Letter: Just answer the question, please

John Fox Sullivan’s rambling and slightly incoherent defense of the need for a town government last week raises more questions than it answers, and uses every old politician’s trick in the book to do it.

The language is prickly, but the message is clear: If you question the town plutocracy, you will be mocked and marginalized. Decent, hardworking county residents who raise serious and thoughtful questions about the workings of the town clique are now, in the mayor’s words, “outsiders,” “a small few,” “take over the town folks” or (my favorite) “a few disgruntled outsiders.”

That’s pathetic. My old hound dog Junior can figure that one out, John. “Attack the messengers! Belittle them! They are disgruntled outsiders! They are not normal insider people like us!”

It doesn’t work, Mr. Mayor. It never has.

I’ve been around here longer than you and I’ve made thousands of friends and I talk to a lot of them every day. I grew up in Virginia. I first came up to the Blue Ridge as a kid, just after World War II. I fell in love with it as so many do.

Alma and I aren’t going anywhere. And I am going to say what I think as clearly and effectively as I can. Just about every day people thank me for that, even when they disagree.

And John, in all of your belabored “State of the Town” message, you fail to answer the one important question I have asked: “Why does the tiny village of Washington need a town government?”

All of what you describe as “the growth” of the town would have happened whether or not there is a town government. The town would continue to be a town, people would come and go, businesses would prosper or fail and such services as are now provided by the town would be provided by the county.

Believe me, the attraction of Washington, Va., is not the town council. The attraction is this traditional mountain village nestled in a beautiful county that has been wisely protected by past generations against rapacious development.

It is a piece of lost America. Don’t start believing that you can improve on that. Some might even say that any “progress” has been in spite of the town council.

And I also suggest to you that it is never a wise idea to guess what the voters or the county supervisors might be thinking. You say you haven’t heard anyone in town speak in favor of charter annulment. Well, I have. And that, sir, is exactly why we have secret ballots.

And you say the county supervisors don’t like the idea. Really? How would you know that? The serious discussions about this have not even begun to take place, so how could they determine the advantages and disadvantages of annulment?

I brought up a subject in this paper that others have talked about and that I have heard kicked around for years in Rappahannock. And rather than a thoughtful discussion about the ramifications and the pros and cons of such an annulment, we get from you a 1,200-word campaign speech, a few insults and not one word of why we need a town government.

Now, perhaps this may be a small point to you, Mr. Mayor, but it is one that I consider very telling. You brag that we have had a charter since 1796; I find this most disappointing. In a Sept. 26 letter about this subject, entitled “Time to say goodbye to the town council,” I stated correctly that Washington was established as a town in 1796, but did not receive a charter until 1894 — almost 100 years later.

I suggest that you walk down Main Street and read the plaque that greets visitors to our town, the one that says “The First Washington of Them All.” It states, and has always stated, that Washington, Va., was established as a town in 1796 and became incorporated (chartered) in 1894.

What else don’t you know?

Ben Jones
Washington