Post #386, the 9/16/2019 Town Council meeting

Posted on September 17, 2019

I attended the work session, but not the meeting.  I recorded the webcast from the Town, but it froze periodically, so information was limited.  (Others report the same, so the issue was with the Town’s source, not my own computer.)  My wife attended the after-meeting continuation of the work session.  Among those three pieces of information, let me see if I can at least summarize what the conclusions for some items were.

The Town needed to start the process for extending the MAC moratorium.  It did so, getting the process started to extend the moratorium to June 30 2020.  The date was Councilman Noble’s suggestion, from an earlier meeting, to provide adequate time for revising the zoning laws.  As it stands, we appear to be right at the deadline for getting all this done, and they have to start advertising these public hearings immediately.

The Town Council had to approve the schedule for the coming year, and that turned out to be a surprisingly difficult item.  They also considered starting both meetings and work sessions earlier.  Discussion went on for half an hour, and, at the end, and I heard at least one “nay” vote in there somewhere.

On the $8M in public works spending (last agenda item), turns out, that was in fact a done deal.  These are grant applications for which Town staff have already put together all the paperwork for applying for grants from VDOT and other entities.  All that Town staff wanted was the pro-forma Town Council resolution approving the projects, to be included with the grant applications.   Then, at some later date, they will see how many of the grants were approved by VDOT.  Anyway, it appears that the entire package passed with minimal discussion.

The work session had a few more-or-less low key items, including the process for getting items on the agenda, a discussion of the Town code of conduct, and some discussion of whether Town Council members should take a three-hour seminar in parliamentary procedure.

But the Town put off the one contentious issue in the work session until after the end of the Town Council meeting.  The issue was more-or-less that there was an objection to Councilman Majdi’s recent article in the Vienna Voice, and more specifically to his discussion of MAC zoning.  At issue was whether or not there needed to be rules (set down by Staff, or by Town Council) as to what was an was not an acceptable topic for a Vienna Voice article by Town Councilmembers.  

I think Councilman Potter summed it up best for me, by referring to an earlier article in the Vienna Voice that, in my view, more-or-less said that people who disagreed with Town Council about MAC were liars.  While saccharine-coated, this was the core message of the “Miss Information” article published in the Vienna Voice.  The argument was that if you wanted to know the Truth about MAC, the only entity that could be trusted was the sitting government.  Potter’s point was that if that was acceptable, then there’s no way that Majdi’s article could be deemed unacceptable.

In the end, I think that viewpoint won out, and as my wife reports it, there will be no restrictions on those articles for the time being.

Separately, in my opinion, the Vienna Voice already shades into being more cheerleader than information source in many areas.  It appear to take on the job of selling what Town staff want to see sold to the public, rather than merely informing.  Take a look at the writeup of the Town’s multimodal transportation study, per the September Vienna Voice, and contrast that with (say) my assessment here.  To read about it in the Vienna Voice, you’d think the consultants had actually identified significant ways to address Maple Avenue traffic.  But as far as I can tell, they did not even come close to doing that.