The following is my rebuttal to the Front Royal Town Council’s insistence that they do not have a Moral Obligation to finance and pay the debt for the construction of the Police Station that they are occupying.
When someone or an entity occupies a building or home, then it is typically reasonable that the individual or entity either pays a mortgage or rent to the owner or holder of the note. The Town of Front Royal to the best of my knowledge has paid zero. The town’s offer to make a paltry $10,528.95 good faith one-time payment in July was an embarrassment to the town citizens as it would only have covered half of the monthly payment. If a regular citizen were to treat the banks in such a manner, then it would be reasonable to assume that the banks would sue for default and take the property back.
It is clear to me that initially the Town and the County failed to do their due diligence regarding the viability of winning a New Market Tax Credit loan; however, the County was proactive and went out to get financing for their projects when it became clear that the NMTC wasn’t likely to happen. Whereas the town decided to be reactive and gamble on winning a lawsuit to help pay for the police station. When Bryan Phipps a high level NMTC Administrator executive suggests that the Town take the 2.5% 30-year fixed loan, then instinctively I am all in. The bickering between the County and the Town has to end and a good first step is for the Town to admit that they have a moral obligation to pay.
Collaboration is the key to success. The Town and County have both dug in their heels and that approach is a recipe for disaster for the community. If the town doesn’t take on the FRPD financial obligation and the County stops paying the debt service, then it will hurt both the Town and County’s ability to obtain construction loans in the future because we have defaulted on our Moral Obligation to pay our debts. I want to put an end to these attitudes, and it is a big reason as to why I decided to run for Town Council.
Front Royal, Virginia
Thoughts on the Confederate statue removal at the Warren County Courthouse
To the Editor:
On August 4, Tony Carter, a member of the Warren County Board of Supervisors, offered a motion that would put the question of whether the Confederate statue on the Courthouse lawn should be relocated to a referendum on November 3.
One opponent of the relocation said, “it’s in the bag.”
It seems obvious that they did not want any public comment on his motion, but word got out, and several people came at the last minute expressing their frustration that they had no time to prepare their remarks on a matter of some sensitivity.
Nonetheless, it seems poor sport to argue that allowing the people to decide the issue is wrong.
Were the public schools in Warren County desegregated in the 1950s by a popular vote? No, they were not. It was the State Supreme Court that protected minority children. In 1965, did the citizens of Alabama, by popular referendum, allow black people to vote?
Confederate statues and flags tell the country that the South had school integration and black voting forced on them. They never accepted black advancement.
Lynching used to be discussed as something that happened in “the bad of days.” In 2020, we saw the lynching of George Floyd on our television screens. His killing and that of others have caused people around the country, Virginia, and the world to take a hard look at their racist past and rid themselves of the stain. Will there be such introspection in Warren County?
If others think relocation of the statue is ill-advised, will they come forward to offer other changes as evidence that they hear the cry of black citizens?
Your move, Mr. Carter.
Front Royal, Virginia
Reader asks ‘What Heritage’
You say it is your heritage, not hate.
But what is your heritage, if not hate? What do you call the rape, torture, kidnapping, murder, and pillaging of a people? Are you proud of stealing generations from their future? What does the history of the dixie heartland stand for if it doesn’t stand for hate rooted in blood-stained injustice? What good comes from staking a claim in a mountain built on the backs of other men, with a treasonous flag wavering overhead?
You say they were veterans and deserve our homage; as if we should so easily forget the very things they fought for, or rather, against. Protecting the institution of slavery, secession and mutiny are suddenly honorable values that we must exalt in statue form? Since when do the losers of a war get to have a stake in the statue arena – is it a participation trophy?
My mind, nor my heart, can fathom the pride you carry for your “heritage.” The ignorance of deeming all veterans heroes, while ignoring their true motivations, seems blasphemous in the eyes of the Constitution. I think it would be far more courageous to show compassion for the people we share the world with today.
To understand that the battles that they have faced, collectively and historically, far outweigh any contributions given to us by the short-lived Confederacy. To see past our privilege, to put ourselves in the shoes of a Black American who just wants to walk to the courthouse without having to be reminded of the effort put into keeping them 3/5 a human. That maybe, as white men and women, we listen with open hearts and sit this one out.
It seems to me, that every significant change for the better in the Town of Front Royal, whether it be the desegregation of schools, the building of new bridges, schools, and sidewalks has to be fought for to come to fruition. Front Royal refuses to come into the 21stcentury on her own, and instead prefers to be drug a few decades, kicking and screaming, until she begrudgingly accepts her new reality.
That is why I’m so disappointed in the board of supervisors’ cowardly decision to leave this ruling to a non-binding referendum. When you have the privilege and responsibility of a position of power, you use it for good. You use it to showcase your leadership skills and to stand up for the minority. If the south left it to a non-binding referendum, we’d still have slavery.
Sometimes the right thing isn’t what the majority demands. The law hasn’t been our best moral compass in history, time, and time again. You want a count of hands, regardless of the lack of representation for Black citizens. I urge you to instead consider the history and reputation of this town and vote with all constituents in mind, not just the white majority.
Front Royal, Virginia
Response to Mr. Bianchini’s Oct 22 letter and the Courthouse Statue
I certainly believe there has been racial inequality in our history but am aware of no such instances in Warren County in the 15 years I have been a resident and would object to any claim that our community does not offer equality to all its citizens. While an insignificant number may hold biased beliefs it is in no way representative of the majority. No person has been the property of another for over 150 years so can we let that rest? Plus, I’m not ignorant that discrimination continues to occur but sincerely believe that it’s on the fringes of our society rather than being pervasive as some assert. And yes, Mr. Bianchini I listen. The recounting of Ms. Freeman’s life experience at FRU’s ‘teach-in’ is from over a half-century ago and such situations have for the most part been remedied. I am sad that she was mistreated but that is in the past and cannot accept that it’s representative of our society today.
Too many choose to ignore the social justice strides made in the past half-century where Virginia citizens (majority white) elected a black Governor in the 80s when the Commonwealth was still a red state. In 2008 and 2012 a mostly white America elected a black president. Let’s also acknowledge the educational preferences and minority contract set-asides and programs that have been instituted as well that promoted equality.
While there may be some institutional bias in law enforcement we cannot overlook that they deal with black criminals everyday disproportionate to their representation in the population and thus it is rational for police to exercise greater caution when interacting with males of color. However, there is no justification for excessive use of force against any citizen and various efforts are occurring to address that specific issue.
Had Mr. Bianchini paid full attention to my testimony at the Oct 20 BOS meeting he would have heard my proposal for a compromise of possibly adding a plaque clarifying that the courthouse civil war monument is not to be interpreted as supporting past slavery or oppression and clarifying its focused intent. I could certainly support the idea of another statue as well that he mentioned which could acknowledge the contributions of slaves in Warren County’s history and would offer to donate the first $1,000 towards such a marker and challenge Mr. Porter and Ms. Cascada to match it were such an idea to move forward.
So, maybe Mr. Bianchini and I aren’t as far apart as, he may think, at least on this issue, and I appreciate his statement that he does not see me as having racist beliefs. So, how about everyone keeps their powder dry and await the results of the referendum. It might also be valuable to recognize that making frequent assertions that our community or even some of its citizens are racists will not contribute to an environment where mutual understanding, compromise, and healing is possible.
A Perhaps Futile Search for a Middle Ground on the Confederate Soldier Statue
(Royal Examiner reporter/editor Roger Bianchini’s response to Gary Kushner’s Oct. 22 Letter to the Editor)
Having butted heads philosophically in print with both Mr. Kushner and the current leadership of Front Royal Unites over the issues of institutional racism in modern American society (Kushner) and the advisability of compromise on the Confederate Statue issue to avoid the very backlash we are now witnessing (Porter/FR Unites), let me attempt to draw a middle ground on this conflict of perspectives.
While I sincerely believe Mr. Kushner does not consciously harbor racist intentions, I think I might be safe from a threat of civil action in describing him as somewhat racially insensitive to the plight of citizens of color in modern American society as a consequence of the lingering aftermath of slavery and racism in our culture.
I also feel that Mr. Kushner may be correct in his description of the current FR Unites leadership’s intransigence on the Confederate soldier statue’s location issue. As I have written in a past opinion piece, I felt and still feel that a compromise allowing the statue to remain, but adding some sign that the statue remains at the courthouse with other war memorials as a result of two opposing perspectives reaching agreement in 2020 on a mutually satisfactory outcome. As I wrote in the story on the Oct. 20 meeting, I believe the suggestion expressed at the meeting by Richard Hoover that a statue commemorating the sacrifice of Warren County people of color who were held as slaves be erected on the courthouse grounds is the best compromise idea out there.
Let me add one personal observation on a related subject. Several FR Unites speakers expressed disappointment at the absence of county officials at their previous Sunday “Teach In” as I understood it to be, revolving around the statue removal issue. I observed some of the speakers in the online live stream of the event. An LFCC professor described slavery as the root issue of the Civil War underlying the “state’s rights” issue – which was essentially the right to keep slaves as free labor to bolster the Southern state’s economies; as well as the racism expressed openly by Confederate political leadership in justifying secession and racially based slavery. Okay, most rational, educated people understand these things.
Another speaker and county citizen of color eloquently described her experience of racism in this community during the era of desegregation of our public schools, and consequently after in her adult life and work experience. Again, this isn’t news to people who are paying attention – are you listening, Mr. Kushner?
But I ask, and from what I saw there was no one present at the event who asked this question – how much do these known historical experiences of about 160 years and 50 years ago directly address the issues at hand concerning the fate of the Confederate soldier’s statue on the Warren County Courthouse lawn in 2020?
Wouldn’t an advisable strategy for anyone concerned with advocating equal treatment under the law and an end to protections of institutional racism, particularly in the conduct of law enforcement in the treatment of suspects nationally, be NOT to give those not so concerned with these issues or even perhaps harboring lingering racist tendencies themselves, an issue upon which to aggressively push back against your organization and its root issue of equal treatment under the law?
If there was a statue of openly racist Confederates like its President Jefferson Davis or Vice-President Alexander Stephens on the courthouse lawn, I would vigorously support their removal. But as has been noted by supporters of the Confederate soldier’s statue remaining where it is, most, if not all, of those 600 or so names on that monument were not from slave holding families. To my knowledge there are no known writings of any of those men justifying slavery and promoting the racism at its root. None of us will ever know what was in their hearts and minds when they went to war, or when they returned from it, if they did.
So, why draw a hardline in the courthouse grass on removal of a monument to the sacrifice in going to war, even if on the wrong side of history, of those 600 county sons?
Wouldn’t the cause of equal justice under the law be better served by focusing our energy and the energy of our municipal governments on a positive act, rather than a negative one? That act would be raising public funds to see a memorial to the human sacrifice of those who lived in Warren County as slaves be erected in a place of honor on the courthouse lawn, not far from the Confederate soldier memorial.
Now THAT would indicate that Warren County is exhibiting progress and cultural growth and a desire for equal treatment under the law for ALL its citizens in the 21st century. But that is only likely to happen after people with opposing perspectives begin, not only to talk, but to LISTEN to each other with a willingness to at least consider the other’s perspective.
Is it too late for that to happen here in Front Royal and Warren County? – Ms. Cascada, Mr. Porter, Mr. Kushner are you LISTENING?
Gary Kushner asks ‘Who is Racist’ in Confederate statue debate
Courthouse Statue, Oct. 20 BOS meeting discussion
On Front Royal Unites (FRU) Facebook page, Laura Lee Cascada posted on Oct. 16 that the Examiner had published my Letter to the Editor that was a ‘racist rant’ and referred to a Facebook comment I had recently made.
First, I would caution Ms. Cascada about calling me a racist or I’ll have her radical left behind in a civil action for slander for calling me a racist, which is not true.
Second, the comment that she referenced was in response to a heated argument I was engaged in with a Facebook user who I thought was black who I felt was trashing America and its slavery history. The idea I attempted to relay in that comment was that slavery had a silver lining for the descendants of slaves in that being subsequently born free in America provided them with the liberty and opportunities of all American citizens as opposed to possibly being born in a third world African country with its political strife, violence, famine, challenging economies and lower standard of living. The comment I made was, “You should be thankful your ancestors were slaves because they paved the way for your freedom. Otherwise you’d be living in a grass/mud hut in some shit-hole country”.
While I freely acknowledge that my choice of words was over the top in the frustration of a heated argument, but I continue to defend the validity of the concept. No one is clamoring to move from America to Africa with all its political and economic troubles and that statement is not evidence of racial bias on my part, it simply states facts. I hold no views that any race of people is superior to another or that any group of people should be discriminated against for any reason.
At the October 20, Warren County Board of Supervisors meeting in the Public Comments segment where the issue of the courthouse statue was the topic of interest, Ms. Cascada testified in support of removing the statue and made an underhanded attempt to embarrass me and to delegitimize my pro-statue testimony by reading the Facebook comment referenced above. However, feeling confident in the concept I previously explained I was not embarrassed at all. In a meeting break thereafter I approached Ms. Cascada and attempted to engage in dialogue to see if we could improve our mutual understanding, which was witnessed by the Examiner Reporter, Roger Bianchini.
Mr. Porter, President of Front Royal Unites, advised her not to talk with me and they both left without further interaction. I was not surprised in it seems that neither FRU nor Ms. Cascada has any sincere interest in exchanging ideas like mature adults and they present the impression that you either agree with and accept their perspectives or you’re wrong and biased. I believe that persons with weak ideas commonly refuse to engage in rational discussion because their arguments are difficult to defend with logic and the truth.
Mr. Porter recently posted a comment (that may have subsequently been deleted) on Facebook insinuating that a person who had assisted in the creation of FRU was separated from that group because they had been ultimately recognized as being ‘white’. If that, in my opinion, isn’t considered a racist view than I’m a ‘monkey’s uncle’. That from the leader from an organization that claims to be all about equality and unification of the community.
Mr. Paul Gabbert also testified in support of the statue at the Board meeting and that FRU was only successful at dividing the community rather than being a group with positive results. Thus maybe Mr. Porter should consider renaming his group Front Royal Divides, it would be more accurate.
Supreme Court Nominations
As if 2020 has not been bad enough, with just a few weeks before the presidential election, the beloved Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away. Not only did we lose a judicial icon, but her death caused a vacancy on the high court that is turning into one of the biggest fights of the Trump administration.
Back in 2016 when a justice passed, Republicans argued that a president in his last year should not nominate a new judge but should wait for the voice of the people in the form of the new president to make the next pick. At the same time the Democrats in 2016 insisted it was not only the president’s right but his duty to make the next selection. The differences this time are, first, both parties flipped their stances, somehow realizing they were wrong in 2016, and, second, this time Republicans have the numbers in the Senate to make the confirmation. The constitutionality of Trump’s decision to put forth a judge has been questioned. Historically and legally speaking, however, Trump does have the right and it has been done before.
There is no legal issue with Trump nominating a new judge; it is perfectly acceptable under the Constitution. The Democrats would have done so in 2016 if they controlled the Senate. The question is not a legal one but an ethical or fairness one. Is it right for Republicans to nominate a judge now when they blocked Obama’s pick in 2016? This question cannot be decided in court but, rather, in each person’s conscience. If it helps, we have seen a last-second appointment before and by a well-respected Founding Father.
I have written about the Election of 1800 so many times that most of my readers know the details by heart. Suffice it to say, it is my favorite election and it was one of the most heated and contentious elections ever. John Adams, equal only to Washington in importance when it comes to our freedom, lost his bid for a second term to his nemesis, Thomas Jefferson. Adams did not take it well. In sports parlance, he took his ball and went home by not even sticking around for Jefferson’s inaugural. However, before he left, he decided to leave Jefferson a small parting gift. This is important for the modern issues as well: after an election, the losing president is still the president until the next inaugural. In other words, even if Trump loses in November, he can still perform all his presidential duties up until January 20.
What Adams did in 1801 after he lost was not only install a new Chief Justice, John Marshal, but he also created a new level of federal judge positions so he could fill them with Federalists. By packing all the federal judgeships with his party, he took away Jefferson’s ability to nominate judges on any level for the near future. What was most amazing is that Adams made 42 nominations and the Senate confirmed them as a batch just two days before Adams left office.
All but three of the “Midnight Judges” took their places on the bench, but because of the lateness of the appointments, three never received their commissions. The commissions were basically left on the desk of the new Secretary of State, James Madison with a yellow sticky note saying “Please give these out.” Madison, upset by the new appointments, conferred with Jefferson who agreed not to distribute the remaining commissions. However, one of the judges, William Marbury, upset by Madison’s refusal, sued him for his papers. This became one of the most important court cases in history, Marbury v. Madison, but that is a story for another article.
Jefferson did not take Adam’s actions well. He blocked the courts from taking up any cases until 1803 out of spite. I am not sure it is helpful or not to see our Founders acting as petty as our current political leaders. Yet what we can learn is that in some ways politicians have not changed. Two days before he left office, Adams got 42 new judges pushed through. Jefferson then refused to allow the court to hear Marbury’s case for more than a year and did succeed in getting the last three blocked from the bench. What Adams did was perfectly legal; the only question for Adams, like Trump, is whether it was ethical. Both seem to think it is.
Dr. James Finck is a Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. For daily history posts Follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.