Voters have strong feelings on taxes, slow growth

After 15 years in the computer technology field I have embarked on a new career path – political consulting and writing. As the first step in launching my new company I conducted a personal survey of the Occoquan District regarding several issues that will be important to candidates and citizens in the upcoming election. As promised here is a summary of my findings.

A total of 7,000 homes were randomly picked from a list purchased through a leading nationwide directory service. Of those, 534 people started the survey, and 450 completing it – answering all seven questions.

I will provide the four primary questions asked in the survey and the answer which received the greatest number of responses, followed by a breakdown of questions that garnered significant counts according to political party, then finish with some personal commentary.

Question number 1 was: “Do you support a limit or cap on annual property tax rate increases in Prince William County?” A resounding 63 percent “Support a limit.”

Question number 2 was: “What level of service do you feel the sheriff’s department is providing?” Only 40 percent was necessary to put “Performing as expected” in the top position.

Question number 3 was: “What quantity of green space or open space do you feel has been set aside for citizens given the recent rate of growth within PWC?” A total of 63 percent of respondents felt that it was “Inadequate.”

Finally, question number 4 was: “The Comprehensive Land Use Plan, also known as the 5-year plan, is a guide used to direct development in the PWC. Do you believe this plan provides sufficient zoning direction?” Almost half (49 percent) felt that it was “not restrictive enough.”

Before breaking down the responses by party I removed the data of those who replied that they were not registered voters in Prince William County (question number 6), which left 392 respondents. The question regarding party affiliation was phrased as such: “Which political party do you usually align with?” And the possible answers were: Depends on candidate (185), Democratic (58), Libertarian (14), Republican (101), Independent (3), and no comment (31). The number in parenthesis indicates the actual number of respondents.

As was expected, a great number of Libertarians and Republicans supported a tax limit. However an unexpectedly high 74 percent (43) of those who typically vote Democratic and 68 percent (125) of those who vote depending on the candidate also supported a limit or cap on annual property tax rate increases.

The question of whether the sheriff’s department was taking on too much responsibility was the most uniformly distributed by party alignment among the four primary questions. The greatest number of replies in each of the first four parties mentioned above (Depends on candidate, D, L, R), were to the “Performing as expected” answer. The only political party category that felt the sheriff’s department was taking on too much responsibility was “No Comment” – with a total of 35 percent.

Again, as was expected, a greater number of Democrats felt that the amount of green or open space set aside for citizens was inadequate. Surprisingly though, a majority (66 percent) of respondents who indicated they usually voted Republican also believed that there was inadequate open space set aside.

When it comes to the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, the real stand-out responses were from Libertarians and Republicans, which both had a number of respondents, 57 percent and 43 percent respectively, that were “Not sure” if the plan provided sufficient zoning direction. Those who align with Democrats or vote Depending on the Candidate, with 64 percent and 58 percent respectively, felt that the Land Use Plan was “Not restrictive enough.”

I don’t have much space left for commentary, so I may take some time in a future column to address some of these responses in more detail. But I did want to point out one noteworthy point regarding our continuously increasing property taxes.

I find it interesting that a certain Republican supervisor running for re-election, who shall remain nameless, polled her constituents (oops ? I think I just gave it away) and couldn’t find a single person who supported the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Her district shares the same polling places and therefore the same demographics as Jack Rollison, and it seems that he also ignored the number of voters who were tired of tax increases.

Frankly, although I am a conservative Libertarian, I would welcome a fiscally conservative Democrat on the Board of Supervisors. After all, at the local level, issues such as abortion and the right to self-defense are not as significant as the issues of property taxes and zoning. In fact, I can’t really tell the difference between our Republican supervisors and the Democratic ones. They talk fiscal conservancy, but that is just a bunch of rhetoric.

We still have so many social programs as well as services that have no right being government controlled, owned or operated that all one can hope for these days is something to slow down the eventual slide into a pure socialist democracy.

By the way, just as a reminder for those who like to misrepresent the Taxpayer Protection Pledge – it DOES allow for tax increases, it just PREVENTS EXCESSIVE annual tax SPIKES.

Perhaps Davon Gray, who signed the anti-referendum pledge in his race against Jack Rollison two years ago, will find support for his board of supervisors’ bid by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge – it’s something he should seriously consider. Just ask Jeff Frederick how many people in that district are tired of continuing tax increases.

In the interest of full disclosure for those who are not already familiar with my background, I am Vice Chair of the Prince William Taxpayers Alliance and a member of the Prince William Conservation Alliance.

James Simpson lives in Lake Ridge. Details of the survey can be located on his Web site at