By Ben Jones
If the March 15th edition of the Rappahannock News is a barometer of the political climate in our fair county, we are suffering from far more than the aftermath of the latest Cyclone Bomb, or Explosive Cyclogenesis, if you prefer. Over time, we will all repair the storm damage that laid that serious lick on us, and as spring comes in with its grandeur, the power outages and the broken fences will be a distant memory.
But there is a strange dynamic evolving in local politics. When there is a full page color political advertisement on page two of the Rappahannock News, featuring the names of many local, uh, “notables,” demanding that we all “stop the nonsense,” it leads to some inevitable head-scratching. My ballpark estimate is that 90 percent of the signees are Democrats, and that fact is curious to me. The advertisement itself is a bit of “nonsense,” with all the buzz words that we see in the slick campaign ads that are relentlessly cranked out by the Beltway Machine.
Cliché phrases like “real leadership,” “wasting our tax dollars,” “positive, productive solutions that will work for the good of the our county,” and “roll up our sleeves and work together,” are right out of Political B.S. 101. Who could be against any of that? It reminds me of Merle Haggard’s song, “We’ll all be drinkin’ that free Bubble-Up and eatin’ that Rainbow Stew.”
This is followed by a lead editorial commentary on Page 4, composed by Martin Woodard. Mr. Woodard opines at some length on the good deeds of our local real estate brokers. It seems he lists about every realtor who has pitched a property around here in the last 30 years, and sings the praises of their generous citizenship. Who could be against any of that? Not me, I know most of the people of whom he speaks, and they are generally fine folks. All of that is his way of bashing Page Glennie, who heads a local “watchdog” group in the county and thinks that certain real estate brokers are too cozy with members of the Board of Supervisors.
It seems to me that all of this is not only wrong-headed, but counter-productive to Woodard’s stated objectives. You can’t build bridges by demonizing those who disagree with you. Nor can you force people to agree with you by buying slick, expensive full page ads. The lawsuits are serious business, and it is only natural that the targets of that litigation would like to see them dropped. But attacking the messengers is a bit lame at this stage of the procedure.
But there is greater irony. Mr. Woodard used for his starting point a comment by Glennie on Rappnet, the local listserv. Since I was a part of that particular colloquy, and Woodard was not, I was surprised that a paraphrased statement from it was used as the basis for a lengthy News column about our local real estate sales community. The irony was that the actual thread concerned the refusal of the majority on the BOS to accept the nomination of Tom Junk of Sperryville to the Planning Commission. The nomination was made by Christine Smith, the new commissioner from the Piedmont District, and Junk has had 12 years of past experience on that body.
In the past, such a nomination was pro forma, a courtesy extended to the commissioner of that district. But not this time. The majority not only didn’t approve Ms. Smith’s choice, but chose (by a 3-2 vote) the defeated candidate and former supervisor, Mike Biniek. To many in the Piedmont District, this action was a perfect example of not “working together,” as Woodard and friends are loudly demanding. Ms. Smith worked hard and won handily, and should have been welcomed to her new position. That would have been a positive step toward reducing the schism which now exists on the BOS, but instead that schism was deepened.
And if the “Stop the Nonsense” crowd thinks that attorney David Konick is going to “dismiss the lawsuits” because of their public social pressure, they “must have been behind the barn when the brains were being passed out.” We are held together by a government, not a country club.
The FOIA statutes are not intended to “hobble government,” but to make it transparent. If the supervisors are innocent of violating the Freedom of Information Act, a Judge will so Rule.
Jones, a former U.S. congressman, resides in Harris Hollow