Monthly Two Cents

Comp Plan — The General Guides the Specific

by Pattie Bland, Chair, Coalition for Hanover’s Future

Hanover County is currently embarking on its 2022 Comprehensive Land Use Plan review and update, a process that occurs every five years.

This strategic planning is vital in assessing development trends and planning for future growth. As a general guide, the Comp Plan provides a framework for how Hanover will grow, laying out aspirations for how much and where the County will expand in residential, commercial, industrial and rural areas. In short, the County takes stock of its land-use planning and policies every five years in order to manage growth. So much for stilted, sober-sounding statements about the nature of the Comp Plan.

As a general guide, it plays out in specific ways and is sometimes too loosely interpreted. If any of the following seem jarring, then Hanover’s Comp Plan probably needs more specificity in its goals and objectives:

• Scoured, timbered landscapes
• Gouged ground for massive stormwater structures
• Large residential tracts with negligible green space or pocket parks
• Bucolic settings giving way to impervious surface
• Multi-pump gas station/convenience stores cropping up at quiet crossroads
• Incompatible juxtaposition of zonings (e.g., distribution centers adjacent to residences)
• Commercial creep along scenic corridors
• "Anywhere, USA" commercial development
• Increasing traffic volume and cut-through traffic on narrow backroads
• Semi-rural or rural tracts subdivided into quilt squares of six-acre turf patches Because our Comp Plan says volumes about our values, it needs to speak the best message of stewardship.

Land has intrinsic value; it must not be viewed only as a commodity. We need to work with the land in a responsible way that supports a good quality of life for its citizens. It is not the task of Hanover County government alone to chart the future. All stakeholders, meaning citizens, County officials and business interests, should join in community planning, even though a collaborative philosophy has never been a salient feature of the Comp Plan update process.

Since its establishment in 2006, the Coalition for Hanover’s Future has advocated for citizen education and participation in land use planning. Because whether land-use decisions are good or poor, citizens will reap the consequences. Be involved in decision-making. Communicate with your elected and appointed officials. Contribute your ideas for a better Hanover County. Our future should not be just handed to us.

My Two CentS: Critical Race Theory

by John Schuiteman

Dan McGraw spoke about Critical Race Theory in our last newsletter and I think it’s a topic worthy of further discussion. CRT is both simple and complicated and I doubt if many people will ever fully understand the debate. Here’s my take.

CRT is an approach to the problem of racism where racism is defined as what Whites as a group have done to Blacks as a group (and other persons of color), rather than what some racist White individual(s) have said or done to discriminate against some Black individual(s).

CRT advocates focus on all the things Whites have done to Blacks (past or present) in order to keep Blacks poorly-educated, poverty-stricken, living in fractured neighborhoods and isolated from good transportation, good jobs and access to community resources. They refer to these policy or legal decisions as systemic or structural racism. There is plenty of evidence that White people have done these things (see the book “Slavery by Another Name” by Douglas A. Blackmon).

An underlying theme of extreme CRT advocates is that all races are basically the same but White people have kept Black people down and hence White people are to blame for any power differentials between these two groups. White people are culpable, and the most recent and dramatic evidence is the killing of unarmed Black people by White police officers. Such culpability underscores the belief by some CRT advocates that reparation payments should be made to our Black citizens.

Things have improved for Blacks since the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s, of course, yet extreme CRT advocates don’t talk much about the millions of Black citizens who have risen into the professions and the middle-class. They generally opt to see Blacks as victims, ignore the significantly higher rate of violent crime in lower-income Black neighborhoods, and don’t think the violent attacks against law enforcement during last year’s BLM protests are worth investigating. Republicans love to bring up these omissions.

Republicans don’t want CRT taught in our primary or secondary schools because it contains the implicit assumption that White people are to blame and that if you are White person, you should feel some responsibility for the ailments of Black people. They see an innocent White boy or girl made to feel guilty or ashamed just because they have White skin. Republicans are making some sense here but I also subscribe to Michael Paul Williams’ (Richmond Times-Dispatch columnist) statement that “to suppress or chill classroom discussion about systemic racism so as to protect the feelings of White students or their parents is the epitome of white privilege.”

So the big question we are left with is: When exactly and how is it that White children will or should be informed about the many actions White people have taken to keep Blacks in second class citizenship?

Stay United

by Daniel W. McGraw

We have made great strides in Virginia and across the nation. Even globally, we are seeing cultural shifts from isolationism to globalism. Race relations, health care, the environment, and livable wages are at the forefront of many conversations. Even the idea of “automatic basic income” is starting to be part of significant governmental conversations. Americans across the country are evaluating previous laws and amending them to provide as much equity as possible.

Unfortunately, digital media platforms allow for small snippets of information or taint several gains. Let me give an example: I watched a TikTok video that lasted for about 40 seconds. In it, a person claimed to not have cared about race, sexuality, gender identity and disabilities until too many people were making them into a “big deal.”

In other words, someone who had never experienced or noticed prejudice is now appalled that lawmakers, educators, and news reporters are encouraging these topics to be part of the mainstream media. 

Social issues cannot be whittled down to a 40-second clip. But, that is exactly what happens often when people are unaware of the full context. They build up straw men and then tear them down because any conversation of significance can take place. With every passing day, I see more Americans receiving a true education of our past, present and potential future. Democrats are increasingly finding themselves on the right side of history. Now is not the time to slow down. We need to recharge our efforts.

In the news and on social media, we see many conspiracy theorists blaming election outcomes on fraud, media bias and Critical Race Theory. Many localities have wasted money disproving the conspiracy of election fraud, only to learn that the accusers are unwilling to examine or accept the evidence. Media bias is not the same as “fake news.”  We are not reading the Onion or Mad Magazine and quoting from imaginary sources. But, what has started to give me concern is the growing resentment towards Critical Race Theory.

Until this year, I had never heard of Critical Race Theory. When I attempted to research it myself, I did not find anything that was controversial or extraordinary. The basic premises of CRT acknowledge that White Supremacy was a real movement and that it, along with certain legal actions, worked to suppress minority worldviews. It is a theory of inquiry, not a law.  This theory has been around since the 1970s. It is not a Marxist or Communist or Socialist or racist theory of argument. It is not taught in public schools as a construct of education. However, I fear that some propagandistic media outlets are building a straw man out of the idea of CRT.

Much like the TikTok video, many people are expressing their argument against humanity, by creating a misrepresentation of CRT as well as against other movements like BLM, UBI, and regulations that protect individual rights. We must not fall prey to these tactics. When people call out something that they believe to be negative or controversial ask them for the sources of their information. Do not allow their spread of false information to go “unchecked.” Most of all, do not allow them to create confusion among our Democratic institutions. Our diversity gives us strength, and together we are stronger today than we have ever been in the past. There is no “purity” test for being a Democrat. We should be proud that we stand for human rights and social dignity. Let’s stay united.

Be a Proud Democratic Leader

One of the most effective ways to spread our message of social justice, economic freedom, environmental concern and health care reform is to let people know where we stand on issues. Yard signs and social media posts are snapshots of information. But, wearing clothing that signifies that we are proud Democrats encourages our peers and strengthens the resolve of the youth in our community. From now until May 17, you can purchase clothing apparel with the HDC Hanover Dems logo. There are many selections. Please place your order today. When the items come in, I will personally deliver them to your home or offer you a time to pick them up from me. Follow this link to order your items:

The window for ordering closes on May 17, and it will take about 30 days to process, print, and deliver. These make great gifts, too!  When we finally meet face-to-face, these clothing items will be great to wear to meetings and around the town.

Daniel McGraw

Chair, HDC

My Two Cents: Protecting the Ballot

by Steven Johnson

I’m tired. You’re tired. Were all tired. We’ve been through a ceaseless stream of elections that would have been emotionally draining even in non-pandemic times.

But there’s no rest for the weary. Not this year. Not when the right to vote is involved.

We have some terrific candidates for the General Assembly this year. Rachel Levy will represent our party proudly on the ballot this year and we need to make sure we do everything we can do to support her, and possibly flip a seat in the House of Delegates.

We cannot lose control of the House of Delegates this year. Right now, Democrats hold a 55-45 advantage, but that is tenuous at best.

Just look to our north in House District, which encompasses parts of Stafford and Prince William counties. Democrat Candi King just won a special election by 263 votes to fill Jennifer Carrol Foy’s vacated seat. Jennifer won that by more than 4,000 votes in 2019.

Little wonder, then, that elections analyst Chaz Nuttycombe sees the House as “a pure toss-up.”

What’s at stake? Education, the environment, health care … all issues that we care about. We will work hard to keep the governor’s mansion so those issues remain a priority (no Senate this year).

But if Republicans gain control of the Virginia House of Delegates, we know they will have a different to-do list — measures to control ballot access.

Many of us watched as Republican lawmakers in Georgia fast-tracked a 95-page bill to change voting procedures in the Peach State; most importantly, giving the GOP-controlled legislature the ability to override county election boards. President Biden called the actions a new form of Jim Crow even as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said the bill would better secure a vote than was never proven to be unsecure.

That’s just one battleground. As of February, the nonprofit Brennan Center reported state lawmakers have carried over, prefiled or introduced 253 bills with provisions that restrict voting access in 43 states, including five bills in Virginia. 

For instance, HB 2205 would repeal a provision that enables any person who is qualified to register to vote to do so up to and including on the day of the election, regardless of the close of the registration records provided elsewhere in law.

Its author is House Minority Leader Todd Gilbert, and it’s a sure bet that the bill would gain traction should Gilbert become majority leader or speaker. It’s just as certain the GOP would look to undo Virginia legislation to open up absentee voting and provide a strict review of local election changes that discriminate against minorities.

We have to be vigilant about ballot access. The GOP is trying to set the stage for sweeping changes later with reasonable-sounding proposals today, like Gilbert’s bid to require the state Department of Elections to purge voter rolls of deceased people every week, instead of every month. We know what will follow. Georgia is proof. Sen. Jen McClellan says Virginia is the first state in the South to proactively protect the right to vote. Let’s mobilize to make sure we keep control of the House of Delegates this year and safeguard that right.