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Social Media vs. Integrity and Leadership

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March 13th, 2020 is notorious for two major events – one national and one local.  On this date, President Trump declared a national emergency due to the Coronavirus Pandemic and infused state governments with $50 billion dollars in federal aid.  Locally, the Town of Front Royal was quietly servicing their amended lawsuit against the Front Royal-Warren County Economic Development Authority upping their ante to $20,226,153 plus attorney fees and other costs.

While March 13th is an important milestone in this country and community, there are two far more important time spans to remember as you read through and more fully understand the “incompetence” that past EDA Board members exhibited, inclusive of former EDA Board Member and present Vice Mayor of Front Royal, Bill Sealock.

March 1, 2002, through December 9th, 2016 (EDA Board of Directors) and November 5th through present-day (Front Royal Town Council) shall serve as a reminder for a multitude of unremarkable and remarkable events that spans the illustrious career of Bill Sealock.  This period of time equates to nearly 19 years of public service.  These dates are critically important to the community, as Mr. Sealock’s unremarkable leadership tenure spanned the period in which much of the EDA fraud occurred; and where he continued to demonstrate a lack of true leadership on the Front Royal Town Council.  Sealock was in a prime position to have leveraged his past EDA knowledge and relations to broker a better working relationship between the Town of Front Royal and the EDA; possibly staving off the $20-million-plus civil suit against his previous board.

This was certainly not too much to ask, given Sealock’s 2016 candidate platform of “refusing to pick fights with the Board of Supervisors over silliness.” I will give Sealock credit for not picking any fights, as stony silence publicly overcame him for most, if not all the troubles between the EDA and the Town.

What was far from silly was Mayor Tewalt justifiably fighting and advocating for a mutual resolution on Town and EDA projects; while Sealock demonstrated no public support, and did not publicly build a coalition to challenge the current Council status quo that had their aim set on an entity that he helped lead and manage for 14 years.

What is remarkable in this time period is the Council’s willingness to chew up and spit out one of their own. Albeit, not through their personal words, but through their proxy attorneys.  The good ‘ole boy network may not be as strong as I once thought, as the sting of the outside-contracted Town attorneys’ words characterizing the Sealock manned EDA board’s leadership and management prowess includes such shameful vernacular as “incompetence”, “failed”, “unlawfully”, “grossly negligent” and “could have been prevented”.  These words and phrases are not my own, but direct quotes and characterizations that are peppered throughout the 83-page amended complaint by town attorney & famed automobile accident attorneys Damiani & Damiani.

Another unremarkable event is Mr. Sealock’s decision to not seeking another term on Council and chalking up the reasoning due to social media influence.  There was no mention or demonstration in acceptance of personal or professional accountability, the exercise of integrity, or simple sorrow, knowing that his inaction on both Town Council and the EDA will most likely cost the community untold millions of lost money through fraud, mismanagement (I will get to the EDA’s Sealock promoted Workforce Housing Project at a later time), attorney fees, and maintaining the status quo.  Leadership involves tough decisions, accountability, integrity, taking a stand for what is right, and reconciling the wrongs.   Demonstrating and practicing leadership is clearly not a strong suit for Sealock—that ship set sail years ago.  Fortunately, the community will not be forced to decide via future elections if Vice Mayor Sealock continues to deserve a seat at the dais knowing that his actions or inaction fully contributed to the chaos, dysfunction, and near-total loss of faith in community leadership posts.

The civil suit which The Town of Front Royal believes to be factually accurate paints a blistering account of Vice Mayor Sealock’s contribution to this community.  Vice Mayor Sealock was given 14 years, 9 months, and 8 days to help lead the EDA.  Instead, he let the organization lead him down a path that will forever scar this community.  Vice Mayor Sealock was given 4 years to jointly lead on the council, from the unique perspective of his nearly 15-year front-row seat at the EDA board table.  When the time came to reconcile his past decisions as an EDA board member, instead of being at the forefront and championing alternative resolutions, or simply resigning; he sat in stony silence while the Town of Front Royal began its campaign of fleecing the entire community with eyes wide shut to its own complicity and poor judgment as the EDA situation developed.

Sealock’s legacy will be forever cemented in the Town of Front Royal vs. FRWCEDA, not through social media fodder and a nearly 20-year career of unremarkable leadership.

Gregory A. Harold
Front Royal, VA  22630

(Writer’s Note: This is not a formal statement or position of the FRWCEDA.  This is one citizen’s position based upon the facts that the Town of Front Royal believes to be accurate as detailed in their civil suit against the FRWCEDA.)

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Voting Rights

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historically speaking

Going to bed on election night it looked as if President Trump might win the election. But as the mail-in votes started being counted the next day, Trump’s lead slipped away in many important swing states. With mail-in voting and early voting occurring because of COVID-19, there have been many discussions about voting rights. Some say voting is a right and measures need to be made to guarantee everyone has the right to vote, whereas others say more measures are needed to protect the integrity of the vote. Both sides have made strong arguments and each person needs to weigh out these arguments personally. While I am in no way saying we should restrict voting, historically speaking, voting was never intended to be a right.

As always, let’s start with the Constitution. Surprisingly to most, the founding document is practically silent about voting. There are only two sections that address voting and they both do so sparsely. Article I, Sec. II states, “The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.” The first part is simple enough, but the second section is more confusing. It says the people of each state would choose their Representatives every two years. However, it does not say how or who they mean by the “people.” That’s what the second lines address. Basically, it means whoever is allowed to vote in state elections can vote in the federal election. In other words, voting is a state issue and voting can differ state by state.

The second clause in the Constitution, Article II, Sec. I, that deals with electing the president states, “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors.” Again, voting is left to the individual states. States were allowed to put as many or as few restrictions as they chose on voters. States could restrict voters based on age, race, sex, property, or variety of other reasons. We often think of the Constitution’s quietness on voting as allowing restrictions, which it usually did, but it also allowed some western states the freedom to grant women suffrage years before the 19th Amendment did so nationally.

Eventually the Constitution changed through the amendment process and some of the most significant edits dealt with voting. The 14th Amendment defined everyone born in the U.S. as citizens and declared no state may “abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens.” Yet it did not state what those privileges were.  Future court cases did spell out these rights and voting was not one of them. The 15th Amendment states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Under this Amendment, states could still deny the vote to anyone as long as it was not for those specific reasons. It also does not say that states must guarantee everyone the right to vote, but only not deny for those specific reasons.

The last Amendments dealing with voting are similar to the 15th. The 19th makes it illegal to deny women the vote, the 24th makes it illegal to deny the vote for not paying a poll tax, and finally the 26th makes it illegal to deny the vote to anyone over the age of 18. All these cases are about restrictions; there is nothing about guaranteeing all Americans the right to vote. In fact, in 2013 the Supreme Court upheld in Shelby County v. Holder that voting was actually not a right.

When the Founders wrote the Constitution, the lack of voting as a right was not an oversight. The Founders were elitists, but they also believed only those who had a stake in society should be given the vote. In their minds, stakeholders were the only ones who had enough on the line to take voting seriously. If applying what the Founders believed to today, then only those who put in the effort of learning the issues and weighing out the options should vote, not those who simply vote for popularity or for who gives the best speech or makes the best promises. The mail system worked fine in 1789, but they chose to have voters show up to the polls. You had to put in some effort to vote.

This does not mean that today we need to follow suit or that I think we should restrict voting. It does just mean that over the next four years, as debates rage about voting rights, if you reference the Founders or the Constitution, you should do so wisely. A lot has changed since the Constitution was written; we now vote for our Senators. But, historically speaking, there is nothing in our Constitution, including the Amendments, that state voting is a right or that the Government must make sure all people’s voices are heard.


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. To receive daily historical posts, follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.

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This Thanksgiving, let’s embrace a resilient new tradition

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For a holiday grounded in tradition, this Thanksgiving is going to feel unsettling: face masks, socially distanced gatherings around an outdoor fire pit, and even Zoom calls with relatives from afar. In the midst of such a shakeup, perhaps the most grounding step we can take is to reflect on our old traditions and whether they truly serve us, our families, and our communities — especially when it comes to the focal point of the holiday for millions of American households: the bird on the table.

The origins of the turkey at the center of our holiday meal are actually murkier than the widely embraced narrative of the “First Thanksgiving” celebrated between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag tribe, which was, in reality, an unremarkable occasion that may not even have featured turkey at all. And, of course, the account completely sidesteps the grim history of raids, murders, and other crimes committed against Native Americans by European colonists. Nonetheless, the turkey took on a starring role in early American literature — particularly the 1827 novel Northwood by Sarah Josepha Hale, who campaigned for Thanksgiving to become a national holiday to bring the U.S. together and stave off the inevitable Civil War. Unfortunately, though, the turkey and its holiday could not thwart the South’s unrelenting quest to preserve slavery by going to battle with the Union.

Despite the raging war, or perhaps aided by it, warming tales of Native Americans and new generations of European Americans all holding hands and giving thanks have persisted in our textbooks and our culture to this day when we now collectively eat a whopping 46 million turkeys. But gone are the days of turkeys raised on family farms, or even the less palatable forced marches of wild turkeys to slaughter. These birds’ modern place — inside the industrial animal agriculture industry — is now not only the turkey’s tragedy. The production of our Thanksgiving meals is actively harming us, and especially the most marginalized among us, all while masquerading as a badge of national unity and gratitude.

Let’s start by peeling back the fancy “American Humane Certified” and similar labels on brands like Butterball that were designed to win consumers’ trust while obfuscating the injustice, environmental devastation, and cruelty behind their products. For the harrowing reality behind the packaging, we can give thanks to the vertical integration of poultry farming over the past half-century by a handful of these massive corporations, forcing former family farmers into below-poverty wages and mountains of debt. Meanwhile, inside poultry slaughterhouses, workers — the majority of whom are immigrants and people of color — are also low-paid, often needing to rely on food stamps to get by, and, as recently revealed by Oxfam, many even resort to wearing diapers because of being denied bathroom breaks.

Then, as the pandemic gripped the nation earlier this year, fast-paced, dangerous slaughterhouses quickly became hotspots of infection. Forced to continue working by Executive Order despite rising cases, slaughterhouse employees were often denied adequate PPE and the ability to practice social distancing. According to the Food and Environment Reporting Network, there have now been over 42,000 coronavirus cases and 200 deaths in meatpacking workers. One plant inspector called the slaughterhouse a “ticking time bomb.”

This recent crisis is just the tip of the iceberg of the dismal and oppressive history of factory farms and slaughterhouses. An article in Environmental Health Perspectives explains the mechanism behind a unique form of environmental racism: “Swine CAFOs [concentrated animal feeding operations] are disproportionately located in black and brown communities and regions of poverty.” These factories host massive open-air lagoons of pig manure, which are then sprayed onto crops as fertilizer. Surrounding communities report high rates of respiratory irritation, depression, and fatigue and lower quality of life. As for turkey farming specifically, says Jeanne Melchior, acting president of environmental nonprofit Protect Our Woods, “The smell of the turkey houses is terrible. … You can see mounds of manure stacked in the fields. They try to spread it or haul it off, but when it rains, it just runs into the rivers.”

And as more than 41 million Americans (again, heavily concentrated in Black and brown communities) struggle with hunger, animal agriculture consumes enormous water and land resources. Over 500 gallons of water are needed to produce a single pound of turkey, and for beef, this number skyrockets to 1,800 gallons (whereas kidney beans require just a tenth of the latter figure). Collectively, about 27 percent of our global water footprint can be attributed to this industry, which takes up just as great of a proportion of the world’s ice-free land. In the absence of meat, dairy, and egg production, we could free up an area of land as large as the U.S., China, E.U, and Australia combined — while still feeding everyone.

With what, though? When we begin eschewing this harmful menu default, we can start embracing new traditions that foster resilient, healthy, and sustainable communities. Harking back to that old Thanksgiving mythology that largely omits America’s rich, complex, and often tragic indigenous history, many Native American chefs are addressing the lack of cultural representation in standard American holiday cuisine by “decolonizing” their dishes, which, according to Nephi Craig, founder of the Native American Culinary Association, means “to examine what you’ve been taught around food or nutrition and to take a deep look to see if the standard American dietary pyramid reflects you as an individual.” He further elucidates that this “could be a plant-based meal … It comes down to responsibly sourcing your food based on your views on decolonization and food security.”

All Americans can join Nephi in asking ourselves that question: What does our Thanksgiving meal truly mean to us? Already, millions of people are discovering that we can actually live our values of inclusivity, diversity, and justice through a healthy and hearty feast. Last year, nearly a third of Americans were contemplating enjoying a meatless Thanksgiving dinner. And as the holidays creep up, a new ASPCA survey has just found that over 70 percent of people who heard about the dangers behind factory farming during the pandemic have begun moving away from these products.

This holiday, we’ve already been forced to press pause on what we’ve always done. Let’s use this opportunity to start a new Thanksgiving default, one of resilience, one that helps everyone thrive, and one that centers plants on our plates. With endless possibilities like BBQ roasted cabbage with tempeh, butternut pumpkin with lemon tahini, North African spiced carrot and parsnip salad, and even vegan pumpkin pie ice cream, this new tradition will be something everyone (and our taste buds) can be thankful for.

Laura Lee Cascada
Front Royal, Virginia

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Opinion

Thank you for volunteering

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During this COVID-19 crisis, our entire community faces many challenges. This difficult period revealed more than ever the indispensable role of volunteers. We realize that without their dedication and generosity, the consequences of this pandemic would have been much worse.

We’re privileged to have an abundance of community heroes in our region that are willing to pitch in when needed.

To all our local volunteers, THANK YOU from the bottom of our hearts.

Happy Thanksgiving from the Royal Examiner.

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Opinion

Historic Election?

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“In this historic election.” How many times have you heard this over the past two weeks? In truth, there are some historic elements. This election had the greatest number of votes cast in history. Is that historic or population growth? It’s also a higher voter percentage than we have seen in some time, but nowhere close to the highest. A woman on the winning ticket is most definitely historic, so much in fact that I am stumped on how to make a comparison. This past week most of the attention seems to be on Trump’s refusal to admit defeat. But that is not historic either. Many have called this the most important election in our lives, whereas, in fact, it is just the most recent.

First, let’s tackle the voter turnout. At 67% voting at last count, the 2020 election is impressive for modern elections. The last time we cleared 60% was 1968. Historically, however, between 1840 and 1904 voting was always over 70% with the elections of 1856 and 1860 going over 80% and the highest election percentage of all time was 1876 with 81.8%. The elections of 1860, 1876 and 2020 have some similarities; they had either controversial figures or voting irregularities.

The increase in voting percentage is also impressive in 2020. Four years ago, 59% of the population voted, an 8% growth in 2020, one of the highest of all time. Much of this has been attributed to hatred of Trump more than fondness of Biden. Yet, when we look historically, there is not a clear pattern of controversial presidents being the reason for large differences between votes. There was a 10% jump between 1872 and 1876. Though 1876 is one of the most controversial elections, the controversy was the outcome, not the candidates. There was also a 10% jump between 1948 and 1952. Again, nothing controversial; in fact, Eisenhower was popular with both sides in 1952. Finally, the greatest difference between elections was 1836 and 1840 with a 22% increase of voter turnout. In this case it was the economic Panic of 1837 had hurt the incumbent Martin Van Buren, not anything controversial.

As for Trump’s attitude towards conceding, while annoying for the Democrats, this also is not new. Historically speaking, we do not even have to go back very far, only to 2000. Anyone old enough to have gone through this election probably remembers too well the annoyingness of new vocabulary words like “hanging chads.” The Election of 2000 saw two new candidates but with familiar names, Vice President Al Gore versus George Bush. As with 2020, it was a close election on election night and whoever won Florida would win the game.  As election night came to a close and it looked as if Bush had won Florida, Gore made the concession call to Bush. However, by the next day Democrats had come out with claims of voter fraud and voter suppression in Florida, and Gore called Bush back to recant his concession. Democrats demanded a recount, which was done, but after the recount did not change the outcome, Gore demanded a recount by hand instead of by machines. The issue was that on some punch cards, the wrong names were accidently hit or were not punched properly. The recount took weeks, this time to the annoyance of Republicans. In the end, it took the Supreme Court to force the recount to end and declare Bush the winner.

Another example is the election of 1876. The election that tells us the importance of one vote. It looked as if Democrat Samuel Tilden would win the election. He had more popular votes and only needed one of the four remaining states to win, as with Biden in 2020. However, there were voting irregularities in those four remaining states. For instance, South Carolina had 101% voter turnout. Of the four states, three were southern, Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana. Why is it always Florida? Why that is important is that the Democratic Party dominated southern states so it was expected Democrats would win all three, let alone just the one needed to win. To solve the issue, Congress was forced to get involved and create a 15-man board to determine the winner. There were five congressmen, five senators, and five judges. Seven of these were Democrats and seven were Republicans with one independent. Perfectly fair, until the one independent judge resigned his position and a new judge had to be appointed. The only judges left on the court were Republicans, resulting in Republican Rutherford Hayes winning the presidency by one vote. Democrats claimed foul play but eventually agreed to the ruling when the Republicans promised to end Reconstruction in the South.

It is always good to see democracy in action and that so many took part of the election process. This was an important election in that all elections are important, However, historically speaking, neither the percentages voting nor the squabbling after the fact are anything new.

With the election past us now, I hope everyone can put politics aside for a day and enjoy your Thanksgiving. I for one am grateful I live in a country where we can have this fight about elections. Not all nations get to do this.

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. To receive daily historical posts, follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.


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

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A one-man and his merry band’s show of destruction and decimation

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Our Interim Town Manager (ITM) Matt Tederick is a very tricky individual. He is also a great manipulator. He also knows and unfortunately used the action of firing people to create fear and loyalty. He believes giving away plaques will create a picture of employer/employee love and togetherness. He also shows a keen ability to cover his tracks when necessary.

Case in point – now remember, he is the Town Manager who has total control of what goes on within the Town, not a single major item ever gets by him, he has the last and almighty say over everything, even the Town Council – questioned about the environmental carnage along Happy Creek he stated no tree over a four-inch diameter was cut down on the banks of Happy Creek between South and Prospect Streets. As complaints started coming in about these trees being cut down, he goes into self-preservation mode and turns the situation around to make himself look clueless.

At Mondays November 9th Town Council meeting, Mr. Tederick calls a Town employee whose department is responsible for the work up to the table or should I say, witness stand, and proceeds to say to the Town employee, “There haven’t been any trees over a four-inch diameter cut down, isn’t that right? The Town employee, perhaps with a pre-meeting briefing by the ITM says, “No, except the larger ones that were (on the shelf or level ground above the creek’s bank). The ITM looks like he is clueless about these larger trees that were cut down.

But isn’t the ITM the one that worked with the consultant on the drawings for the deeply flawed permit applications and all that went into this environmental and wildlife catastrophe?

Now for the truth. As I walked through the war zone, I measured stumps of cut trees anywhere from eight to thirteen inches on the bank and on the shelf. So, it is not difficult to see through this little self-preservation show by the ITM. Our Town Council, which was pointed to by the ITM as approving every move toward this bank side clear-cutting that “isn’t clear-cutting” says or does nothing about any of this. If it was the ITM’s idea that we approved, we do not care what you, the citizens think or say about it.

So, thank you, Mr. Interim Town Manager and Town Council for showing us your true feelings about the environment, the ecosystem, the birds and animals that depend on the trees you have cut down and the creek bank you have steamrolled, because that is what this council and its puppet master wanted, no matter what we citizens thought. Your “cut down all native vegetation and throw some rocks down in its place” attitude speaks worlds about all of you and your carelessness towards the environment we all share, and which some town citizens live adjacent to who were given little if any heads up on your plans to decimate their natural buffer to heavily traveled Commerce Avenue.

Paul Gabbert
Front Royal

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Opinion

A little tribute to Happy Creek, Front Royal VA

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Unplanned, as we took our morning walk to Happy Creek, musician Richard Lockhart was singing on a picnic table with his guitar.  He agreed to shoot a little music video with the creek!  Just thought it would be fun.

I am not a political person. However, I recently became aware of some problems currently happening to our creek.  I don’t know all the details and don’t claim to be an expert.  But, I do feel moved to share how very important and special the creek is to many people.

Every day I walk to the creek. I see lots of action or sometimes zero action.  People of all ages come to the creek to enjoy time to play, relax, draw, exercise, and sing!  This summer my son learned how to catch trout from a neighbor at the creek.  I cooked up the trout and had a glorious meal from the trout my child caught from Happy Creek.  We also had a blast floating in the water with friends and looking in the water with goggles to see what we could see.

Often I see a group of senior citizens gathering at the shelters to play cards during the day and couples holding hands at sunset during an evening stroll.  People come to the creek for family portrait shoots or kids splash and play to cool down in the creek on a hot day.

What does the creek mean to you?  Have you enjoyed swimming or catching fish in the creek?  Did you go to the creek to hang out with your grandparents or just skip rocks?  I sure hope that we keep the creek safe and healthy for many more years to come.

Jen Avery
Front Royal

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