David Reynolds | Scouting secrets

Psst. Anybody looking over your shoulder? Just checking. Can’t be too careful these days. But I trust you even if your elected representatives do not. I am sorry that you were not in the loop. I was left out, too. So all either of us knows is what we read and hear. Not enough to form an opinion. But I have no choice. I have a deadline to make. 

That’s the problem when public officials operate within their own closed loop. For those outside the loop, facts quickly become fiction, and a short story grows into a tall tale.

There is another problem. A big one. It involves trust. When those we elect don’t trust us, guess what? We do what comes naturally. We return the favor. In spades.

Oh, what a terrible price to pay for attempting to keep the public’s business private. Yes, Mr. Congressman, Mr. Supervisor and others with public tittles, your only business is always our business. One other thing – we love to gossip.

If you wish to know more about what we are not supposed to know, pick up a copy of this month’s The Rockbridge Advocate. The Advocate assumes that you have the necessary security clearances to read about what may happen in your backyard. That alone puts the paper on a higher level than those who assume otherwise.

Hopefully, my point is made. Outside of national security and personnel issues, there is no need for secrecy in conducting the public’s business.

Now let’s move on to the gathering storm. Think of the Olympics, the other Summer Games played every four years. Think of Montreal, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Sydney, Beijing and London. Now think of Goshen (pop: 406), slightly smaller than those other places. Olympic cities are on the average of fifteen times greater than the number of visitors to their games. As for the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree games? Even if we include all of Rockbridge, Augusta and Bath as host counties, visitation would double the permanent population! And if it is just Goshen that is impacted, there would be 500 visitors for every current resident!

As for the cost? As of now, no one is sure. Or no one is telling. It would be nice to know who pays for what. No locality we know has ever made money from hosting a large gathering. The residents of Montreal were the first to cry uncle when the Olympic bills came in. The residents of Communist China got hit with at least a $40 billion bill for the 2008 Olympics. However, that translates to only $32 per person. At least the Chinese who paid the bill were told what they were buying.

Just think of it, we are living in a era when a communist country better informs its citizens of its Olympic plans than a democratic country informs its taxpayers how its money is being spent in the new political economy!

As for the concern of the NIMBYs, the Not In My Back Yard folks, I understand their feelings even if the BSA does not. If Scouts were thinking of pitching thousands of tents in my Birdfield community of 85 households, I, too, would also be a little apprehensive.

However, if we were all NIMBYs nothing would ever get built. There would be no progress. Anywhere. Zoning is designed to protect us from the misuse of our resources. So the Scout Jamboree question becomes a zoning “highest and best use” question: Should Rockbridge County issue the necessary Conditional Use Permit?

I’ll do my academic copout by saying, it all depends. It depends on two conditions. Both should be easy for the scouting organization: (1) Submit a detailed benefit/cost statement, with costs broken down by payer; and (2) Provide an EIS, an Environmental Impact Statement.

Now if the BSA really wants to get on our good side, the side without any suspicions, there are two more steps it can take. First, donate a million bucks or so to the Department of Tourism to promote our beautiful, mountainous part of Virginia. (Past governors have promised, but never kept their word.) Second, hire a good public-relations firm that will keep the BSA’s good name. See Fleishman-Hillard.

If the BSA can do all this, it will have certainly earned itself a new merit badge. Then maybe we can talk. But if not, no badge, no talk.

Our institutions are failing us during these down times. Not only in New York and Washington, but here which is still paradise. For example, the Rockbridge County Board of Supervisors held a “Sunshine Week Public Forum Meeting” earlier this week. According to the county’s official announcement, it was held to “celebrate transparency in government.” Three broad topics were discussed. The Boy Scout Jamboree was not one of them. Sorry.

 

– Column by David Reynolds


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