Could an initiative brought forward by local business forum representatives at a September 4 work session lead the Front Royal Town Council into a First Amendment battle over freedom of speech?
Discussion introduced by Town Manager Joe Waltz indicated concerns by some downtown business people that ongoing political demonstrations are jeopardizing their, and possibly other, business interests in Historic Downtown Front Royal.
The discussion of “Political Demonstrations” as part of a “Gazebo Discussion” was part of a wide-ranging exploration of issues surrounding events, parking and other variables impacting Front Royal’s central downtown business district. Three downtown businesswomen – Ann Arenas (Gourmet Delights: Gifts & Framing, 202 E. Main St.), Kelly Walker (the Studio, 105 E. Main St.) and Jean Plaugher (Jean’s Jewelers, 407 E. Main St.) were interested observers at the council work session, where the idea that the demonstrations are scaring potential downtown business customers away was presented by town staff.
No detail of any financial impact on downtown businesses was presented at the September 4, 2018 work session.
The demonstrations in question have occurred for one hour a week, on Wednesdays, beginning at either noon or 5 p.m. for 18 months now. They were launched on March 8, 2017, by Len Sherp’s Vigil for Democracy expression of concern over Trump and his administration’s agenda. Those concerns have generally been expressed by topical signage reflecting recent events, Trump statements, policy decisions or lingering legal questions.
Several weeks later, Main Street Pawn proprietor and Trump supporter Ralph Waller and nephew Michael appeared on the town bench in front of their Main Street Pawn Shop with a Trump-Pence campaign sign in silent opposition to the vigil.
Gradually over the next 17 months, the Wallers were joined by various other Trump supporters, eventually leading to occasionally more confrontational and eventually amplified verbal hostilities being expressed across Chester Street. However, dialogue seeking common ground, particularly between the Wallers and vigil participants, has also been a periodic bright aspect of the dueling demonstrations.
Addressing the request the demonstrations be stopped or moved, Town Attorney Doug Napier traced the First Amendment issue at stake, and urged caution in any effort to suppress the right of free political speech in permitted public spaces. In fact, any perception that such an effort was being undertaken to suppress a certain political opinion would run the town government into outright legal jeopardy on U.S. Constitutional grounds, Napier pointed out.
“It would have to serve a compelling government interest to enforce a time, place and manner of expression,” Napier told the council and the mayor, noting that it was not allowed to permit one side of any position to be expressed and not the other.
At several points in the conversation, the term “slippery slope” was voiced by the town attorney – and several councilmen.
“I don’t have much appetite for this,” John Connolly told his colleagues of any municipal attempt to shut down or even move the dueling political demonstrations to another location.
“I agree,” Gary Gillespie said. Gillespie pointed to town permitted faith-based activities, often amplified, utilizing the Gazebo area on a regular basis – “What if someone gets offended by that and complains,” he wondered.
“It’s an extremely slippery slope,” the town attorney replied.
It was noted the Town itself sponsors Gazebo activities involving movies, live music, and food vendors. A concern that downtown businesses might cite similar interference in their operations or undue competition from those activities was voiced.
“It’s a very slippery slope,” council and the mayor were reminded.
However, Vice-Mayor Eugene Tewalt said he was willing to talk with organizers of the various demonstrations in an effort to get them to voluntarily move or change their demonstration patterns. Tewalt, who admitted to having no knowledge of the dynamics of the demonstrations, offered, “You can’t accomplish anything if you don’t try.”
Pedestrian struck near Rural King in Front Royal
FRONT ROYAL – A pedestrian was struck by a pickup truck Tuesday afternoon in front of Rural King Front Royal Police say.
According to a press release from the office of Chief Kahle Magalis, a call came in around 3 p.m. regarding a pedestrian struck in front of the retail store, located at 465 South Street in the Royal Plaza Shopping Center.
Responding officers found the pedestrian, Jeffrey Richardson, 40, of Reliance, lying in the parking lot. The release states that “it was determined that Richardson was struck by a 2011 Ford F-150 operated by Thomas Clark, 83, of Front Royal.”
Clark stated to officers that his foot had slipped off the brake while going over a speed bump and his foot made contact with the accelerator, which caused him to accidentally strike Richardson.
Richardson was transported to Warren Memorial Hospital and then transferred to Winchester Medical Centers Trauma Unit for observation.
No charges have been placed against the driver at this time.
U.S. Postal Service announces new prices for 2019
WASHINGTON — The United States Postal Service filed notice with the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) today of price changes to take effect Jan. 27, 2019.
The proposed prices, approved by the Governors of the Postal Service, would raise Mailing Services product prices approximately 2.5 percent. Shipping Services price increases vary by product. For example, Priority Mail Express will increase 3.9 percent and Priority Mail will increase 5.9 percent. Although Mailing Services price increases are based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI), Shipping Services prices are primarily adjusted according to market conditions. The Governors believe these new rates will keep the Postal Service competitive while providing the agency with needed revenue.
If favorably reviewed by the PRC, the new prices will include a 5-cent increase in the price of a First-Class Mail Forever stamp, from 50 cents to 55 cents. The single-piece additional ounce price will be reduced to 15 cents, so a 2-ounce stamped letter, such as a typical wedding invitation, will cost less to mail, decreasing from 71 cents to 70 cents.
The proposed Mailing Services price changes include:
Letters (1 oz.)
Letters additional ounces
Letters (metered 1 oz.)
Outbound International Letters (1 oz.)
The proposed domestic Priority Mail Retail Flat Rate price changes are:
Small Flat Rate Box
Medium Flat Rate Box
Large Flat Rate Box
APO/FPO Large Flat Rate Box
Regular Flat Rate Envelope
Legal Flat Rate Envelope
Padded Flat Rate Envelope
First-Class Package Service, a lightweight expedited offering used primarily by businesses for fulfillment purposes, will move to zone-based pricing to better align with the cost of service and improve value based on distance.
The Postal Service has some of the lowest letter mail postage rates in the industrialized world and also continues to offer a great value in shipping. Unlike some other shippers, the Postal Service does not add surcharges for fuel, residential delivery, or regular Saturday or holiday season delivery.
The PRC will review the prices before they are scheduled to take effect Jan. 27, 2019. The complete Postal Service price filings with the new prices for all products can be found on the PRC site under the Daily Listings section at www.prc.gov/dockets/daily (see listing for Oct. 10). For the Mailing Services filing see Docket No. R2019-1. For the Shipping Services filing see Docket No. CP2019-3. The price change tables are also available on the Postal Service website at www.pe.usps.com/PriceChange/Index.
The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operations.
Project Positive comes to the halls of Skyline Middle School
How do you brighten a gloomy day or turn that frown upside down? Skyline Middle School students know how! Introducing “Project Positive” brought to us by Tina & Rodnay Culbreath (founders of I’m Just Me Movement). Let’s get the positive energy vibing in our town as the kids lead the way!
Watch this video to learn more straight from the kids. This video was filmed by MORE Program students.
Thank you to Bobby Johnston, Principal at Skyline Middle School for allowing Project Positive to launch in our town.
State police respond to crashes, disabled vehicles during snowstorm
As temperatures dropped Sunday evening, Virginia State Police urged motorists to avoid traveling overnight. VSP spokesman Corrine Geller said that wet and/or snow-covered roads were expected to ice, creating treacherous conditions for motorists across the Commonwealth.
Conditions Sunday ranged from snow-covered highways along the I-81 corridor and Northern Virginia to heavy rain across eastern Virginia.
From 12 a.m. Sunday (Jan. 13) through 5:30 p.m., Virginia State Police troopers responded to 324 traffic crashes and assisted 196 disabled/stuck motorists statewide. The majority of crashes involved only damaged vehicles, Geller said.
In addition to those totals, state police troopers continue investigating 44 traffic crashes across the state. While state police in the Richmond Division responded to the most traffic crashes, the state police Fairfax Division responded to the most disabled/stuck vehicles. There has been one storm-related fatal crash, in Brunswick County.
From 12 a.m. Sunday thru 5:30 p.m. Sunday, state troopers responded to:
Richmond Division: 107 traffic crashes & 29 disabled vehicles
Culpeper Division: 40 traffic crashes & 30 disabled vehicles
Appomattox Division: 28 traffic crashes & 13 disabled vehicles
Wytheville Division: 12 traffic crashes & 4 disabled vehicles
Chesapeake Division: 49 traffic crashes & 21 disabled vehicles
Salem Division: 18 traffic crashes and 18 disabled vehicles
Fairfax Division: 68 traffic crashes and 81 disabled vehicles
VSP investigated three fatal crashes since Saturday night (Jan. 12):
1/12/19 – Pulaski County on Interstate 81 (1 fatality) – STORM-RELATED
1/13/19 – Brunswick County on a rural road (1 fatality – 16 yr old male passenger)
1/13/19 – City of Norfolk on Interstate 64 (1 fatality)
At 8:51 p.m. Saturday (Jan. 12, 2019), Virginia State Police Trooper J.L. Simone responded to a three-vehicle crash at the 90-mile marker in the southbound lanes of Interstate 81 in Pulaski County.
A 1991 Oshkosh M1074 (military surplus vehicle) was traveling south on I-81 when its driver lost control due to the slick road conditions. The vehicle was then struck by two southbound tractor-trailers. The M1074 and one of the tractor-trailers came to rest in the median.
The impact of the crash caused the other tractor-trailer to run off the left side of the highway, continue through the median, through the guardrail, cross over northbound lanes of I-81 and strike a fence.
The driver of the M1074, Ronald W. Harris, 73, of Gainesville, Ga., did not survive the crash and died at the scene.
Each tractor-trailer driver was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries. Geller had no additional information on the drivers.
The Virginia State Police Wytheville Division’s Crash Reconstruction Team responded to the scene and is assisting with the ongoing crash investigation.
Geller said Virginians should call 511 or go to 511virginia.org for road conditions and not 911 or #77. Those numbers should only be used for emergency situations.
State police remind motorists to take the following safety precautions:
· Clear off ALL snow and ice from your vehicle – windows, roof, trunk and lights…and use your headlights to make yourself more visible
· Add extra time to reach travel destination
· Slow speed for road conditions
· Increase driving distances between vehicles for increased stopping distance
· Buckle up and don’t drive distracted
· MOVE OVER for all stopped emergency vehicles, highway vehicles and tow trucks.
VDOT advises motorists to avoid travel during snowstorm
STAUNTON –(5:25 p.m.) The Shenandoah Valley received a light dusting of snow on Saturday afternoon. During Saturday night into Sunday morning heavier snow is forecasted, which is anticipated to bring treacherous driving conditions. VDOT spokesman Ken Slack said in a media release Saturday evening that the public is asked to avoid travel during the snowstorm, which allows plow drivers to efficiently and safely plow and treat roadways.
Vehicles stalled, parked or disabled along the roadways cause additional hazards for all drivers, Slack wrote in the release.
The road conditions at 5:25 p.m. Saturday in the Virginia Department of Transportation Staunton District:
Interstate 64 – Minor conditions in Alleghany and Augusta counties. Clear conditions in Rockbridge County.
Interstate 66 – Minor conditions in Warren County.
Interstate 81 – Minor conditions in Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah and Frederick counties. Clear conditions in Rockbridge County.
Primary roads – Minor conditions in Rockbridge, Highland, Bath, Alleghany, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Frederick, Clarke and Warren counties. Clear conditions Page County.
Secondary roads – Minor conditions in Rockbridge, Highland, Bath, Alleghany, Augusta, Rockingham, Shenandoah, Frederick. Clarke and Warren counties. Clear conditions in Page County.
For winter weather road conditions go to http://www.511Virginia.org, look at the orange bar on the top of the page and click on “Text Views” and then click on “Road Condition Table”. Look at the pull down box that lists all jurisdictions. In this box individual counties can be chosen to view.
On the go? Then visit VDOT’s Free Virginia 511 Tools to get your 511 app for android or iOS. Traffic alerts and traveler information can be obtained by dialing 511.
The VDOT Customer Service Center can be accessed through its mobile friendly website. Agents are on site 24/7 every day of the year to assist the public. People can also call the VDOT Customer Service Center at 800-FOR- ROAD (800-367-7623).
The Staunton District Snow Page is on the VDOT website under Travel Center Snow Emergency Pages. The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton.
The Staunton District Twitter feed is at @VaDOTStaunton. VDOT can be followed on Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and YouTube. RSS feeds are also available for statewide information. The VDOT Web page is located here.
The VDOT Staunton District serves Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke, Warren, Page, Rockingham, Augusta, Highland, Rockbridge, Alleghany and Bath counties.
Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center announces new director
Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Board of Directors of Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center, located in Front Royal, Virginia, are pleased to announce the appointment of Jeremy Stanford as the new 4-H Center Director. As Center Director, Jeremy will be responsible for overall leadership of the Center to include operational management, resource development, and strategic planning to enhance the 4-H Center’s portfolio of local and regional camps, youth and adult educational programming, and other conferencing and meeting services.
Jeremy comes to the 4-H Center via Charlotte, NC, where he most recently served as Associate Executive Director at YMCA Camp Thunderbird. Jeremy has over ten years of experience in camp and retreat center leadership. Prior to working for the YMCA camp, Jeremy worked for the Camp and Retreat Ministry of the West Ohio Conference of the United Methodist Church. Very early in his career, he also worked for Ohio State University Extension as a Watershed Coordinator and Interim County Camp Director.
Jeremy’s career in camping has allowed him to leverage his strengths as a problem-solver, facilitator, strategist, maximizer, and amateur historian. He will be joined in his move to Front Royal by his wife, Aurelia, and their three children where they will be living on-site at the 4-H Center.
Tobin Smith, President of the 4-H Center’s Board of Directors notes that: “We are very excited to have Jeremy coming on board at the 4-H Center. He has extensive experience in camp and retreat management, facility operations, and in designing, implementing and managing both youth and adult educational leadership and development programs. He also possesses a strong understanding of the importance of developing a strong connection between the 4-H Center and the local community which is a top priority for the 4-H Center Board.”
Jeremy Johnson, State 4-H Leader with Virginia Cooperative Extension shares that “4-H was founded on the belief that when kids are empowered and supported to pursue their passions, they become true leaders in their lives, careers, and communities. Mr. Stanford’s positive history of success as a camping professional and leader will provide support the mission of 4-H through camping at the Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center.”
The Northern Virginia 4-H Educational Center is a 501(c)(3), non-profit organization with a mission to facilitate experiential learning programs for youth, families, and adults. Since 1981, the 4-H Center has offered year-round, research-based programming to the youth and families of Northern Virginia. In addition to nine weeks of summer 4-H camp, the Center offers a full range of day and overnight camps, environmental education and team-building programs, and conference and meeting facilities and services. The 4-H Center provides meals and lodging for campers and adult guests, as well as access to the Appalachian trail, a challenge course, outdoor pool, pond fishing, sports fields, and horse stables.