Former Broad Run supervisor Shawn Williams posted this statement to his Facebook page today:
Yesterday I resigned my position as the Broad Run District representative on the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors. I want to apologize to my family, colleagues, neighbors, friends and constituents for this disappointment. My understanding is that a succession plan is currently being worked out that will ensure the Broad Run District has good representation on the Board of Supervisors.
On Saturday night after a long neighborhood party I confronted my good friend and neighbor after he gave me what I know was intended as friendly advice. I want to specifically apologize to him and his family for my actions. This poor decision highlights a personal shortcoming that can no longer be denied or compartmentalized. It has become painfully clear I need help with my alcohol abuse and I am getting professional help. Please keep my family in your thoughts and prayers at this time.
Thank You … Shawn
The comments have been, as of this writing, unanimously supportive. Unlike a lot of elected officials whose private problems come into public view, Shawn isn’t denying that his exist, nor that he needs to confront and defeat them. Being a supervisor is a lot more work than I suspect most people know. It’s only fair and reasonable that he should devote his energy to coping with his personal life, and let the rest of the board worry about the county at this time. It’s also very uplifting to see so many people, of so varied a range of political persuasions, showing our neighbor some compassion. Some will say he should have resigned sooner, but his board service seems never to have suffered from the issues he’s dealing with at home. I really don’t think anyone can say he failed as a public servant, so any such sniping says a lot more about the sniper than it does about the target.
Wild speculation is everywhere as to who, if anyone, the remaining board members will appoint to replace him. We have some solid info on that, but will keep it to ourselves, other than to say it will not be anyone currently running for office.
Republican members of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors are all supporting Republican candidates in the November elections, which means none of them are supporting the Independent candidate for chair, the Loudoun Times-Mirror has revealed. The only Board member who is not supporting the Republican candidate for chair is Shawn Williams, who left the GOP last month when making plans to run as an Independent and is supporting Scott York, also an Indepedent, for chair.
The Loudoun Time-Mirror labels this turn of events a “curious political dynamic.”
Since the local press, god bless’em, provide fuller coverage of retail openings and closings than of local politics, far be it from us to dampen their enthusiasm when they do venture down this weird, perplexing road. We should, however, be willing to help smooth the path when possible.
These political parties are, in some respects, mysteries wrapped in enigmas wrapped in press releases, and thus inscrutable. In other ways, however, they are simple.
Let us attempt to untangle the Case of the Curious Dynamic.
A Mystery Surfaces
The roiling controversy did not spring up ex nihilo this week, mind you. It was actually born long ago, in the faint, hazy past of earlier this month.
At the Republican “unity” event in Leesburg on June 5, during the interview portion, the Loudoun Times-Mirror reporter noted the Republican supervisors were standing in support of Republican nominee for chair, Charlie King, instead of current chair, Scott York, the Independent. The reporter asked why they have “switched gears” to support King, when in the past they have praised York’s work on the Board.
Supervisor Geary Higgins (R-Catoctin) took a stab at it: “Because we’re Republicans.”
Not so easily turned aside, the reporter pursued: “That’s it?”
After a pause of two seconds that felt like 20, Supervisor Janet Clarke (R-Blue Ridge) mercifully chimed in with a critique of York that went a bit beyond what Charlie King had covered in-depth ten minutes earlier, getting time moving again and the reporter off the hook.
How That Pledge, Such As It Is, Works
Since that lesson apparently did not sink in, we shall review the main requirement of campaigning under the Republican label.
Despite what we have already established about the overall bogosity of the LCRC pledge, one part is less bogus than the others, and that is where if you are a Republican candidate for office, you don’t publicly support non-Republicans running against Republicans. Nobody would likely go through the trouble of getting the GOP nomination if not prepared to jump through that particular hoop.
Republicans are going to support Republicans publicly, almost every time. That is not a piece of shocking news. Any Republican candidate doing otherwise would be shocking, not to mention enormously inconvenient for the candidate.
That’s what would constitute a news flash.
And anybody bothering to read this political blog is probably saying to themselves, “Well, duh.” (Except at the LTM, where I imagine the reaction is: “The hell you say!”)
To be sure, there are curious aspects to the 2015 campaign for Board of Supervisors, in that the local Republican Party was split over the sheriff primary contest last month, and one faction in that battle is tied closely to the campaign of Charlie King. Oaths were uttered, suspicions raised, charges of treason tossed around, and some say bridges might have been burned. But that is inside-inside baseball. Even in that cloudy picture, most of the GOP will be pro-GOP for public attribution. If you want to report that story, you will have to dig deep into a thicket of anonymous sources.
But the question of whether any Loudoun Republican nominee, anywhere, is going to publicly support Scott York, is about as newsworthy as mosquitoes biting in summer.
Barring any disqualifications, the candidates who will be listed on Loudoun County voters’ ballots on the November 3, 2015 elections have been set. Despite rumors to the contrary, no new candidates for sheriff filed to run. And Shawn Williams did NOT throw his hat into the ring to revive his previously announced run for chair of the Board of Supervisors. (The day after Williams was reported to be making calls to build a campaign team, this happened.) The Democratic candidate for chair, Phyllis Randall, states that she shares Scott York’s wish to revisit the county’s Comprehensive Plan.
As further proof that isolating a newspaper’s opinion editors from its reporting editors is a dumb idea, the Washington Post makes itself look silly with a new, but vacuous, editorial about Shawn Williams and his putative renewed candidacy to be chair of the Loudoun board. With utterly nothing new to add, the Post points its accusatory finger (the one belonging to someone named Editorial Board), and asks the following:
How many times was he arrested?
How many times was he convicted?
What was his blood-alcohol level in each of the incidents?
Did any accidents result from his conduct?
When were the offenses, and have any of them occurred since he was elected to the county board in 2011?
When did the incidents with his wife and neighbor take place?
Has Mr. Williams asked that the police reports be made public?
One can easily imagine voters asking such questions. In a democracy that relies on a free press for information, one can just as easily imagine voters looking to the Post for answers. But, Mr. Board hasn’t got any, because the reporters work for someone else. Maybe that someone else has those reporters culling the public records right now. Maybe not. We don’t know, and neither does Editorial Board, because the opinion editors don’t do the journalism, and the journalists don’t write the editorials. Thus, the newspaper that broke the Watergate scandal can only ask what anyone can ask, on its editorial page, with no actual facts to add to the story.
Anyone can ask questions. That part’s easy. But when the questions come from a major news outlet like the Post, that outlet has a duty to get the answers. Alas, owing to the absurd notion that the people who report the facts ought not to be the ones who opine to us about them (as though forcing them to hide their biases equates to objectivity), Editorial Board–and the rest of us–may never actually get them.
Outgoing DullesBroad Run Starfish district supervisor Shawn Williams (whom I think of as a pretty good guy whose party let him down), sent out a newsletter today. It included a description of efforts made by outgoing delegate David Ramadan and the Loudoun board of supervisors to lower tolls on the Greenway. Here’s what Sup. Williams said:
Last month, Delegate David Ramadan, who represents Virginia’s 87th District, and the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors took new steps in the ongoing effort to lower Greenway tolls. Both Ramadan and Loudoun County filed legal briefs with the State Corporation Commission in appeal of its Hearing Examiner’s findings, which did not result in a change to Greenway tolls.
The Board of Supervisors, along with Delegate David Ramadan, who represents Virginia’s 87th District, has taken steps to address this legal issue. In December of 2012, Delegate Ramadan filed a complaint with the State Corporation Commission and in January of 2013 the commission approved an investigation of the Greenway tolls. The complaint argued that the commission should set tolls at a level (1) “which is reasonable to the user in relation to the benefit obtained;” (2) “which will not materially discourage use of the roadway by the public;” and (3) which will provide the operator no more than a reasonable return as determined by the commission.” Loudoun County supports Ramadan’s approach as a party to this legal action.
The case initially went to a Hearing Examiner appointed by the State Corporation Commission, who did not rule in our favor. However, both the Board of Supervisors and Delegate Ramadan filed legal briefs with the State Corporation Commission in appeal of its Hearing Examiner’s findings, which did not result in a change to Greenway tolls because we believe this ruling was in error. Following the filing of the legal briefs onMarch 30th of this year, the full State Corporation Commission is expected to hear the case in the coming months.
I think most Ashburn area commuters would agree that the Greenway is discouraging use of their road due to high tolls. Clear evidence of this fact can be found in the daily traffic jams on Waxpool Road and Route 28. , the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has classified portions of Waxpool Road and Route 28, which serve as the main alternative to the Greenway for commuters from the Ashburn area, with a Level of Service of ‘F.’ Subsequently, VDOT and Loudoun County have been forced to expend significant funds for traffic improvements and maintenance on the alternative corridors that could have been unnecessary if the Greenway’s fee structure were more reasonable.
Now that’s all well and good, as it looks like our electeds are fighting for us. Except… the decision to set tolls where they are was authorized–as it must be, under the Code of Virginia–by the State Corporation Commission. That’s the same State Corporation Commission that is reading all those legal briefs Williams talks about. In effect, with the fox guarding the hen-house, our electeds have have taken their complaints to the fox. Ramadan is not a lawyer, but I am and Williams is. The two of us who are know what the chances of getting a judge to rule against himself or herself is, and the chances of the SCC ruling against itself are probably about the same.
The solution, which the SCC has pointed out before, is to change the law. Right now, existing law requires the SCC to agree to a rate schedule that guarantees the Greenway a reasonable profit (and, with Republicans running the legislature, one would dearly love to ask them what Ayn Rand would have said about a law that guarantees a private company’s profits). Without a change in the law that governs the SCC’s rulings, the tolls on the Greenway are never going down. Likewise, as every Loudouner knows, distance pricing would be a major step in the right direction. Again, the SCC itself has said it is powerless to impose distance pricing, because of existing law.
David Ramadan has tried to make “fighting” the Greenway a feature of his two terms in office. But it’s a fight he has always known he can’t win, because the real solution would require a change in existing law. Shawn Williams and the rest of the Loudoun supervisors can’t change existing law. Who can? The legislature that includes David Ramadan as one of its members can. The General Assembly could mandate distance pricing. The General Assembly could grant the SCC more flexibility in its oversight of the Greenway. But neither Ramadan nor any other delegate whose constituents pay the Greenway’s tolls has tried to change those laws. (Jim LeMunyon, while famously calling the Greenway tolls “taxes,” tried to give local government the power to veto toll increases, a transparent ploy to make them take the blame for it when they had to choose between allowing higher tolls or raising local taxes, which he has since abandoned after everybody started laughing.)
Filing a legal brief is about all a local elected can do. But one of David Ramadan’s enduring failures as a legislator will always be that he claimed to want lower tolls on the Greenway, yet never used the power that he alone, as a member of the legislature, had to get them for us. Instead, he fought an irrelevant battle he could never win, where the only prize was the credit he gave himself for having fought it.
In articles appearing in the Times-Mirror and Leesburg Today, Loudoun Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman spoke on Broad Run supervisor Shawn Williams’s past criminal charges:
While I acknowledge Supervisor Williams has capably and effectively served the citizens of the Broad Run community during his term, I cannot remain silent, condone or excuse his past conduct.
It’s a bit irregular for a prosecutor to comment on charges brought elsewhere, but certainly not improper.However, Williams (who has apologized for his past behavior, without ever actually admitting or denying any of the charges made) offered this response:
I am not surprised Mr. Plowman has chosen to exploit my past troubles for attempted political gain. He was the first and one of the very few to support Mr. King for Chairman, as they are close personal friends (‘hunting buddies’ as Plowman would say). Smearing my name as aggressively as has been done will not make Mr. King a better candidate for Chairman and the Loudoun community is smart enough to know this. Plowman is also part of the same click[sic] that is waging battle on Sherriff Chapman who has done a great job for Loudoun County. It is all very disappointing.
In politics, nothing hurts worse than to be attacked by your own side. This continues to be a sad state of affairs.
The Washington Post is reporting today on charges of assault in the first degree, made by Maryland police in 2006, against Broad Run supervisor, Shawn Williams. The charges were dismissed, so no trial (and, therefore, no verdict) followed.
Williams, who has been a popular vice-chair of the Loudoun board of supervisors, withdrew from the race for chair of the board when stories emerged of him having prior problems with law enforcement. Since those came out, Williams has said he will not run for any office this year. Instead, he will leave office after his term is over, which runs through the end of this year.
Public life often results in private matters coming to general attention. If his 2006 arrest, which Williams attributes to alcohol and other problems he has since worked to control, were the only issues to come to light, he might be heralded as a remade man. However, with some of his problems taking place as recently as 2013, it does seem that his energies should go back into taking care of his family and himself, before looking for another opportunity for public service.
Some are calling for his resignation. Williams says he will complete his term. He insists that none of his personal dilemmas have had an adverse effect on his work or votes as a county supervisor. Unless some evidence to the contrary emerges, I am inclined to agree with his decision. Williams attributes the emergence of his troubles to his Republican nominating-contest opponent, Charlie King. King denies being involved. Either way, to resign now would only encourage future use of the politics of destruction. If he continues to perform as he has from the dais so far, Williams should complete his term, and then return to private life.
Whatever else it may be, this is a saddening moment in Loudoun’s political history.
This is either a grand gesture of inclusion, or else the boldest use of the Pac-Man defense ever. From Loudoun’s Broad Run district supervisor Shawn Williams’s newsletter:
I am pleased to announce that Cliff Keirce has joined my staff to assist with land use and development issues on a part-time basis. Cliff previously served Loudoun County on the Government Reform Commission and the Planning Commission. He has also served as the president of the Broadlands Homeowners Association. I’m excited about the land use expertise and deep community knowledge Cliff will bring to this role. He will be helping my office with large projects like planning for Metrorail and other land use and development initiatives.
Keirce, who was Democratic supervisor Stevens Miller’s nominee to the previous county Planning Commission, ran as an independent (along with now-forgotten Potomac district supervisor Andrea McGimsey, who ran as a Democrat) against Williams in 2011. Williams took a clear victory with 42% over McGimsey’s 35%. Keirce’s respectable (for an independent) total of 22% was big enough that those looking for an excuse for incumbent McGimsey’s loss have sometimes blamed Keirce for it (being abusive to her staff aides probably didn’t help McGimsey much, either). Regardless of who’s to blame for what, this decision by Williams to bring his former opponent into his policy-making team (and Keirce’s decision to join that team) at least suggests a kind of broader perspective on leadership than Loudoun’s current, all-Republican board has tended to show. Time will tell, but it’s worth watching.