 27, 2012 CDN article (County Employee Healthcare Costs Projected to Rise 5.4%), represents a comprehensive breakdown for single, dual and family costs as well as a comparision of FY12 vs FY13 costs.
        http://www.clarkedailynews.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Clarke-County-FY13-Monthly-Health-Benefit-Rates.pdf

        • Lonnie,
          I’m not disputing your $900 figure, but I don’t see it on the above CC Monthly Health Benefit Rates. Just wondering what I’m missing.

          • Lonnie Bishop says:

            Hmmm…don’t think youj’re missin anything. I got that number while talking with my neighbor, who’s a teacher here. He and his wife don’t have kids, so maybe I just misheard what he said. My apologies for the bogus number.

      • The leave issue is not the same for teachers. Teachers get 3 personal days per year, and 10 sick days per year, regardless of how many years one’s worked for CCPS…at least, that’s assuming CCPS operates like my wife’s school division. Unused personal days roll over into 1 sick day for the next year. Sick days build up over time, and upon retirement, teachers and staff are paid a reduced rate for their days (capped at 200) days).

        I think Lonnie meant $900 per month, John. No need to be snarky.

        Yes, the employer pays 100% of the VRS premiums, but my wife – when she retires – won’t see 100% of what’s been paid in; she’ll get soemthing like 54% of the avg. of her highest 3 consecutive years’ salaries. However, if she coaches, or sponsors a club, or does anything else that pays a small stipend, those dollars (while taxed) are not factored into the VRS formula. Plus, upon retirement, she will be responsible for 100% of her health care premiums.

        While I can’t speak for Lonnie, I think your tone with “how do you defend this?” is not really necessary and itchin’ for a rhetorical fight. The public service workers here put in a lot of hours, and control nothing with respect to their pay. Many also live in this bucolic county, so it’s one thing to debate factual points yet an entirely different matter to take broad swipes at them.

      • Tony Parrott says:

        Dirk,
        If you believe the local government employees are doing so well maybe you should look for a job with them. Personally I find the money and benefits much better in the private sector. Also less BS.

        I think it’s interesting when people talk less about continuing education and push “living Wage” for children in the school district but we as a county can’t pay a living wage to law enforcement or teachers.

        • Lonnie Bishop says:

          Or, more specifically, the instructional aides, custodians, food service folks, and bus drivers.

        • Tony: What is a “living wage”? My definition would be unique for each individual…that is, my “living wage” as you put it, would be that amount of money I must earn to support my family and pursue my self interests.

          A “living wage” to another person may be an order of magnitude different from mine…the point being, if you cannot survive with the wage you CHOOSE to accept then you can exercise your freedom and leave the job and find a better one or simply pick up another job.

          Last time I checked, we fill teacher recs pretty quick around here, with the exception of those positions that are specialized and likewise most other localities face the same issue simple due to a lack of qualified applicants.

          Now certainly, if we have positions that we must fill and cannot find qualified applicants, I would entertain the discussion of looking at the overall pay/benefits package and make adjustments as necessary to fill the position. But this idea of an across the board raise for everyone just because they happen to be employed by local government…come on! We’ve got several teachers and county employees that should be put on probation and fired if they don’t show improvement…yet this is a pipe dream…you can’t possibly fire anyone, that’s there “job”.

          • Lonnie Bishop says:

            A “living wage” means that, if you work full time, you don’t qualify for government assistance. Unfortunately, for many of our FT staff…they work full time yet still qualify for such assistance if they sought it. That, my friend, ain’t right.

          • They shouldn’t rely on the government…they have NO money. They should rely on themselves, family members or friends….stop looking to the government.

          • Lonnie Bishop says:

            You missed the point. Their salaries, for FT work for a lot of them, don’t get them above the federal poverty line. You’re OK with that? You sound more like Scrooge now.

          • Tony Parrott says:

            Dirk,
            A living wage is simply one that allows you to meet your basic needs without any additional income. If you work 40 hours a week and can’t pay your electric bill then I would say you are not making a living wage.
            Now I can agree with you on the point of some people may not be cutting the mustard and shouldn’t receive a raise but what I won’t do is say no one gets a raise because of a few people. Just like in the private sector if you hire someone you want them to be successful. If they are struggling you provide additional training or whatever is needed within reason. Then if it doesn’t work out you let them go. For teachers they are contracted; so if it isn’t working out you go through the same process and if it isn’t working you don’t renew their contract.
            My point is this: taking on a part time job to buy a boat or go on vacation is much different than needing extra income to feed your kids or keep the heat on. For people who serve and protect (put their life on the line for everyone else) or teach our children we as tax payers should be willing to take care of them. Do we want the brightest teaching our children or the cheapest. You get what you pay for brother….

    • It has nothing to do with thinking highly or lowly of members of the community. You’re changing the subject and avoiding the issue. It’s about entitlements because someone happens to work for the governement, fed, state or local. It’s not fair to those who work equally as hard in the private sector.

  10. Diana
    Yes. But you have to show I.D. that you that you live in that voting district. Anyone can vote in a poll no matter where you live. To sign a petition you must be a registered voter in that county or state or signature will not count.

  11. Are you saying workers in public service do not deserve a benefit package or pay increases because they are paid from your tax dollars. That the jobs they do have no value.

    • No…what I’m saying is they should be paying for their own retirement and an equitable amount of the healthcare costs to what others pay in the private sector.

      Many of the jobs are certainly necessary but what incentive do they have to excel and outperform? How many people have been fired from a local government job over the past 20 years…I don’t know the answer but I would imagine it’s less than five (would be interesting to find out..).

      I am growing weary of working long hours supporting my family and continually being pick pocketed by government to pay for increased healthcare, retirement and life insurance of government workers.

      Yes the jobs have value, but stop kidding yourself, we are not receiving good value for our money!

      • Dirk,
        If you are so dissatisfied with your choice to work in the private sector, swallow your envy and apply for a job in public service.

  12. Local government is a question- City or County.
    Economic development should be promoted with-in the city limits.
    I think the county’s plan to suppress development is the best strategy.