The Future For Progressives in Chesterfield County and the Chesterfield County Democratic Committee

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results - Benjamin Franklin.

The overriding dynamic in Chesterfield County, in my humble opinion, is clear but hardly recognized and seldom discussed. It is the continual white flight west ahead of non-white encroachment that lowers property values and reduces the attractiveness of the attendant school districts. Middle class whites move to protect their real estate equity and to insure that their children have the better educational opportunity.

In the fifties and early sixties downtown Richmond, with its Thalhimers and Miller and Rhodes anchors, imploded, coincident and largely because of a poorly conceived busing solution to court required integration. Retail shopping in the county moved west to malls like Southside Plaza then further west to Clover Hill mall then further west to Chesterfield Towne Center. Anyone shopping at this mall today and noticing the increasing boarded up storefronts and tacky kiosks can only foresee its eventual decline too, especially with the currently planned Watkins Center even further west. Horace Greeley may have exhorted "Go west, young man, and grow up with the country." But today the cry may be “young professionals and affluent, go west, and grow up in Amelia and Powhatan County”.

And even professionals will find themselves on a longer and longer commute into Richmond as the county itself provides few opportunities for jobs above retail clerk rates. It costs me about twelve dollars now just in gas to make a round trip visit from Midlothian to my relatives in Amelia. At six dollars a gallon, easily in a few years, there will be a tipping point where commuting to low pay jobs close to Richmond may just not be worth the trip.

The county has been in the grasp of a Republican clique for some time that seems to have a higher allegiance to developers than it does to quality of life. It is business as usual, just a slow and agonizing deterioration of the eastern frontier of the county, probably eventually resulting in further city annexation and a slow motion withering of the county as a whole.

Enter the Chesterfield County Democratic Committee (CCDC) -- a small group of well-meaning and rather conservative Democrats, and under Pareto’s Law largely controlled by an even smaller cadre of overworked and rather unimaginative stalwarts. The result is county governance almost completely under the thumb of the local Republican machine despite an arguably one third and growing populace that are more liberal and progressive leaning.

Is this bleak picture inevitable? Is it not possible to better integrate and assimilate the county’s population? Is it not possible to bring in serious amounts of higher paying jobs into the county? Is it not possible to offer a quality of life that exists beyond the shopping malls, residential rec rooms, and assorted soccer mom fields?

The answer lies with the people – what would inspire the populace to take even a passing interest in local government – when the population is now highly mobile, not having a sense of place residents of the county had a generation ago. When day-to-day economic concerns trump any time or energy that can be given to civic responsibility.

A part of the answer could come from a more vigorous and open debate in the county, and a part of that would be a more aggressive and energized CCDC that would seek more engagement, have a louder voice, and most of all energize the young people of the county who will be the recipients of a long drift towards the west.


Anonymous said…
I agree with much of what you are saying here. I have determined that the Republicans in Chesterfield have moved away from fiscal conservatism. The leadership of the CCRC has becomed seduced by the strangle hold it has had on the county. With the loss of Ed Barber the CCDC seem to fall into a state of depression that was unable to get Dan Gecker on the Board in Midlothian last year in the special election. With the domination of the Republicans on the BOS it seems as if there is little debate over planning issues at all and they appear to be so vexed by the business community that they have forgotten the impacts of the daily lives of its citizens. We are at a crossroads I think in many of the debates and it is peculiar how so many Independents are running and both the CCRC and the CCDC ought to sit back and take notice of that development. Bill please visit this blog

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