Following last week's release of the final report of the Loudoun Blue Ribbon Committee, the county Board of Supervisors will meet Monday to discuss the citizen panel's recommendations for revisions in local government operations.
The most controversial element of the report, the proposal that the county board chairman be elected countywide, has been placed on the November ballot for the voters to decide. With that divisive issue largely out of their way, the Board of Supervisors can now focus on other ideas in the report, some officials say.
Monday's 4 p.m. workshop in Leesburg, suggested by board Vice Chairman Charles A. Bos (D-Leesburg), is an effort to consider which citizens panel suggestions might be appropriate for action this year, Bos said. Additional discussion and action might occur in the spring, well ahead of the November 1991 elections for new four-year terms on the Board of Supervisors, he added.
Currently, the eight Loudoun supervisors are elected from their own districts, and once a year they select a chairman from their ranks. The Blue Ribbon Committee said a chairman elected countywide could build greater leadership skills and set a more definitive agenda for the county government.
The bipartisan panel was established by the supervisors after state Sen. Charles L. Waddell (D-Loudoun) introduced a bill, now a law, to allow citizens to petition for a referendum on electing the board chairman at large.
In addition, the Blue Ribbon Committee recommended:
Additional powers for the board chairman, even if the referendum fails. For example, the special panel said efficiency would increase if the chairman established the agenda for each board meeting, thereby "reducing the county administrator's involvement." The committee also suggested that the chairman appoint all committee members and serve on all committees of the board.
Each member of the board should be able to hire a full-time aide.
A "sunset" provision should be attached to every county program, forcing each program and its budget to be justified regularly.
The board should have its own "strategic planning office" to keep abreast of needs for major changes in policy.
It is premature to consider a county charter, which would tailor the Loudoun government to its citizens' needs but would need state approval.
The supervisor position should continue to be part-time.
The board should have an odd number of members to avoid "gridlock" on issues, preferably nine members, including the at-large chairman.
Some members of the board say they would prefer to have seven supervisors, which could mean elimination of two of the eight magisterial districts.
That would be politically difficult but might promote efficiency, said Bos and Blue Ribbon Committee member Jim Rocks, vice chairman of the county Democratic Committee.
However, Loudoun Republican Committee Chairman William Mims, also a member of the special panel, and some other Republicans counter that eight districts give citizens better representation than would six. Eight members elected from districts, plus the at-large board chairman, all part-time legislators, would be close to the "Jeffersonian ideal" of democracy, he said.
Mims said the "sunset" provision could be implemented by having the county supervisors review one-fourth of all programs each year. "It's important that every agency justify its existence on a continuing basis" to keep the budget under control, he said.
Rocks said a "strategic planning office" could also help monitor government spending. "There ought to be someone who's constantly poking around in the woodwork," he said.
One reason the Blue Ribbon Committee did not recommend that members of the Board of Supervisors become full-time legislators is that some supervisors are not prepared to give up their outside, full-time jobs. "Can we afford to pay board members as if they had no other duties?" asked Rocks.
County Administrator Philip A. Bolen said some of the special panel's recommendations "have already been in place." He said he welcomes the report's emphasis on defining the supervisors' roles as policy makers and the staff's role in implementing decisions, but he added that the assumptions behind some of the report's recommendations "may not be accurate."
Bolen said his staff has come to expect criticism.
"Oftentimes we're like coaches," he said. "The 80,000 folks who sit in the stands can always do a better job."