In Mayor Wilson's speech concluding last Saturday's housing summit, he mocked Virginia's Dillon's Rule as being premised on the idea that local governments are incapable of governing.
The Virginia Supreme Court adopted Dillon's Rule via an 1896 ruling in City of Winchester v. Redmond. It was not a law passed by the General Assembly or based on a specific provision in the 1869 state constitution that was in effect when the court ruled. Judge John Forrest Dillon established Dillon's Rule while a state judge in Iowa based on the assumption that local government was less competent and more corrupt than state government. The Virginia Supreme Court cited the Iowa judge's findings to fashion this legal framework for empowering the General Assembly and limiting local governments' authority. www.virginiaplaces.org/government/dillon.html
Most states have some degree of Dillon's rule in their jurisprudential framework.
Regrettably, as Mike Siegel's letter explains, city hall's incompetence was on full display when, after years of encouraging development which always adds automobiles to the roads, it insisted on reducing road capacity in a major artery. And, as David A. Norcross' letter explains, so is its corruption when new city council member Amy Jackson's reconsideration motion induced the mayor to admit, albeit indirectly and inadvertently, that subjects have to be "cleared" through informal, nonpublic channels beforehand, confirming the fears many of us harbor that, typically, city council has already decided what it is going to do before the public hearing even opens.
The public, especially the victims of city hall's machinations, owes a debt of gratitude to the Virginia Supreme Court for still today protecting us from the full range of abuses our city hall would inflict upon us but for its far-sighted ruling in 1896.