At the Town Council meeting of February 10, 2020, Mrs. Wendy Kurtz and Mrs. Amber Poe Morris spoke on the lack of tourism information about Front Royal on the web. Their remarks puzzled me.
How can tourism be on the upswing here according to other speakers, official State documents and recent articles in the Royal Examiner? At the same time, a well-established, functioning team – the architects of this success – were fired?
My typical practice avoids calling out non-elected officials. Yet the puzzle of the two ladies’ different findings had me wondering if I could safely surmise their potential motive may not be as innocent as appears? Was it strictly political in nature to defend the Interim Town Manager and the Town Council?
To quote “… two public speakers expressing outright support of Council, the Interim Town Manager and the downsizing plan Monday, … were Warren County Republican Committee Treasurer Amber Poe Morris and Wendy Kurtz, wife of the current successor to Tederick’s past stint as chairman of the Warren County Republican Committee, Steve Kurtz.” (February 11, Royal Examiner, “Tederick, Council Defend Budget Plan, Staff Terminations in Face of Public Criticism”)
Time to check for facts, keeping in mind that we always need to identify better and more creative ways to promote our town – I do not believe anyone would question that.
Even a novice can google “Front Royal” and “Tourism”. What comes up? In less than five minutes, about 213 reviews show up on Trip Advisor and other tourism-related sites. The number one activity upon arriving in Front Royal is: “go to the Visitor Center”; “best ever Visitor Center” wrote one. Material is available!
Opinions and statistics from INSIDE the Visitor Center contradict the Interim Town Manager and the two ladies who spoke. The ladies support outsourcing, yet again there is evidence to support keeping tourism in-house – under the control of the town, and county, administrations.
Quite importantly, the Virginia Tourism Corporation research reports “$151,000,000 in lodging expenditures” by visitors to Warren County, a 4.9% increase from 2017 to 2018, support for 1700 jobs with a $23 million payroll, and $2.9 million in tax revenue.
Last week, based upon 210 reviews, our Visitor Center was ranked second only to Skyline Caverns as top attractions in Warren County. “Do you know how unusual it is for a Visitor Center to rank as an attraction?” (AT Trail Community Committee Co-Chair Susan) Tschirhart asked, adding pointedly, “And we’re about to fire that entire staff and change a recipe that has been steadily generating increased revenue for each of the past five years.”
And of that Town tourism budget already appropriated for the current fiscal year ending June 30, Tschirhart observed, “We were puzzled to learn that the tourism budget for marketing and advertising has been frozen.
“This is money already allocated to the current fiscal year and critical to generating business for 170 tourism-dependent businesses in the county who count on the Visitor Center and its marketing materials and services to generate income. Eighty-five percent of Front Royal’s tourism budget is covered by the lodging fees, all collected from visitors to our area. The remaining 15% comes from the Front Royal promotional merchandise sold at the Visitor Center. None of our tourism department’s salaries or expenses come out of our own taxpayer dollars. Why are we cutting the tourism budget just as the tourism season is about to begin?” Tschirhart asked.
She also suggested that Council and the Interim Town Manager’s course of action flies in the face of, not only the town’s own past experience with outsourcing tourism, but other Valley communities who have learned their lessons and are moving in exactly the opposite direction from the one five elected and two appointed town citizens have chosen to move this Appalachian Trail Community toward.
“Berryville and Round Hill were designated AT communities last year. Luray, designated just after Front Royal is now working toward moving its under-performing tourism department out from under its Chamber of Commerce. In all of the other counties, tourism is handled by town/county government.”
I do have to take heart that certain members of the Town Council (e.g., Councilman Thompson who asked at the meeting of Feb 10, if she could get more information) may actually now see the truth behind what has happened to the previous staff and take corrective action. Possible they could show the compassion that the Interim Town Manager once suggested was needed. Only time will tell if a true character comes to the forefront for the rest of the Council.
With that supporting material, I close with the following comment: Is it possible that tourists to our area do not look for such web links as I found – could they just be lost when they arrive in our small town, or do they simply ask people while on I-66 traveling west where is a fun place to visit?
I sincerely doubt that.
A better plan may be to provide them the number to our Interim Town Manager, or members of our Town Council, as they seem to live in a “Fantasyland” – and, that’s just another attraction warranting a visit to Front Royal, yes?
Warren County parent endorses Funk for School Board in Happy Creek District
I would like to share my endorsement and support of Dr. Antoinette Funk, candidate for the Warren County, Virginia School Board, Happy Creek District.
Dr. Funk and I served on the Warren County Public Schools Special Education Advisory Committee for 7 years. On this committee she inspired many of us to become more knowledgeable of our role and to better organize our work. As a parent, she appreciates the importance of a school district having a good line of communication with families, as an education professional with experience in teaching and working in school administration, she understands the many responsibilities that schools face, and as a long-time resident of Warren County, she appreciates the importance of a school district being the best that it can be to serve the families of a community. Her experience as a parent, a resident, and an educator will give her a uniquely broad perspective as a school board member.
As election day approaches, please consider what is needed on our school board and consider voting for Dr. Antoinette Funk for the Happy Creek District School Board Member of Warren County, Virginia.
Warren County Parent and Resident
Hypocrisy in Sports
To start, let me say something about myself. I love sports. I was a three-sport athlete in high school and I still love playing sports now (though badly). I love watching sports, both on TV and in person. I have a son on the high school baseball team and never thought I would enjoy watching as much baseball as he plays, but I do. I have heard sports described as either soap operas or reality shows for men. It really is as Jim McKay used to say: “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” The problem is that sports are meant to be fun (unless my Hokies and Razorbacks both lose as they did last week) but, with the politics of the day, they are losing some of their enjoyment as mindless entertainment. What is really starting to get hard is the hypocrisy in sports, yet, historically speaking, maybe it always has been this way.
The big news of last week was the resignation of Las Vegas Raiders Coach Jon Gruden. At first, I was not sure what I thought about an email sent eleven years ago but, as more and more inappropriate emails began to surface, it became clear that he needed to go. His emails were full of racist, homophobic, and sexist language that the NFL has condemned. It is right that the NFL condemns this type of language and the League has tried recently to stand up for what is right.
What makes it hard to accept, however, is that with its moral outrage, NFL is also allowing a Super Bowl half-time show featuring Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Dr. Dre. You may be aware of these artists, especially Snoop Dogg, who is becoming a cultural icon with his laid-back persona and commercials with Martha Stewart. However, if you are not, I would love to give you a sample of their lyrics, but I can’t because most papers would not print them. Their songs are full of racist, homophobic, and sexist language, much worse than Gruden’s. Add to that the violence and drug use these entertainers promote. I want to say sports can’t have it both ways, yet it does.
There is plenty of modern history showing the hypocrisy of sports. Most recently is Lebron James, who claims to be a champion for social justice yet attacked Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey for supporting democratic protesters in China. China was threatening to cut ties with the NBA, meaning James and the NBA could lose millions. James said of Morey, “But I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke.” It seemed what James really meant was Morey may not have been considering how much he might lose by supporting oppressed people not in America.
Then there is Nike, who also claims to support social justice and human rights. Nike used major social justice warriors like Megan Rapinoe and Colin Kaepernick in its ads but also refused to pay a real wage to workers in third-world countries, helping to keep those workers in poverty. There are championship sports teams that took their conservative players to meet Democratic presidents but refused to take their teams to either Bush’s or Trump’s White House. Then there was Monday Night Football, which dropped country legend Hank Williams Jr. for comparing President Obama to Hitler, while having no issues with artists and celebrities who made the same references to Trump.
Speaking of Hitler: When I think of one of sport’s biggest hypocrisies, he is at the center of the controversy. Most people know the story of the 1936 Olympics and American track star Jesse Owens (if you want to learn about these games from a non-track perspective, I highly recommend Boys in the Boat). Hitler planned to use these games to showcase his nation’s power and the strength of what he thought of as the “Aryan race.”
What he was not prepared for was a Black man from America showing up his track and field athletes. While Hitler’s Germans did win the most medals overall and the most gold medals, Owens walked away with four golds, more than any U.S. athlete at the time. While Owens’ dominance was the main story, the side story was his treatment by Hitler. After the first day of competition and after Hitler shook hands and congratulated the German winners, he left the stadium. The head of the Olympic Games told him that he either had to shake the hands of all the winners or none of them. He chose none of them.
Americans were furious and the story began to circulate that Owens, now a true American hero, was snubbed by the German leader. Yet when Owens was asked about the mistreatment, his answer was telling: “I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler. But I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President either.” FDR, who had spent much of his life in the South, in true hypocrisy did not invite Owens to the White House or acknowledge his accomplishments as he did with the white athletes. Americans who were outraged at Hitler did not seem to care about FDR’s own snub.
It is sad that politics and hypocrisy take over what many Americans like me use to get away from the world for a short time each week. Though it has not always been the case, sports today are the one place where merit rises to the top. Black or White, rich or poor, the best players in the games play together. It should be the place with the least amount of divisive language. I applaud the NFL for condemning the words of Jon Gruden. But if the League is serious about ending the hypocrisy and truly wanting to unite the nation and end this type of language, the NFL needs to find a new half-time show.
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.
It is about time we recognized the true heroes of the Republican Party. They are not the dopey louts who rampaged through our nation’s capital and the moral cowards who still cover for them.
They are not the ranting demagogues exploiting the emotions of the resentful. They were the unsung people not seeking attention, but doing their jobs: from poll workers to police officers. They were Republican state legislators and governors who did not bend to pressure to overturn the elections in their state. They were Republican judges who did not allow mere allegations unsupported by credible evidence to deny votes that happened. They were a Vice President who stayed loyal to the Constitution and the rule of law above any man. They were Republican congressional representatives and senators who did not fear to try and hold their own president accountable and dared to stand on their conscience instead of following the majority in their party. They did not win. But they showed more bravery than the majority in their party who did.
It is Republicans like those who could save the soul of the party from being lost to a band of fascists if they find the nerve to do so. My father was a lifelong Republican who served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. After the sacrifices that generation made to defeat fascism, I’m glad he was not alive to see his party dishonored by America’s Mussolini.
Ocean City, NJ
Appreciative parent supports Funk for School Board in Happy Creek District
I am writing this letter to extend my support and endorsement to Dr. Antoinette Funk for Warren County, VA School Board-Happy Creek District.
As a parent of a former Ressie Jeffries student, I would like to share my experience of having Dr. Funk as assistant principal during my child’s elementary education.
Dr. Funk is a conscientious professional. Her decisions were always based on what was in my child’s best interest. We were not always in agreement; however, she always gave explanations regarding her decision and willingly listened to our concerns (including those of my son). She provided other options as she deemed available and made final decisions based on the needs of my son, providing support at school and at home.
Dr. Funk understands the relation between having a strong bridge between school and home. She was fair and respectful. My child benefited tremendously throughout his school years and into adult life due to his time at Ressie under Dr. Funk’s educational and social guidance. Being a parent of a special needs child herself gave her insight into the daily challenges of students and teachers. I found her to be honorable, thorough, and supportive. I knew my son was being academically challenged.
I say without reservation that Dr. Funk is dedicated and commits herself to serve the educational needs of each individual student. Her expectations and consequences were always made clear. Her commitment to education is a priority, and she remained a source of support and education well into his middle school years.
I ask you to make an informed decision in your choice in the upcoming election. If you want an experienced, dedicated individual, committed to making decisions and standing up for what is best for the education of your children, vote for Dr. Antoinette Funk for Warren County, VA School Board-Happy Creek District.
Warren County, Virginia
We need Angela Robinson on our school board
Angela Robinson – a person who will fight for your child.
I am writing to share my experience with Angie Robinson as a teacher, advocate and now friend. My daughter had begun to show signs of learning difficulties when she was in elementary school. I had known Angie through the school, but had not had her teach my child. When my daughter made it to fourth grade, she had fallen behind, and I just could not get the services needed for my daughter.
Angie assured me that she would do whatever she could to help my daughter and to address the concerns that I had. Angie was able to do that and even more. She made sure my child got her special services through an IEP, and she continued to follow through with my child throughout her years in Warren County schools. She offered to go to IEP meetings after she left the elementary setting. She even went as far as to continue to tutor my daughter throughout her high school years.
Angie cares about our children. She cares about their journey and their future. She dedicated her time to fight for my daughter. This is why we need her on our school board – to fight for the students who need to be fought for. She understands how the system works and how important it is to make our students successful. I am proud to say that my daughter graduated from Skyline High School, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of Angie Robinson. She cares about our students, our families and our schools. We need Angela Robinson on our school board.
Front Royal, Virginia
Response to ‘Open Letter to Warren County voters…’
The writers assert the reason for the relatively high percentage of private and home-schooled children in the community are generally failing standards in state and this county’s public school systems. This assertion ignores the impact of a half century of location of private, Catholic educational institutions into this community, prominent among those Christendom College, Chelsea Academy and Seton Home School. Those institutions, among others like Human Life International, have been followed into this community by an expanding Catholic population of a generally conservative outlook, an outlook that might blur the Constitutionally mandated separation of church and state for some.
Many families within that community have their own preference for a religiously based education for their children, regardless of the quality of the public school system here. Add the even longer-standing private school option of Air Force Junior ROTC and Methodist-sponsored Randolph-Macon Academy, now at the middle and high school levels, and you have an even greater private school alternative to public education in this community that predates current debates over educational and social policies and standards.
Whether one receives a better quality education publicly, privately, or in the home is matter of opinion and debate that will reflect the perspectives – religious, social and political – of the involved parties, as Mr. Waller’s and Lundberg’s letter illustrates. But leaving relevant facts out of the debate to promote one’s opinion as factual analysis is too often a symptom of advocacy, as opposed to objective exploration of the topic under scrutiny.
Royal Examiner Editorial Board member