About 20 people, including 26th District Democratic State Senatorial candidate April Moore, gathered at Front Royal’s Town Gazebo at noon on Wednesday, March 13, to join Len Sherp in marking the start of the third year of the Vigil for Democracy he began on March 8, 2017.
“We mark our calendar by Wednesdays – we started on the second Wednesday of March 2017 and it’s the second Wednesday of March 2019,” Sherp said of any date discrepancies.
On that second Wednesday of 2017 Sherp explained the impetus for his Vigil for Democracy to Royal Examiner: “This administration in eight weeks has shown that it doesn’t understand the rule of law; does not respect the separation of powers; and has a Republican Congress that for some reason refuses to stand up and be adult. There are threats to our democracy when our president lies every day. And I think there are some underlying issues – I’m holding a sign today that says ‘Show us the Tax Returns’. Every president, I believe since Eisenhower if not even earlier, has released their tax returns, so that we can see that they are not indebted to or beholding to other foreign powers.”
And for Sherp on March 13, 2019, not much has changed.
“At the time I told you that I thought we faced a crisis in our country that basic constitutional principals seemed to be ignored; and we were heading toward a path that I felt the future of our democratic-republican form of government was in peril. Nothing over the last two years has convinced me otherwise,” Sherp said.
“We still have disrespect from the highest office in the nation, the presidency of the United States, for the rule of law; disrespect for the separation of powers; disrespect for the truth; we have disrespect for a free press; we have disrespect for the hardworking members of the federal government; we have disrespect for our allies; and we have instead an affection for dictators and a wish from our president that perhaps he could be president for life like his friend, Comrade Xi (Xi Jinping, president of China).
“And he talks about ‘love letters’ with (North Korean Dictator) Kim Jung Un – and we stopped our annual or semi-annual military exercises with the Republic of South Korea, our strongest ally in the Far East – what did we get for that? Oh, we got a picture with Kim Jung Un.
“And I didn’t even mention the violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution and the violations of the ban against nepotism – I could go on and on,” Sherp said deciding to end the litany of reasons the Vigil for Democracy continues, and will continue beyond his pending move to Oregon. Sherp and his wife are moving west in several weeks to be close to their daughter.
Sherp pointed us toward other vigil participants for comments, including those who will be instrumental in continuing to see the Vigil for Democracy remains a viable expression of political dissent guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Long-time vigil participants Bob Hill and Jorge Amselle will share Vigil for Democracy organizational rolls after Sherp’s departure.
We asked Amselle why he, like Hill and others in the vigil trenches, has been there on Wednesday afternoons with Sherp for the bulk of two years.
“This is the only thing that keeps me sane; this is the only thing that gives me hope for our country – to be out here with people who recognize the danger that we’re in, who are like-minded. I believe I told you before, I used to be a conservative Republican for 30 years; for years I voted Republican. When Trump was running I kept telling my fellow Republicans ‘You can’t vote for this guy – he’s insane and a racist.’
“And when he won the nomination I decided that’s it, I’m out, I’m done. And I left the Republican Party and volunteered for the Hillary Clinton campaign and did everything I could to make sure Trump didn’t win.”
Over two years later Amselle is maintaining his commitment to make Americans, including Republicans, see what he sees in the 45th president – a would-be demagogue who puts self interest above the national interest.
Amselle pointed out how many congressional Republicans, Lindsay Graham and Ted Cruz being prominent examples, were documented during the 2016 nominating campaign saying horrible things about Trump’s character; but now fall easily in line with the worst of the president’s policy initiatives or personal impulses.
“I think it’s just winning at all costs – nothing matters but winning, you know, no morals, no qualms about lying, cheating, stealing, pandering to white supremacists, empowering racism and other forms of bigotry; being inconsistent on all the things you ever preached. See, there used to be a competition between all different kinds of conservatives, your libertarians, your evangelicals, all different kinds of conservatives were there to argue and debate conservative ideologies.”
“Now that’s all gone, now it’s just Trump – the only ideology that matters is Trump,” Amselle observed of an apparent party-wide fear of not antagonizing Trump’s sizable base among Republican voters.
And when the cult of personality meets ideological intransience tempered with stereotypical vilification of minorities and outsiders you have a historically dangerous combination – a combination often found at the outset of the rise of state totalitarianism.
It is a trend another former Republican present at the March 13 vigil has noticed. April Moore is positioning herself for a Democratic challenge of 26th District State Senate Republican incumbent Mark Obenshain in the upcoming election. See her observations on the trend of Republicanism in the Trump era mentioned by Amselle in this linked story.
Of her presence in staunchly Republican Front Royal and Warren County for the March 13 Vigil for Democracy Moore said, “I’m impressed people here in Front Royal have been out here every week for the last two years protesting what the Republican Party has become and what it’s doing: this party that nominated, elected and now serves as accomplices to a president who lies to the public multiple times every day; and who is assaulting our rule of law; and even seems to be in some kind of strange cahoots with our most dangerous adversary.
“So part of why I’m running is the reason they’re out here,” Moore said of Vigil for Democracy participants.
Bob Hill, who with Jorge Amselle will continue the organizational impetus for the Vigil for Democracy in Sherp’s pending absence, sees a fundamental necessity for that continuation.
“I think the vigil has been an awakening for a lot of the people here in Front Royal that there is a two-party system and two parties make us stronger. Obviously if you have a one-party system you are heading away from democratic principals,” Hill observed of the role of political dissent in non-totalitarian nations.
Hill, who was a primary vigil player in establishing a dialogue with elements of the pro-Trump contingent across Chester Street, pointed to mutual concerns about local politics.
“My Trump friends over there,” he said gesturing toward Ralph and Michael Waller and their pro-Trump signs across Chester Street, “when I talk to them about what’s going on locally, about the EDA or about insurance policies (against abuses) they’ll say to me ‘Well, it’s the politicians’ and I’ll say ‘What politicians?’ and they’ll say ‘The ones we voted in’ – and I’ll ask ‘What party are they?’ And in staunchly-conservative Warren County and Front Royal the answer with few generally independent exceptions is Republican.
“Years ago my wife came home and said, ‘Look, I could be a Republican – I believe in smaller government except for one thing: smaller government would mean fewer people overseeing and making sure that I, as a Republican, don’t think of myself first and foremost.’
“Sure it’s smaller government, but it’s also corrupt government,” Hill said of an unmonitored economic system where the largest and wealthiest competitors are free to prey upon, not only smaller-positioned competitors, but the marketplace itself.
“Sometimes people just don’t see the forest for the trees,” Hill concluded with an age-old expression of the problem of seeing the bigger picture when you find yourself immersed in the middle of that picture.
And when one looks at the political picture being painted by the current occupant of the White House: from a general disregard for federal institutions from law enforcement to intelligence and the diplomatic wing of the State Department, coupled with the number of unfilled federal positions after two-plus years of the Trump presidency, as well as the conflicting professional interests of many who have been appointed to head oversight agencies like the EPA, Commerce and Interior, it would seem the core political issues that have brought Vigil for Democracy participants together for over two years are nowhere near a resolution.
So we imagine you will continue to see these anniversary reports, along with those coming across the Chester Street political divide, for at least another two years …
Shopping Small has its rewards
Shopping Small does have its rewards in Front Royal.
Beginning on November 28, 2020, and continuing through December 20, 2020, shop ANY small business in Warren County and turn in your receipts for inclusion in a weekly gift bag drawing!
Here are the rules:
Receipts must be submitted for purchases totaling $100.00 or more and purchases must be made on the same day.
Any purchase from any Warren County small business (does not include chain stores, gas stations, or grocery stores) made on the same day will count toward your entry.
You may enter the drawings as many times as you wish.
Drawings for gift bags will be held every Monday morning and the winner will be chosen from only that week’s entries.
Receipts should be presented at Key Move Properties, 403 E Main St, for verification for drawing entry.
Weekly winners will receive gift bags of local business donated goods including gift cards. The value of gift bags may vary.
Numbers down but enthusiasm high for Turkey Egg Hunt 2020
It may not have been the 2020 Thanksgiving Day Turkey Egg Hunt originally envisioned to run from the Gazebo-Village Commons area up a closed-to-vehicular-traffic East Main Street involving “hidden” eggs in a variety of downtown business locations and a larger contingent of egg hunting families. But according to organizers Mr. and Mrs. Turkey (aka Willie and Nina Huck of C&C Frozen Treats) and musical backdrop providers Chris and Sue Laurence of White Picket Fence and Key Move Properties, the more localized and properly family group socially distanced gathering of about 25 total participants was a rousing success, nonetheless.
The measuring stick – the smiling children’s faces as they ran around gathering candy and surprise-filled turkey eggs dominating the Commons area landscape mid-afternoon this Thanksgiving Day.
We spoke with the “Turkeys” after their official launching of the Turkey Egg Hunt about the trials and tribulations of a pandemic and extended, not-extended walking mall-impacted Turkey Egg Hunt.
“Gobble-gobble-gobble, gobble-gobble-gobble,” Mr. Turkey began before we reminded him his interviewer was not bilingual in Turkeyese, at which point Mrs. Turkey took the helm in human-English speak.
“Considering the environment that we’re in, I think we had a good turnout – we have less than 25 people, so we’re not breaking any rules (regarding gubernatorial COVID-19 Phase 3 pandemic guidelines prohibiting public and business gathering of more than 25 people).
“We have a lot of family groups socially distanced from each other and I think people are going to respect that more than anything,” Mr. Turkey added, regaining his command of human-English speak. “I classify this as a success. This is the community coming out and celebrating a little memory, starting a new tradition, second year running – third is the make it or break it, right?” Mr. Turkey observed the old standard of catching on or not.
Looking a year into the future, hopefully with successful vaccines having been developed, and on the market putting an end to the worldwide 2019 Novel Coronavirus pandemic that is thus far attributed to taking over 266,000 American lives, and over 1.42-million worldwide, Mr. Turkey forecast a bigger and better 2021 Turkey Day Egg Hunt. – “So, next year all this (pandemic restrictions) will be gone and it’ll be much larger, much bigger, and as much fun.”
While a smaller group than hoped for in year two, as noted above, those present, children and parents alike, were notable for the big grins on their faces as children raced to claim their turkey egg candy and toy stash.
“Seeing the smiles on the family’s faces makes it a hundred percent worth it,” Mr. Turkey observed.
“Absolutely,” Mrs. Turkey, who oversaw much of the egg-laying, agreed.
Royal Examiner asked the Turkeys about the planning involved amidst a constantly shifting pandemic and downtown walking mall landscape.
“Well, I had a conversation with Santa and the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, and we hatched this plan last year on a whim – why not do it?” Mr. Turkey replied, as Mrs. Turkey noted, “Last Easter we went to Walmart and bought all their leftover Easter eggs, so we’d have eggs, and asked our customers to bring us some candy after Halloween, so we could stuff the turkey eggs, and here we are after about an hour and a half of putting them out.”
Mr. Turkey estimated that from community donations this year, as many as three thousand eggs and the candy and toys with which to fill them had been gathered. “We had an egg stuffing party at the ice cream shop and winter is upon us,” despite the 68-degree temperatures this November 26th we pointed out – “Despite the 68-degree temperatures – you stuff eggs in your downtime … and you have a bunch of smiling kids faces in the end, and that’s what it’s about.”
Sue Laurence concurred that in the circumstance of 2020, success can’t be measured solely in numbers. “We’re having a great time. There may not be a lot of people here but the weather’s great.
Next year, hopefully, more people will feel comfortable about coming out. But everybody who is here has got a smile.”
EDA announces pending sale of Baugh Drive warehouse to medical marijuana distributor
The EDA Board of Directors met in a Special Board meeting this morning. With a unanimous vote on a motion by Greg Harold, seconded by Jim Wolfe, the Board approved a resolution authorizing the Chair and Secretary to sign a Letter Of Intent (LOI) to sell the former Atlantic Skyline Building at 426 Baugh Drive for the full asking price of $5,750,000 to Parallel Virginia, LLC, a pharmaceutical processor of medical cannabis. The sale is contingent upon the conditional approval of the company’s application for a pharmaceutical processor permit in Health Service Area 1 by the Virginia Board of Pharmacy – a decision expected in March 2021. As authorized by law, the Virginia Board of Pharmacy may award conditional approval for only one pharmaceutical processor application in this health service area.
The Commonwealth of Virginia passed legislation approving the production and use of medical cannabis oil in 2018. The legislation established five Health Service Areas with one pharmaceutical processor per area. The Board of Pharmacy has already awarded permits in Areas 2-5. The Area 1 permit reopened for applicants in the fall of 2020.
Parallel Virginia, LLC, if awarded conditional approval, will begin establishing its manufacturing presence in the spring of 2021. This experienced, multi-state operator is already successfully operating in four states – Georgia, Massachusetts, Colorado, and Florida. In addition, the company is currently developing a recently awarded research-focused operation in Pennsylvania in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh.
Parallel has a strong research and development component in every operation and has already signed letters of intent for strategic research and workforce partnerships with several public and private Virginia institutions of higher education.
The company’s industry-leading experience and multi-state success will greatly benefit the Warren County and Front Royal area. In the first five years of operation, they project a capital investment of tens of millions of dollars and the creation of hundreds of jobs.
Virginia law requires doctors who want to write prescriptions for medical cannabis to register with the Board of Pharmacy. Patients prescribed medical cannabis are required to pay an annual fee in addition to the cost of the prescription. The law also limits the number of dispensing facilities within the Health Service Area to five. The company, if selected, will establish its pharmaceutical processor operation at this facility, and has future plans to identify separate, stand-alone dispensing facilities within other localities in HSA 1.
Finally, selling the building will save Warren County taxpayers approximately $25,000 per month, or $300,000 a year, in loan payments, utilities, and insurance costs. It was a priority of the Board to get this building back into the hands of the private sector and back online creating jobs and adding to the economic engine of our community. This prospect will create jobs, generate tax revenue, and develop licensed medicine for patients in need. Doug Parsons, EDA Executive Director noted, “We believe this company is a good fit for our community. They have been thorough, transparent, and accommodating in thinking through their potential presence in Virginia. We appreciate their interest in our community and their commitment to making a lasting, positive impact in our region.”
Also following the closed session, on a motion by Tom Patteson, seconded by Harold, the board unanimously approved a short-term storage lease with Interchange Group for 10,000 square feet of space at 426 Baugh Drive for $4,125 per month.
Rotary Club of Front Royal providing free Doc Smith food boxes and Coats for Kids
The Rotary Club of Front Royal is partnering with the Department of Social Services to provide free Doc Smith food boxes and Coats for Kids. The Doc Smith Food Basket program has existed in Warren County/Front Royal since 1916. The Rotary Club of Front Royal has sponsored the food box program since 2003.
The deadline for applications is Monday, November 30. Applications can be dropped off at the following places:
- Department of Social Services – 465 W 15th St (they have a drop box for contactless delivery)
- Warren County Community Center – 538 Villa Ave – Friday and Saturday, November 20 and 21
- Drop box at First Baptist Church -14 W 1st Street (in doors facing 1st Avenue)
- Call or email First Baptist Church – 540-635-2122 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Food boxes and coats can be picked up on Saturday, December 19, from 10:00am – Noon, at First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall. Delivery is also available.
Traditional Thanksgiving off the table for many
Many Americans are grappling with ways to make one of the nation’s most celebrated holidays safe amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Richmond resident Caroline Kaschak will feast at home to protect at-risk elders in her family.
“It is just going to be my husband and me,” Kaschak said. “We are going to order in fancy takeout instead.”
Colleges like Virginia Commonwealth University are offering COVID-19 exit testing to students before they return home for the holidays. Some Americans still have scheduled traditional Thanksgiving gatherings with their families.
“I plan on going to my grandparents’ house for Thanksgiving,” said VCU student Rickaya Sykes. “They live in the same town as me, and we are very close. If I am not at home, I am at their house spending time with them.”
The Centers for Disease Control recently issued guidance for gatherings over the Thanksgiving holiday. The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving is at home with people who live in the same household, the CDC said. Gatherings with family and friends who live outside the home can increase the chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 or the flu.
The agency recommends that hosts limit the number of guests, disinfect surfaces and keep windows open to decrease coronavirus risk. For attendees, the guidance includes bringing and eating food from home with their own utensils and staying out of the kitchen.
COVID-19 cases and deaths have sharply risen in the past two weeks across the nation and in Virginia, according to the New York Times. Over the past week, there has been an average of 2,262 new cases per day in Virginia, an increase of 62% from the average two weeks earlier, according to the Times.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced a coronavirus mandate in Virginia to limit private gatherings and some public events to 25 people. The restrictions took effect on Nov. 15, less than two weeks before the Thanksgiving holiday.
The CDC urged Americans to consider alternative Thanksgiving Day activities such as virtual celebrations, eating meals outdoors, post-holiday shopping online and using a curbside pickup.
Virginia State Parks is encouraging families to gather at its 39 parks— which have remained open during the pandemic—over the Thanksgiving holiday. The “Opt Outside” promotion will be celebrated throughout the holiday weekend from Nov. 26 to Nov. 29. Visitors have a chance to win a $500 Virginia State Parks gift certificate if they submit up to five photos of their trip and enter it into the annual photo contest. The Virginia State Parks promotion started 10 years ago as “Green Friday” to motivate families to visit the park instead of post-Thanksgiving shopping on “Black Friday.”
“Since the promotion started, we have seen more people visiting parks over the holidays,” said Tim Shrader, the eastern region field operations manager for Virginia State Parks. “You have all this family coming in, you probably need to get outside and enjoy each other’s company outside for physical and mental health.”
AAA released its annual Thanksgiving travel forecast, which anticipated at least a 10% drop in travel. The agency said that is the largest one-year decrease since the Great Recession in 2008. In mid-October, AAA expected up to 50 million Americans to travel for the holiday. Now they say it could be lowered given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases and health notices.
The nation’s airports saw an uptick in travelers over the weekend, despite the CDC advisory to avoid traveling. The Transportation Security Administration reported almost 4 million travelers from Nov. 19 to Nov. 22, but the rate of travelers was still much lower than at the same time last year.
By India Jones
Capital News Service
Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.
FRPD releases Chief’s full statement on social media investigation
The Front Royal Police Department was made aware on Wednesday, November 11, 2020, of concerning social media posts that had been made by an officer within our department. These comments do not represent the views of the Town of Front Royal or our Police Department. Our mission remains to safeguard the lives of ALL members of our community. We take this behavior very seriously. Upon receipt of the complaint, the officer was immediately placed on administrative leave pursuant to an internal investigation.
The Internal Affairs Division conducted a thorough investigation, the results of which were also vetted externally by a third party. It was determined in the investigation that the Front Royal Police Department’s General Order 27.01.04; Public Information – Internet / Social Media had been violated by this employee. Specific violations include: ‘D.3 – Department Sanctioned Use’, and section ‘E. – Personal Use/Off-Duty Conduct’. In light of the totality of circumstances, appropriate punitive and corrective disciplinary actions have taken place which includes extensive training in cultural diversity, anti-biased policing, and the role of social media in public safety.
The officer is a 15-year veteran of the Front Royal Police Department. All 15 years of performance evaluations show above average work performance. In the past three years alone, this officer has responded to over 3,000 calls for service in our community. This officer has never had any disciplinary actions, no citizen complaints, and no excessive use of force incidents in the course of his career.
Again, we take this very seriously and do not condone the statements made by this officer. We are instituting social media training for the entire department and will be conducting antibias policing training in addition to the mandated yearly cultural diversity requirements of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services.