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Thoughts on the Happy Creek Stop Order

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Oh, boy! Isn’t this miscommunication between County and Town getting a little tiresome?

It’s almost like two bullies on the playground; they both want to control the playground!

Doesn’t the County want the Happy Creek region to have flood control? Doesn’t the Town know that to do work or changes to any projects that all their ducks have to be in a row?

You would think by now our elected officials would want to work and play fair with each other, for the betterment of both Town and County.

But no, us citizens have to wait on the sidelines while Town and County battle it out on the playground! Henceforth, Afton Inn sits as a eyesore, and Happy Creek looks like a bad haircut.

Tenia Smith
Front Royal, Virginia

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The Town Council appointment game analyzed

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Wait a minute! What’s that you say? Controversy in the Town Council? That’s hard to believe. Cronyism? Charging the Town Council with cronyism is like charging the Indy 500 with speeding. Who could it be? Mr. warmth and personality himself Jacob Meza. Foregoing the opinions of lawyers, why would they select Mr. Meza in a closed-door meeting (aren’t they all)?

His charisma – umm nope; style (GQ magazine has called and wants their “unshaven terrorist look” back); I know, maybe it’s his diligence in supporting Valley Health’s financial and policy interests. What’s that you say – Valley Health is his employer. No problem, he will just recuse himself from votes regarding his employer until that vote is needed. Oh, I see, well, I guess if you are having a baby and have to drive to Kalamazoo to have it, you could thank him.

Councilman and appointment under continued citizen scrutiny

Ahh Jacob Meza, Town Councilman for life. Here’s how the scam works; you don’t run for re-election, but you are appointed anyway. Then another Council member who has PO’ed town voters doesn’t want to bother with all that noisy campaigning – no problem, appoint him too. Well, at least we know Matthew Tederick will always have a job waiting.

Council members are NOT “under the jurisdiction of the council” states their own long-time town lawyer. Wow, I guess he is the same lawyer that gave half my boat to my ex-wife (I gave her the underwater half). So, I wonder who the council, or the town attorney for that matter, comes under the jurisdiction of?

What to do? Well, the lawyers could take it to court thus ensuring more legal fees for everyone. OR (and I say this with tongue in cheek), Mr. Meza could just honorably step down saving the Council from further stress or embarrassment.

Oh man, I crack myself up sometimes.

F. Schwartz
Warren County, Virginia


PS: since I wrote this letter prior to Monday’s first meeting with their appointed member, sure enough, this is headed to court.

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Commentary: Another perspective on election fraud claims and the Capitol riot

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For the past week, the nation has been absorbed by the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol housing one of the three branches of the federal government. The debate over what it meant and may continue to mean, has been joined.

What has led to this commentary is the rise of theories that what we saw on myriad news video footage isn’t really what we saw. That despite the “Stop the Steal” rally earlier that day addressed by President Trump, among others promoting the notion that Joe Biden’s 7-million popular vote and decisive 306-232 Electoral College, 74-vote margin of victory is a hoax perpetrated on the American public – that somehow the violence and anarchy displayed by the crowd urged to the Capitol by President Trump, wasn’t the work of Trump supporters and more radical elements of the “Stop the Steal” crowd.

Assertions have been made that the huge pro-Trump crowd was not one prone to violence and social media “rumors” and other Internet “theories” have been forwarded to shift blame to the political right’s boogeyman – ANTIFA (acronym for Anti-Fascist) infiltrators – as responsible for the violence and subversive invasion of the U.S. Capitol building leading to five deaths, including one Capitol Policeman reportedly beaten to death with a fire extinguisher.

Above lower right, mob attacks blockaded door where woman was killed by officer as she climbed onto door; below, a Capitol Police officer in distress as he is pinned between another doorway and barrier crowd was pushing against door. Still Photos from TV video new sources as identified – Roger Bianchini

Before I continue, let me say that from the extensive amount of video news footage I have watched over the past days, I believe there were good people in the crowd who descended on Capitol Hill on January 6. Associated Press (AP) footage of one of its cameramen being assaulted by a portion of the mob near the Capitol building showed one man outside the Capitol building porchway wall protecting the newsman from that mob after they had tossed him over the concrete wall. Others outside the Capitol building stairway also appeared to help move the AP photographer away from the rioters that had been roughing him up and initially began climbing over the wall to continue their assault. And let me add that I am not a fan of America’s two-party system. I believe it is too prone to corruption from either side, without the check of multiple viable parties to challenge for Congressional seats to keep clear majorities harder to come by.

Uh oh, graffiti on door inside Capitol says, ‘Murder the Media’.

That said, as with the repeated court rulings dismissing Trump state vote count challenges around the country as not supported by ANY factual evidence, including without dissent by the Trump multi-member-appointed and conservative-dominated U.S. Supreme Court, the idea that leftist radicals were somehow responsible for the violence and rioting at the U.S. Capitol appears to have NO basis in factual evidence. As noted above, the source of this idea is social media “rumors” or “articles on the Internet” making claims without fact-checking or editorial oversight.

But we have not heard specifics on the Internet sources of those rumors and articles. For if we had, one might wonder if they would have been from the same right-wing blogs that have been reported rallying neo-fascist, Q-Anon, and racist elements of the extreme American right-wing toward D.C. for the pro-Trump rally and move against the January 6th certification of the Electoral College count by Congress for weeks.

Above, a Dec. 19 Tweet before the president’s post-riot lifetime Twitter ban trumpets one of his enablers’ report, apparently without the factual basis to be used in court, and invites followers to D.C. Jan. 6, promising a ‘wild’ time. Below, well a little wild but – what, a new vice president to preside over the absent Senate?

And while the initial video seemed to show a disorderly mob entering the Capitol, some chasing an isolated Capitol Policeman upstairs, others occupying podiums, carrying them away, and relaxing in Nancy Pelosi’s office, feet on the desk, the overall mood while somewhat riotous, didn’t seem horribly malevolent.

However, that changed with the release of additional video, including security footage, several days later indicating a more aggressive and violent mob assault on the Legislative Branch of the U.S. government, perhaps explaining the immediate moving of Vice President Mike Pence, now labeled a traitor by some Trump supporters, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and numerous other Congressional members to undisclosed safe locations at the Capitol for their safety. The threat was taken so seriously that Capitol security shot and killed a woman as she attempted to breach a barricaded secure location with a window-smashing mob inside the Capitol.

Above, this shirt with an anti-Semitic coded, neo-Nazi message was reported being worn by some inside the Capitol Wednesday. 6MWE purportedly stands for ‘Six Million Weren’t Enough’, a reference to the 6 million Jews killed during Nazi control of Germany. Below, a fellow traveler with a ‘Camp Auschwitz’ shirt celebrating one of the Nazi concentration camps where Jews were held and executed.

Videos I have seen over the weekend have shown people with anti-Semitic and Nazi slogans emblazoned T-shirts and at least one with a string of plastic hand restraints used by police for large crowd control arrests roaming the halls of Congress. Security and news video, as well as self-posted social media images, have been used to identify people around the nation known to be right-wing supporters of President Trump, including a West Virginia Republican state assemblyman who resigned after being charged with criminal conduct at the Capitol. As of Sunday evening, 70 people had been reported arrested on charges related to their videotaped actions inside the U.S. Capitol.

None, to my knowledge, have been identified as ANTIFA or any other leftist group members.

But the Trump base continues to believe what it wants, regardless of the questionable nature of sources or any factual evidence to the contrary. Many in that base suggest an ongoing “establishment” and “media” conspiracy to unseat Donald Trump. The formation of committees to study the notion of election fraud already rejected as absent of ANY supporting factual evidence in, I believe the last count was 60 courts around the nation, are demanded by some. How much of their own and fellow citizens’ federal tax revenue do they want spent to overturn a “conspiracy” two of the three branches of the federal government, Legislative and Judicial, have determined exists only in an “alternate fact” universe of the Executive Branch’s creation?

Above, a guillotine noted for its use in executing the French nobility during the French Revolution, erected on the Capitol grounds. I have not heard whether it was functional or not. Below, House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi was not popular with the crowd.

Alternate explanation

Let me suggest an alternative election scenario which even conservative court after conservative state legislature has ruled is based in real-world facts, as opposed to one simply repeated over and over by a desperate, deposed would-be “president for life” and echoed back by his either horribly naïve or complicity corrupt, bigoted, anti-democratic cult-of-personality base:

Donald Trump was honestly and decisively defeated in the 2020 election because outside of his 35% hardcore base, it has been apparent to the majority of the American public that his has been a failed, inept and destructive to the American brand presidency. In the wake of the insurrectionist siege of the Capitol and apparent physical threat to the legislators inside, even former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has felt compelled to go online from his own website to call Trump “without competition” the worst president in American history, one who should be relegated to its dustbin as soon as possible.

Really, the Trump base may ask, “Arnie’s turned on us?!?”

Former California Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has placed the blame for the Jan. 6 attack on the Legislative Branch of government squarely on President Trump’s shoulders.

Yes, despite his success in several science-fiction epochal films, it seems Schwarzenegger has publicly thrown in with a decisive American majority who do believe in facts and scientific inquiry and do NOT believe in “alternate facts”. This is likely a non-evangelical majority that also believes in maintaining the separation of church and state, not permitting any religious group, even the nation’s dominant one, of dictating all Americans’ moral, sexual, or lifestyle choices. And I would suggest, it is a majority that doesn’t arbitrarily dismiss the history of a Trump presidency marked by a daily accumulation of documentable “false or misleading claims” now chronicled by “Fact Checker” on the Washington Post website at over 20,000, what some less kind might term, “lies” told by the president in office.

Above, one news source’s appraisal of rioters in possession of a large number of plastic hand restraints used by police in mass arrest situations, as well as rope. The man jumping the barrier is carrying a large number of them in his left hand. Below, plain clothed security personnel with guns drawn as mob tries to break into a secured area barricaded with furniture.

And the anti-Trump voters’ number may be buoyed by others who just believe the president has failed miserably to act proactively to deal with the most dangerous worldwide health crisis in decades, if not a century, directly leading to the death of over 350,000 Americans in one year – over 20% of the world’s Coronavirus pandemic deaths with 4% of the world’s population despite the resources available to the most advanced nation on the planet.

Not everyone in America believes COVID-19 is an international Q-Anon style hoax perpetrated to discredit Donald Trump. – Trust me, for those whose eyes aren’t “wide shut”, he doesn’t need the help.

Not everyone in America believes everything that comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth.

Not everyone in America believes even Republican state officials in Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan and elsewhere Joe Biden won the popular vote, are traitorous liars because their recounts maintained what their initial counts had shown – Donald Trump lost their state, not by fraud, but rather by a majority of those states’ voters’ awareness of the relentless failures of the Trump presidency. Internationally perhaps most tellingly, America’s distancing itself from the post-World War II Western alliance that has kept post-Soviet Russian expansionism into Europe in check.
I might suggest an alternate Commission or two be formed to those some suggest to chase the election fraud phantom: One to ascertain the psychological makeup of Americans who continue to believe something simply because Donald Trump says it’s true, despite overwhelming evidence reviewed by both Democrat and Republican legislators and judges, that it is not.

And a second to ascertain why the Capitol Police were not more prepared for the right-wing onslaught radical social media sites had been promoting for weeks; and why the necessary federal authority emanating from the Oval Office didn’t deploy D.C. National Guard immediately after the Capitol was breached by a mob disrupting the function of the Legislative Branch of the American government.

(The is the opinion of the writer.)

Above, the president and vice president at a March 2020 COVID conference before the falling out over certification of the election result. First image below, rioters on Wednesday attempted to replace an American flag flying on the Capitol with a Trump flag. Something tells me ANTIFA wouldn’t have risked their lives doing that. And finally, perhaps a hint as to why adequate security for Congress wasn’t in place or dispatched by the president. It was Vice-President Pence who eventually authorized D.C. National Guard’s deployment, which normally rests with the president since D.C. is not a state under gubernatorial authority.

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Attorney request Council’s consideration of memorandum regarding appointment of Jacob Meza

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MEMORANDUM OF LAW IN SUPPORT OF THE TOWN CHARTER

Issue:
Was the appointment of a former councilman, defined by the Town Charter as a municipal officer, four days after he held that same office, unlawful where the same charter prohibits the appointment or election of a member of council to an office under the jurisdiction of the council within one year?

Rule:
“No member of the council of the Town of Front Royal shall be appointed or elected to any office under the jurisdiction of the council while he is a member of the council, or for one year thereafter, except that the council may appoint one of the members of the council as town treasurer with all or any part of the duties, powers, obligations and responsibilities of the town treasurer provided by this act. ” Front Royal Town Charter § 47

Analysis:
Virginia statutory interpretation is governed by the following well-established principle:

If [a statute’s] language is clear and unambiguous, there is no need for construction by the court; the plain meaning and intent of the enactment will be given it. When an enactment is clear and unequivocal, general rules for construction of statutes of doubtful meaning do not apply. Therefore, when the language of an enactment is free from ambiguity, resort to legislative history and extrinsic facts is not permitted because we take the words as written to determine their meaning. And, when an enactment is unambiguous, extrinsic legislative history may not be used to create an ambiguity, and then remove it, where none otherwise exists. Brown v. Lukhard, 229 Va. 316, 321, 330 S.E.2d 84, 87 (1985)(citations omitted).

The phrase, “under the jurisdiction of the council”, in this context clearly and unambiguously refers to and modifies “any office” that the Town Council may appoint or elect.

Town Charter § 6(D) specifically grants the Town Council the jurisdiction to appoint councilman: “The council may fill any vacancy that occurs in the membership of the council for the unexpired term”, provided the appointment is not for one year thereafter holding his office.

In fact, § 9 of Town Charter specifically grants the jurisdiction to the Town Council to fill the vacancy created when a member of council is chosen to serve as mayor. “Should a member of the council be chosen to serve as mayor until the next municipal election such councilman shall be deemed to have surrendered his office as councilman forthwith upon his qualification as mayor and his office of councilman shall thereupon be vacant. The vacancy thereby created in the council shall be filled by the council as provided in § 6 hereof.” (emphasis added).

Section 11 of the Town Charter also makes it clear that the office of councilman is under the jurisdiction of the Town Council where it states, “If any member of the said council shall be voluntarily absent from three regular meetings of the council consecutively, his seat may be deemed vacant by resolution of the council and thereupon his unexpired term shall be filled according to the provisions of this act.” (emphasis added)

Furthermore, the Town Charter grants the Town Council jurisdiction over itself!

‘[E]xcept as prohibited by the Constitution of Virginia or restricted by this charter, the Town of Front Royal shall have and may exercise all municipal powers, functions, rights, privileges and immunities which are now, or may be hereafter, conferred upon or delegated to incorporated towns under the  constitution and laws of Virginia, as fully and completely as if herein enumerated in detail, and no enumeration of particular powers in this charter shall be held exclusive.”  Front Royal Town Charter § 1

The Town Charter specifically creates the Town and enables the Town Council the authority to create its own unique rules and laws that are granted to towns as a whole in Virginia.

Perhaps the most self-evident argument is that IF the appointment of the office of town councilman was NOT under the jurisdiction of the Town Council, we would not be having this discussion because the appointment by the Town Council of a councilman on January 4, 2021, would be null and void because the appointment would be ultra virus, or outside of the jurisdiction, for the Town Council to make such an appointment regardless of the one-year rule.

The only remaining question is whether the position of “town council” is an “office” in the context of Section 47 of the Town Charter. Not only does Section 9 of the Town Charter specifically refer to the “office” as councilman, the Charter defines the councilmen as “officers”:

“The municipal officers of said town shall, beginning with the effective date of this act and thereafter, consist of a mayor, four councilmen, a town manager, a town treasurer, and a town clerk, who shall also serve as the clerk of town council, and such other officers as may be designated by ordinance duly enacted from time to time. The town treasurer may additionally, by ordinance duly enacted, serve as the town’s finance director. Beginning July 1, 1994, and thereafter, the number of councilmen shall be six.” Front Royal Town Charter § 4

The press release of the Town Attorney claiming that Front Royal Town Charter § 47 does not apply to the appointment of councilman because it is found under the caption “Chapter 6 Town Officers” is misplaced. “Captions are intended as mere catchwords to indicate the contents of the subtitles”, Virginia Code § 1-244, Jones v. DCSE, 19 Va. App. 184, 450 S.E.2d 172 (1994). In Foster v. Commonwealth, the Virginia Court of Appeals rejected defendant’s argument that Virginia Code § 18.2-96 did not define “petit larceny” even though the caption to the Virginia Code section specifically stated, “Petit larceny defined ”. 44 Va.App. 574, 606 S.E.2d 518 (2004), affirmed 271 Va 235, 623 S.E.2d 902 (2006).

There is no ambiguity in the phrase, “or for one year thereafter” in the Town Charter. This is a period of time that councilmen are prohibited from appointment or election by the town council to an office under their jurisdiction. Four days is less than one year. The legislative intent, while unnecessary to interpret this section, is furthered by prohibiting a councilman’s appointment within one year of holding the office as councilman by minimizing nepotism and appearances of impropriety. The argument that the statute was only to avoid “double dipping” or a “conflict of interest” is misplaced since there would be no “double dipping” if the councilman is a former councilman. The “conflict of interest” remains applicable due to the recent appointment by his colleagues.

The Town Attorney’s reliance on Virginia Code § 15.2-1535 to assert that there is no time restriction on appointments is misplaced. Virginia Code § 15.2-1535(A) enables appointment to Town Council of a previous Town Council member. This is a correct, but incomplete, statement of law. The Virginia General Assembly permits “a member of a governing body may be named a member of such other boards, commissions, and bodies as may be permitted by general law”. Where the Town Charter precludes appointment for one year after serving as councilman, the Virginia Code does NOT permit appointment by general law. Consequently, the Town’s assertion the Code allows appointment “without any time restrictions” is contradicted by the statute which the Town relies upon.

Conclusion:

Where the appointment of council members is under the jurisdiction of the Front Royal Town Council and the Town Charter specifically precludes appointment or election of a council member to an office under the jurisdiction of the Town Council for one year, except for the office of Town Treasurer, any appointment by the Town Council of a councilman having held the office of  councilman within one year of his appointment would be an ultra virus act, specifically prohibited under the Town Charter, unlawful and null and void. The remedy would be to so find and vacate the appointment by proclamation of the Town Council unless Mr. Meza should decline the appointment. This clear meaning of Section 47 was also followed by former Town Attorneys when former Mayor James Eastham was found ineligible for appointment to the EDA (2009), when Councilman Bret Hrbek was found ineligible for appointment for committee appointment (2011), and when the current Town Attorney distinguished the interim Town Mayor as not a member of Town Council to enable him to serve in the office of interim town manager (2019) within one year after their respective terms of office.

David A. Downes, Esquire
Front Royal, Virginia

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America on the Brink

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More than a dozen Warren County citizens and I attended the ‘Stop the Steal’ protest in D.C. on January 6 along with hundreds of thousands of citizens from across the country. There were families with babies and toddlers, senior citizens, and representatives from all age groups and races. They were not ‘kooks’, ‘Trump cultists’, or ‘Deplorables. They were a melting pot of citizens that fervently believe there were election irregularities that diminished their votes and affected the election results. They represented a mere fraction of citizens that have lost their trust that a fair election occurred. They believe their concerns have not received a thorough judicial review but that most legal cases were dismissed due to political bias, procedural issues, or technicalities.

I did not interpret President Trump’s address to the crowd as an incitement to violence. What I heard was an urging to go to the Capitol, where Congress was addressing the Certification of Electoral votes, and let our Representatives see that much of the country believes the election was unfair and that efforts are necessary to investigate what happened and initiate action to correct any problems found. The Capitol march was a pre-planned goal not a last-minute idea of the President. The Capitol riot actually only involved a small percentage of protestors.

Articles on the internet indicated that ANTIFA wouldn’t mount a directed counter-protest but there were rumors that they planned to infiltrate the crowd with imposters and initiate trouble with the explicit goal of discrediting the peaceful protest. With the help of a small contingent of frustrated, misguided criminal protestors they clearly were successful.

After walking to the Capitol I witnessed several solid black flags that concerned me and were in contrast to the sea of Trump and American flags. I saw and heard several men yell that VP Pence was at that moment supporting the certification and urged the crowd to move forward and let their opposition be known. Police flash-bang devices could be heard and clouds of pepper spray were visible. I believe now that those were ANTIFA provocateurs and that their cohorts were leading the violence against law enforcement. Being concerned that the situation was changing into something more than a peaceful demonstration, plus the fact that my feet were frozen, I began my return home at around 2:45 PM.

The Establishment and the biased media are using the Capitol incident to further criticize and unfairly blame the President to divert attention from the election controversy and for political purposes. The intense response from the political Establishment is a reflection of their realization that they could actually be directly challenged by the American public

This Summer America witnessed ANTIFA and BLM, (Black Lives Matter, another socialist group), involved with the mayhem and destructive riots. Democrats refused to strongly condemn that criminal behavior and even supported it by falsely labeling it peaceful protest. Some Democrat leaders actually directed law enforcement to stand-down and permitted the criminality, and they even raised money to bail out arrested rioters. Some democrat governments refused to prosecute lawbreakers. The rule of law, one of the basic concepts of our democracy was abandoned.

America’s eyes and ears witnessed this reality regardless that social media and the mainstream media refused to report the truth to the American people and even censored First Amendment rights to free speech.

The bottom line is that our country is divided and in serious trouble. On one side are liberals who have attained total control of the government. They have openly advertised their intent to expand government, promote socialist policies, and globalism that would diminish individual liberty. Democrats have openly announced plans to ignore the conservative minority. So much for bi-partisanship and representation of all of our citizens! On the other side is the half of America who is in disagreement with that plan, and I am doubtful they will simply give up liberty and submit.

The peaceful protest and Capitol rioters should have affirmed that.

President-elect Biden has called for coming together and unity regardless that Democrats only focused on opposing President Trump the last 4 years. The only way for President-elect Biden and Democrats to walk the ‘UNITY’ talk is to support an independent bipartisan commission to study the 2020 election and report to the American people what really happened. Limiting the participants on such a commission to non-politicians would be a wise consideration. If the Democrats are certain that Biden and Harris were fairly chosen and are sincere in wanting a peaceful country in the future, why would they not support such an effort?

As the Capitol was being breached, grassroots anti-government demonstrations were happening in other cities across the country. Should the concerns of half of America not be addressed there is an increasing possibility that future protestors will leave their flags at home and instead carry weapons. In actuality, a second revolution would not mirror the organized red and blue army lines of 1776 but would be an insurgency of lone wolves. Over 240 years ago Americans resisted government tyranny at Concord and Lexington and secured the liberties we have enjoyed since. Let’s hope all are wise enough to avoid a repeat of that history.

An alternative to that bleak possibility would be to pursue a Convention of the States as referenced in Article V of the Constitution. That avenue would enable a peaceful solution to the inappropriate expansion of the Federal government that many believe has occurred, and the potential transformation towards socialism, which conflicts with the original intent of the Framers. At that event, Amendments could be considered such as:

  • term limits for Congress, Federal and Supreme Court judges;
  • freezing the size of the Supreme Court to limit its politicization;
  • ensuring the permanency of the Senate filibuster to protect the minority;
  • campaign finance reform;
  • eliminating the ability of private social media companies or oligarchs to restrict first amendment rights;
  • establish a requirement for a balanced Federal budget;
  • establish fair and incorruptible election procedures;
  • and return full power to the States.

Those ideas could have substantial support from the populace. This effort is necessary because we could never expect that elected Representatives would support change that would keep their power in check.

The time for apathy, dialogue, and half measures has passed. All Warren County residents and U.S. citizens need to act or peace and the most successful and just country on the planet could descend into unimaginable chaos.

I urge all Warren County and American citizens to contact their Federal and State Representatives and seek an Election Study Commission and support for a Constitutional Convention. I know that there are those who would argue that the prospect of a second American revolution is absurd, but who would have entertained the thought that our Capitol could be breached by a handful of flag-bearing, unorganized protestors? Is it asking too much that we safeguard the security and liberty of our children and grandchildren?

Gary Kushner
Bentonville, Virginia

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2020: A Year of Years

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historically speaking

2020 has certainty been a year of years. I do not need to recount the events of this year; we all know them too well. It is just strange to think that it was less than a year ago since we impeached the president, yet it seems more like a decade. As we think back over the events of the past 12 months, it may be helpful to know that 2020 is not unique. We have had other years in which we did not know if we would survive, especially years in the middle of wars. Yet we always did. One year in particular has come to my mind. As crazy as 2020 was, 1919 gave it a run for its money, and, like always, we endured and overcame.

The biggest problem in both years was the same, a nationwide pandemic. Though the outfits we wore looked completely different, one style was the same: facemasks. 1919 was not the worst year for the Spanish Flu but it did see a deadly third wave that caused businesses to close and social activities to end. If anything, technology has made 2020 easier than 2019. Going online was not an option then.

As with 2020, the biggest consequence of the pandemic was the death toll, but it also was a massive hit to the economy. Families had the same concerns of watching businesses collapse. Yet in 1919 they had the added burden of the effects of the de-escalation of WWI. As crazy as this sounds, WWI was good for our economy. During the war, we fed the world while most of the men were fighting. When the soldiers all returned to their own nations, American farmers took a hit.

At the same time, the economy was suffering from major labor issues. With the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, all labor strikes now looked like communist revolutions, throwing the nation into a “Red Scare.” Dozens of major strikes and riots occurred in cities, ending in the November Centralia Massacre that left six dead. In April and May, bombs mailed to important business leaders and politicians, killing two. The government’s answer was the J. Mitchell Palmer raids, where more than 300 suspects were either arrested or deported. All the labor unrest hurt the stock market. In many ways 1919 was harder on the economy than 2020 has been.

This past year has seen what seems like an unprecedented number of natural disasters, yet 1919 had its own share. In July a coal mine collapsed in West Virginia, trapping 221 men and capturing the nation’s attention. None were expected to make it out alive but, in the end, only six perished. Two months later in Corpus Christi, Texas, one of the largest hurricanes to hit the area came ashore and killed 700 people. 2020 may have had more disasters, but in terms of loss of life it did not beat 1919.

It’s hard to top an impeachment and the contested election of 2020, but 1919 did have issues. President Wilson was in the biggest fight of his life with Congress, which refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles and join the League of Nations. Instead of working with Congress, Wilson stubbornly insisted it step in line and began a whistle stop tour of the nation to convince the American people to support his cause. In the end, he did not get the support he wanted and instead suffered a debilitating stroke, leaving him unable to function as the president and leaving the U.S. leaderless.

For many, dealing with these issues and quarantine would have been easier with sports. It seemed bad enough when 2020 started with the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal, but then in March, right before an Oklahoma City Thunder game, sports was canceled. Sports may not have shut down in 1919, but it had an even worse sports scandal. In October eight players on the Chicago White Sox were found to have accepted money to lose the World Series. Americans were crushed. With the sanctity of baseball now questioned, what, if anything, was sacred? Then that same year the Red Sox traded pitcher Babe Ruth to the Yankees, beginning the curse of the Bambino which lasted for 86 years. Sports has come back for us in 2020, but the Black Socks scandal took some time to get over.

Finally, to really understand how hard 1919 was, in October of that year Congress passed the Volstead Act outlawing alcohol. I myself am not a drinker, but from close friends it sounds like alcohol may have been 2020’s only saving grace. Whereas 1919 outlawed drinking, in 2020 we deemed it an essential business and even created home delivery. I guess for some at least, 2020 may have been better than 1919. I am just glad I will not be around for 2121.


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 Christmas stroll up Happy Creek

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I’m taking this opportunity to share a Christmas walk along Happy Creek with my fellow residents. After two inches of rain, added to snowmelt, my husband and I wanted to see how the Front Street clear-cut and 8th Street riprap had held up. We also checked in on Lions Park and wandered up the stream to the Norfolk Southern crossing just south of 6th Street.

Happy Creek at Front Street Christmas Day. Courtesy Photos Sonja Carlborg

As you can see, Front Street was not at its best: silt fence and other Erosion & Sediment Control awry, a layer of sediment scrubbed from the shelf. And did you know that the project is to be completed by midnight December 31, 2020? If that’s not possible, Town Council can apply for a project extension before then or pay $34,700 to the Department of Environmental Quality in fines out of our tax dollars.

Evidently, the project budget we’ve all been asking for does not exist. Town Finance Director B.J. Wilson informed a Save Happy Creek Facebook follower that most expenses (personnel, etc) are coming out of the town operating budget. Technically there’s nothing wrong with this approach, but it does make it hard to determine how much of our taxes were actually spent on this unnecessary project. If the Town files for an extension, the $34,700 can be used to cover other project expenses. Since CHA Consulting was paid $8500 for plans that have now been revised twice (still no construction plan), that would leave $26,200. The Save Happy Creek Coalition figures that riprap alone will run about $100K, but since $34,700 may be going to pay the fine, how does that compute?

Heading down to the 8th Street site, we found the flood pictured below. (The Town Council apparently never applied for the Land Disturbance permit required for that project.) Unfortunately, until the low-water bridge is replaced, that “flood mitigation” project will remain dollars-and-water over the dam. Riprap attempted to address a symptom rather than the cause of the problem here. Why not do the right thing the first time around instead of paying more to fix it again later?

Eighth Street closed from Christmas flooding

Pictured below, we spotted the Rosgen structures beautifully performing their function at Lions Park. Installed in 2006-07, Rosgens are monster-size boulders strategically placed in a stream to slow the water along the banks, channeling it toward the center to prevent erosion. They’re effective, natural, attractive, and good for you and the stream.

Above, Rosgen structure boulders placed in 2006-7 doing their job during Christmas 2020 flooding; below the Rosgen boulders during low water.

Unfortunately, we also spotted this manhole spouting sewage and stormwater into the stream where children play and trout are released. Taken a couple of days later, the second picture reveals encrustation along the sewer water’s path, a sign of persistent leakage into Happy Creek. Tax dollars allocated to Inflow & Infiltration by the Town over the past two years were intended to correct problems like this.

Above, sewer draining untreated stormflow into Happy Creek along Lions Park Christmas day; below, apparently it is not a new problem as this sewage encrustation path at Lions Park would seem to indicate.

We were unprepared for what we discovered upstream, making us wonder all over again, why was a lovely functioning riparian buffer destroyed along Front Street when these problems could have been addressed instead?

Stormwater runoff culvert draining street and other paved surface stormwater directly into Happy Creek.

Debris and garbage litter a section of the creek bank.

Serious erosion has carved out the pool on opposite bank

Anyway, here’s wishing you clean streams in 2021! One can always hope.

Sonja Carlborg
Front Royal, Virginia

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