July 2010

Note from Andrea Martens:  Thank you to Michael Rainger for filling in for me this evening as note taker.   Our thanks to Chris Miller for a great presentation and a lively Q&A.  Thanks also to all our wonderful attendees- it was nice to have the time this evening to hear a little bit about all of you.  The people are truly what make the SSC THE place to be on the second Sunday of every month!  Hope to see you all in August.

Meeting minutes / synopsis for Sunday July 11, 2010 at Marshall Community Center

Moderator Andrea Martens called the meeting to order at 6pm with apologies from David Roos for not being able to fulfill his SSC duties due to other commitments. Andrea gave our usual SSC disclaimer during the request for contributions to fund our two major expenses: Marshall Community Centre (MCC) / website costs – www.sundaysupperclub.org

Andrea mentioned that the SSC Planning Committee was considering holding some meetings at members’ homes as well as continuing at MCC as the main location. John Anderson noted that we have paid the MCC for a specific number of meetings over ANY time period (not specific dates).

The two residences being considered are Bob Zwick (Dondoric) for August and John Anderson for October (thank you both for offering). Andrea noted that those present at the 7/11/10 5pm monthly planning meeting had approved staying at the MCC. Andrea asked for input and noted that “survey type” questions would be in upcoming communications to SSC “members” around the themes of location, content, and attendance. * We have decided to hold the August meeting at MCC.

Note 1: Many missed the planning meeting due to the Football World Cup unexpectedly going into two periods of overtime. For the record – Spain won 1-0 against the Netherlands. Note 2: Meetings to continue at MCC. Note 3 to self: MCC is NOT the Middlesex Cricket Club

Andrea encouraged new guests to introduce themselves but as there were no Flash or Community Reports the process turned into a general introduction of everyone present. Blame the recording secretary for not mentioning each person by name, or what each specifically said, but here is the general gist of the individual comments / facts:

1)      One spouse would make introductions, make comments about the SSC, themselves and their partner who would then totally contradict or warmly support the other persons comments – the humor was amazing and the general consensus was that it is useful to the relationship for them to live in the same building
2)      One surprise was the knowledge of the Alms celebration of 30 years of marriage that same day which caused a tremendous round of applause followed by various (very funny) remarks about why they were present? (Recording Secretary found out later that tremendous “very special” celebratory events were still to take place after the meeting) – we thank the Alms for sharing such an important personal milestone with their SSC friends and we encourage others to do the same as important dates coincides with Sundays
3)      Attorneys represented over 10% of those present (about 35) – an SSC first?
4)      Hunton Wood Drive in Broad Run has almost 10% of its residents as members of the SSC (who can do better)? Tommie, Jeanette and I are working on increasing this percentage. Over 25% belong to the PEC.
5)      Most of the SSC Planning Committee members were present – New members are always welcome to attend our monthly meeting at Panera in Warrenton (next one scheduled for this Tuesday at 6:30pm)
6)      The vast majority of the individual comments centered on thanking Neil and Linda Swanson for forming the SSC after the 2004 elections, holding meetings at their home for the first 3 years, and for providing such an interesting, warm, unique and useful environment for people to meet, greet, listen to knowledgeable speakers, and exchange information, ideas, etc. Linda graciously accepted the accolades and thanked everyone for their continued support after a loud round of applause.
7)      At a rough estimate about 50% of those present attended SSC meetings during those early years, another testimonial to the lasting success and loyalty of SSC “members”
8)      Many “testimonials” during the introductions noted how stimulating they think the presentations are, how they have been looking for kindred spirits to find out about what is going on in the community, to get more information about the issues, and to connect with others. New faces help, bring friends to SSC meetings
9)      One group highlighted three from the same family: Stina Santiestevan (grandmother), Cristina Santiestevan (grand daughter), and Stina Marie Santiestevan (aunt and grandmother’s daughter). Recording secretary met the missing “mum” at Green Drinks in July – she promises to attend a future SSC meeting. Four Santiestevan at a future meeting for a new SSC record?

Andrea then suggested a 5-minute desert break before the main attraction – keynote by Chris Miller, President Piedmont Environmental Council (PEC)

John Anderson introduced Chris around 6:50pm by mentioning that the PEC Annual meetings are well worth attending and that the PEC continually deals with issues affecting Piedmont residents (9 counties – www.pecva.org)

Keynote Presentation by Chris Miller, President, PEC

Born in Iran, where his father was stationed as a Foreign Service officer in Tehran, Chris now resides in Arlington, Virginia and attended Williams College and the University of Michigan Law School. His father helped to halt bombing in Cambodia, worked on the War Powers Act and acted as US Ambassador to Ukraine.

After spending time as an intern in the New Zealand Parliament, Chris returned to the United States with the belief that he should focus on influence / change society and for democracy to function better in the United States.  After passing the Maryland bar, Chris worked as an attorney at Beveridge and Diamond.

In the fall of 1993, PEC approached Chris and asked him to represent PEC in fighting the Disney America proposal in Haymarket.  Beveridge and Diamond made an internal decision instead to support Disney in its efforts to locate a theme park in NoVA. Chris left the firm  to work at PEC  (Disney’s first and primary opponent) at a time when 98% of the General Assembly were in favor of Disney coming into Virginia, an auspicious beginning to a productive career with a significant pay cut and an uncertain future. We ALL “Thank you” Chris.

PEC is a membership organization formed in 1972. It has dealt with complicated issues such as the Environment, Development, Transportation, Uranium Mining, etc., as well as encouraging land conservation.  Chris invited SCC members to join PEC and support its work.

To demonstrate complexity of the issues PEC tried to address, Chris mentioned the comprehensive plan for Marshall, density issues, water, etc. He asked those present to visualize Marshall in 2030 by closing their eyes. After we all thought for a few moments Chris brought us back to the present by saying that written words / maps do NOT communicate a model that people can easily relate to. For example, what are we choosing with respect to population growth for Marshall – 7000, 5000, 4000? What does that really look like? How can we do a better job of visualizing the future?

Chris asked for audience participation by asking us to guess the annual population growth of: the World, USA, Virginia, northern Virginia (NoVA) and Loudoun County? Respective answers: 1.1%, 1.1% (0.9% domestic and 0.2% immigration), 1.1%, 1.6% and 12%. Regarding the latter 30% of Loudoun’s tax revenues now go to debt service due to the schools, fire stations, parks and other infrastructure Loudoun’s had to build to address the boom.

Chris suggested that we be careful about where we grow and how we grow. As a society, we can no longer walk away from places – our accumulated debt for infrastructure and other social costs is too great. Detroit has city blocks that are being returned to pasture! Democracy is about getting what we want with a realistic attitude concerning water, sewer, transportation, schools, etc.

Turning to agriculture Chris noted that farm labor is not noted in employment statistics that are widely reported in local and national reviews.  For the last 5 years PEC has been involved in the Buy Local movement and a mailer was recently sent to 250,000 homes in the Piedmont region. Small farmers are being encouraged to lease up to 10% for crops such as berries and orchards, with Community Colleges giving courses in local farming techniques.

PEC covers an area from east of I95, to Richmond, Cville, east of I85 and generally south of I66 (plus Loudoun and Clarke Counties) and the Chesapeake Watershed which Fauquier County is a part of. With respect to the Bay, we need to make up for 100 years of neglect. Chesapeake Bay is like a bath tub with local streams adding to the pollution problems but only a limited drain to circulate those pollutants out of the Bay.  From a scientific perspective, pollution from all sources need to be reduced below levels necessary to protect local water quality and in order to allow the main stem of the Bay to recover Chris said that we basically need to reduce pollution to levels over the next 10-15 years to where the Bay can begin true recovery. Nutrients are good for crops but bad for the bay and local water tables.  The political debate is around the question of how much of the program for reducing pollution should be mandatory and enforceable by Federal agencies versus voluntary and supported by Federal, state, and local financial incentives.  PEC is active on both encouraging voluntary reductions and in regulatory programs governing suburban storm water and the issuance of permits for sewage treatment plants.  PEC is a participant in the Choose Clean Water campaign, a coalition of 150 organizations throughout the Chesapeake watershed.   Over the past year, the Choose Clean Water Coalition has been focused on federal legislation to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Program, which is likely to be folded into a broader effort to increase funding for major estuaries in the United States, including the Gulf of Mexico, San Francisco Bay and Puget Sound.

Chris noted that he had brought the PEC Annual Report for those present, along with other relevant materials.

Chris opened up the floor for questions

Andrea: Rob Wittman’s “no” vote on the Clean Estuaries Act? Chris: He is on the fence, supports the concept of an incentive based system tied to measureable improvements in water quality and has a good, practical understanding of the issues.

John: Enabling local food production is complex! Chris commended John for his efforts and encouraged him to contact Sandy Lerner in Middleburg, Wegmans, restaurants, schools, hospitals, INOVA, DC Central Kitchen, Winchester $500,000 facility, Mennonites, distribution networks, Chef to Farmer Guides are all involved in innovative solutions. Farm Bureau opposition, USDA requirements all hinder the rate of change necessary for faster shift to local food networks.

Georgia: Recapped how the PEC helps all of us through land preservation, and taxing issues. Chris: Explained the principles behind use value taxation, a state policy that enables localities to tax agricultural and open space lands at the value of its current use rather than its speculative development value.   While the details of the system are complex, the basic point is that the residential component of the property and other improvements are taxed at full assessed value while the land in agricultural production or conservation easement is taxed at a lower assessed value based on that use.  Over many years, studies have demonstrated that even at that reduced assessment, agricultural and open space lands provide a net positive source of revenue to support County services.

Jeanette: Being from Wisconsin and recently moving to Broad Run within the past few years supported Chris’ comments as she is personally familiar with all of these issues.

Paul: Roll back taxes for 5 years? Chris agreed that they apply.

Linda: Affordable housing? Chris mentioned the Windy Hill Middleburg project as an example of leadership and doing the right thing on a local community basis. Developers do not want to build housing that is affordable! Georgia added that The Plains has a project to be built and managed by Windy Hill for 16 units but needs money. Chris noted that farmers used to have housing for workers but this practice has quietly disappeared and houses / cottages are rented out. Bob noted that authorities have told him to tear a unit down on his farm. Georgia commented that teachers, sheriffs’ deputy etc. need affordable housing. Chris noted that most of PEC’s Fauquier office staff commutes from Culpeper.

211 / Rt17 connector: In response to Marie Washington’s question, Chris noted that the PEC is against the connector. He asserted that the “justification” for it is based on a large future project west of Warrenton which is unlikely to be built and that Broadview should undergo long overdue improvements (responsibility of the Town of Warrenton which tends to support the road).

In closing comments Chris covered VDOT, Byrd political machine / VMI / VT, Farmers Markets, Marriot Ranch, Blue Plains ($5B project / human waste), EPA, “Poison Waters” by PBS / Frontline, water testing for hormones, etc.

Andrea closed the meeting at 8pm and Chris received a huge round of applause.

Respectfully submitted – Michael Rainger – Chesapeake sailor restoring Anser Cinereus every weekend, w/son Andrew

Recording Secretary SSC Meeting of July 11, 2010

www.intragroups.com where the home page advertises SSC meetings to reach new members – The SSC encourages attendees to return often and bring new faces to this wonderful group along with ideas for speakers, format, meeting layout, etc. Return your comments to Andrea after reading these notes (reviewed by 5 attorneys prior to distribution, another SSC “first”). Trust you have enjoyed the extremely dry English humour as opposed to pure American humor!