Supervisor Cook Set to Launch Citizen Governance Initiative
As a follow-on to my Community Engagement Initiative (CEI), I intend to launch a “Citizen Governance” Initiative. The CEI is about empowering individuals to work together to improve their own neighborhoods. In this model, government facilitates change, but does not impose it. As citizens become more involved they eventually begin to influence public policy. This leads to my next step as Supervisor, corralling that active citizen involvement into ongoing county policymaking. The Citizen Governance Initiative will take several forms:
(a)We will strengthen the existing Braddock District Council (BDC) to better serve the current needs of our homeowner and civic associations.
(b)We will form a Land Use Committee, similar to those found in other magisterial districts, to study development, environmental protection and zoning issues. Though Braddock District traditionally has not had many land use cases as it is overwhelmingly residential, that has changed with redistricting as Fairfax Corner and several apartment and condominium complexes in the Monument Drive area have been added. The Land Use Committee would make recommendations to me and to the Planning Commissioner on all land use matters in the District. In addition, County compliance with new EPA stormwater regulations may require voluntary or mandatory changes in land use, and there will clearly be more erosion control and stormwater retention mandates in the future.
(c)We should expand citizen opportunities to engage in real efforts to affect policy. My citizens’ budget committee has already had a positive effect on County government. Its recommendation last year for a greater role for the auditor to the Board of Supervisors led to the addition of an assistant auditor to that office, paid for by reductions in staff allotments to individual supervisors. Our budget committee needs greater participation and other areas of county policy need citizen input as well – we should consider citizen committees on education, aging and transportation.
Formation of the Citizen Governance structure will follow the theme of citizen involvement. It is not for me, or any Supervisor, to design. It is for the citizens. Therefore, I will hold a visioning conference for citizen participation in the design of these new initiatives. In a normal year, I would convene this conference in the fall, but given that it is an election year, I believe an initiative of this magnitude should await the choice of the people this November. Consequently, I am aiming toward a February conference. However, work has already started. Last month I briefed the BDC Board of Directors on this idea and asked them to begin considering this initiative and the future role of the BDC.
Braddock District is large – consisting of 120,000 people, two universities, many small and large businesses, lakes and streams, Lake Accotink Park and many smaller parks, and many public and private schools. It is home to several major roadways and a VRE rail station. County policies should not be made in a vacuum, or behind closed doors, only to be announced to citizens after decisions have been made. I am calling on our Braddock citizens, now engaged in their communities, to step up and get engaged in their county government. If you have ideas that should become a part of the discussion or thoughts on structure, please let me know.