Most mornings, now that the weather has changed, you’ll find me on my screened porch with a cup of coffee and the day’s news. Sitting there quietly in my skivvies, with the ambient crashing waves of the traffic on Route 288 in the distance, you’d be amazed at some of the ideas that bounce around in the space between my ears: the plot of a book I’ll never write; a better way to plant our little garden; how to track down the screaming loud Kawasaki that speeds past my house on a regular basis; oh yeah, and politics, more local than national. There’s not a whole lot I can do from my porch here in Chester to change the mess in D.C. no matter what I write while half-dressed on my back porch.
Here’s the way I see it, Chesterfield is run by an elite few. They meet regularly, I imagine them smoking big cigars and laughing a lot while deciding how things will proceed politically here in God’s greatest county. They decide who will hold office and who they will allow outside their elite group to sit among the chosen so as not to draw too much attention.
This fine group of gentle people also control a very large bank account, its cash doled out to the right candidates in the right elections. They hold the key, a name that is synonymous with a political movement that has grown in strength since Massive Resistance. But there’s chinks in their armor, water leaking from their rusty pipes and a wave of independence that has swept across the country and is now invading this county. The odds are changing, their old horses slowing and the cash changing hands. Their power may be slipping as they hold on to their old ways and manipulations as they lose hold on the changing demographic. They work to change precinct lines and scoop the right voters into the right districts, and it seems to be working still. But there are those chinks, those gaps that allow sunlight to pierce the shell and shine inside. This assessment is probably exaggerated, cooked up and oversimplified, but some will say it’s not far off the mark.
It looks as though we need another overhaul come November. In local elections past, ones in which we decided to “throw the bums out,” there was an adjustment that had to be made in the election that followed. But perceptions can be misleading.
One leader may be to loquacious, known for hijacking meetings; another willing to front the party line and isn’t concerned with the possible fallout while feeling justified because there is currently no viable candidate in opposition. Then there is the old man and the sea whose populism has cemented him at the center of the board and he’ll be back for another four years. There’s the one who should be sitting at the center, who bears the most intelligence and has a certain tenure on boards and committees that goes back decades. And of course there’s the member that seems to have been chided, embarrassed and pushed away from the center without much support other than an outraged public, both in and out of the county, who look at us as the backwoods community that they remember. We seem to live up to our reputation.
But as I sit here on my back porch, birds chirping and a breeze cooling the morning, I contemplate the state of Chesterfield politics; it seems more than likely that there will be no adjustment, no changing of the guard and there will be more of the same for four more years. There’s not much for which to judge these folks behind the dais; since they’ve been in office, applications for development have been almost non-existent, although some campaign promises may have been broken (“I will never approve another apartment complex in my district.” There have been several more approved since then.) but then you have to appease those who helped you get into office.
Although the wild card is the comprehensive plan. If things don’t go well there and a million dollars is wasted on a plan that gets voted down. Well?
There’s been a pile of cash built up in the years since the last election. One district’s leader knows that “they will come after” that district and one must build a war chest to fight off a powerful onslaught. Some deals have been made and gerrymandering will help those in place remain there. But when the dust clears in November, there will be no change of the guard; it will be status quo, I’m afraid, and no adjustment to the big turnover.
This column could be about any county in the Commonwealth. No parties have been named here and no individuals. So this piece is cryptic, esoteric and anyone could assume its all about them – and maybe it is.