McDonald defends work of the Front Royal-Warren County EDA
March 12, 2018


To the Editor:

Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress and working together is success.”  It seems that whenever there is progress – there is dissention.

Despite the millions of dollars of net revenue the Town and County have realized from the work of the EDA there still remains that dissention and suspicion. It brings to question why local officials would question the work of the EDA when in fact the work performed by the EDA is at the direction of both the Town Council and Board of Supervisors. They have direct oversight and supervision of the EDA through budgeting, monthly and/or bi-monthly meetings by the Executive Director, EDA annual reports, EDA Strategic Plans, Liaison meetings, attendance at our EDA Board meetings (including closed sessions), and projects they have assigned to us to handle on their behalf.

There are some that believe the EDA is funded 100% through local funds and that is not the case. The County funds 25% of our operating budget (approximately $100,000) and the portion of our debt service that is funded by the locality is only on those projects we have been asked to participate in by the locality. Currently the County contributes $372,681 or 61% of the debt service, Town pays $141,390 or 23%, and EDA funds $100,600 or 16%. Projects include Leach Run Parkway, industrial parks, Ressie Jeffries upgrades, West Main Street extension, among others.

I’d like to remind the Front Royal-Warren County community of where we were 30 years ago.   Our community was reeling from the shutdown of one of its largest employers, Avtex, due to environmental abuses.  The shutdown left the Town of Front Royal with 500 acres of deteriorating manufacturing structures and basins full of chemical waste.  The site was fenced in and padlocked to keep the citizens away from the unidentified and uncatalogued toxins.

Our industrial tax base was at a low of 8.5%, rendering the community unable to effectively maintain its infrastructure (roadways, water systems, sewage systems, police and fire protection, schools, parks, etc.).  There were few commercial centers for shopping, dining or entertainment in the community.

Unemployment was at a staggering 12%, and there were few jobs to be had locally.  Most citizens commuted long distances for work, leaving them away from their families and unable to participate in their community.  Truth be told:  this community was dying.

A group of citizens assembled and determined the need for aggressive economic development to:  recruit businesses and jobs to Warren County; to build the commercial and industrial tax base to a sustainable 20%; to bring our commuting labor force back home to their families and community.

I have been fortunate enough to have been a part of the Economic Development Authority through my last years in college as an intern, and in the intervening years as Property/Project Manager and now Executive Director. Over those years I have witnessed the success that the hard work of those citizens along with the cooperation of the locality has brought to this community.

Since 1999, the EDA has:  taken legal ownership of the 500-acre Avtex site; worked in concert with Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the community and many others to clean and remediate the site for development.  In 2014, 147 acres of the Avtex site was officially released by the EPA for redevelopment, and the remaining acreage is slated for a riverside conservancy park and walking trail.  In 2015, we identified our first business to locate there and ground prep work has been underway since October of 2017.  We are working with the Town to engineer a pump station that will serve the first developable portion of the site as well as a roadway that will connect Kendrick Lane to the downtown commercial district via a Main Street connector road.

Since 1994, EDA and County have recruited:  Family Dollar Services, Ferguson Enterprises, SYSCO Corporation, Interbake, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative, Toray Plastics, Dominion Virginia Power plant, IT Federal among others.  That has accounted for 2,600 new jobs and a $1.8 billion in investment. Dominion alone generates $4 million in tax revenue to this community.

The taxes from these recruitments has allowed us to build new schools and renovate others for our growing population.   Our school system is now one of the most technologically advanced in the Commonwealth and our national academic standing is on the rise.

Our industrial tax base has grown to 30% — exceeding our 20% goal and supporting a stable local economy and the ability to provide infrastructure and services for its citizens.

This community is now home to a state-of-the-art Public Safety Facility under the direction of the Warren County Sheriff, construction is underway for a state-of-the-art police department headquarters on a portion of the former Avtex property.  We have built new roadways and bridges and improved our gateways into the Town.  We have beautiful soccer fields and a state-of-the-art skateboard park – that people come from all over the nation to experience.

We have two large commercial centers located at the intersection of Interstate 66 and Route 340/522N, providing shopping, dining, banking and entertainment while keeping those sales and meals taxes in our local coffers. Twenty years ago when we crossed the bridges it was not to shop in our community, it was to take us to Winchester where we spent tax revenue dollars to help build their schools and infrastructure.

The boost in our local economy has encouraged private development along our historic Main Street where buildings are being renovated and small businesses are emerging in creation of a vibrant downtown experience for both locals and tourists.

So – although there are those naysayers and certain ones who would denigrate the work of the EDA or the County leadership – there is much good happening in our Town and our County which relates directly to solid and principled economic development and planning practices.  I look forward to the day when we will all appreciate our success.


Jennifer McDonald

Executive Director

FR-WC Economic Development Authority

Exploring America’s faith-based politics from Chester Street to Vatican City
March 5, 2018

Above, Ralph Waller crosses Chester St. to engage the opposition in dialogue; below, Bob Hill returns the gesture from the other side where the discussion continued. The pro-and anti-Trump sides did find common ground on a concern for the environment. Photos/Roger Bianchini

We have reported that at times the common-ground dialogue that began in April across party lines – and Chester Street – between anti-and pro-Trump supporters gathered in downtown Front Royal on Wednesdays seemed to be on the wane. That observation coincided with the arrival of a faith-based pro-Trump contingent focused on prayerful public support of the president and reproductive rights issues.

Some friendly, even playfully hostile dialogue between original pro-Trump supporters Michael and Ralph Waller and Vigil for Democracy, anti-Trump agenda organizer Len Sherp and other vigil participants continues. However, we have been told attempts to expand that dialogue to the new pro-Trump arrivals have been either rebuffed or met with an impenetrable ideological wall of rhetoric. In fact, this reporter was stonewalled in an attempt to get on-the-record comments from the new group on the nature of their support of the president and week-to-week perspectives on some of the more dramatic political developments surrounding the president over the second half of 2017.

Above, in early May 2017 Ralph Waller was still crossing the street to engage in dialogue with anti-Trump Vigil for Democracy demonstrators. Later that month the Wallers were joined by a faith-based, pro-Trump contingent of about 8 to 10 people more prone to prayer than dialogue with the other side.

Coincidentally as these situations were developing, this reporter was apprised of a commentary in the Catholic journal La Civilta Cattolica published last July. After reading the spiritual-socio-political analysis titled “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism” we contacted staff of what is described as a Rome-based, Jesuit-run, Far Eastern journal to inquire about reprint rights in part or

total. We were given reprint authority with attribution and publication of a link to the original article.

Why were we interested in reprint rights? – Because of reports that some Vigil for Democracy participants were experiencing the very symptoms of this politically-driven “surprising new ecumenism” on Wednesdays, right here in Front Royal, Virginia.

First, a little background:

Ecumenism is defined as “a movement promoting worldwide unity among religions through greater cooperation and improved understanding”.

According to multiple online sources, what sets Protestant evangelicals apart from others of their respective faiths is a core, generally “born again” conversion belief in Jesus Christ as the lone path to salvation. This “faith above acts” belief is so stringent that evangelicals believe that even a good life full of good acts is futile without the corresponding “conversion belief” in Christ as the path to spiritual salvation.

Rather than good works being the groundwork for human redemption, the evangelical believes “true Christian faith” is at the root of a good life, which is therefore reduced to a consequence of faith, rather than a cause or justification for redemption and heavenly reward.

Online research identifies “Catholic Integralism” as an “anti-pluralist trend” born in 19th century Spain, France and Italy seeking to assert “a Catholic underpinning to all social and political action,” with a corresponding attempt “to minimize or eliminate any competing ideological actors”.

While falling short of criticizing the philosophy, The Josias website notes Integralism within the context of Catholicism is now “largely associated with hyper-traditionalist reactionaries who refuse to recognize the ideological realignment of the Catholic Church following the Second Vatican Council.” Vatican II is generally recognized as an effort, cir-ca 1962-1965, to refocus and keep the Catholic Church relevant to the modern world. One of its primary directives was ecumenical dialogue and cooperation with other faiths.

Second Vatican Council, the 21st Ecumenical Council of the Catholic Church, the second held at the Vatican (1962-65) – Public Domain Photos/St. Peters exterior Wolf-gang Stuck; inside Lothar Wolleh


The La Civilta Cattolica commentary on the emergence of a fundamentalist ecumenical alliance between U.S. Catholics and Protestants is co-authored by the journal’s Editor Father Antonio Sparado and Reverend Marcelo Figueroa. Figueroa is a Presbyterian minister and editor-in-chief of the Argentine edition of L’Observatore Romano, a daily newspaper based in Vatican City.

Their analysis describes this strange, new ecumenism as an increasingly dogmatic and apocalyptic vision of politics as a battle of ultimate good versus ultimate evil. It is a view of politics and the world that does not leave much room for dialogue or compromise to achieve mutually satisfactory ends. This distinctly American brand of fundamentalist ecumenism is described by Sparado and Figueroa as an “ecumenism of hate”.

Introducing a new dynamic

Above, the faith-based group eventually grew to about 15 to 20, with varying numbers of children and teens joining the adults week to week. Prevalent through the summer and fall of 2017 were flags representing the Knights Templar and President Trump flanking the American flag. Below, as the 2017 counter demonstrations progressed reproductive rights issues served as a basis for tying the president to faith and God.


After that foray into religious perspectives, we find ourselves back at the intersection of East Main and Chester Streets in Front Royal, Virginia, on Wednesday afternoons. What symptoms of La Civilta Cattolica’s “strange new ecumenism” were being experienced here?

We were told an increasingly hostile, even angry attitude emanating from the faith-based, pro-Trump demonstrators, as well as anti-Semitic and racist comments made in direct conversations – conversations overheard by people from both sides of the street.

Vigil organizer Len Sherp initially told us of a conversation with a regular faith-based female pro-Trump demonstrator, off the record. He later went on the record when we

explained our interest in an exploration of the “strange new ecumenism” described in La Civilta Cattolica.

During one of the efforts to dialogue with the newer pro-Trump contingent that originally appeared marching behind a portrait of Mary, mother of Jesus, in late May 2017, Sherp reported being questioned about his faith. He said a woman he later identified at subsequent demonstrations asked if he was “a Jew”. Somewhat taken aback, Sherp said he thought the question irrelevant, adding, “But yes, I happen to be Jewish.

“She replied along the lines of ‘I thought so. You’re all a bunch of Bolsheviks, and the Jews are responsible for everything that’s wrong in the world today.’ I asked her if we Jews in the U.S. – all 7 million of us – should pick up and move to Israel or maybe Can-ada. And though she confessed to not having considered it, it would be fine with her if we did,” Sherp recalled.

He reported one of the original pro-Trump demonstrators, Ralph Waller, as taken off guard by the exchange; later telling Sherp “how much he respected Jewish people.” Waller later confirmed overhearing the conversation, verifying Sherp’s account.

Several other Vigil for Democracy participants reported a subsequent conversation with another woman with what was described as a thick Australian accent. One woman from the vigil side asked her opinion of Australia’s native Aborigine population, to which she is reported to have replied, “They are hawff human, hawff beast,” after which she crossed the street to the pro-Trump side.

Sherp elaborated he could not be sure if the pro-Trump contingent was her intended destination or she had been a passerby who decided to engage both groups. However, another vigil regular said they were sure they had seen the woman in question on the pro-Trump side during a few more mid-2017 demonstrations, without again interacting on the vigil side of the street.

During this same period of time Sherp also noted a generalized level of hostility emanating from the faith-based Trump supporters that led some vigil participants to disengage.

“The hostility and anger emanating from the Trump side on occasion was off-putting to say the least, and down-right frightening to some. One of our usual participants, who had brought his grandson with him, has indicated that he won’t be coming anymore, be-cause he couldn’t explain to his grandson why those people were so angry; and he feared what it might lead to,” Sherp told us.

Children have participated on both sides, though in larger numbers with the pro-Trump contingent (note: these photos were NOT taken the day of the referenced ‘Hate Makes Us All Ugly’ incident.)

This reporter observed that as the faith-based pro-Trump demonstrations continued into the summer, they increasingly appeared focused directly across Chester Street to-ward the anti-Trump vigil group. At the same time, for the most part Vigil for Democracy demonstrators appeared to continue their focus on passing foot and vehicular traffic. And while Sherp himself occasionally engaged in across-the-street political banter with the Wallers, he eventually cautioned his fellow “vigilites” working traffic along Chester Street from direct responses to taunts from demonstrators on the other side of the street due to the potential for rising tensions of a less than playful nature.

One incident from this period reflective of a generalized hostility, involving a perhaps 12-year-old girl accompanying the pro-Trump adults, was also observed by this reporter. While speaking with Ralph Waller on the Trump side of the street, trying to identify a spokesperson for the newer pro-Trump contingent, the girl brandishing a “Honk for Trump” sign came up to a nearby pro-Trump adult and reported, “They have a sign that says ‘Hate makes us all ugly’ – maybe that’s why they’re all so ugly.”

And while a glance across the street identified no one this observer would identify as physically “ugly”, the comment appeared to be taken in stride by the adult male the girl was reporting to.

Back to the Vatican

The type of conflict-oriented “we’re good, you’re evil” political stances described above are exactly what the La Civilta Cattolica article on faith-based American politics is about.

“Theirs is a prophetic formula: fight the threats to American Christian values and pre-pare for the imminent justice of an Armageddon, a final showdown between Good and Evil, between God and Satan,” the La Civilta Cattolica authors write, adding, “In this sense, every process – be it of peace, dialogue, etc. – collapses before the needs of the end, the final battle against the enemy … Such a unidirectional reading of the biblical texts can anesthetize consciences or actively support the most atrocious and dramatic portrayals of a world that is living beyond the frontiers of its own ‘promised land’.”

What do the authors make of this Americanized phenomena of a radicalized political alliance across Christian denominational lines? They call it a “paradox” that transforms a once vibrant spiritual tradition of religious cooperation and inclusion into a “xenophobic and Islamophobic vision that wants walls and purifying deportations.” So transformed, the word ecumenism transforms into a spiritual paradox, into “an ecumenism of hate” Fr. Sparado and Reverend Figueroa assert.

As one U.S. terrorism expert said of the 1979 revolutionary Islamic student siege and hostage-taking at the American Embassy in Iran, “They believe they have God on their side – that is a powerful delusion.”

“Intolerance is a celestial mark of purism,” Sparado and Figueroa write, “This meeting over shared objectives happens around such themes as abortion, same-sex marriage, religious education in schools and other matters generally considered moral or tied to values. Both Evangelicals and Catholic Integralists condemn traditional ecumenism and yet promote an ecumenism of conflict that unites them in the nostalgic dream of a theocratic type of state.”

The La Civilta Cattolica authors point to an ultraconservative faith-based effort to tie Donald Trump’s election victory to that of Constantine becoming emperor in a long-shot victory over the Roman establishment. While one side of Chester St. may have bought into that notion, the other side has not – though that latter side may see similarities between Constantine and Trump that eludes that duo’s supporters. Constantine-‘By this sign conquer’ statue/Public Domain

It is a political vision that is incompatible with a secular and democratically-based system of government as outlined by America’s Founding Fathers in the U.S. Constitution. Perhaps that helps explain the faith-based support for Trump – a shared dream of a non-democratic, non-pluralistic, authoritarian State as America’s future. However, it is a vision also incompatible with the beliefs and practice of faith urged by the current spiritual leader of world Catholicism.

The La Civilta Cattolica authors, both reported with close ties to Pope Francis, write, “Clearly there is an enormous difference between these concepts and the ecumenism employed by Pope Francis … His is an ecumenism that moves under the urge of inclusion, peace, encounter and bridges … Francis wants to break the organic link between culture, politics, institution and Church. Spirituality cannot tie itself to governments or military pacts, for it is at the service of all men and women.”

Pope Francis has emphasized faith as a tool of service to, rather than dominance over, others. He often has washed the feet of the sick and suffering, from lepers to prisoners and African and Muslim immigrants, as seen here. Public Domain Pho-to/Vatican-frankanswers.com

The 2016 election as ‘spiritual war’

However, the authors point to one platform of the new ecumenism that asserts just such a tie between politics and spirituality.

“There is a shocking rhetoric used, for example, by the writers of Church Militant, a successful US-based digital platform that is openly in favor of a political ultraconservatism and uses Christian symbols to impose itself,” Spadaro and Figueroa write. “This abuse is called ‘authentic Christianity.’ And to show its own preferences, it has created a close analogy between Donald Trump and Emperor Constantine, and between Hilary Clinton and Diocletian. The American elections in this perspective were seen as a ‘spiritual war.’

“This warlike and militant approach seems most attractive and evocative to a certain public, especially given that the victory of Constantine – it was presumed impossible for him to beat Maxentius and the Roman establishment – had to be attributed to a divine intervention: in hoc signo vinces.

“Church Militant asks if Trump’s victory can be attributed to the prayers of Americans. The response suggested is affirmative … This is a very direct message that then wants to condition the presidency by framing it as a divine election.” (Well, maybe if you are prone to mistaking Vladimir Putin for Divinity)

Of a movement claiming to unite faith and politics to a supposedly spiritual end, the authors write that it is a LIE – a lie clearly recognized by Pope Francis, as it appears to have been some 2000 years ago by Jesus Christ.

“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s,” Christ is quoted to have said. It is a statement on face value that appears to draw a clear line in the sand be-tween the political state and the spiritual journey of mankind seeking a path to and understanding of its Creator.

“Francis radically rejects the idea of activating a Kingdom of God on earth as was at the basis of the Holy Roman Empire and similar political and institutional forms, including at the level of a ‘party.’ Understood this way, the ‘elected people’ would enter a complicated political and religious web that would make them forget they are at the service of the world, placing them in opposition to those who are different, those who do not belong – that is the ‘enemy’ …”

The La Civilta Cattolica authors point to an ultraconservative faith-based effort to tie Donald Trump’s election victory to that of Constantine becoming emperor in a long-shot victory over the Roman establishment. While one side of Chester St. may have bought into that notion, the other side has not – though that latter side may see similarities between Constantine and Trump that eludes that duo’s supporters. Constantine-‘By this sign conquer’ statue/Public Domain

But for the Protestant Evangelical and the Catholic Integralist it is a natural step – for all “non-believers” are perceived as enemies who would not be tolerated in the theocratic state they desire. But how strange is it that such religious fundamentalists have tied their political wagon to Donald Trump, by reputation and action one of the least spiritual men to ever occupy the White House?

An example of this tenuous relationship may be illustrated in how the American Christian right reacted to the 2017 reports of an extra-marital affair Donald Trump had with a porn star. Queried about the phenomena, one Vigil for Democracy participant pointed to the “mulligan” (a golfing term for a do-over) offered up by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins regarding Trump’s reported encounter with Stephanie Clifford, aka adult film star Stormy Daniels, shortly after Melania Trump gave birth to the president’s youngest child.

The Family Research Council is a Christian-based advocacy group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center identifies as an “extremist group” with a primary anti-LGBT agenda. It was founded in the early 1980’s and bills itself as the leading American voice for “traditional family values”. The FRC website identifies Perkins as its longest-serving president (since 2003), an ordained minister and former “leading pro-life voice” in the Louisiana State Legislature. According to its website, FRC’s mission is “to advance faith, family and freedom in public policy and the culture from a Christian worldview.”

Family values hypocrisies aside, the promise of movement in their direction on birth control, abortion and religious rights fronts by the president seem to be enough to hold the faith-based Trump line through any kind of scandal. As Trump himself observed of his “base” during his improbable 2016 run to the presidency, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

Above, Stephanie Clifford, aka porn-film star Stormy Daniels, who received a $130,000 payment from Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen during 2016 presidential campaign, ostensibly to remain quiet over an alleged sexual affair with Trump shortly after his third wife Melania gave birth to their son. Below, Evangelical-based Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, who gave Trump a ‘mulligan’ (do over) on his alleged extra-marital affairs. Stormy Photo/Public Domain-Facebook, Perkins Photo/FRC website

Of the $130,000 of alleged hush money paid by Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign, one sage observer commented, “At least there is one storm Trump will pay for.”

More seriously – well there is a VERY serious point to that “storm” payment observation, especially if you are Puerto Rican, Floridian or Texan – Catholic Sparado and Presbyterian Figueroa write, “There is a need to flee the temptation to project divinity on political power that then uses it for its own ends … Religions cannot consider some people as sworn enemies nor others as eternal friends. Religion should not become the guarantor of the dominant classes. Yet it is this very dynamic with a spurious theological flavor that tries to impose its own law and logic in the political sphere … Triumphalist, arrogant and vindictive ethnicism is actually the opposite of Christianity.”

Sparado and Figueroa reference a May 9, 2017 interview published in the French daily La Croix where Pope Francis points to the example of Christ (the cross as a symbol of sacrifice), not Constantine (the cross as the hilt of a sword of conquest), as the model for true Christian values in the world:

“The contribution of Christianity to a culture is that of Christ washing the feet, or the service and the gift of life. There is no room for colonialism,” the pope told the French journal, adding, “The only crown that counts for the Christian is the one with thorns that Christ wore on high.”

Sparado and Figueroa observe that for the spiritual leader of world Catholicism, true spirituality and true faith must ultimately be used as a check on abuses of power by any socio-political elite, rather than co-opted as the tool of a political establishment seeking to elevate itself to the position of earthbound deity, above the rule of any law or behold-ing to any sense of a common, universal good or tolerance.

As they conclude, Sparado and Figueroa explore “fear” at the root of what they de-scribe as a political perversion of faith. “It is fear of the breakup of a constructed order and the fear of chaos … The political strategy for success becomes that of raising the tones of the conflictual, exaggerating disorder, agitating the souls of the people by painting worrying scenarios beyond any realism.”

Boy, does that sound familiar to anyone on, say, the fronts of immigration or LGBT rights?

“The appeal to the apocalypse justifies the power desired by a god or colluded in with a god.* And fundamentalism thereby shows itself not to be the product of a religious experience but a poor and abusive perversion of it,” La Civilta Cattolica’s authors conclude.

Back home

‘Pray for Our President’ to keep his hands off any beautiful women in the neighbor-hood; but that one below looks prepared for any celebrity glad hands.

And so after this long detour through Vatican and European history, as well as La Civilta Cattolica’s pages where we encountered “Evangelical Fundamentalism and Catholic Integralism in the USA: A Surprising Ecumenism”, we again find ourselves back at the intersection of East Main and Chester Streets, in Front Royal, Virginia, USA.

So, what is to be made of such faith-based political hostility and encounters de-scribed along Chester Street reflective of anti-Semiticism, notions of racial superiority, and stereotypical vilification of political opponents passed on to the children?

One might say it indicates that we are part of a world becoming not only smaller due to technological advances, but unfortunately no less mean-spirited than past empires history tells us were built upon bigotry, lies and the stereotyping of “others” as somehow less human, less worthy, less “holy” than the ruling elite and its devotees. – Devotees hypnotized by clinging to the cloak, not of Christ, but to that of an Emperor and the power of the State.

*FOOTNOTE: observe that the La Civilta Cattolica authors write “god” in this passage with a small “g” indicating their belief the “new ecumenism’s” faith is in a false god.

ICYMI: A Year Of Pro-Life Victories
January 24, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, in the Daily News-Record, Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) reflected on last week’s March for Life and highlighted several victories for the pro-life movement in the past year.

Daily News-Record: A Year Of Pro-Life Victories

By: Bob Goodlatte

January 24, 2018

Each January men and women across the country mourn the anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade. They mourn the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives taken by abortions each year and the indifference of a culture that has turned away from its fundamental values. Many of these brave people demonstrate their opposition to abortion by participating in the March for Life – like thousands of Americans, many from the Shenandoah Valley, did on Friday in Washington. With each step, they solidify their support for the unborn and their commitment to human dignity.

This year, however, they also have much to celebrate.

In 2017, for the first time in nearly a decade, we witnessed the transition to a new era: a federal government united for the cause of life. During the past 12 months, Congress and the Administration have worked together to protect the most vulnerable among us. What a difference one year can make.

Last January, the White House issued an executive order prohibiting foreign aid to organizations that provide or promote abortions outside the United States. The same month, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 7, an important bill that bans the use of taxpayer funds for abortions.

Then, the House of Representatives passed the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, or Micah’s Law. This bill is named after Micah Pickering, who was delivered at 22 weeks and has grown to a happy, healthy five-year-old boy. This bill increases restrictions on abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization, a point at which there is agreement that unborn children can feel pain.

The House Judiciary Committee also held a hearing examining a bill that would protect unborn children as soon as a heartbeat is detected.

On Friday, the 45th anniversary of the March for Life, the House of Representatives passed the Born Alive Abortion Survivor’s Protection Act. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., ensures that any child born alive during an abortion procedure receives the same degree of professional care to save the life of the child that any other child born alive at the same gestational age would receive. The Born Alive Abortion Survivor’s Protection Act also establishes criminal penalties for those who kill babies born alive or harm them to attempt to harvest body parts, while protecting women who receive abortions from being prosecuted.

These actions from Congress and the White House represent a dramatic shift towards embracing a culture of life. However, there is much work left to be done. Many of these important bills still await action in the Senate before they can be signed into law.

As I reflect on the March for Life and the support of Americans across the country for the unborn, I feel optimistic that we can achieve great successes with a unified vision of life and liberty. I pledge my support to continue to fight for life and for the protection of our most vulnerable.

Bob Goodlatte represents the Sixth Congressional District of Virginia, which includes Rockingham County and Harrisonburg, in the U.S. House of Representatives.


Martin Luther King Jr.’s enduring legacy: ‘Beyond Vietnam’
January 15, 2018

Sometimes words remain appropriate, not only for the era in which they are spoken, but for multiple eras, and perhaps for the length of humanity’s struggle to overcome the worst aspects of our collective nature – greed, avarice, hypocrisy and the bondage of others to forward one’s own self interests – in other words, FOREVER. 

Martin Luther King Jr.’s words of April 4, 1967 now known as the “Beyond Vietnam” speech are such words.  They illustrate the depth of Dr. King’s comprehension that the Civil Rights Movement was a struggle of more than one race in one nation at one point in time.  

These words, spoken exactly one year to the day before his assassination, are why some pause each January to remember and celebrate his life; while others are simply reminded of why he was, and continues to be hated by those attracted to power without compassion. 

As last year when we first printed them on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in this first month of 2018 these words remain pointedly appropriate as our national debate increasingly focuses on racial, ethnic, religious and national stereotyping as primary motives for immigration and foreign policy decisions.  And yet again we might ask ourselves if our ongoing borderless, worldwide war on terror isn’t at least in part, a legacy of our collective failure to heed Dr. King’s words of April 1967? 

And 51 years down the road, we must ask ourselves one final question – how close to “too late” are we as a people and a nation? 

Due to the speech’s length, some introductory comments and other details on the Vietnam era have been edited out – deletions are indicated by (…) and some points have been emphasized with bold highlights. 

There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. – Martin Luther King, Jr. (Photos/Public Domain)

Martin Luther King, Jr. 

‘Beyond Vietnam 

I come to this great magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization that brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” … The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one … 

Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world … Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak.  And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history … For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us … 

“Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask? 

And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live …  

Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such … 

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years, especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, “What about Vietnam?” They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent … 

Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.” It can never be saved so long as it destroys the hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that “America will be” are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land. 

As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964. And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances. 

But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men – for communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life? 

… Finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place, I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son-ship and brotherhood. Because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned, especially for His suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers. 

And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula … They must see Americans as strange liberators  … We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops … Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness … They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence? 

… At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved … and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor. 

Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now. 

If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

I speak as a child of God … I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours. 

This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote: “Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.” 

The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit … and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about … Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. 

And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God. In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution … It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments. 

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin … the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. 

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” 

It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” 

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them, is not just … America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood … 

We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. – Martin Luther King Jr.

We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice … It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries … A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies … This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind … When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response … I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality … This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God” … 

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too lateOver the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.” 

There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.”  We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace … and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors.  If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight … Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world … 

As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated: 

Once to every man and nation comes a moment do decide,
In the strife of truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light. 

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ‘tis truth alone is strong
Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own. 

And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream. 

OPINION: County Administrator replies to Silek letter
January 4, 2018

January 4, 2018
David Silek, 8500 Leesburg Pike, Suite 400, Vienna, VA 22182

RE: Letter of December 27, 2017

Dear Mr. Silek,

I am writing to follow up on your letter of December 27th, specifically your concerns relative to your inaccurate assertion that the County is spending taxpayer money to supply NARCAN and on the associated training costs for the administering of such. I am not sure where you received your information, but please be assured that Warren County does not spend any taxpayer money on the purchase of NARCAN.

If first responders from the Warren County Fire and Rescue Department use NARCAN, whether transporting the patient or not, the hospital replaces what was used at no cost to the County. If the patient is transported, the hospital then charges the patient on the hospital bill. Like any other call, the County will only charge for the transport of the patient based on the level of care.

The Warren County Sheriff’s Office recently implemented a program for deputies to carry NARCAN. The NARCAN was purchased through a grant and was provided at no charge to the Sheriff’s Office. Training for our officers to administer NARCAN was also provided at no charge.

As far as your comments regarding the Economic Development Authority, the Board of Supervisors has a great deal of faith in the individuals that it has appointed to the EDA Board of Directors. Among those appointed include the de facto CEO of the largest employer in the County, the Vice President of Facilities Management and Safety for the largest employer in the region, and the former head of the Town’s community development program. While not everyone on the EDA Board of Directors currently works in the private sector, the Board of Directors, like the community, needs to have diverse representation to market the community and to run the various programs of the EDA. The success of the community in the 1990’s for economic development was buoyed by the County providing land either at no cost or at a reduced rate and with considerable Governor’s Opportunity Fund and Enterprise Zone incentives. The opportunities are no longer there for these incentives in the manner in which they were, and the County, unfortunately, does not have large (100+ acre) tracts of buildable land with which to recruit the larger industries. That said, the EDA continues to make progress utilizing the assets that our community does possess in marketing for investment and jobs.

As far as getting rid of the “crappy hotels” in our community, as an attorney I am sure that you are aware of the fact that effective January 1, 2013; Article 1 Section 11 of the Constitution of Virginia was amended to read:
“That the General Assembly shall pass no law whereby private property, the right to which is fundamental, shall be damaged or taken except for public use. No private property shall be damaged or taken for public use without just compensation to the owner thereof. No more private property may be taken than necessary to achieve the stated public use. Just compensation shall be no less than the value of the property taken, lost profits and lost access, and damages to the residue caused by the taking. The terms “lost profits” and “lost access” are to be defined by the General Assembly. A public service company, public service corporation, or railroad exercises the power of eminent domain for public use when such exercise is for the authorized provision of utility, common carrier, or railroad services. In all other cases, a taking or damaging of private property is not for public use if the primary use is for private gain, private benefit, private enterprise, increasing jobs, increasing tax revenue, or economic development, except for the elimination of a public nuisance existing on the property. The condemnor bears the burden of proving that the use is public, without a presumption that it is.”
Accordingly, condemning and tearing down hotels, or in this case motels, for redevelopment would be against the Constitution that we swear to uphold and defend.

The EDA does have a plan for economic development in our community, which was last updated in 2014 and can be found here. StratPlanUpdate2014

David, I trust that I have been able to provide some information of which you were not aware when writing your letter and hope that I have been able to set your mind at ease with the spending of precious taxpayer resources on NARCAN. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Douglas P. Stanley, AICP ICMA-CM
County Administrator

Editor’s Note:  The above letter was copied to the Chairmen and Members of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Sheriff Daniel T. McEathron, Warren County Fire and Rescue Chief Richard Mabie and to Royal Examiner staff reporter Roger Bianchini.

OPINION: Warren County failing on opiod crisis management, EDA oversight
January 2, 2018

RE: Our County’s opioid crisis

Dear Mr. Stanley and the Members of the Board of Supervisors:

About a month and a half ago, possibly two months ago, I wrote to you and enclosed a copy of an article I reviewed while I was in a European airport. I believe I was coming back from Greece when I read the article. At that time, I requested that you all investigate taking action against certain pharmaceutical companies as many localities across the United States have done associated with heroin and opioid deaths. Apparently, the County has done nothing with respect to that. I have also learned that the County is continuing to take active steps in spending taxpayer money to supply NARCAN® and training costs associated with the administration of such. I am told that there is continuing pattern of such purchases because of the amount that is being consumed. I would like to know the cost of such. I find it unconscionable that you continue to demand that I and other law abiding taxpayers, are forced to pay for felons who decide to commit a felony, and voluntarily administer to themselves an illegal drug that is known to lead to an overdose and possibly kill themselves. I would like to know why these people are not being billed and forced to pay for such medications and why I as a taxpayer am forced to pay for their self-indulgence and selfishness. Bill their insurance or Medicaid for the medication like any hospital would. I would like a strong public policy argument as to why I should have to continue to pay for such. Can you provide such?

I find it rather shocking that the County still has not done something to start to recover the costs associated with the opioid crisis. Why you think the taxpayer should continue to fund such is baffling. Please explain to me why the taxpayers of Warren County should continue to have to fund this opioid crisis and treatment program which only encourages more use of such opioids. Your policy is wrongheaded. Your policy will only continue to encourage people to use illegal drugs that could result in an overdose knowing full well they maybe be brought back or saved.

Further, the County should be suing those that are selling the illegal drugs to pay for the mess they, have created. We know who some of the distributors are, they are those charged with distribution. Sue them. Not just pharmaceutical companies, but these felons. Make them pay civilly too, not just criminally.

Both the Town and County continue to allow certain businesses to operate in the Town and County that permit and maybe encourage such activity to occur. If the County and its EDA really wanted to improve our economic potential, they would get rid of all these crappy hotels that rent rooms by the week to opiate addicts. Buy the properties with the power of eminent domain and tear them down for redevelopment rather than building the most expensive “workforce housing” ever dreamt up. If you remove the ability and cheap place for these addicts to stay, hopefully they will move on and out of our community. Don’t you think it is high time that you re-evaluate your current game plan on how to address this crisis? I mean, clearly your current plan is an abject failure.

Your current EDA director absolutely is terrible. And at best several on the EDA board are ineffective at best since they retain her and elect as its chairman someone who hasn’t worked in the private sector for at least 15 years, if ever, and never in industry. You have an executive director that clearly does not understand the appearance of impropriety in dealing with family members and who has pushed an absolutely absurd position on “workforce housing.”

The County has continued to appoint people who have no idea what is going on outside of the Warren County economic area. I dare say, anyone, save Messers. Biggs, Blanton and Llewellyn know how to and have actually made “real” money and to work with large domestic and international entities on striking good business deals. At least three on the Board either do or did work for governmental bodies or a not-for-profit. How on earth does this make them the proper people to seek privately invested industrial and economic growth or as to what it takes to attract such? I very much doubt that most on the EDA are aware that just two counties away, in Loudoun, that their economic development team brought into their county in fiscal 2017 (ending June 30, 2017) $3.3 billion in business development. It shattered all previous records, not just in the Commonwealth, but for all counties the size of Loudoun in America. (See enclosure.) I wonder how many in our county actually how much “good” growth is occurring in counties immediately adjoining us as well as two or three counties away and of their marketing activities. These counties have done away with these crappy hotels that encourage criminal behavior and conduct and have developed plans to increase the quality of life to attract major investment. They get “business friendly.” It is a term that Front Royal really needs to learn.

Rather than continue to fund an ill-functioning EDA that creates taxpayer black holes, you should insist that the EDA develop a two, five, and ten year plan for our community and actually share it with the community. The secrecy associated with the EDA, which you all have by silence encouraged, is a problem. There is zero accountability of the EDA executive director and it seems that you all do not wish for there to be any accountability which is also a problem. The fact that our EDA is excited that a new fast food operation is opening up is telling. When Stephen Heavener was the director of the local EDA we had much more investment in our community. Maybe it is time to hire someone who has real world experience in such and has a track record of actual success.

I am sorry that I have to address this letter to you. I wish I felt pleased with progress in our community, but I do not. Rather than only being someone that criticizes, I am also someone who is willing to help, if called upon. However, I doubt that the leadership of the County has that capability to admit they need help.

Respectfully Yours,

David W. Silek, Esq.

Editor’s Note:  The above letter was mailed to Warren County Administrator Douglas P. Stanley and each member of the Warren County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 27, 2017. A copy was also mailed to the Royal Examiner.

OPINION: Thoughts on Alabama and America
December 13, 2017

Let me start by offering the disclaimer that I am neither a Republican nor a Democrat. I am neither conservative, nor liberal. I am who I am. When I vote, I look at the person, their voting record, values, and previous experience with a real job. I try my best not to become nauseated with party affiliation.

Last night’s Alabama election results should (but probably won’t, given the sad history of party politics in America) send a message to Democrats, as well as Republicans…quit thinking that you are immune to the realities of life, and that, because of the prestige and power that comes with your position, that you are immune from the following:

Obeying the law.

Doing your job, as an elected official, and looking out for the best interests of those you were chosen to serve, as opposed to yourself, and those whom you have allowed to own you, through their contributions to you and your campaign.
Living by the same standards you have the audacity and hypocrisy to demand to others that they should live by.

Creating and voting for laws which you have no intention of following yourself.
To think that more than 48 percent of a state can still vote for a moral reprobate is mind boggling.

To hear excuses such as “It was more about the balance of power” which influenced my vote simply goes to show why the two party system in America is corrupt, and eliminates the U.S. as “One Nation Under God.”

One can only hope and pray that, whether it is the new Alabama Senator, a sitting Senator, Congressperson, or Governor of any state or Commonwealth within our nation, that, at some point soon, a tide of decency in politics will rise, we will vote for who is right, against who is wrong, and hope and pray that the ability to do such (as opposed to voting for “the lesser of evils”) will one day make a consistent showing among our Election Day options.

One can always dream.

Michael S. Williams is a resident of Front Royal, VA.

OPINION: Thank you for reporting depth and quality
November 30, 2017

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people at the Royal Examiner that work so hard to keep the citizens of Warren County and Front Royal apprised of the important issues facing our community.

I have noticed that the depth and quality of the reporting from the other news reporting organizations has declined greatly over the last several years. I appreciate knowing that there is a news service that takes the time to gather the facts and present them to the public; it is a necessity for a balanced community.

This creates an environment of accountability and transparency while holding the elected officials to the highest level of integrity for which they were elected to guide our town and county.

Again thank you for your dedicated service you provide for our community.


Michael Graham,  Front Royal, VA


EDITORIAL: Authenticy vs Approval
November 14, 2017

Since the Royal Examiner’s editorial decision to publish the photograph—but not name—of a minor homicide victim and his brother, the newspaper has been bombarded with hate-mail, calls from readers to boycott, nasty emails with words that would shock some sailors, and more.

To be clear, the boys’ photographs and information about recent events are all over social media—on a fundraising page, on a number of social media pages of the mother’s friends and on the social media pages of former babysitters, to name a few places.

The Royal Examiner chose to use the photo of the boys because we felt it would connect the reader to the issue of child abuse and neglect that often leads to death.  A number of other media outlets chose to print the gory, graphic nature of the injuries that the victim endured before he died, but the Royal Examiner felt its readers—and the victims—need not have that information shared.

Mug shots these days are ubiquitous—everyone who gets arrested gets one.  Perhaps the community would be better served if newspapers behaved more like big-city television stations and showed mugging victims fresh from the hospital, bandaged up and fearful, instead of the thug in an orange jumpsuit who beat up an innocent victim for no good reason.

Incidentally, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Administration for Children and Families Administration on Children, Youth and Families Children’s Bureau reports that in 2015 (the last year for which figures are available) 1,670 children died from abuse or neglect while in the custody of family members.

That figure alone is shocking and something for which any sensible person could muster up some outrage.

The Royal Examiner strives to present accurate, authentic reporting.  Approval is appreciated, but it does not dictate how we do our jobs.

Sixth’s Goodlatte lauds Trump tax plan – but what is the truth?
November 13, 2017

Shortly before the unexpected announcement he won’t seek re-election two days after the Democrat’s sweeping electoral victories in Virginia, I read U.S. Sixth District Delegate Robert Goodlatte’s glowing appraisal of the Trump-House Republican tax plan.  In his “Legislative Update” our delegate painted so rosy a picture of the plan I was prompted to explore exactly what has been laid on the national table as tax reform by the Trump Administration and House Republicans.

I will use our now lame-duck Sixth District delegate’s appraisal as a starting point for that tax bill exploration:

The Sixth’s Bob Goodlatte at work – Pubic Domain Photos/Graphics

“After many months of work and discussion, I am encouraged by the introduction of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  At its very core this bill is about tax relief for American families.  It nearly doubles the standard deduction to protect more of your hard-earned money, and lowers individual tax rates for low and middle income Americans,” Goodlatte began rosily, adding, “The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will also help to bolster the growth of businesses of all sizes in the United States, and keep jobs in our communities instead of being shipped overseas.”

Well that all sounds GREAT – unless on that latter point the reason jobs will be kept home is that American workers are in the process of being reduced to a Third World labor force as far as wages and benefits are concerned; and as far as the first point – well, what if at best it’s partisan hyperbole, and at worst just NOT TRUE?!!?

Multiple media outlets across the country had a far different assessment after a first look at the November 2 Trump-House Ways & Means Committee roll out of the long ballyhooed tax reform plan.  One even called it the groundwork for a new “Gilded Age” for America’s super rich.  Some of those national reports led me to the analysis of an independent, non-partisan, non-profit tax watchdog group founded in 1980.

Independent analysis

The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) estimates more than two-thirds (66%) of the proposed tax cuts would go to the richest one-percent (1%) of Americans.  In all, ITEP estimates the Trump tax plan would give more than $100 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest one-percent of Americans.  People who earn at least $615,800 a year would enjoy an average tax cut of $90,610.

“Meanwhile, those who earn between $41,000 and $66,000 a year would see an average tax cut ranging from about $400 according to ITEP estimates, to $1,100 according to the Trump/House plan’s own estimates,” Truthout’s Lindsay Koshgarian reported.

And despite that “average” middle income savings, ITEP and other sources report some taxpayers in the middle income bracket would actually end up owing more taxes under the plan.  According to the Reuters news agency, those other sources include administration officials – “Trump economic adviser Gary Cohn and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have also acknowledged that some people could see a tax hike” from the “tax cut” plan.

But HEY, what does a 37-year-old non-partisan tax watchdog group, or administration officials for that matter, know anyway?

I decided to take a look at a fairly independent Republican, not part of development of the plan at the House level, for another perspective.  Prior to being laid up after a neighborhood lawn mowing dispute, Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul asked if the plan “was really Republican?”

Senator Rand Paul may be preparing to catch whatever is flying out of the House Ways & Means Committee regarding tax ‘reform’.

“This is a GOP tax plan?  Possibly 30 percent of middle class gets a tax hike?  I hope the final details are better than this,” Rand tweeted in response to the unveiling of the plan in the House Ways & Means Committee.

So we must ask, tax reform for those who really need it the most – the middle and lower working classes – or an early Christmas present for those who need it least; but would have you believe (with some delegates’ assistance) that when they’re not taxed on their millions and billions, it’s really everyone else (trickle, trickle) who is benefiting?

‘See how easy it’s going to be to file taxes now’ the president enthused at tax plan’s unveiling. An amused House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Ways & Means Committee Chair Kevin Brady yuk it up at the president’s slight of hand.

On Wall Street

I decided to try Wall Street and the conservative Wall Street Journal for reactions sure to trumpet the Trump tax plan as a BIG boon to the U.S. economy.  But it seems that almost immediately Trump was tweeting that the Wall Street Journal just “doesn’t get it” as far as the plan’s positive impact on the economy.

While lauding the plan’s reduction of business taxes, the WSJ wrote that pro-growth aspect of the plan was “marred by a mess on individual taxes that makes that part of the code even worse than it is now.”

CBS’s Moneywatch reported a Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget analysis that estimates the plan’s “cuts will be worth a total of $5.8 trillion through 2027 while the tax increases will be worth $3.6 trillion. That would result in a net increase to the national debt of $2.7 trillion including interest” – with no stated plan on how that revenue gap will be filled.

But perhaps there is a plan – just a currently unstated one first verbalized by Republican strategist Grover Norquist some time ago – “We don’t want to destroy the federal government, we just want to shrink it to the size where it can be drowned in a bathtub.”

Way off Wall Street

Okay, let’s get off Wall Street and away from Republican ghosts – Greg Gardner of the Detroit Free Press noted the Trump-Republican tax plan includes elimination of a $7,500 tax credit applied to the purchase of hybrid and electric cars.  Gardner observed, “Wiping out the credit would create another obstacle for automakers who are trying to nurture a market for battery-powered transportation” for automobiles ranging around $37,000 to $40,000 or so.

Hey, gotta keep old Secretary of State and former Exxon-Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson happy – even if he has not denied calling you a “(some such) moron”.

But if the plan strips economic incentives to promote development of alternative, less polluting means of motor transportation, it also lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent and repeals the estate tax – not things of major concern to middle or lower income Americans.

Interviewed by the ABC affiliate TV-3 in Harrisburg, PA, CPA Robert Wilson concluded that the reduction of tax brackets (from 7 to 4) “just results in people in the lower brackets paying more tax.”

Oh well, so much for the “little people” Mr. Goodlatte and pals have promised will benefit from the plan.

Above, proposed changes for single filers; below, for joint filing

Local government impacts

A story in the journal Governing: The States and Localities analyzed a potential impact on municipal governments nationwide:

“The bill would eliminate all private activity bonds, which allow tax-exempt municipal bonds to be issued on behalf of a government for a project built and paid for by a private developer … The proposal caught the infrastructure finance community completely off-guard … ‘For months, we’ve been hearing that munis were safe,’ said tax attorney Will Milford, of the firm Bryant, Miller, Olive.”

Why the alarm?

“Tax-exempt bonds fetch lower interest rates in the municipal market and therefore lower the overall cost of financing,” Governing explains, “The projects financed with this type of debt are typically things in the public interest, such as low-income housing, hospitals, airports” – and schools they might have added.

Governing called elimination of the low-interest bonds “devastating for governments trying to find money for economic development projects.”

Local government reactions

Such low interest bonds have been an important tool of local municipal capital improvement projects in Warren County for some years.

“The issue here is really about the ability to refinance bonds when the interest rates come down,” County Administrator Doug Stanley told us, observing, “The Board of Supervisors has been able to save a significant amount of money in past few years when we were able to refinance bonds associated with school construction.”

Long-time Warren County project consultant Springsted circulated a call to action in opposition to the plan forwarded to us by Stanley, “In addition to a dramatic cut in the corporate tax rate, the recently announced House tax bill takes serious, direct aim at the municipal bond market.  Both measures are sure to interfere with state and local governments’ ability to cost-effectively provide financing for projects,” Springsted wrote.

EDA Executive Director Jennifer McDonald also alerted us to the fact that one national organization, The Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA) will discuss strategies to fight this provision of the tax plan at its upcoming National Summit in Atlanta.  The CDFA called this aspect of the Trump-Republican tax bill “a move that would prove devastating to development finance efforts nationally.”

McDonald agreed, telling us, “Some of the proposed tax cuts and job acts could be detrimental to the economic development of not just this community, but the nation as a whole.  Economic development relies on some of these very successful programs to create jobs and tax revenue for the community.”

Noting the tax bill “is the product of months of collaboration between senior members of the House, Senate, and White House” the CDFA said that “without major pushback and input there is a good chance the bill may become law.”

So it seems that like some middle-income Americans, the communities they live in may also be negatively impacted by the Trump-House Republican tax plan as presented after months of partisan development behind closed doors.

Back to Bob

But maybe there’s hope! After all, the ever-elusive Mr. Goodlatte concluded his “Legislative Update” initial praising of the tax plan rolled out under his nose by stating, “As the Ways and Means Committee prepares to consider this bill next week, I will carefully examine the details of the plan and how they will impact the Sixth District.  I’ve advocated for common sense tax reform throughout my time in Congress, and I am pleased to see this effort move forward to deliver the tax relief folks in Virginia and across the country need. Let’s get down to business.”

I know I, for one, believe our Sixth District delegate when he says he’s getting ready to roll up those legislative sleeves and do some in-depth, non-partisan analysis of a Trump-Republican initiative that has been talked up for months as economic Nirvana for all.

NO I don’t. – But you knew that, didn’t you?


Okay, maybe I need a divorce from my Sixth District delegate – let’s just call it quits, Bob.  After all, political representation is a lot like a marriage in its give and take and mutual responsibility, right?  And I never see you anymore, Bob – at least not out here in the northwestern reaches of your district (or other districts too I hear from the “kids”).

Uh oh, not so fast.

‘Train in Vain’ – two days after Democrats stunning electoral gains in Virginia, Bob Goodlatte announced he is headed on down the tracks – but will he maintain support for the Trump-Republican House tax plan prior to his departure after the 2018 mid-term election?

Other than the fact I woke up today to find an “I’m leaving – soon” note from my delegate, Market Watch’s Quentin Fottrell writes, “There’s no longer a silver lining to paying spousal support.  President Trump’s tax plan unveiled this week will abolish tax deductions on alimony.  This won’t impact people who have already agreed on their payment amounts but – assuming the GOP tax bill is passed by Congress – this new arrangement will be in effect for divorce decrees on Jan. 1, 2018 and thereafter.

“This will create a total re-evaluation of divorce cases,” said Malcolm Taub, partner and co-chair of the divorce and family law practice group at Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP. “It’s major.”

“We settled a case this week in court where my wealthy client agreed to pay his dependent wife significant alimony because he could deduct it,” added Randy Kessler, an Atlanta-based lawyer who wrote the book, Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids, and Your Future.  “The deduction, as it stands, is a great motivator to encourage the higher wage earner to agree to help support the spouse with less income.”

Uh oh, you don’t think THAT’S what this whole tax “reform” charade is about, do you? – Melania, Melania, has anyone seen Melania since China?!!?

Public Domain Photo/theeconomiccollapse-blog.com