Breathless in Rappahannock

Breathless is the title of a 1961 French movie starring Jean- Paul Belmondo. Reading my friend John McCaslin’s banner headline in last week’s edition [“Tiny Rappahannock ranks near the top nationally — and it isn’t necessarily flattering,” July 6] I felt as if Jean Luc Godard’s parody of Hollywood thrillers was being replicated in our own community. Only this time, the Rappahannock News was trying to parody the mainstream media.

Quick, convene a citizens’ committee! The sky is falling down. What’s that, income disparity? Age disparity? Folks having to travel all the way to Culpeper or Warrenton or Front Royal just to buy a loaf of bread! An outrage!

Mr. McCaslin writes, “. . . the median age in the county is just under 50 years old, a whopping decade-plus older than the state’s average of 37.6.” Well, we can’t have that can we? Perhaps we can push some of the older folks into nearby out of county retirement homes and provide financial incentives for Rappahannock Millennials to have more children.

Shockingly, the “report projects that by 2040 the number of young adults aged 20 to 24 in Rappahannock will actually “decline” due to lack of jobs and housing opportunities. The largest segment of the population, adults 25 to 64, will remain “stagnant.”

Don’t you just love those choice of words? “Decline,” “Stagnant.” “Whopping.” Get the picture? Doomsday just around the corner. No one must be seen defending decline and stagnation.

There’s an obvious solution to the editorialist’s breathless alarms. In order to get the county’s statistics in line with the Virginia state average, families with incomes above the state median should have their property taxes quadrupled so they are forced to move out. The income derived from those who remain, who can sustain this increase, will be used for subsidized housing for anyone who qualifies as below the state median.

To accelerate this process the county comprehensive plan must be immediately abolished so that twenty-six acre properties currently occupied by just one family can be subdivided into half-acre lots that can be occupied by 52 families. Just think of the building boom and all the employment created in the building trades!

These new median income families will bring in more children, thereby accomplishing the additional goal of lowering the median age. Naturally, the increase in population density will necessitate box stores and strip malls, since no median family should be expected to drive all the way to Culpeper, Warrenton or Front Royal to do their shopping.

Finally, when all this has been achieved and we can all feel really good about ourselves we can change the name of the county from Rappahannock to Fairfax. Just so no one is confused.

A “breathless” but eminently worthwhile goal!

Ron Maxwell
Flint Hill

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  1. As someone born and reared in Rappahannock County, please allow me a few thoughts. When I graduated high school in 1974 from RCHS, then graduated JMU in 1978, I thought once or twice about trying to find employment in the county or nearby; there was no opportunity for me. So, I was forced to seek employment elsewhere; the “city” as the locals call it. I now live in a neighboring county for the “convenience” of grocery shopping, health care, a local hospital, etc. Rappahannock has legislated themselves into the statistics that were discussed in this article. Particularly, extremely restrictive ordinances/laws concerning residential and commercial construction. Yes, I’m well aware that you can use statistics anyway you choose. But, one must at least try to separate fact from fiction….in today’s political climate, Facebook mentality, very few take the time to do that anymore. So, I don’t think that as Mr. Maxwell has proclaimed that we’re “breathless”, and should dismiss all the article has to say. We should, rather look at the stats more closely and see if there’s any merit to them and try to address what can be changed/revised for further study/action. I’m of the opinion that we can always strive for improvement. Yes, Rappahannock is a rarity in its beauty, but falls short in many other areas. Rappahannock is ALREADY experiencing the effects of a lack of diversity whether it’s age or race, etc. At one time, there was a thriving volunteer Fire/EMT service throughout the county. Not anymore. They’re offering FREE training and barely able to get persons to attend. The retention is even less. Forty to thirty years ago, there was a thriving African American faith based community. Today, many of the AA churches are barely able to support the upkeep of a church AND support a preacher/pastor; the majority of the pastors of AA churches live OUTSIDE the county. Not to mention jobs. The article stated that the largest employers are the RCPS and the Inn at Little Washington. Wow. If you can’t teach or serve tables, well you’re out of luck. Citizens of Rappahannock, there is a path forward. It doesn’t have to be the “Fairfax” model (BTW, I worked there and retired with a pretty good retirement package! It was the No. #1 County government in the Commonwealth and consistently Top Ten in the nation for the past 10-20 years.) The path forward is called “Smart Growth”. And, it’s happening and Working in many locales across the country. Let’s be willing to explore, learn, train/educate, and implement. Your future, our future, in Rappahannock depends on All of us, not just some of us.

  2. I totally agree with Ron Maxwell. The original article cherry-picked statistics like crazy to try to prove a point. I’m not sure what that point was, other than Rappahannock should really try harder to become another Culpeper, Fauquier or even Fairfax county. This is one of the most beautiful counties, I’ve ever been in over my 74 years! The average ages, incomes, and education levels don’t mean a thing. They are nothing more than numbers. Statistics – like the one that proves you can’t drown in a lake with an Average depth of 3 feet!. Nice try, though!

  3. There is nothing inflammatory or biased about “decline” or “stagnant,” although I will certainly concede “whopping.” These are simply the realities with which we are living. If you think it isn’t a problem to live in a county where almost everyone is over 65, you are deluding yourself. Who will run EMS? Who will serve in the low wage positions in the few businesses the county has? Who will take care of the elderly? Do you think people will drive here from Fauquier or Culpeper to do it when they live there and can work there? Your doomsday scenario is exactly the reason no one ever attempts to address concerns such as this in the county – because everyone thinks there has to be massive change. In fact, small changes and intelligent, thoughtful planning can address these concerns. Also, I will point out that there was additional data not shared in the article that shows the people who are leaving tend to be quite wealthy and homeowners are leaving at a higher rate than renters so how does that work with your bias?

  4. Ron Maxwell, your views come from a “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.”

    Go back to New Jersey, carpetbagger!

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