At the October 21 Town Council meeting, a presentation was made on the Crooked Run West, LLC (CRW) proposal for high density residential development to justify its request for public water service which violates existing Town policy. Since general public comments are not permitted at Council work sessions, I’m forced to respond here.
The property owner, Mr. Mercuro, indicated that in order to be able to afford ten million dollars for a required bridge, he needed income to secure a loan and the 750 apartments he proposed would provide that revenue. He stated that having a bridge would enable development of his remaining 147 Crooked Run acres and would generate “unlimited potential for growth” and millions of dollars of taxes/fees to the Town and County.
I’m confused though because on several occasions CRW has testified to the County BOS that the justification for his original request for the 750 apartments plus 275 townhouse/single family homes was that more commercial development on the original Crooked Run project wasn’t possible because people were shopping online more from entities such as Amazon rather than frequenting brick and mortar businesses. The Developer complained that it was increasingly difficult to even lease existing Crooked Run commercial space.
The reality is that CRW erred in projecting how much retail and business offerings the County’s population would support. It’s ridiculous to think that the public has drastically changed its shopping habits to favoring on-line versus in-person purchases. The market and shopping habits have not drastically changed since CRW’s previous testimony, and the County has been growing at only about 1% a year over the past 10 years, and thus, there is limited need for additional commercial development at that location now.
The true justification for the property owner wanting high density residential development at that location is in plain view in a letter from his attorney to the County’s Planning Director, dated August 28, 2019. It states, “My client felt that an emphasis on residential development would result in greater demand for the commercially zoned acreage”, and having residential development “will also make the commercially-zoned acreage more attractive for future commercial investment and development”. In essence, he wants to increase the County’s population so there are more wallets to patronize the existing and possible future brick and mortar businesses to get a better return on investment for the property he owns.
Focusing back to the Council presentation, Mr. Mercuro argued that the Town’s water usage estimates were not accurate. However, Council person Thompson pointed out that his figures were inconsistent with the US Geological Survey water usage guidelines, and the Town Manager commented that the Town’s estimates were derived from actual water system experience. While we can squabble over who’s estimates are more accurate, the proposed project’s water usage and existing water capacity is less consequential, because at the Council meeting October 1, Town staff reported that an analysis indicates that the proposed residential development would exceed the Town’s waste water treatment capacity, regardless of whose estimates are used. That would leave no reserve capacity for future commercial/industrial development in the 340/522 corridor which would be expected to benefit all citizens in the future. That fact alone should dictate a denial of public water to the CRW residential proposal. Surprisingly though, the Council has not acknowledged that critical factor and continues to consider approval of the property owner’s request!
Mr. Mercuro’s presentation also conveniently forgot to address some significant negative aspects of his proposed residential project as outlined here:
- Traffic congestion would increase at an already challenging intersection.
- Additional vehicle trips from housing residents would add to the burden on all other roadways in the Town and County.
- A significant impact would occur at the route 66 eastbound entrance ramp which has limited turn lane space from rt 340 south.
- A new, hazardous pedestrian element would further complicate that rt 340/522 intersection with cross-walk controls (Its a virtual certainty that accidents involving pedestrians would occur there because walkers and drivers don’t always pay attention.)
- A VDOT analysis has documented significant problems with the transportation plan for residential development at that location.
- While the development would contribute taxes and fees, the cost of public services would greatly exceed their contributions and be a net burden to existing tax payers when budgetary challenges already exist.
- The local elementary school is presently at capacity, and either a new school would be needed, or substantial expansion must occur at the existing school.
Also, how can an adequate bridge be built for only 10 million dollars when VDOT previously estimated bridge construction would cost $25 million?
It would be disastrous to ignore the precedent that would be set if the Town changed its existing policy now and began providing public water to residential development outside its boundaries. Other developers could use that as a basis for demanding public water for their residential projects outside the Town in the future, and the courts would almost certainly enforce that. Why unnecessarily entertain such a risk?
The most important element with this project is that the public has opposed it consistently. It takes nothing more than common sense to recognize all of the proposal’s shortcomings and how quality of life and budgets will forever be affected if this became a reality. Citizens object to this project being jammed down their throats so a real estate investor can benefit at their expense. In a short time frame, 521 signatures were obtained on a petition opposing their proposal. I believe in a referendum it would be defeated with a substantial majority.
Considering the overwhelming facts against this project, if any public representative was to support it, one would have to ask if some unknown, hidden political agenda existed rather than there simply being a flaw in their critical thinking ability. While that might seem paranoid to some, recent issues like the EDA fiasco justify a healthy dose of skepticism.
The bottom line here is that public water service for residential development at Crooked Run West should be denied and the sooner the better.
Thoughts on the debate that black lives matter
There is no legitimate debate that black lives matter. Without capitalization, those words capture an issue of tantamount importance in today’s America.
But there is extreme cause to be concerned over Black Lives Matter (capitalized). If ever there was a wolf masquerading in sheep’s clothing, this is it. This is no Aesop’s fable. It is a treacherous strategy. If unchecked, Black Lives Matter will destroy the very people it feigns to help – black lives. And with them, the nation itself.
American black citizens have for decades been victimized by the very Democrat party they thought to be their shepherd. And now they are being victimized by Black Lives Matter. The ruse is racism. The reality has everything to do with destruction of America and little to do with racism.
For those who doubt that our nation’s black citizens have been victimized by the Democrat party, you need only review a bit of recent history. Democrats collect votes on promises. Once elected they fail to deliver. Between 1931 and 2016 the Democrat party held the majority in both houses of Congress for 62 years. Yet, year after year, city after city, the record is the same. Failure at education. Failure at crime control. City after city mired in debt.
So, if Black Lives Matter were truly about racism, about improving the lives of black citizens, they would direct their ire at the Democrat Party.
But BLM is not what it wants us to believe it is. Jeff Minick (Intellectual Takeout, June 22, 2020) peels back layers of deception. He writes, “The reality is that BLM is after power rather than justice, suppression rather than liberation, and class and racial warfare rather than peace.”
Minick, and fellow author Mike Scruggs (The Tribune Papers, September 28, 2016) lay bare the truth behind Black Lives Matter.
The violence and destruction we’ve seen in the wake of the George Floyd killing uses smoke and chaos to conceal BLM’s true objectives. Make no mistake. There is no excuse for police brutality. Our nation must face and address its law enforcement problems. Yet destruction of law enforcement agencies in an attempt to rectify abuse is nothing short of insane. We’ve already seen black citizens suffer still more from lack of law enforcement owing to diminished police presence. Were these citizens in any way protected or aided by Black Lives Matter leadership?
The answer to that rhetorical question is “No.” And that is why we must return to revealing the reality of the BLM organization.
Here, along with my own reports, is some of what Minick and Scruggs have revealed, and what BLM has been concealing.
Black Lives Matter Global Network co-founder Patrisse Cullors is a trained organizer. “We are trained Marxists. We are super-versed on, sort of, ideological theories,” she said, adding that the group’s founders sought to “build a movement that could be utilized by many, many black folk.”
Marxist? This fits well with the Democratic Party which embraces concepts such as ending capitalism, putting limits on speech and religious practices, and fundamentally transforming American laws, government, and society. But neither Black Lives Matter nor the Democrats recognize the truth about Socialism and Communism.
Socialism and Communism are merely labels. Even at its height, Russia was never a communist nation. It was an oligarchy hiding behind the communist label. The same is true for the Chinese Communist Party today. Minick put it this way: “Like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as North Korea, Black Lives Matter is a fine name. And like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, that name is a mask hiding reality.”
Yet another reality behind the Black Lives Matter label is its cozy relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood and other Muslim organizations. “The Muslim Students Association (MSA), another Muslim Brotherhood front, recently joined BLM in a Chicago protest to disrupt a Donald Trump campaign rally,” Scruggs discovered.
Need more evidence? “In a December 2015 speech to the Muslim American Society (MAS) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Nihad Awad, the Executive Director of CAIR, urged American Muslims to support the cause of Black Lives Matter, saying: “Black Lives Matter is our matter. Black Lives Matter is our campaign.”
So much is Black Lives Matter a Muslim agenda item of great interest that Muslims have been creating a Black Lives Matter Toolkit.
According to Margari Aziza of the Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, “I’ve helped facilitate roundtables on Black Lives Matter at ISNA, a panel at Mosque Cares. For almost two years, I’ve been curating the Black Lives Matter Toolkit.”
It is not at all clear how Black Lives Matter members see the benefit to American black citizens given this Muslim Brotherhood goal: “Their primary stated objective is to bring the whole world under Sharia Law.”
What is clear is this: the next time we see a Black Lives Matter poster we ought to think long and hard how that organization plans to solve America’s problems with racism.
I study history because I think we can benefit from learning from mistakes of those before us. Why make mistakes that others have already made? It may seem odd to look at the Middle East, a region that has struggled with freedom and peace. Yet, historically speaking, I believe there is something we can learn from them that might benefit us here.
Since the death of the Prophet Mohammed, the Middle East has split into two warring camps, the Sunni and the Shia. The original conflict was over who should have taken over leadership of the Ummah, or community of the faithful. The next few decades were strife with wars over this issue of succession.
Jump ahead to WWI and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, which led to the formation of several new nations. One such nation was Iraq. At first Iraq was placed under the leadership of King Faisal of the Hashemite Family who led the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans. Faisal governed fairly between the Shia and Sunnis in his realm. However, the Hashemite rule was ousted in 1968 by the Ba’ath Party that included Saddam Hussein. Hussein, a Sunni, turned on the Shia population, treating them as second-class citizens and subjugated them to all manner of hardships, including torture and death. Experts estimate that Hussein may have killed up to half-a-million of his people, mostly Shia and Kurds.
Finally, in 2003, when the United States declared war on Iraq, the Hussein regime was toppled. The U.S. has allowed the once oppressed Shia to take over leadership of the government and the militia. What is now happening is Shia oppression of the Sunni. This oppression, however, is much less than the decades of pain and murder by the Sunni towards the Shia. In some ways, the Sunni possibly deserve to know what it feels like being oppressed. I completely understand the Shia’s treatment towards their past oppressors. However, though perhaps justifiable, what has it done for the nation and the people? Not only is there no peace in Iraq, but the Sunni began to fight back with the creation of the Islamic State.
I have no idea what it feels like to be oppressed, and some may think I have no right to speak on this subject. However, speaking as a historian, it is difficult to find examples of where any type of reprisal or revenge has helped anyone. It is easier said than done, but the best way I can think of to help any situation of historic oppression is some type of forgiveness. If the oppressor can honestly repent and recognize its wrongs and the oppressed can offer historical forgiveness, maybe not only can we see peace in areas like Iraq, but here also.
When I see the Governor of Virginia taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee from the famed Monument Alley, I can‘t help but think just because you can does not mean you should. How does angering the other side, make anything better? Yes, the Confederacy was wrong. Yes, removing a monument is in no way comparable to treatments Black Americans have endured. But what will it accomplish? Will it make race relations better? Can you say you want peace while purposely provoking the other half of the population to anger, even if justified? I try to understand how this will be hard, but if somehow we can find a way to practice historical forgiveness, perhaps we can find a way for all sides to work together in the future.
A friend recently gave what I saw as a good suggestion. For a compromise, why not leave the statue of Lee in place while also erecting a monument of a slave having her child torn way and sold. That would be a powerful monument and could help tell a painful history. If we don’t want to follow the pasts of other nations, compromise and forgiveness may be our only chance for real peace. We need to work towards racial reconciliation, not racial revenge.
Abraham Lincoln, in his Second Inaugural, noted that the four years of the Civil War resulted in the greatest violence in American history, and called on everyone to forgive each other: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds…to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” If those who actually fought against the Confederates can forgive, why can’t we 150 year later?
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog or Facebook at @jamesWfinck.
Response to Mr. Kushner: Race is a difficult and complex topic
I am writing in response to the letter from Gary Kushner, published on June 16. Although he seems to have made up his mind that “liberal arguments mostly can’t stand on their own,” I will take him at his word that he plans to give “full consideration to all responses” from his fellow Americans.
Race is a difficult and complex topic. As a White person, it has not been easy for me to learn and talk about race and racism. It has not been easy for me to accept that my perceptions and experiences are not universal, that racism (often in subtler forms) is still commonplace, and that even when I have nothing but good intentions, my words and actions can still harm others.
And guess what? Because I’m White, and because most of the people I know are White, I am almost always able to avoid thinking and talking about race! It’s very easy for me to assume that a person is exaggerating when they describe an experience that doesn’t conform with my perception of the world. If that person is different from me and holds different political views, it makes it that much easier for me to dismiss them.
But if you are willing to genuinely consider the perspectives of others, I encourage you to seek out information about systemic racism and the very real role it still plays in our society. To cite one example from your letter, I encourage you to look into the history of the Black Congressional Caucus, the Black College Fund, and the NAACP. These and many other Black organizations were formed when segregation and “White only” organizations were still legal and commonplace in this country (or they were formed in the wake of the Civil Rights Act, when Blacks still faced significant opposition to being considered full, equal citizens—after all, it’s not enough to pass a law, it must be enforced). These organizations continue to exist, and newer organizations like Black Lives Matter are being formed, because race-based inequality still exists today. It exists today not only because some racist policies still exist, but also because the legacy of segregation, housing and job discrimination, and other widespread forms of racism have long-lasting impacts (if you doubt this, consider the role that generational wealth often plays in people’s economic lives—just growing up in a home that your parents owned can make a huge difference, and redlining made this impossible for many black families).
I encourage you to consider that it’s not automatically racist for an organization to have the word “Black” in its name—rather, these organizations are evidence of the racism against Blacks that existed for a very long time, and sometimes still exists, despite the progress that we have made as a nation. If a Black person tells me that they still face discrimination, I will listen to them. If a Black person tells me that their life matters, I will affirm that statement unequivocally, rather than insisting that we put equal focus on the fact that my life matters, too. I am willing to acknowledge and talk about race and racism even though it feels divisive and uncomfortable, because I know that while I have the ability to just ignore race, Black folks (and other people of color) don’t.
Being willing to listen to others and acknowledge that my own perspective is limited doesn’t mean that I agree completely with every policy being advocated. You can be liberal, conservative, or centrist and still care about racism (I suspect that not everyone would agree with me on that, but I welcome other perspectives). You can develop a more sophisticated view of race and understand that while anyone can be subject to individual discrimination and all humans have prejudices, systemic racism is about deeply ingrained power structures and economic patterns that are unlikely to disappear on their own.
You can also continue to not think about or learn more about race and racism, in which case you probably won’t notice it very much, and others’ claims of racism will probably continue to seem exaggerated and unreasonable to you.
Front Royal, Virginia
Another ‘Thank You’ to local law enforcement for its community policing
A couple of weeks ago, a friend told my wife this true story, based on self-experience.
“The lady had just brought her dog home after major surgery. The dog went downstairs and opened its stitches. She found the dog downstairs bleeding to death. It died in her arms. She did not want her daughter coming home to the scene, but also did not know how to move an 80-pound dog.
She called the Front Royal Police and soon admitted an officer. He was very happy to help and told her so. The officer gently placed the dog’s body in his car, asked her where she would prefer it be taken. With her following, he then took the dog’s body to where she asked. He was respectful, solicitous, and considerate the entire time. He told her that the entire force was there to serve the community.
After hearing this story from my wife, I had to ensure that the Front Royal Police Department be thanked. The Police get a lot of bad press, mostly because of a small number of bad apples. I wanted to make sure they were thanked for their service, and got some positive press, for a change.
Front Royal, VA
A missing child search and a heartfelt ‘Thank You’ to local law enforcement
Last night, July 2, around 11 p.m., on a very starry night, the sound of a chopper circling and circling over the High Knob Community broke the stillness.
A check of Facebook group pages revealed a 3-year-old child had gone missing. The mother informed us her baby had presumably followed the dad who had taken the family pup outside for a late evening relief. When the parents discovered the child was missing and couldn’t be found, they called for help and our local deputies responded in a hurry.
In addition to sweeping the area and calling in a search and rescue helicopter, nearby concerned neighbors turned on their yard lights and looked for the missing child. While the outside work was underway, a thorough search of the home was undertaken. And there that 3-year-old was, hidden under a pile of blankets playing hide-and-seek.
What a relief!
So we have a happy ending. The deputies were able to go home, neighbors headed back to bed, and we were all secure in the knowledge that a cherished child was safe.
A big thank you from a neighbor to all the deputies who jumped to help find a missing child, and to the officers who were flying the search and rescue helicopter. That’s a job with some big risks over mountainous terrain. I happen to know the local police department and sheriff’s department spend a lot of their resources in looking after our vulnerable children and teens. If we can get better mental health services throughout the Commonwealth, the schools to jails pipeline could be broken, and lives mended.
Please if you see a police officer or sheriff’s deputy, thank him or her for being ready to serve, protect, and rescue the most vulnerable in our community. Right now they need to know we appreciate their service very much. And yes, indeed, there are some things that need fixing. Nonetheless, if we all work together, every mother’s child will be safe.
High Knob, Warren County
What are American values?
Today, we have many debates over the values of Americans. We disagree on some, but some ring true to most:
Human dignity: Every human being is entitled to what our founders called life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The rule of law and equal justice: The powerful person will not be allowed to escape the law. The accused person must have the right to face accusers, state his case, and be judged by fellow citizens. No one person or group of persons should be exempt from facing justice or winning justice. The mob does not determine guilt, innocence, or punishment, but only by due process of law can a person be found guilty or innocent.
Respect for women: The empowerment of women is visible everywhere, from business to academia. In every walk of life, women should have the same rights as men.
Private property: This fundamental belief reaches into every aspect of our lives. We can start a business by hanging out the shingle. Our home is our own. Our property is sacred. And tucked into this notion of private property is ultimately the idea of ownership of your ideas and work.
Free speech: Free speech is one of the most radical ideas in history. The common man can criticize the government; the powerful man can do the same. Each should be able to do so equally and without restrictions.
Religious tolerance: For centuries, the king’s religion was yours. Period. But free people today recognize freedom of conscience and religion, to believe or not as they will.