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Guest Commentary: Front Royal, a stationary island as the Tourism revenue stream floats by

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In 2013 the author wrote:

“Front Royal as an island.

‘Watching the river go by from the head of an island offers the comfort and illusion that one is moving forward.  A wiser view is to look at the opposite bank. This single act will make clear that only the river is moving forward. The bank, like the island AND our town, is actually standing still’.” 

I have been mulling over, musing really, a recent article and comments from The Royal Examiner: “The Other Side of the Street” dated August 25, 2020. Byline: Roger Bianchini

On the surface it speaks to pedestrian traffic on Main Street with competing elements for and against. Sadly, the issue is the culmination of decades of Tourism tumult.

It is really about parking.

Like characters from Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travel; it is really about Big Enders and Little Enders where political, i.e., tourism positions have been lost in the mists of time and history. They have been lost to newly elected officials without understanding local tourism, its accomplishments and history. Its increased revenue opportunity.

At core lies more than three decades of Tourism turbulence: various players and interests that choose to or not to act on this element that is economically critical to both town and county. Most elected officials remain largely clueless to the millions of dollars that Tourism – direct and multiplier – bring to our economy. Multi-millions.

To that I say:

SCHADENFREUDE.* The German word now in common English usage. Not personal, rather, a compilation of lack of leadership, weak or non-decisions and internal conflicts among elected, private and business interests ranging over decades. I have been both player and witness for more than 30 years. I retired from public commitments 14 years ago. I sleep better now.

It’s about Parking.

Beginning in the early 1990s neither Town nor County have managed to create a clear tourism platform: A detailed plan whereby all decisions fit within an overall structure – a matrix. Oh, sure, I sat through dozens of planning sessions that lost momentum and disappeared into the black hole of local politics. This current Tourism hot spot, when filtered through such a matrix, would settle the current Main Street squabble.

I have a deep and long-standing personal history with this struggle which, for me, began in 1986.

Small Tourism steps have taken place, for sure, yet, a combined, cogent and concise guide has not happened. Thousands of dollars spent on meetings and studies. Town and County continue to quarrel. No measurable progress.

We have no universal branding. Some signage/ads use the Gazebo icon (which to an outsider appears to be an alien moon lander with no recognizable relationship to our main tourists attributes); others use a line drawing of a dormer window that is remarkably similar to the Erie Insurance logo. The same with advertising tags.  A mixed bag.  A shot gun approach. No targets hit.

Different town managers have left their individual imprints by imposing personal will. Remember the expensive to-taxpayers tourist phone kiosks placed at town entrances that failed (except as good radar spots for the local gendarmes to write tickets to tourists) and recently removed? A favorite failure was the pitiful attempt to tag “Front Royal – the Aspen of the East”. T-shirts were actually printed.

Setting aside industrial-like businesses (EDA-drawn), we have failed our taxpayers by not smartly understanding and benefiting from the great Tourism pie, just too many bakers with no cooking experience.

The conflicts and battles remain basically the same: No overall agreement on a long-term plan on how to profit from Tourism. Increasing tourism revenue has never been a stated goal. A must fixed pillar.

Through the decades I participated in many dozens of the then-current “darlings” of the Town/County leadership: Remember EDAW or the much touted expensive and now vanished “Envision Front Royal” project, Front Royal Tourism Advisory Board, State Park impact, Avtex Redevelopment Stakeholders and so many more? Nothing has endured nor moved forward. Reviewing my minutes from the Town’s Tourism Advisory Board in 2002 clearly validate this. No impactful, no coherent plan.

IT’S ABOUT PARKING.

At best, Downtown has not been blessed with a well laid out parking scheme to easily transition residents and visitors’ access to our Main Street; this is especially so during special events. This is where Disney excels. Improving and managing people and flows to a given location. Increasing tourism profits by investing in and focusing on tourism access. This is low hanging fruit.

The lack of a coherent master tourism plan coupled with dearth of visionary leadership across the board leads our community to unending strife and reduced tourism revenues which ultimately increases taxes.

BUILD A PARKING STRUCTURE.

Years ago, the old “lawyers row” located on the East side of the existing courthouse was knocked down to provide additional parking spaces to accommodate the court house expansion. It did not increase parking – read access – for visitors or residents. Translation: Reduced access to tourism revenue and resident access to Main Street. However, the courthouse received more parking. Great. BUT the leaders of the community demonstrated a will to act in unison for a project they thought was important. I believe adding substantial revenues to Main Street is co-equal. So, such a plan is possible.

Most parking on the south side of Main Street is dedicated to private businesses. The North side parking offers much reduced yet difficult access from Commerce Avenue. KISS

Whether we keep Main Street open for pedestrian traffic would then become moot.  There are several locations in which a parking facility might be situated.  The above ground part can easily conform and match the ‘feel’ of Main Street while funneling access for those needed, local and important merchants. All that revenue – tourists’ wallets – funneled directly to Main Street. Happy Days!

I clearly recall the conflicts that played out years ago when a private citizen brought forth and led the community to revitalize East Main Street: the same beautiful layout we now use. No one misses the pathetic old Main Street’; most do not remember. There was, of course, opposition.

Dare I say that Winchester has supported and invested in its Old Town merchants by reconstructing and adding several parking garages. There is revenue from a parking garage to be had. In business terms: additional revenue stream.

Locals complain and transplants hope that the hub of our county will smartly improve. All want revenues to improve. This spat is simply a decades old cancer that grows increasingly: limits growth potential and importantly – Revenue.

Trace Noel
Front Royal, Virginia


* FOOTNOTE: It can be argued that there’s no real synonym for schadenfreude in English. … “Malicious joy” is one way to describe schadenfreude, as is the verb “gloat” when used in the correct context.

(Trace Noel is a Warren County resident and retired Shenandoah River outfitter. He moved from Northern Virginia to the Shenandoah Valley in 1970. Noel has received national, state, and local awards for conservation and tourism. His submitted bio below outlines his background and experience in the topics he addresses.)

Bio: Trace Noel
1970 BA Degree – History – Bethel University, McKenzie, Tn

Activities focused on water trails, environmental, tourism and river issues:

  • Board of Directors of the national Professional Paddlesports Association based in Springfield, VA. Nation’s largest outfitter trade association.
  • Served on PPA board as Officer, Paddlesports Promotion Chair and member of Executive Committee
  • While serving on Executive board of PPA: purchased Paddler Magazine, created national outfitter on-water insurance program including reinsurance, rewrote national by-laws, created new region, produced week of waterways and national outfitter/livery education school and accreditation program/school.
  • Founding member and Regent, National Professional Paddlesports Business Accreditation School
  • Front Royal COC – Tourism Committee – Chairman
  • Founder and past President of the Virginia Professional Paddlesports Association (VAPPA) Trade Association
  • Past Chairman of Shenandoah River Recreational Use Plan

Committee

  • Member Shenandoah River Recreational Working Committee
  • Chairman of Shenandoah River Canoe Liveries and Outfitters Association (SRCLO).
  • Shenandoah River Representative – Virginia Canals and Navigation Society
  • Member of Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries boating legislative review group
  • Advisory Committee member Friends of the Rivers of Virginia (FORVA).
  • Creator and Past Director – Shenandoah RIVERFEST
  • Former Member of the Board of Directors of the Friends of the Shenandoah River. (1988-1996)
  • Member of Page County River Advisory Committee 1992 (MORC STUDY).
  • Member Minimum Instream Flow Technical Assistance Committee (MIF-TAC) 1994
  • Founding Member – Coors Clearwater 2000 Forum, Harrisonburg, VA (James Madison University) – Created origination’s logo.
  • Advisory Committee for Master Plan for Shenandoah River State Park
  • Formed group to acquire land for Guests State Park

Worked with DCR planner, Robert Munson, for acquisition, layout and river access planning for Guests State Park.

  • Worked with Roger Pence, Head of SRSP to lay out boat landings, commercial traffic access and design of main boat launch/pickup.
  • Front Royal COC – Chair Legislative Committee
  • Avtex Superfund Site Stakeholders Group
  • Local DU Chapter member and Sponsor
  • Member North American Water Trails Assoc
  • Founding Member Virginia Eco-Tourism Assoc. (VETA)
  • Vice Chair – Town of Front Royal Tourism Advisory Board
  • Advisory member of the Shenandoah River Blueway, Shenandoah, VA
  • Contributor and organizing member of Shenandoah River Sojourn 2003-2006
  • Planned and sponsored first state sponsored ‘water trail’ conference – Blueway. Worked with DCR, VDGIF, VA DEPT OF FORRESTRY.  Warren County/Front Royal declined to support.
  • Shenandoah River State Park Visitor Center Advisory Committee
  • BA History – Bethel University, McKenzie, TN.  1970

Junior Class President, Frosh Class Treasurer, National Fraternity President

  • American Canoe Association Certified Instructor of Moving Water Tandem Canoe.
  • 19 years experience whitewater boating.
  • Waterfowl guide since 1991 – Waterfowl hunting of Shenandoah since 1986
  • Swift Water Rescue Trained and Certified
  • Weekly fishing report: Weekender Magazine, The Washington Post and Virginia Outdoor Magazine and Virginia Game and Inland Fisheries Weekly Report. 12 years
  • Weekly fishing Reports for Washington Post, fishontheline.com and VDGIF 10 years
  • Feature articles by Washington Post Sunday Outdoor Feature Writer, Angus Phillips for guided trips: opening of Guest State Park, waterfowl hunting, fly fishing for Smallmouth bass, Conservation and River Knowledge.
  • Contributed to, quoted and assisted in the National Geographic Magazine feature article on the Shenandoah River written by Angus Phillips. December 1996
  • 2000 – Conservation award from Virginia Trails Assoc. awarded at VA Governor’s Conference on Trails and Blueways – Virginia Beach
  • 2000 – National “Millennium” Award from National Paddlesports Assoc. for contributions to Paddlesports and the Paddlesports Industry. Special one time presentation.
  • 1998 – Volunteer award from Governor George Allen river clean-up and conservation
  • 2006 – The Frank A. Jones Outstanding Member Award, the highest honor for members of the Professional Paddlesports Association. Amelia Island, Fl.
  • 2007 Citizen Conservationists of the Year presented by The Virginia chapter of the American Fisheries Society. Danville, VA
  • Creator of Original Shenandoah RIVERFEST.
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Opinion

Pandemic Vaccine Si, Pandemic Vaccine No

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No one can really deny knowing what is going on around the world as the Covid-19 (and its variants) Pandemic continue to tighten their grip. Everyone in North America who reads a newspaper, watches television, uses a computer or talks to a friend knows about the division of American society over use of existing vaccine as a preventive mechanism against the Covid-19 disease and its dangerous variants.

When I first commented in the Blog/Newsletter on the Pandemic (August of 2020), the scourge was overcoming American and worldwide medical capability – resulting in illness and death rates not seen in over 100 years (including wars). Now, thanks be to God and tremendous efforts by healthcare workers and many others devoted to keeping us all going in spite of disease, we have several vaccines which have proven again and again to be effective in 1/ preventing the disease; and 2/ if a “breakthrough” case should happen, lessen the severity and increase the survivability of illness.

Yet, a huge portion of American society (at this writing – virtually half of U.S. adult population) currently refuses to take the vaccination even if they are “health-qualified”. I find this personally frustrating and terribly disappointing because my wife (known to many readers – Bryane Miller Lickson) cannot take the vaccination for valid health reasons. So, now she is in Day 521 of a self-imposed lock-in. When we do go out to shop, bank etc., she and I are both masked.

The other morning, I was listening and watching the news on television. A young woman in Alabama was interviewed and she expressed her view that vaccination was not necessary. She was 22 years old and, in very good health (in her opinion). She saw absolutely no reason to take the vaccine. Many people – especially in the U.S. – and other countries where vaccines are plentiful – are wrestling over a decision:

Vaccine – Si or Vaccine No.

Credible scientific sources have said many times at the highest levels of government and public health (including my own Alma Mater – Johns Hopkins) that the vaccines are both safe and effective. But there are people also all over the world and very out-spoken here in the U.S. who would make a two-pronged argument against taking the jab. They would assert 1/ that they have heard that the vaccines are not only not helpful, but may cause serous long term negative side effects – both physical and psychological. 2/ And they argue also that no one is going to compel them to take a vaccine.

A good and very bright female friend of both Bryane and me went on to say: “If you can compel one to take a vaccine, we can no longer call ourselves a democracy.” The case against compelling the vaccine reflects in many minds, the issue of freedom of choice – a freedom that they hold dear. In the United States, this includes half the adult population – not yet vaccinated and probably many people who have been vaccinated at least once.

Those of us who also hold that freedom dear, but also hold that human life has a dear value, would hope and maybe even plead for the U.S. to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we can. Medical and legal evidence is clear; without vaccination – maybe even by compelling it as many employers, schools and others do, we won’t win this battle – very possibly the biggest battle (including war) we will ever face.

As pointed out by Professor Lawrence Gostin of Georgetown Law (my law school alma mater) speaking about the possible clash between health and human rights – Gostin is an accepted expert on both Public Health and the Law – He has said the greatest value offered by government here or abroad is equity. He is quoted on the Smerconish CNN TV Show and Blog: “We need heath that is fairly allocated to everybody – health with justice.”

It is a fact that so far the courts have upheld the ability of a private company and even school districts to compel vaccination. The only exceptions that have so far been recognized, have been acceptable religious or valid health reasons not to vaccinate.

Several states have tried to limit the legal right of private companies to compel vaccination. Laws banning compulsion to vaccinate or offer proof of vaccination have been routinely over-ruled. It may be that the very survivability of life is at stake here. I’m afraid that many so-called “patriots” do not recognize the crisis the Pandemic has presented.

This Newsletter is about opinion, so, my opinion is: While I have great respect for our freedom of choice here in America, I value the continuation of human life in this country. I think – wish it were not so – that compulsion may be required and must be considered to force Covid vaccination or ban people from many positions, cruises, schools and maybe in serving in the military or other government service.

Charles P. Lickson
Front Royal, Virginia


(Charles P. Lickson, President of LALO, is a former practicing attorney turned mediator and writer He has stated his opinion here and invites reasoned opinions from readers. If you have something to say about the Pandemic or another subject – which might cause us some “conflict of choice”, please send your thoughts to: Webmaster@lalopublishing.com) First appeared in Lickson’s “Ironing Out Newsletter”)

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Reaction to Roger Bianchini’s July 26 editorial notes

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I consider Mr. McCool a friend and supported his 2020 candidacy for Front Royal Mayor.  Mr. McCool’s willingness to permit Mr. Bianchini to post editorial opinions that may be inconsistent with his own is a testament to Mr. McCool’s commitment to the First Amendment.

With that said, there is history between Mr. Bianchini and me since we’re on opposite ends of the political spectrum.  On more than one prior occasion he has authored counter perspectives to Letter to the Editor postings I’ve published.  Previously, his editorial comments on my posts were made via a separate and distinct follow-up letter under his name. I acknowledge his right to post viewpoints contrary to mine, however, instead of publishing a separate letter with his editorial comments this time, he chose to attach them at the end of my posted letter.

This technique was unprecedented, and in my opinion, was a scurrilous attempt to discredit my comments without me having an opportunity to promptly rebut them so I voiced a complaint to the Senior Editor and requested that Mr. Bianchini’s response be removed from my posting.  My request was granted and you now see Mr. Bianchini’s comments as a separate post on the Royal Examiner site instead of having been initially attached to my letter.  Having provided this preface, I want to specifically address Mr. Bianchini’s editorial post.

His first comment relates to my assertion that ‘individual freedom’ is a core principle of the Constitution. He references some goals stated in the preamble and focuses particularly on the goal to promote the general welfare and states that the individual freedom text is not specifically referenced. However, he conveniently overlooks the fifth goal, and secure the blessing of liberty…, which is synonymous with individual freedom in my mind, when he claimed there were only four goals.

It’s no coincidence that Mr. Bianchini focuses on the general welfare goal because I think that is consistent with the progressive ideology which has over expansive government at its core, regardless of the ill consequences associated with such a concept and at the expense of individual freedom. My interpretation of Mr. Bianchini’s first comment is that it implies that the massive government social programs expansion in the Reconciliation Bill is intended to further the general welfare promotion goal in the Constitution’s preamble. The problem there is that the advertised cost of the Bill is deceptive in that economists have warned that it is partially paid for with dubious accounting techniques and suspect revenue estimates.

The Bill’s cost has been advertised at 3. 5 trillion dollars but there are sources that project the real cost at over 5 trillion dollars.  This is totally understandable because who can trust numbers from politicians with an unquenchable thirst for spending money others have earned?  This proposed gargantuan spending Bill has been reported to be the largest spending proposal in our history. It is in addition to the trillions of dollars of prior approved Covid spending and more than a trillion dollars proposed for legitimate infrastructure spending under consideration now by Congress.

The Federal budget for 2021 is approximately 4.9 trillion dollars with over 2 trillion expected to be deficit spending. Thus, the Reconciliation Bill would create an economic nightmare.  The public is already witnessing inflation and grossly expanded deficit spending would almost certainly increase inflation.  The country has over 28 trillion dollars of debt and no credible plan exists to address that liability. Our massive debt is being passed to future generations to address and both Parties are responsible.

Throughout history, socialist governments have consistently shown to be abject failures. You might recall that the definition of stupid is ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’!  Democrats claiming this Bill would promote the general welfare fail to recognize the consistent historical disasters of socialism. The expansion of government that the Reconciliation Bill represents is a substantial transition towards socialism. Socialism is a philosophy alluring in principle but has proved to be unsuccessful in real-world practice.

What is being witnessed in Cuba now is a perfect example of the effects of total government control versus a system based on capitalism and individual freedom.   Isn’t it ironic that the Cuban people are screaming for liberty when freedom is at greater risk in America than ever before?  I heard it said somewhere that, ‘ if socialism is so successful, then why are people attempting to escape it in boats constructed from trash’?

Also, the first ten Constitutional amendments, (Bill of Rights) is a crucial part of our guiding document, and affirm many individual liberties as opposed to the granting of government authority and control.  Readers can judge whether Mr. Bianchini intentionally ignored the sections of the Constitution I referenced above, was a benign oversight, or that he might be blinded by underlying support for a progressive ideology.

Mr. Bianchini’s second comment takes issue with my statement that only half of America voted for Joe Biden.  He reports that Joe Biden registered 7 million more votes than Trump, who in 2016 received 3 million fewer votes than his opponent.  Biden is credited with receiving 51.3% of the November 2020 cast votes, so technically that is only SLIGHTLY more than half.  His comment also changed my fractional reference (half, 1/2) to a digital vote count (apples/oranges), which injects confusion in my opinion, whether intended or not. Mr. Bianchini fails, in what I believe, is an attempt to suggest, that if my comments weren’t 100% accurate then my other arguments should be suspect as well, a tactic he has unsuccessfully employed relative to at least one of my prior Royal Examiner posts. I also see this as a common technique used by Democrats that is infrequently successful in fooling readers.

Democrats rarely give the public the credit it deserves in their commonsense ability to separate misinformation from the truth.  Also, I think he tries to employ the sly tactic of distraction to discredit my statement that Democrats have no mandate in their effort to grossly transform America. The distraction being a shift to referencing other information that doesn’t contradict the reality that Americans voted to expand conservative influence in the House, as I said, regardless that the vote count details he offered were accurate.

In the end, I make no retraction regarding my half of America statement because it is generally correct and logically supports my opinion that Democrats have no mandate for transformative change.   Only a fool or one with a serious bias cannot recognize that capitalism, free markets, and liberty have produced the best quality of life on the planet for people and provide opportunities for everyone to attain their dreams. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it!

One other factor that is relevant to his second comment is that the 2020 vote count included illegal votes.  Article II, Section I of the Constitution clearly designates election procedure authority as the exclusive domain of state legislatures. Secretaries of states, Governors, and state judges have no election procedures authority that is not legislatively granted.

There is irrefutable evidence that voting activities occurred in 2020 in several states that were inconsistent with procedures approved by their legislatures which resulted in illegal votes that could have influenced the election outcome.

Democrats have repeatedly labeled that as the big lie from the former President with the full-throated support of the biased social and mainstream media who censure conservative opinions and ignore truths that do not support a progressive narrative. It’s a tactic that if something is repeated enough times it can actually influence public perception. I’m doubtful that the 2020 election will be objectively and thoroughly investigated while Democrats maintain control of the Executive and Legislative branches of government because it might undercut their legitimacy.  Also, how odd is it that Democrats obsess on making negative arguments involving the prior President, now out of office for over 6 months, when there are so many failings with the present Administration that are ignored?

Mr. Bianchini’s third comment attempts to diminish the advancements made by Republicans in the House of Representatives in 2020 by shifting the focus to the fact that Republicans are no longer the Senate majority.  The Senate is now comprised of 49 Democrats and 50 Republicans. One Senator from Vermont is not technically in the Democrat party but caucuses with them which results in a 50-50 Senator count. Since Vice President Harris is a Democrat and can vote to break ties, the Democrats function as the Senate majority. Loss of the majority by Republicans in the Senate in no way diminishes their gains in the House of Representatives.

The House of Representatives is called the People’s House because its members are subject to election every 2 years rather than the 6 Year term of Senators. Thus, the House is seen by many political experts to be more reflective of the political leaning of the American public. Had the Democrats made gains in their representation in the House, they would have a better claim to have a mandate, but the opposite is true. Thus, I feel my argument on the issue remains valid.

Mr. Bianchini’s last comment is directed against my criticism of the Democrat’s inclusion of an amnesty provision for illegal aliens in the proposed Reconciliation Bill. He does so indirectly by asserting that the prior Administrations’ immigration policies unfairly limited access without providing evidence.  I’m doubtful any subsequent effort he might make to provide clarification would represent all aspects of the issue but would only attempt to justify a progressive narrative. He goes all-in with the allegation that the prior administration was responsible for immigrants being illegal when the truth is that they are illegal because they don’t adhere to laws that dictate that they present themselves at established border entry points, where adequate staff and resources are available to address asylum applicants rather than anywhere else.

The fact is that the prior Administration instituted policies to enforce existing laws that had been established by both Democrat and Republican governments.  Social and mainstream media bias and control have prevented the general public from being fully informed about the reality of our southern border crisis for political purposes.

While we graciously welcome 1 million legal immigrants into our country each year, we’ve recorded over 1.2 million persons seeking asylum at our southern border already in 2021 at multiple crossing points and evidence exists that most won’t meet the lawful criteria for asylum. That figure doesn’t even reflect the unknown number, termed ‘get aways’, who purposely evaded Border authorities and are now embedded in our communities.

The infamous Wall was not a structure to prevent potential legitimate refugees from attempting legal access to this country but was intended to guide them to staffed entry locations where they could be properly assessed and lawfully processed.

The present Administration has blatantly abandoned its duty to enforce existing immigration law. President Biden terminated international agreements and procedures instituted by the previous Administration that safeguarded America’s sovereignty and protected our citizens.  Biden’s open border policy endangers national security, subjects American citizens to increased criminality, enables drug cartels to expand their influence, and causes a substantial risk to those seeking to immigrate here with assistance from ‘coyotes’ and gangs.

Permitting persons from every country in the world to come across our southern border at any location without adequate controls also introduces unnecessary health risks to Americans at a particularly tenuous time, imposes a significant economic burden, and adds strain to our education system which already has enough challenges.

Granting amnesty to all illegal aliens in this country would amount to rewarding them for their disrespect of our laws, encourage more illegal immigration and present a tax burden to existing citizens who would have to fund social programs those new citizens would qualify for. The unprecedented number of new asylum seekers caused by candidate Biden’s invitation gives foreign criminals free rein to smuggle drugs and undesirables into our country.

Fentanyl smuggled from China has dramatically spiked overdoses which have killed tens of thousands of Americans.  It is logical to deduce that Democrats are willing to accept all the shortcomings of the southern border crisis because of the potential for future election benefits.  It’s shameful that the Democrat party doesn’t seem to be as concerned about existing citizens as they are about people from other countries, but expanding their political power seems to be their priority.

Considering all the shortcomings with Mr. Bianchini’s response to my letter to Senator Manchin that I’ve brought to light here, I’ll carefully scrutinize any editorial comments or news reporting published by him in the future. I’m convinced his July 26 posting purposefully intended to sow doubt in the accuracy of the arguments made in my July 25 post because it was inconsistent with his political beliefs when my comments here demonstrate that his reaction is what actually qualifies as misinformation.

However, I do want to applaud him though for his transparency, in my opinion, by so boldly clarifying his support of progressive ideology which I believe conflicts with the majority conservative perspective of our community. Additionally, I hope Mr. McCool gives greater scrutiny to Mr. Bianchini’s editorials in the future when they may not fully represent the opinions of his online media and potentially damage his standing in the community.

Gary Kushner
Bentonville, VA

 

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Thank you, Royal Examiner

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Thank you, Mike McCool, owner, and the staff of the Royal Examiner for allowing explanatory comments on the Gary Kushner Open Letter to Senator Joe Manchin. With the information Roger Bianchini provided, the matter became an educational opportunity. I appreciate the service, given the number of issues and the abundance of words on each issue confronting us daily. That volume of words makes it difficult to impossible to keep up with government issues.

Special appreciation for the fact that my attention can now be focused upon the issue as a result, rather than the person or persons who write letters. It seems to me that the point should be problem solving for the benefit of our society, which does require learning the issue itself, and understanding the effects of decisions made by governmental units.

Linda Allen
Former Front Royal resident

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An Open Letter to Council and our Community – Small Town Charm or City Hustle? 

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Though many emails were sent to our Town Management speaking against the proposed Special Events matrix system, the special event permit proposal has only slightly been adapted from its over-the-top initial draft.

We are still looking at bureaucratic paperwork requiring information beyond the business of the Town Manager’s department for an event permit. Event organizers must choose between a grand event or a social blip and then wade through detailed explanations describing their worthiness to host an event that will attract high-spending tourists and appease a tourism influenced check-list.

Locals have not been offered a simple amplification permit nor a simple community event permit; we are still looking at a subjective matrix and multiple hoops to hop.

At the July 12 work session, integrity was thrown off the table when the recommendation was to manipulate numbers to achieve permit approval and/or ignore the Code of Conduct. Relying on the goodwill of our Law Enforcement to not enforce the Code was also an option.

Where does the line stop? Isn’t any manipulation too much? Why make laws that you then encourage to be broken?

My mind has been blown on this one.

I was chastised by Town personnel for not communicating my concerns and questions with the Town Manager’s office, yet the last two emails I sent to the same personnel with questions and concerns have been unanswered. At this point, anyone who has followed this Special Events Permit process knows my concerns; the Town Management office is no exception.

The concerns brought forward by myself and others on June 28 have been largely ignored. I know I am not the only one. Over the past two months, emails have been sent. Citizens and business owners have expressed their concerns at the hearings. In-person discussions have also taken place. We are being heard but not listened to. Band-aid fixes encased in catchy phrases promising streamlined objectivity and community benefit are passed out with smiles yet the problem persists. What could have been managed efficiently, practically, and in a timely manner has instead been complicated disproportionately for the Town’s needs. Summer is almost over, and the community has missed out on all sorts of fun community might-have-been downtown activity.

Perhaps, Council should be asking:

  • Outside of increasing tourism numbers, how does this matrix system benefit the community?
  • Is increasing tourism, beyond the natural flow we traditionally experience, really a benefit to our community (infrastructure, water, sewage, electric grid, taxes, public safety, general well-being, inflation, town character)?
  • How can the matrix system with all its bureaucratic paperwork benefit local event organizers?
    • Extensive paperwork and the matrix scoring is a deterrent to anyone venturing through the process let alone be approved for a small-medium creative event.
  • Why is tourism influencing community events?
    • No other town around us has such an extreme application system. Community events are encouraged and easily accessible. Why is something so simple being made so difficult?
  • Why does the Town Manager need to know our budget, management experience, past event successes, estimated tourism numbers, projected revenue, corporate backing, marketing, production, projected dollar expenditure by tourists and locals, target market, and after action report on event success in order to approve an event permit?
    • Experience points to bureaucratic micro-managing and catering to a different agenda other than community.

It is very likely this complicated matrix system will be approved on Monday, and the Town Code / Ordinances updated accordingly. This proposal is not good for Community events nor does it encourage Community creativity, development, and character – the very things that give this community the small-town charm that pulls tourists back; no one has been willing to show me otherwise though I’m begging to be shown.

Please come on Monday, July 26 (7 p.m.) to the Council’s regular meeting at the WCGC. The more faces in the crowd, the more reminder that the community is present and listening.

I am very disappointed in our Town Management and the blind refusal to put Community before Tourism. Tourism as the golden carrot takes a toll on our taxes, infrastructure, and Town character. Yes, some businesses and Town revenue will flourish above average, but the average taxpayer will see no benefit other than traffic, inflated prices, strange faces, and more taxes. We are the Town of Front Royal. Sharing our beauty and charm with visitors is wonderful; handing it to visitors on a platter over the heads of the community for the sake of dollars is a travesty. Where will this end?

The final vote for approval occurs this Monday, July 26 unless Council intentionally stops, listens, thinks, and demands full answers. They must not accept sound-bite responses. The problem is bigger than a dance recital or a fun festival.

Stop. Listen. Think.

Sincerely,

Annie Guttierrez
Front Royal, Virginia

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Editorial notes on several of Mr. Kushner’s assertions

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1 – Regarding social welfare programs pushed by Democrats: “A core principle of the Constitution is individual freedom.” – While “individual freedom” is not mentioned in the introductory paragraph of the U.S. Constitution, “promote the general Welfare” is the fourth and final goal listed after “establish Justice”, “insure domestic Tranquility” and “provide for a common defense”.

2 – re: “only half of America elected President Biden” – half plus 7 million, as opposed to the minus-3 million popular vote deficit Mr. Trump “won” the presidency by in 2016.

3 – re: “Americans chose to expand Conservative influence in the House of Representatives” – but they remained in the minority there; Republicans have lost their majority in the Senate.

4 – re: “provide amnesty to millions of illegal aliens” – Many refugee/immigrants traveling to the U.S. southern border during the Trump Administration became “illegals” due to policy initiatives put in place at the border which needlessly halted and held up the legal entry method and route for weeks, if not longer. So, many of these “illegals” were created by Trump Administration policies making legal entry nearly impossible.)

Roger Bianchini
Royal Examiner

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Opinion

An open letter to West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin

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You previously professed a commitment to bipartisanship, which is a reasonable position because only half of America elected President Biden. You should also acknowledge that in the last election, Americans chose to expand Conservative influence in the House of Representatives, contradictory to election forecasts. You should acknowledge that many citizens likely voted against the incumbent President as a demonstration of disgust with his controversial characteristics, rather than as an affirmation of the Biden/Sanders advertised manifesto. There is absolutely no mandate for the transformation of America that the Democrat party is now embarked on. The human infrastructure (Reconciliation Bill) initiative is a linguistic fraud and everyone knows it. The invention of this new term only fools ignorant people, and that is a very small segment of the American public.

Also, embedded in the Reconciliation Bill is a provision to provide amnesty to millions of illegal aliens, which is not supported by the majority of the public. Hispanic Americans who obtained their citizenship by following our lawful immigration process are some of the most ardent opposition to that proposal. The biased media has purposefully not sought to educate the public on that element. No ‘law and order’ politician should be able to support that provision.

Democrat politicians in conservative states who vote for the proposed Reconciliation Bill are committing career suicide. Is this the legacy you want to leave as a representative of West Virginia?

While you may consider that passing a bill addressing actual infrastructure projects, with bipartisan support that a majority of citizens could benefit from, will offer some political cover that enables you to be a loyal party member and vote for a subsequent grossly expensive social entitlements Reconciliation Bill, but that would be a risky gamble inconsistent with your moderate political reputation. This Bill is nothing short of the radical left’s wish list that is not consistent with the political views of the American majority.

You swore a solemn oath to defend our Constitution. A core principle of the Constitution is individual freedom. The breadth of expanded entitlement programs included in the proposed Reconciliation Bill conflicts with that principle because the more aspects of citizens’ lives that the government controls, the less individual freedom they have. Instituting more entitlements just creates a form of economic slavery to government control at the expense of individual liberty. The proposed multi-trillion-dollar Reconciliation Bill will virtually install a ‘cradle to grave’ socialist philosophy that is inconsistent with American values which have contributed to making us the most exceptional country in the world and will irreparably damage your reputation. So, I hope you will reconsider your support for this reckless legislation and vote to continue to protect individual freedom.

Respectfully,

Gary Kushner
Bentonville, Virginia

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