Saturday, February 5, 2011

NO to "The Miller Plan"

Redistricting is coming. Census results were fast-tracked to Virginia and three other states that have elections this year. Loudoun County's estimates were off, and now there's a scramble to come up with workable plans. For an overview of the issues involved, I'd recommend this blog entry from Stevens Miller, our Dulles District Supervisor. Be sure to read the comments. I wrote that Route 659 should NOT be used as a divider. Miller responded:

I don’t want to draw any lines through neighborhoods that naturally identify themselves as a community. That’s going to be tough, though, even if we split precincts. My back-up plan is to try to draw the two districts on either side of any such line so as to include two communities that not only have common interests within themselves, but will tend to have common interests with each other. If we can do that, both districts will actually gain strength on the board, because their common interests should motivate two supervisors to vote in support of those interests instead of just one.

So, life got busy and I never got to sit down and look at the nitty-gritty details of how what I wanted would jibe with the bigger issues for the county to consider (even though I wanted to, wonk wonk). And last night, when I read Brambleton's Friday Flash, I was surprised:

The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors (hereinafter LoCo BoS) have begun the process of redistricting election precincts. Supervisor Miller has proposed a plan that divides Brambleton into 3 separate election districts. This plan is in conflict with the very guidelines that the LoCo BoS adopted and is not in the best interest of the community. Once adopted, the election districts will be set for the next 10 years.

The Brambleton Community Association Board of Directors has expressed their concerns to the LoCo BoS and requested that they revise Supervisor Miller's plan to include Brambleton within one election district. BCA Board strongly encourages Brambleton residents to become current with this ever changing issue and promptly communicate any concerns that you may have to the LoCo BoS. You can also add your name to the Petition opposing the redistricting plan on the intranet by going to RESOURCES>E-FORMS>ELECTION REDISTRICTING PETITION.

Three separate districts???

Here's "The Miller Plan" and here's what Stevens Miller has to say about it.

Under this plan, the west side of Brambleton (north and south of Ryan Road) would be in a district that includes Middleburg, Round Hill, Purcellville, all the way west to the county border. Uh, NO. What about "communities of interest"?? Their issues are NOT our issues. Meanwhile, the east side of Brambleton south of Ryan would be in a district with South Riding, Dulles Airport, and Loudoun Valley Estates; the "water tower district" north of Ryan and east of BRR would be in a non-contiguous district with some other parts of Ashburn.

I personally find this plan to be unacceptable. For Brambleton, it is worse than any of the nine original staff plans that were floated for discussion. Following Miller's argument, if this plan were to be adopted, we'd have three supervisors championing our needs, right? I doubt it. We are going to get the shaft politically, just like we seem to be headed for a future shafting with high school boundaries. (Jury's still out on that one, but I'll let you know in 11 years when my kids are either walking to Briar Woods or getting on the bus to LVE. Meanwhile, post-Miller-Plan, what do you think will happen the next time they try to kick the west side of Brambleton out of Legacy ES? Someone will say, "They're not even in the same district!")

So what to do if you agree? First, sign Brambleton's petition on the intranet. Second, let Stevens Miller and the BoS know how you feel. Third, have a look at Loudoun County's Redistricting page. The Board will be discussing redistricting at its February 15 meeting and will be taking citizen input at its March 7 public hearing. If you really want to get involved, make your own plan. See the "Alternative District Scenarios/Plans" section of the county's redistricting page for details.

Remember, whatever happens, we're stuck with it for the next 10 years.


Stevens Miller said...

Candice, I don't need a petition to see the downside to the current draft plan. What I do need is a workable alternative. Asking for one community, like Brambleton, to be entirely in one district is only half a solution. The other half is to show which suburban precincts or census blocks now in a suburban district have to be removed to make that possible.

I'd like to have a plan that keeps all suburban residents together and all rural residents together. I don't see how that's possible, mathematically, but if you know a way, please show me.

Every community along the western edge of the suburban precincts has told us on the LoCo Bos (I quite like that, btw) they don't want to be split partly into a rural district, from Lansdowne, to Ashburn, to Broadlands, to Brambleton, to Kirkpatrick Farms, and all points among and in-between them. It's quite understandable. I wish I could find a scheme that met with every resident's wishes. But, if each community says, in essence, "We the members of [insert HOA name here] call upon the BoS to put us together in the same district," each community is implicitly adding, "even if someone else can't get what we get."

That's the piecing piece. I expect the Brambleton HOA board to ask for what's best for Brambleton, just as I expect the Broadlands, Lansdowne, and every other HOA board to ask for what's best for their HOAs. But a supervisor represents everyone in their district, not just one HOA or another. How would you propose a supervisor choose when not everyone's request can be met, but the law requires that we do make a choice?

Anonymous said...

The man with two last names is in violation of his own rule:
5. Preserve communities of interest
To the maximum extent possible, areas that have readily identifiable
communities of interest should not be split. Residential sub-divisions or
small villages are examples of communities of interest that should remain
intact. Communities of interest will trump precinct lines.

Anonymous said...

there is something not right about the whole thing.from the begining everyone knew how big brambleton would become. the BOS approved it so no one should be surprised, the plans are available to the public. i did not vote for miller, he came across as a phony to me. i have talked to several people within the community and we all think this has something to do with the chesapeak bay water shed. that debate was about why communities would be forced to comply with laws that did not directly involve them.the most damage comes from farms, vineyards etc.. Brambleton has none of those. but we are now going to join with areas that do. Brambleton should be left alone.

Stevens Miller said...

Hi Anonymous,

What do you have in mind as an alternative to meet with that guideline, without violating this one?

1. All districts shall have equal representation

Districts should be drawn to provide representation in proportion to the
population of the district. The “one person-one vote” approach is of
paramount consideration. In the past, Loudoun County has used a deviation
of plus or minus five percent from the mathematical average as an
acceptable level of representation.

Guideline 1 arises from the constitution. It trumps everything else. That's why Guideline 5 starts with, "To the maximum extent possible..." Like I said in my earlier comment here, I don't see a mathematically viable alternative to grouping some rural and some suburban residents together in at least one destrict. That's going to have to happen along the western edge of our suburban areas, all of which are in HOA-style developments like Brambleton.

Like I said in my prior comment, pointing out an imperfection is only half of a solution. If you have the other half ready, I'd be very pleased to read it. I've struggled with this puzzle for a lot of hours, and would welcome the help.

BrambleDirt said...

Why not move Mercer (Precinct 108) to District 8 instead of Briar Woods (Precinct 111)? The numbers are within the +/- 5% on the District 4 side; I can't tell what the result is for District 8 because I can't tell how many people you've taken in by splitting the Hamilton precinct. Yes, Stone Ridge doesn't really belong in a rural district either, but at least then you're not splitting up a community.

Anonymous said...

mr miller, if you are using the excuse that all districts must have equal votes then we are at a stand still. i know what the guidelines say, but lets get real. with the ebb and flow of populations the numbers shift all the time. so at no given time are all areas equal...

Stevens Miller said...

That's certainly an option, though I am a bit reluctant to presume that developer-designed boundaries define communities. School attendance areas, membership in sports associations, church congregations, local land-use issues and so on do a lot to define a community of interest. But, I do see that named HOAs play a role in that too.

With all the future growth Brambleton will acquire, I wonder if a "Pac Man" defense would work. That is, suppose Brambleton were entirely in a district with otherwise rural precincts. As it builds out, that would keep its residents together, with their increased numbers largely making that district a suburban district.

Thanks for the suggestion. I've heard specific ideas like that from a few folks, and have been working on them as alternatives. With a problem of this nature, we likely have to expect someone will end up unhappy, but I'm grateful for the help I'm getting in trying to keep that effect to a minimum.

Stevens Miller said...

The constitutional requirement for equal representation is absolute. Populations do change (which is why we are doing this at all, of course), but we have to use the numbers provided by the 2010 census, and those won't change.

Believe me, as the one supervisor representing a district with twice as many citizens as the new districts will each have, I wish more than anyone that we could draw the lines in anticipation of future growth. The only way to do that, however, is to do what many folks want to avoid: put some suburban residents today into less-populated rural districts.

I've been trying to follow discussions on various blogs and it's helpful to read ideas and critiques. But, it's also hard to find them all. If folks here would post their comments at, where I'm sure to see them, I'd be thankful for that.

Rick Stone (Resident of the Brambleton Community) said...

Candy, Thank you for bringing further attention to this important matter. Brambleton residents need to understand what Supervisor Miller has proposed and is in support of. While he and a couple other Supervisors are finishing out their terms and moving on, their actions towards redistricting will affect our community and the County for the next ten years.

I fail to understand how the County BoS can propose and seriously consider a plan that will tri-sect any community; not just Brambleton. If Supervisor Miller believes that Brambleton is only a community which consists of “developer-defined boundaries”, I have concern. If Supervisor Miller plans to set election districts lasting 10-years around “school attendance areas” that change annually in a developing community; or around “memberships in sports associations”, I have greater concern. I am not aware of any HOA or Town that has been split into three election districts; or even two for that matter. If they exist, please make us aware of them Supervisor Miller.

I have drafted a map which includes Brambleton in one election district. The estimated district population adds up to the goal of 36,000+; but that number may now be 39,000+ per district as a result of the 2010 Census. I will confirm these numbers once the County provides the public with the precinct numbers. Either way, the BCA Board is reviewing this map and will hopefully approve it for distribution to the County BoS and Brambleton residents in the near future. I will be sure to let all Brambleton residents know when this occurs and will promptly post it to our website.

In the meantime, please consider sending an email to the County BoS to express your support or opposition to the proposed Miller plan…


Rick Stone
A resident of the Brambleton Community

Stevens Miller said...


I didn't say we should set election districts according to schools, clubs, or churches. I said those things help define communities.

The current draft splits Broadlands between two suburban districts, Lansdowne between a suburban and a rural district, the town of Leesburg between a town and a rural district, and Kirkpatrick Farms between a suburban and a rural district (that last is so small that I think we can fix it, but if you read my blog post on it, you'll see that it creates other complicating factors). Most of the plans submitted to us so far have similar splits of one kind or another. That's inevitable, for reasons I've set forth a number of times.

Please forward your plan when you can. The January 28'th dead-line for submissions has past, of course, so staff won't map them. But nothing stops any of us from considering suggestions ourselves and I'm always ready to hear from constituents.

Also, my offer to come meet with your HOA members stands. Let me know if they'd like to do that.

Please comment at on this. I'm checking that often.