Mother, May I?
Updated: Jun 4, 2019
In 2019 the Charlottesville City Council wanted to raise the salary for the Mayor from $18,000 to $20,000. In order for this to happen the charter for the city needed to be changed. Because Virginia is a Dillon Rule State and not a state of home rule the change of a charter requires the approval of the General Assembly. The city of Charlottesville is represented in the General Assembly by two delegates. In the 2019 session, those delegates were David J. Toscano and Rob Bell. The fact that both delegates disagreed with the change of the charter led to both of them failing to introduce the proposal to the General Assembly and none of the other 98 members of the State House chose to challenge them on this fact.
The Charlottesville City Council is made up of five elected officials who are charged with making policy in the areas of city planning and finances, human development, public safety and justice, public utilities, and transportation. It has specific powers to pass ordinances, levy taxes, collect revenues, adopt a budget, make appropriations, issue bonds, borrow money, and provide for the payment of public debts. Yet when you get right down to it the hands of the Charlottesville City Council, and every other locally elected board and council, still have their hands tied by Richmond.
The specific needs of localities should not be decided by individuals who may not even be able to point to the locality on a map. What in the world could I possibly mean by this statement? There are 140 members of the Virginia General Assembly. There are currently 95 counties, 38 independent cities, and 190 incorporated towns in the Commonwealth. There is no reasonable way to expect those 140 members to have a working understanding of the intricacy of the issues facing 323 separate elected bodies while also focusing on representing their own constituency. It is time for us to look beyond the Dillon Rule and put faith in the ability of our citizens to elect local government officials who prioritize their constituency and the welfare of the Commonwealth.
As we move forward and continue to have conversations about the overreach of government we cannot continue to ignore this elephant in the room. Dillon’s Rule is an antiquated style of governing and it is time we make strides to carry our 400-year-old General Assembly into a new era.
This November — Elect candidates willing to take the step to do away with the Dillon Rule.