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Commentary: Can’t we do better than this? – State of Emergency as armed protesters head for Richmond

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As Royal Examiner and myriad news agencies across the Commonwealth and nation reported, on January 15 based on what is believed to be credible intelligence gathered by Virginia law enforcement agencies, Governor Ralph S. Northam declared a State of Emergency beginning Friday, January 17 (Lee-Jackson Day) and lasting till Tuesday, January 21, the day after an anticipated guns rights demonstration at the State Capitol Complex in Richmond on Monday, January 20 (Martin Luther King Day).

The Democratic Governor’s Executive Order # 49 creating the five-day State of Emergency prohibits all weapons, including firearms, from Capitol grounds, and will provide joint law enforcement and public safety agencies resources available to head off or react to any violence tied to planned demonstrations at the state capitol. The order coincides with previous General Assembly initiatives against certain weapons in the Virginia State Capitol area and Executive Order 50 (McAuliffe) prohibiting firearms in offices occupied by executive branch agencies.

“Credible intelligence gathered by Virginia’s law enforcement agencies indicates that tens of thousands of advocates plan to converge on Capitol Square for events culminating on January 20, 2020. Available information suggests that a substantial number of these demonstrators are expected to come from outside the Commonwealth, may be armed, and have as their purpose not peaceful assembly but violence, rioting, and insurrection,” Governor Northam wrote in Executive Order 49, adding, “Assuring that Virginia’s Capitol Square and surrounding public areas are sheltered safe places for those who come to participate in the democratic process, as well as those who work on or near Capitol Square, is my greatest priority.”

Overreaction – or not?
Is it State overreaction to citizens’ normal desire and right to express political dissent to proposed legislation they disagree with or prudent action to a credible threat from right-wing extremists? Reports of six arrests by the FBI in Maryland, Delaware and Georgia around the time of Governor Northam’s State of Emergency declaration may offer a clue.

Multiple news agencies including ABC, NPR and the BBC reported on January 16 that the FBI had arrested three men in Maryland and Delaware with ties to a neo-Nazi group known as “The Base”. The men were alleged to have been in possession of several weapons and over 1600 rounds of ammunition and had discussed travelling to Richmond for Monday’s demonstration.

An online report we first encountered at the WRIC Newsroom website indicated one of the men, Patrick J. Mathews, was a former reservist in the Canadian Army who was discharged over his ties to white supremacist groups. The criminal complaint indicated Mathews had recently entered the U.S. illegally and had been illegally armed by other men arrested in the FBI operation targeting The Base. Those arrested in Maryland or Delaware at the time of Mathews arrest were Brian M. Lemley, Jr. and William G. Bilbrough.

And on January 17, three more men tied to The Base were arrested by the FBI in Georgia. According to the BBC report they were charged with attempted murder and participation in a criminal organization: “Luke Austin Lane, Michael Helterbrand, and Jacob Kaderli were planning to ‘overthrow the government and murder a Bartow County couple’ who they believed to be Antifa members, Floyd County (Georgia) police said in a statement.”

That BBC report linked Canadian Mathews to the Georgia group and the targeted killing, stating, “The gang member, presumed to be Mr. Matthews, is said to have called for the ‘death penalty’ against anyone engaged in anti-fascist activities. It was not known if the three men arrested in Georgia were planning to attend the gun-rights rally in Richmond. The group was involved in the gang’s paramilitary training camp located at a home (in) Silver Creek, Georgia, police said.

“According to arrest affidavits, The Base is a racially motivated violent extremist group that sought to ‘accelerate the downfall of the United States government, incite a race war and establish a white ethno-state,’” the BBC reported.

The shadow of the neo-fascist, white supremacist Charlottesville demonstrations and anti-fascist counter-demonstrations that resulted in three deaths, one anti-fascist demonstrator run down by a self-proclaimed neo-fascist who plowed into a crowd of anti-fascist demonstrators and two state policemen who died in a helicopter crash monitoring the situation on the ground in Charlottesville, appeared to play heavily in Northam’s decision.

“Three years ago, Virginia and the nation, watched horrified as civil protest was marred by violence and hate. The events that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia demonstrated what can happen when peaceful demonstrations are hijacked by those who come into the Commonwealth and do not value the importance of peaceful assembly. We lost three Virginians. We must take all precautions to prevent that from ever happening again,” Virginia’s Democratic governor wrote in his executive order, continuing, “The anticipated effects of the potential convergence of tens of thousands of demonstrators on Capitol Square, some of whom may not come to assemble peacefully, constitutes an emergency as described in § 44-146.16 of the Code of Virginia (Code).

The call for large numbers of guns rights advocates to gather, perhaps across state and even international lines, at the State Capitol in downtown Richmond on Monday appears to be, at least in part, a culmination of the so-called “2nd Amendment Sanctuary” movement that has circled Virginia in recent weeks and months. That effort led a large number of politically conservative municipalities, including Warren County, to designate themselves sanctuaries against pending gun control legislation being brought forward by the first Democratic majority in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly since 1996.

Second Amendment advocate speakers waive a ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ flag during Dec. 10 Public Hearing on the ‘2nd Amendment Sanctuary Resolution. The Resolution passed unanimously in front of well over 1,000 citizens, for the most part supporters of that resolution. This and following photos do not suggest anyone pictured plans to be in Richmond armed or otherwise, they are just the only 2nd Amendment debate related photos we have. Royal Examiner File Photos/Roger Bianchini

As previously reported in Royal Examiner, among legislation being forwarded for consideration by Virginia’s new Democratic legislative majority are House and Senate Bills that include mandatory background checks for firearms purchases, red flag laws, expanded age restrictions on youth gun use unsupervised by adults, requirements to report stolen or lost firearms within 24 hours, and an expansion of the definition of “illegal assault weapon”.

County resolves – what?
The 2nd Amendment Sanctuary initiative propelled forward by these pending gun control bills was introduced to the Warren County Board of Supervisors on November 19. Less than a month later at a December 10 Special Meeting held at Warren County High School to accommodate a crowd spilling out of the school’s 1,024-seat auditorium, in its final meeting a majority lame duck County Board of Supervisors did unanimously resolve that Warren County is a sanctuary against what some see as obtrusive gun control laws. But the remaining question is, if not the Virginia State Legislature or State Supreme Court, who defines “obtrusive” or “unconstitutional” – the county board of supervisors; the sheriff; or citizens, some perhaps with a vested interest in not having their backgrounds checked or red flags waived at those backgrounds?

The pro-2nd Amendment Sanctuary Resolution crowd was hostile to the first opposition speaker, but listened quietly to several others after being chastised for rudeness by one of their own.

With such questions still looming, newly elected County Board Chairman Walter Mabe and newly-elected Sheriff Mark Butler expressed some skepticism to a January 7 citizen request that Warren County expand its 2nd Amendment stance to include formation of an armed citizen militia to assist local law enforcement in large-scale emergency or mass casualty situations.

While there is no known evidence linking local guns rights advocates to violent extremist groups like The Base, the danger of legitimate 2nd Amendment advocates having their movement infiltrated or co-opted by agents of more militant extremist groups expressing sympathy for their cause will persist. Such political dynamics are ripe when measured give-and-take political dialogue takes a back seat to in-transient partisan ideological rhetoric.

And what is troublesome in today’s political landscape, not only in Virginia, but across the nation is an increasing resistance to political discourse and procedures that are open to a bipartisan search for the truth and grounds for political compromise for a common good, rather than a partisan political one. This seems particularly true, not only in the gun rights versus legislative initiatives to stem gun violence and mass shooting causalities debate, but also surrounding presidential behavior and alleged Constitutional misconduct as the possibility or impossibility of an impartial, factually-based U.S. Senate Impeachment Trial of Donald J. Trump dominates the national political landscape.

Some political scientists and historians have said U.S. politics is currently at its most divisive level since the 1850’s lead up to the American Civil War. Governor Northam acknowledged the damaging effect of the breakdown of civil political discourse in calling the State of Emergency in anticipation of thousands of potentially armed, anti-government demonstrators being poised to descend on Richmond in coming days.

“Virginians understand that diversity of opinion keeps our democracy strong. The more voices involved in our political dialogue, the stronger we are. Civil discourse, even and especially, amongst those who disagree, is critical to our democracy’s evolution and success. When the civility of that political discourse breaks down, the Commonwealth suffers,” Northam wrote in opening his Executive Order 49 State of Emergency declaration.

Let’s listen to each other – two sisters described the positives of firearms training and competitive use on them and their family’s life.

Hope or conflict?
A recent email from a reader critical of Royal Examiner’s content as being “Liberal Propaganda” seemed to initially reflect this breakdown in civil political discourse. In that first message the reader appeared to illustrate some knowledge of the coming Richmond demonstration and perhaps anticipated consequences with the observation, “The Liberal Left VA Government will soon find the Power of the People … (expletive deleted) newspapers like this will soon be a thing of the past.”

OUCH – does it really have to be a survival of the most heavily armed or can we continue to dialogue about our differing political and philosophical perspectives in the hope of a mutually acceptable resolution? We decided to try and find out.

After that initial email aligning us with liberal messaging but not citing any examples, we reached out to inquire which articles had aroused the reader’s ire. The reply cited “Liberal VA State Government Articles” emanating from the offices of Democratic officials including Governor Northam and U.S. Senator Mark Warner, rather than any original Royal Examiner content.

“It appears that the RE has an infatuation with these folks and always are publishing articles about how much they are doing for the state but nothing is written about the DAMAGE they are doing and the great divide they are causing,” our estranged reader replied in a more measured response to our inquiry.

However as we replied, we hope a search of our State Government news category page will illustrate that we publish press releases from both Democratic and Republican state and federal politicians in balance. And this writer feels fairly confident that our Publisher Mike McCool would not allow that state political content to be slanted toward a liberal bias, much less the progressive one this writer might put forward on occasion. And if there just happen to be more Democratic officials in major electoral offices like governor, attorney general and both of Virginia’s U.S. Senate seats at this point in time, I would contend that is on a majority of Virginia’s voters, more than it is on Royal Examiner.

Will that satisfy our critic and bring them back to occasional forays onto our website to keep up with the goings on in Front Royal and Warren County? Perhaps, perhaps not – but at least we are communicating about our various perspectives. In fact, as our email dialogue continued to include our planned commentary on the Richmond situation and governor’s reaction to the intelligence about it, our reader included this thought in a response: “By the way, my hope is for Nothing but Peace and our Rights as American Citizens to stay as written in the US Constitution.”

So, perhaps there is hope, not just for us and our estranged reader, but for Virginia and the nation as a whole.

Why not talk and seek movement toward mutually acceptable resolutions beneficial to the most Virginians, and most Americans on issues that ultimately impact us all?

Because if we can’t have those discussions where all are willing to listen with an open mind to ideas other than their own, we are likely to continue living in an escalating State of Emergency as we witness the continued decline of civil political discourse into increasingly aggressive and “eyes wide shut” partisan factionalism amidst a world of “alternate facts” (also known as lies) and the potential of armed confrontations between sides such as that Virginia’s governor and law enforcement officials fear was, or may be, on the horizon for Richmond in coming days.

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Long-time Meza ‘fan’ perspective on council appointment

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There are those who have no problem expressing their opinion. I happen to be one of those people. So I thought I would now express my opinion on the appointment of Jake Meza to Town Council.

Since this was a pre-planned appointment, Mr. Meza did not have to spend a penny on a campaign for the November election.

Now, my opinion: EGO, ARROGANCE, POWER HUNGRY, VOTING POWER, BEHIND CLOSED DOORS DIRTY POLITICS, MANIPULATED TOWN ATTORNEY, PUPPETEER AND PUPPETS, RULE BREAKING REPUBLICAN PARTY/COMMITTEE.

Paul Gabbert
Front Royal, Virginia

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The Town Council appointment game analyzed

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Wait a minute! What’s that you say? Controversy in the Town Council? That’s hard to believe. Cronyism? Charging the Town Council with cronyism is like charging the Indy 500 with speeding. Who could it be? Mr. warmth and personality himself Jacob Meza. Foregoing the opinions of lawyers, why would they select Mr. Meza in a closed-door meeting (aren’t they all)?

His charisma – umm nope; style (GQ magazine has called and wants their “unshaven terrorist look” back); I know, maybe it’s his diligence in supporting Valley Health’s financial and policy interests. What’s that you say – Valley Health is his employer. No problem, he will just recuse himself from votes regarding his employer until that vote is needed. Oh, I see, well, I guess if you are having a baby and have to drive to Kalamazoo to have it, you could thank him.

Councilman and appointment under continued citizen scrutiny

Ahh Jacob Meza, Town Councilman for life. Here’s how the scam works; you don’t run for re-election, but you are appointed anyway. Then another Council member who has PO’ed town voters doesn’t want to bother with all that noisy campaigning – no problem, appoint him too. Well, at least we know Matthew Tederick will always have a job waiting.

Council members are NOT “under the jurisdiction of the council” states their own long-time town lawyer. Wow, I guess he is the same lawyer that gave half my boat to my ex-wife (I gave her the underwater half). So, I wonder who the council, or the town attorney for that matter, comes under the jurisdiction of?

What to do? Well, the lawyers could take it to court thus ensuring more legal fees for everyone. OR (and I say this with tongue in cheek), Mr. Meza could just honorably step down saving the Council from further stress or embarrassment.

Oh man, I crack myself up sometimes.

F. Schwartz
Warren County, Virginia


PS: since I wrote this letter prior to Monday’s first meeting with their appointed member, sure enough, this is headed to court.

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Commentary: Another perspective on election fraud claims and the Capitol riot

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For the past week, the nation has been absorbed by the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol housing one of the three branches of the federal government. The debate over what it meant and may continue to mean, has been joined.

What has led to this commentary is the rise of theories that what we saw on myriad news video footage isn’t really what we saw. That despite the “Stop the Steal” rally earlier that day addressed by President Trump, among others promoting the notion that Joe Biden’s 7-million popular vote and decisive 306-232 Electoral College, 74-vote margin of victory is a hoax perpetrated on the American public – that somehow the violence and anarchy displayed by the crowd urged to the Capitol by President Trump, wasn’t the work of Trump supporters and more radical elements of the “Stop the Steal” crowd.

Assertions have been made that the huge pro-Trump crowd was not one prone to violence and social media “rumors” and other Internet “theories” have been forwarded to shift blame to the political right’s boogeyman – ANTIFA (acronym for Anti-Fascist) infiltrators – as responsible for the violence and subversive invasion of the U.S. Capitol building leading to five deaths, including one Capitol Policeman reportedly beaten to death with a fire extinguisher.

Above lower right, mob attacks blockaded door where woman was killed by officer as she climbed onto door; below, a Capitol Police officer in distress as he is pinned between another doorway and barrier crowd was pushing against door. Still Photos from TV video new sources as identified – Roger Bianchini

Before I continue, let me say that from the extensive amount of video news footage I have watched over the past days, I believe there were good people in the crowd who descended on Capitol Hill on January 6. Associated Press (AP) footage of one of its cameramen being assaulted by a portion of the mob near the Capitol building showed one man outside the Capitol building porchway wall protecting the newsman from that mob after they had tossed him over the concrete wall. Others outside the Capitol building stairway also appeared to help move the AP photographer away from the rioters that had been roughing him up and initially began climbing over the wall to continue their assault. And let me add that I am not a fan of America’s two-party system. I believe it is too prone to corruption from either side, without the check of multiple viable parties to challenge for Congressional seats to keep clear majorities harder to come by.

Uh oh, graffiti on door inside Capitol says, ‘Murder the Media’.

That said, as with the repeated court rulings dismissing Trump state vote count challenges around the country as not supported by ANY factual evidence, including without dissent by the Trump multi-member-appointed and conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court, the idea that leftist radicals were somehow responsible for the violence and rioting at the U.S. Capitol appears to have NO basis in factual evidence. As noted above, the source of this idea is social media “rumors” or “articles on the Internet” making claims without fact-checking or editorial oversight.

But we have not heard specifics on the Internet sources of those rumors and articles. For if we had, one might wonder if they would have been from the same right-wing blogs that have been reported rallying neo-fascist, Q-Anon, and racist elements of the extreme American right-wing toward D.C. for the pro-Trump rally and move against the January 6th certification of the Electoral College count by Congress for weeks.

Above, a Dec. 19 Tweet before the president’s post-riot lifetime Twitter ban trumpets one of his enablers’ report, apparently without the factual basis to be used in court, and invites followers to D.C. Jan. 6, promising a ‘wild’ time. Below, well a little wild but – what, a new vice president to preside over the absent Senate?

And while the initial video seemed to show a disorderly mob entering the Capitol, some chasing an isolated Capitol Policeman upstairs, others occupying podiums, carrying them away, and relaxing in Nancy Pelosi’s office, feet on the desk, the overall mood while somewhat riotous, didn’t seem horribly malevolent.

However, that changed with the release of additional video, including security footage, several days later indicating a more aggressive and violent mob assault on the Legislative Branch of the U.S. government, perhaps explaining the immediate moving of Vice President Mike Pence, now labeled a traitor by some Trump supporters, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and numerous other Congressional members to undisclosed safe locations at the Capitol for their safety. The threat was taken so seriously that Capitol security shot and killed a woman as she attempted to breach a barricaded secure location with a window-smashing mob inside the Capitol.

Above, this shirt with an anti-Semitic coded, neo-Nazi message was reported being worn by some inside the Capitol Wednesday. 6MWE purportedly stands for ‘Six Million Weren’t Enough’, a reference to the 6 million Jews killed during Nazi control of Germany. Below, a fellow traveler with a ‘Camp Auschwitz’ shirt celebrating one of the Nazi concentration camps where Jews were held and executed.

Videos I have seen over the weekend have shown people with anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans emblazoned T-shirts and at least one with a string of plastic hand restraints used by police for large crowd control arrests roaming the halls of Congress. Security and news video, as well as self-posted social media images, have been used to identify people around the nation known to be right-wing supporters of President Trump, including a West Virginia Republican state assemblyman who resigned after being charged with criminal conduct at the Capitol. As of Sunday evening, 70 people had been reported arrested on charges related to their videotaped actions inside the U.S. Capitol.

None, to my knowledge, have been identified as ANTIFA or any other leftist group members.

But the Trump base continues to believe what it wants, regardless of the questionable nature of sources or any factual evidence to the contrary. Many in that base suggest an ongoing “establishment” and “media” conspiracy to unseat Donald Trump. The formation of committees to study the notion of election fraud already rejected as absent of ANY supporting factual evidence in, I believe the last count was 60 courts around the nation, are demanded by some. How much of their own and fellow citizens’ federal tax revenue do they want spent to overturn a “conspiracy” two of the three branches of the federal government, Legislative and Judicial, have determined exists only in an “alternate fact” universe of the Executive Branch’s creation?

Above, a guillotine noted for its use in executing the French nobility during the French Revolution, erected on the Capitol grounds. I have not heard whether it was functional or not. Below, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi was not popular with the crowd.

Alternate explanation

Let me suggest an alternative election scenario which even conservative court after conservative state legislature has ruled is based in real-world facts, as opposed to one simply repeated over and over by a desperate, deposed would-be “president for life” and echoed back by his either horribly naïve or complicity corrupt, bigoted, anti-democratic cult-of-personality base:

Donald Trump was honestly and decisively defeated in the 2020 election because outside of his 35% hardcore base, it has been apparent to the majority of the American public that his has been a failed, inept and destructive to the American brand presidency. In the wake of the insurrectionist siege of the Capitol and apparent physical threat to the legislators inside, even former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has felt compelled to go online from his own website to call Trump “without competition” the worst president in American history, one who should be relegated to its dustbin as soon as possible.

Really, the Trump base may ask, “Arnie’s turned on us?!?”

Former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has placed the blame for the Jan. 6 attack on the Legislative Branch of government squarely on President Trump’s shoulders.

Yes, despite his success in several science-fiction epochal films, it seems Schwarzenegger has publicly thrown in with a decisive American majority who do believe in facts and scientific inquiry and do NOT believe in “alternate facts”. This is likely a non-evangelical majority that also believes in maintaining the separation of church and state, not permitting any religious group, even the nation’s dominant one, of dictating all Americans’ moral, sexual, or lifestyle choices. And I would suggest, it is a majority that doesn’t arbitrarily dismiss the history of a Trump presidency marked by a daily accumulation of documentable “false or misleading claims” now chronicled by “Fact Checker” on the Washington Post website at over 20,000, what some less kind might term, “lies” told by the president in office.

Above, one news source’s appraisal of rioters in possession of a large number of plastic hand restraints used by police in mass arrest situations, as well as rope. The man jumping the barrier is carrying a large number of them in his left hand. Below, plain clothed security personnel with guns drawn as mob tries to break into a secured area barricaded with furniture.

And the anti-Trump voters’ number may be buoyed by others who just believe the president has failed miserably to act proactively to deal with the most dangerous worldwide health crisis in decades, if not a century, directly leading to the death of over 350,000 Americans in one year – over 20% of the world’s Coronavirus pandemic deaths with 4% of the world’s population despite the resources available to the most advanced nation on the planet.

Not everyone in America believes COVID-19 is an international Q-Anon style hoax perpetrated to discredit Donald Trump. – Trust me, for those whose eyes aren’t “wide shut”, he doesn’t need the help.

Not everyone in America believes everything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth.

Not everyone in America believes even Republican state officials in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and elsewhere Joe Biden won the popular vote, are traitorous liars because their recounts maintained what their initial counts had shown – Donald Trump lost their state, not by fraud, but rather by a majority of those states’ voters’ awareness of the relentless failures of the Trump presidency. Internationally perhaps most tellingly, America’s distancing itself from the post-World War II Western alliance that has kept post-Soviet Russian expansionism into Europe in check.
I might suggest an alternate Commission or two be formed to those some suggest to chase the election fraud phantom: One to ascertain the psychological makeup of Americans who continue to believe something simply because Donald Trump says it’s true, despite overwhelming evidence reviewed by both Democrat and Republican legislators and judges, that it is not.

And a second to ascertain why the Capitol Police were not more prepared for the right-wing onslaught radical social media sites had been promoting for weeks; and why the necessary federal authority emanating from the Oval Office didn’t deploy D.C. National Guard immediately after the Capitol was breached by a mob disrupting the function of the Legislative Branch of the American government.

(The is the opinion of the writer.)

Above, the president and vice president at a March 2020 COVID conference before the falling out over certification of the election result. First image below, rioters on Wednesday attempted to replace an American flag flying on the Capitol with a Trump flag. Something tells me ANTIFA wouldn’t have risked their lives doing that. And finally, perhaps a hint as to why adequate security for Congress wasn’t in place or dispatched by the president. It was Vice-President Pence who eventually authorized D.C. National Guard’s deployment, which normally rests with the president since D.C. is not a state under gubernatorial authority.

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Attorney request Council’s consideration of memorandum regarding appointment of Jacob Meza

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MEMORANDUM OF LAW IN SUPPORT OF THE TOWN CHARTER

Issue:
Was the appointment of a former councilman, defined by the Town Charter as a municipal officer, four days after he held that same office, unlawful where the same charter prohibits the appointment or election of a member of council to an office under the jurisdiction of the council within one year?

Rule:
“No member of the council of the Town of Front Royal shall be appointed or elected to any office under the jurisdiction of the council while he is a member of the council, or for one year thereafter, except that the council may appoint one of the members of the council as town treasurer with all or any part of the duties, powers, obligations and responsibilities of the town treasurer provided by this act. ” Front Royal Town Charter § 47

Analysis:
Virginia statutory interpretation is governed by the following well-established principle:

If [a statute’s] language is clear and unambiguous, there is no need for construction by the court; the plain meaning and intent of the enactment will be given it. When an enactment is clear and unequivocal, general rules for construction of statutes of doubtful meaning do not apply. Therefore, when the language of an enactment is free from ambiguity, resort to legislative history and extrinsic facts is not permitted because we take the words as written to determine their meaning. And, when an enactment is unambiguous, extrinsic legislative history may not be used to create an ambiguity, and then remove it, where none otherwise exists. Brown v. Lukhard, 229 Va. 316, 321, 330 S.E.2d 84, 87 (1985)(citations omitted).

The phrase, “under the jurisdiction of the council”, in this context clearly and unambiguously refers to and modifies “any office” that the Town Council may appoint or elect.

Town Charter § 6(D) specifically grants the Town Council the jurisdiction to appoint councilman: “The council may fill any vacancy that occurs in the membership of the council for the unexpired term”, provided the appointment is not for one year thereafter holding his office.

In fact, § 9 of Town Charter specifically grants the jurisdiction to the Town Council to fill the vacancy created when a member of council is chosen to serve as mayor. “Should a member of the council be chosen to serve as mayor until the next municipal election such councilman shall be deemed to have surrendered his office as councilman forthwith upon his qualification as mayor and his office of councilman shall thereupon be vacant. The vacancy thereby created in the council shall be filled by the council as provided in § 6 hereof.” (emphasis added).

Section 11 of the Town Charter also makes it clear that the office of councilman is under the jurisdiction of the Town Council where it states, “If any member of the said council shall be voluntarily absent from three regular meetings of the council consecutively, his seat may be deemed vacant by resolution of the council and thereupon his unexpired term shall be filled according to the provisions of this act.” (emphasis added)

Furthermore, the Town Charter grants the Town Council jurisdiction over itself!

‘[E]xcept as prohibited by the Constitution of Virginia or restricted by this charter, the Town of Front Royal shall have and may exercise all municipal powers, functions, rights, privileges and immunities which are now, or may be hereafter, conferred upon or delegated to incorporated towns under the  constitution and laws of Virginia, as fully and completely as if herein enumerated in detail, and no enumeration of particular powers in this charter shall be held exclusive.”  Front Royal Town Charter § 1

The Town Charter specifically creates the Town and enables the Town Council the authority to create its own unique rules and laws that are granted to towns as a whole in Virginia.

Perhaps the most self-evident argument is that IF the appointment of the office of town councilman was NOT under the jurisdiction of the Town Council, we would not be having this discussion because the appointment by the Town Council of a councilman on January 4, 2021, would be null and void because the appointment would be ultra virus, or outside of the jurisdiction, for the Town Council to make such an appointment regardless of the one-year rule.

The only remaining question is whether the position of “town council” is an “office” in the context of Section 47 of the Town Charter. Not only does Section 9 of the Town Charter specifically refer to the “office” as councilman, the Charter defines the councilmen as “officers”:

“The municipal officers of said town shall, beginning with the effective date of this act and thereafter, consist of a mayor, four councilmen, a town manager, a town treasurer, and a town clerk, who shall also serve as the clerk of town council, and such other officers as may be designated by ordinance duly enacted from time to time. The town treasurer may additionally, by ordinance duly enacted, serve as the town’s finance director. Beginning July 1, 1994, and thereafter, the number of councilmen shall be six.” Front Royal Town Charter § 4

The press release of the Town Attorney claiming that Front Royal Town Charter § 47 does not apply to the appointment of councilman because it is found under the caption “Chapter 6 Town Officers” is misplaced. “Captions are intended as mere catchwords to indicate the contents of the subtitles”, Virginia Code § 1-244, Jones v. DCSE, 19 Va. App. 184, 450 S.E.2d 172 (1994). In Foster v. Commonwealth, the Virginia Court of Appeals rejected defendant’s argument that Virginia Code § 18.2-96 did not define “petit larceny” even though the caption to the Virginia Code section specifically stated, “Petit larceny defined ”. 44 Va.App. 574, 606 S.E.2d 518 (2004), affirmed 271 Va 235, 623 S.E.2d 902 (2006).

There is no ambiguity in the phrase, “or for one year thereafter” in the Town Charter. This is a period of time that councilmen are prohibited from appointment or election by the town council to an office under their jurisdiction. Four days is less than one year. The legislative intent, while unnecessary to interpret this section, is furthered by prohibiting a councilman’s appointment within one year of holding the office as councilman by minimizing nepotism and appearances of impropriety. The argument that the statute was only to avoid “double dipping” or a “conflict of interest” is misplaced since there would be no “double dipping” if the councilman is a former councilman. The “conflict of interest” remains applicable due to the recent appointment by his colleagues.

The Town Attorney’s reliance on Virginia Code § 15.2-1535 to assert that there is no time restriction on appointments is misplaced. Virginia Code § 15.2-1535(A) enables appointment to Town Council of a previous Town Council member. This is a correct, but incomplete, statement of law. The Virginia General Assembly permits “a member of a governing body may be named a member of such other boards, commissions, and bodies as may be permitted by general law”. Where the Town Charter precludes appointment for one year after serving as councilman, the Virginia Code does NOT permit appointment by general law. Consequently, the Town’s assertion the Code allows appointment “without any time restrictions” is contradicted by the statute which the Town relies upon.

Conclusion:

Where the appointment of council members is under the jurisdiction of the Front Royal Town Council and the Town Charter specifically precludes appointment or election of a council member to an office under the jurisdiction of the Town Council for one year, except for the office of Town Treasurer, any appointment by the Town Council of a councilman having held the office of  councilman within one year of his appointment would be an ultra virus act, specifically prohibited under the Town Charter, unlawful and null and void. The remedy would be to so find and vacate the appointment by proclamation of the Town Council unless Mr. Meza should decline the appointment. This clear meaning of Section 47 was also followed by former Town Attorneys when former Mayor James Eastham was found ineligible for appointment to the EDA (2009), when Councilman Bret Hrbek was found ineligible for appointment for committee appointment (2011), and when the current Town Attorney distinguished the interim Town Mayor as not a member of Town Council to enable him to serve in the office of interim town manager (2019) within one year after their respective terms of office.

David A. Downes, Esquire
Front Royal, Virginia

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America on the Brink

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More than a dozen Warren County citizens and I attended the ‘Stop the Steal’ protest in D.C. on January 6 along with hundreds of thousands of citizens from across the country. There were families with babies and toddlers, senior citizens, and representatives from all age groups and races. They were not ‘kooks’, ‘Trump cultists’, or ‘Deplorables. They were a melting pot of citizens that fervently believe there were election irregularities that diminished their votes and affected the election results. They represented a mere fraction of citizens that have lost their trust that a fair election occurred. They believe their concerns have not received a thorough judicial review but that most legal cases were dismissed due to political bias, procedural issues, or technicalities.

I did not interpret President Trump’s address to the crowd as an incitement to violence. What I heard was an urging to go to the Capitol, where Congress was addressing the Certification of Electoral votes, and let our Representatives see that much of the country believes the election was unfair and that efforts are necessary to investigate what happened and initiate action to correct any problems found. The Capitol march was a pre-planned goal not a last-minute idea of the President. The Capitol riot actually only involved a small percentage of protestors.

Articles on the internet indicated that ANTIFA wouldn’t mount a directed counter-protest but there were rumors that they planned to infiltrate the crowd with imposters and initiate trouble with the explicit goal of discrediting the peaceful protest. With the help of a small contingent of frustrated, misguided criminal protestors they clearly were successful.

After walking to the Capitol I witnessed several solid black flags that concerned me and were in contrast to the sea of Trump and American flags. I saw and heard several men yell that VP Pence was at that moment supporting the certification and urged the crowd to move forward and let their opposition be known. Police flash-bang devices could be heard and clouds of pepper spray were visible. I believe now that those were ANTIFA provocateurs and that their cohorts were leading the violence against law enforcement. Being concerned that the situation was changing into something more than a peaceful demonstration, plus the fact that my feet were frozen, I began my return home at around 2:45 PM.

The Establishment and the biased media are using the Capitol incident to further criticize and unfairly blame the President to divert attention from the election controversy and for political purposes. The intense response from the political Establishment is a reflection of their realization that they could actually be directly challenged by the American public

This Summer America witnessed ANTIFA and BLM, (Black Lives Matter, another socialist group), involved with the mayhem and destructive riots. Democrats refused to strongly condemn that criminal behavior and even supported it by falsely labeling it peaceful protest. Some Democrat leaders actually directed law enforcement to stand-down and permitted the criminality, and they even raised money to bail out arrested rioters. Some democrat governments refused to prosecute lawbreakers. The rule of law, one of the basic concepts of our democracy was abandoned.

America’s eyes and ears witnessed this reality regardless that social media and the mainstream media refused to report the truth to the American people and even censored First Amendment rights to free speech.

The bottom line is that our country is divided and in serious trouble. On one side are liberals who have attained total control of the government. They have openly advertised their intent to expand government, promote socialist policies, and globalism that would diminish individual liberty. Democrats have openly announced plans to ignore the conservative minority. So much for bi-partisanship and representation of all of our citizens! On the other side is the half of America who is in disagreement with that plan, and I am doubtful they will simply give up liberty and submit.

The peaceful protest and Capitol rioters should have affirmed that.

President-elect Biden has called for coming together and unity regardless that Democrats only focused on opposing President Trump the last 4 years. The only way for President-elect Biden and Democrats to walk the ‘UNITY’ talk is to support an independent bipartisan commission to study the 2020 election and report to the American people what really happened. Limiting the participants on such a commission to non-politicians would be a wise consideration. If the Democrats are certain that Biden and Harris were fairly chosen and are sincere in wanting a peaceful country in the future, why would they not support such an effort?

As the Capitol was being breached, grassroots anti-government demonstrations were happening in other cities across the country. Should the concerns of half of America not be addressed there is an increasing possibility that future protestors will leave their flags at home and instead carry weapons. In actuality, a second revolution would not mirror the organized red and blue army lines of 1776 but would be an insurgency of lone wolves. Over 240 years ago Americans resisted government tyranny at Concord and Lexington and secured the liberties we have enjoyed since. Let’s hope all are wise enough to avoid a repeat of that history.

An alternative to that bleak possibility would be to pursue a Convention of the States as referenced in Article V of the Constitution. That avenue would enable a peaceful solution to the inappropriate expansion of the Federal government that many believe has occurred, and the potential transformation towards socialism, which conflicts with the original intent of the Framers. At that event, Amendments could be considered such as:

  • term limits for Congress, Federal and Supreme Court judges;
  • freezing the size of the Supreme Court to limit its politicization;
  • ensuring the permanency of the Senate filibuster to protect the minority;
  • campaign finance reform;
  • eliminating the ability of private social media companies or oligarchs to restrict first amendment rights;
  • establish a requirement for a balanced Federal budget;
  • establish fair and incorruptible election procedures;
  • and return full power to the States.

Those ideas could have substantial support from the populace. This effort is necessary because we could never expect that elected Representatives would support change that would keep their power in check.

The time for apathy, dialogue, and half measures has passed. All Warren County residents and U.S. citizens need to act or peace and the most successful and just country on the planet could descend into unimaginable chaos.

I urge all Warren County and American citizens to contact their Federal and State Representatives and seek an Election Study Commission and support for a Constitutional Convention. I know that there are those who would argue that the prospect of a second American revolution is absurd, but who would have entertained the thought that our Capitol could be breached by a handful of flag-bearing, unorganized protestors? Is it asking too much that we safeguard the security and liberty of our children and grandchildren?

Gary Kushner
Bentonville, Virginia

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Opinion

2020: A Year of Years

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historically speaking

2020 has certainty been a year of years. I do not need to recount the events of this year; we all know them too well. It is just strange to think that it was less than a year ago since we impeached the president, yet it seems more like a decade. As we think back over the events of the past 12 months, it may be helpful to know that 2020 is not unique. We have had other years in which we did not know if we would survive, especially years in the middle of wars. Yet we always did. One year in particular has come to my mind. As crazy as 2020 was, 1919 gave it a run for its money, and, like always, we endured and overcame.

The biggest problem in both years was the same, a nationwide pandemic. Though the outfits we wore looked completely different, one style was the same: facemasks. 1919 was not the worst year for the Spanish Flu but it did see a deadly third wave that caused businesses to close and social activities to end. If anything, technology has made 2020 easier than 2019. Going online was not an option then.

As with 2020, the biggest consequence of the pandemic was the death toll, but it also was a massive hit to the economy. Families had the same concerns of watching businesses collapse. Yet in 1919 they had the added burden of the effects of the de-escalation of WWI. As crazy as this sounds, WWI was good for our economy. During the war, we fed the world while most of the men were fighting. When the soldiers all returned to their own nations, American farmers took a hit.

At the same time, the economy was suffering from major labor issues. With the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, all labor strikes now looked like communist revolutions, throwing the nation into a “Red Scare.” Dozens of major strikes and riots occurred in cities, ending in the November Centralia Massacre that left six dead. In April and May, bombs mailed to important business leaders and politicians, killing two. The government’s answer was the J. Mitchell Palmer raids, where more than 300 suspects were either arrested or deported. All the labor unrest hurt the stock market. In many ways 1919 was harder on the economy than 2020 has been.

This past year has seen what seems like an unprecedented number of natural disasters, yet 1919 had its own share. In July a coal mine collapsed in West Virginia, trapping 221 men and capturing the nation’s attention. None were expected to make it out alive but, in the end, only six perished. Two months later in Corpus Christi, Texas, one of the largest hurricanes to hit the area came ashore and killed 700 people. 2020 may have had more disasters, but in terms of loss of life it did not beat 1919.

It’s hard to top an impeachment and the contested election of 2020, but 1919 did have issues. President Wilson was in the biggest fight of his life with Congress, which refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and join the League of Nations. Instead of working with Congress, Wilson stubbornly insisted it step in line and began a whistle stop tour of the nation to convince the American people to support his cause. In the end, he did not get the support he wanted and instead suffered a debilitating stroke, leaving him unable to function as the president and leaving the U.S. leaderless.

For many, dealing with these issues and quarantine would have been easier with sports. It seemed bad enough when 2020 started with the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, but then in March, right before an Oklahoma City Thunder game, sports was canceled. Sports may not have shut down in 1919, but it had an even worse sports scandal. In October eight players on the Chicago White Sox were found to have accepted money to lose the World Series. Americans were crushed. With the sanctity of baseball now questioned, what, if anything, was sacred? Then that same year the Red Sox traded pitcher Babe Ruth to the Yankees, beginning the curse of the Bambino which lasted for 86 years. Sports has come back for us in 2020, but the Black Socks scandal took some time to get over.

Finally, to really understand how hard 1919 was, in October of that year Congress passed the Volstead Act outlawing alcohol. I myself am not a drinker, but from close friends it sounds like alcohol may have been 2020’s only saving grace. Whereas 1919 outlawed drinking, in 2020 we deemed it an essential business and even created home delivery. I guess for some at least, 2020 may have been better than 1919. I am just glad I will not be around for 2121.


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.

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