The Mechanicsville TEA Party hosted a candidate forum this past Monday night featuring Incumbent Hanover Board of Supervisors member Canova Peterson and challenger Glenn Millican. Millican is challenging Peterson for the Mechanicsville District seat. About 70 people showed up to the event.
There were a total of 24 questions and each candidate was given one minute to answer. Questions were submitted by residents prior to the forum and the order of the questions was determined by a random drawing prior to each question.
It was obvious after a few questions that the main concerns of the Hanover residents submitting questions were:
- Government Ethics with a particular concern for the behavior of the current elected Board of Supervisors.
- The decision to eliminate proffers.
- Over development.
The first question set the tone for the evening and comes at the 10 minute mark of Part 1 of the video below.
The question was concerning the Board’s approval of several mixed housing / high density / low income housing projects which is seen as social engineering and asked that the response include an example of increased property values due to such housing approvals.
Peterson’s response, in a somewhat defensive tone, defends the low income housing approvals by stating that the social engineering aspect comes when “we” (and by ‘we’ I assume he means the board) try to decide who has a “right” to live here and who does not. “We have a need for all types of housing in this community. Not just single family housing for the well to do,” Peterson said. And he says teachers and fire department “deserve” to be able to have homes too. Many of them when they are starting out cannot afford that first house. One of the things we have done is to eliminate proffers to reduce the price of those houses. We reduced the price on those houses so that the (here Peterson either says “little” people or “lower” people) can afford to buy a house quicker. Our children are no longer “banned” to live in other communities because they cannot afford to live in the county they grew up in.
Comments: Just wow. I wish we had an opportunity to follow up with questions during the forum. We did not elect the current Board of Supervisors with a mandate that they decide which salary levels are acceptable and which are not. In part 2 of the forum videos at about 6:30 Peterson said the lower income cutoff did not include people who work at McDonald’s. So here, Peterson has set an income level as far as who “deserves” affordable housing in Hanover to be someone with a better job than McDonald’s and somewhat less than a Firemen. So Peterson sets the banishment bar (his words) above McDonald’s and below Firemen. And fact checking his claim that housing prices would drop by eliminating the proffers, Peterson offered no data on which this claim was made. And the fact is, housing prices have actually increased since proffers were eliminated. County Administrator Rhu Harris actually contradicts Peterson’s statement according to the Herald Progress:
One of the arguments for eliminating proffers was that the cost of housing would go down. In a presentation on the state of the county in November, County Administrator Rhu Harris reported that new housing costs were up by 13 percent in 2014.
Developers apparently have not passed their savings on to the consumer, fracturing one of the supervisors’ optimistic yet flimsy arguments in support of proffer elimination. Voting to eliminate proffers were supervisors Wayne Hazzard, Canova Peterson, Sean Davis and Ed Via. Supervisors Bucky Stanley and Angela Kelly-Wiecek voted against the motion and Supervisor Elton Wade was not present due to illness.
So who is not telling the truth here? Harris or Peterson?
Glenn Millican’s response spoke to the heart of the issues Hanover Residents have concerning the approval of a number of mixed low income housing projects. While Peterson also failed to give an example of anyone’s property values increasing from the actions of the current Board, Millican began by defining the purpose of zoning:”The fundamental concept of zoning is to protect homeowners and property owners from incomparable, unhealthy and adverse conditions. It is to provide for adequate infrastructure and support to residents, and not add to burdens. Hanover cannot afford the infrastructure that is shown on the Comprehensive Plan to support the densities that are on that plan,” Millican said.
Millican also suggested that instead of Peterson’s plan of dumping cheap development in Hanover County we pay the teachers and fireman and adequate wage so that they can live in Hanover. Millican stated that this is the cheaper alternative to the low income housing costs to the county.
The next question was specifically about the propriety of a District Planning Commission adviser who is also a Real Estate agent for a broker and the potential for a conflict of interest. Millican stated that this has actually occurred in Hanover. And he believes any such person should recuse themselves from anything that even hints at a conflict. And he referenced how high the ethical bar is in his profession – a CPA.
Peterson said he agreed with Millican, pointed out that the situation presently exists and that this person has recused themselves a number of times. And then Peterson defended those with conflicts saying they can’t be banned from public office. And he believes that everyone has acted with integrity.
The next question at the 15:15 mark in Video 1 was about the loss of $52 million that occurred when the Board eliminated proffers.
Peterson claims that the county “lost nothing” because they never had $52 million. And this comes after stating 2 questions ago that the elimination of proffers made housing more affordable. I wish we were allowed a follow up question here. Because either eliminating proffers cost the county money or it reduced the cost of housing – which was also not the case according to Rhu Harris. Peterson said “what we had was a wish and a hope the money would come”.
My statement to Peterson is if we elect you to supervise the County, part of your job is to ensure that monies due are collected. You just admitted that you are failing to oversee the proper collection of what is due the county.
Millican completely disagreed with Peterson on this and said that they removed $52 million in revenue from the revenue stream with no thought whatsoever on how to replace it. And what the Board actually did was to distribute the cost from developers ot the taxpayers of Hanover. Millican went on to tell Peterson we are in a hole and we need to stop digging. As more and more developments are approved, the hole is getting deeper and deeper.
In a question on why residents are not allowed to ask questions at meetings, Millican believed that they should be able to ask as many questions as they want at the Board meetings and that all county documents and accounts should be posted on the internet for easy, searchable access. Peterson prefers the current method with taxpayers asking their questions by phone or in a Town Hall.
The question on elected school boards, Millican is not opposed as long as it is done to improve the schools. Peterson does not favor elected School Boards unless they can raise taxes. His answer was pretty much non responsive.
We had the back yard chicken question. Peterson likes hens but not roosters. And he does not support allowing chickens. Millican would not support Roosters, but he sees a prohibition on chickens as government overreach.
The next question was about making decisions that financially benefit campaign contributors. Millican said he finds that disgusting. Peterson said the same, but offered no explanation as to why he kept silent when this happened on the Hanover Board.
Both agreed Common Core was a bad idea.
Part 1 below
Question about a BOS member voting on a zoning change that wold benefit them. Peterson gave what looked like a very uncomfortable answer and offered qualifying comments. Millican said he believed it was a felony. He would not sweep that under the rug.
Another question on ethics had to do with a board member overseeing the refinancing of a debt bond that went from $37 million to $89 million and then the same supervisor subsequently had land in the area zoned to light industrial. Millican said this was an issue of conflict and this made his head spin. He could not defend this. Canova Peterson defended this saying that this was apples and oranges.
Question: Providing housing types is a function of the market and is not a legitimate function of government.
Oddly, after telling the crowd that he is fine with Government (6:30 in Part 2) deciding a McDonald’s worker is not deserving of affordable housing in Hanover and a Fireman is deserving, Peterson admits that providing housing types is not a function of government. Here, he completely contradicts his earlier statement. And he calls housing a “right”. Not sure which Constitution that is in. And he says we should not throw “stumbling blocks” in the way of builders. Here I assume he is again talking about proffers. Is this a hint at what Peterson really thinks about proffers? This seems to show a pro development bias which many believe is the real reason he voted to eliminate proffers, putting developers ahead of taxpayers.
Millican reiterated the definition of zoning and he believes that anything else if government overreach.
A question on placing all spending online Peterson is opposed to doing this because it is too much work. Millican is in favor of putting all of the financials online.
Another ethics question concerning FOIA. Millican is absolutely in favor of openness. This question, I believe, has to do with several board members who wanted to allow more secret meetings when 2 or 3 board members meet in private. There was a desire expressed to hide this from taxpayers.
A question on cutting spending. Peterson wants to keep the taxes low. But Hanover has added numerous personnel in Fire and Safety and reduced jobs in other areas. Millican said taxes are the last thing to consider. Developing an economic base of businesses is paramount.
Part 3 includes a short statement from Millican that per student spending in Hanover has dropped from $5,100 in 2011 to $3,800.
I was impressed with Glenn Millican’s answers and his knowledge on the topics and questions. Canova Peterson seemed quite defensive at times when the questions were critical of the job the current Board of Supervisors has done. And if I didn’t know which party these two gentlemen belonged to, I would think that Peterson was the Democrat and Millican the Republican. Millican gets very high marks on ethics and his understanding that even the appearance of unethical and self serving votes are a problem. Peterson spent a lot of time qualifying several questions in an attempt to excuse the behavior that has managed to cause concern among many Hanover Residents. Peterson’s suggestion that housing was a right and the taxpayers ought to bear the burden of low income housing because certain “classes” of citizens deserve affordable housing and others do not created quite a juxtaposition with Millican’s concerns for government overreach and government intrusions into our daily lives.
People in the county believe that eliminating proffers cost us money. And enriched the pockets of developers and those connected to development such as Peterson who is an Architect. And those who had concerns for the numerous potential lapses and certainly the appearance of ethical lapses need to view these videos carefully. Democrat Millican was harshly critical of these lapses and Republican Peterson actually defended them.
I believe that Millican came out of this forum as the candidate more concerned with ethics, he shares a concern with many in the county that eliminating proffers was a costly mistake and that we are putting in too many low cost housing projects that are going to prove costly in the long run as the taxpayers start paying for the additional infrastructure and support elements associated with the over development.
I’m not sure Canova Peterson did much to make a case for his reelection in this forum. Watch the videos and judge for yourself.
Millican proved to be well qualified and intelligent enough to to grasp the long term implications of the actions of the current Board of Supervisors.
Thanks to the Mechanicsville TEA Party for an informative forum.
Article written by: Tom White