All Ganged Up
To gang, or not to gang, that is the question, at least as far as this story is concerned. The Sheriff says a recent mob assault in Sterling stemmed from a personal dispute between some of the individuals involved in the incident; to read some of the internet commentary you’d think these suspects all had MS-13 tattoos, carried machetes and had no legal right to enter the US in the first place.
The crime- which occurred on the 12th of this month in Community Plaza near the eastern county line- left two injured victims: one young man suffering from non-life-threatening stab wounds and another with lesser afflictions.
The five arrested suspects include three Sterling, men and one Herndon resident and another man from Reston.
Now, just because the majority of these individuals possess names which could be described as ‘Hispanic,’ that doesn’t mean they’re in a gang, and it certainly doesn’t mean they’re in the country illegally.
I’m not condoning their behavior; any five men who attack another two with a knife at 11:30 at night in an eastern Loudoun strip mall should face severe consequences.
But we need to keep this in perspective.
Calling this incident a gang-related affair is like calling Cat Stevens a terrorist.
Now, if I hear ‘Moonshadow’ one more time, I’ll lock the guy up myself, but that still falls a bit short of terrorist activity.
To get back to today’s story, police in Northern Virginia take a strict stance on gang investigation, prosecution and punishment.
But gang activity is pretty strictly defined as a group who meets for the purpose of conducting crimes- some of which are nothing short of horrific.
A group of men who happen to run across somebody they have a grudge against, and get in a fight- late at night in a Sterling hang-out place- even if they injure someone with a weapon- ain’t necessarily a ‘gang’ by the definitions of the police, the State Attorney General or Congressman Frank Wolf.
These guys broke some important laws, according to the report (felony assault by mob and misdemeanor simple assault by mob), and I’d strongly prefer if they’d take their activities elsewhere (in fact, we can be pretty sure of that, at least for awhile), but let’s not say the sky’s falling if it starts to rain a little.
Unfortunately, there’s plenty of illegal- even violent- gang activity to investigate in the DC Metro Region.
And, you know, judging someone’s citizenry status by the sound of their name is something we need to get away from, not only in Loudoun County, but in the United States.
We’ve shed a lot of blood over the years in order to punish the guilty, and to protect the innocent.
It’s Sunday, and hopefully, that’s my last sermon.
But don’t bet on it.
Now, to stick with the theme of fighting for a bit, we can turn our attention to the upcoming battle royal we’re certainly gonna see for the next year’s bill of education; the public school system’s contemplating a $900 million dollar (and then some) budget, and the County Board grudgingly forked over some federal funds to restore teacher pay for a couple of upcoming furlough days. It’s all sort of laying the groundwork for what could be a very divided, emotionally draining series of parlays between the general government and those who vie for the side of “readin,’ rightin,’ and ‘rithmatic.”
The vote on that furlough funding goes back to last year’s budget cycle, in which the best laid plans of mice and men attempted to design a means of saving some money: namely giving all the paid staff two extra (unpaid) days off during Thanksgiving week.
Then, presto chango, a federal grant came Loudoun’s way and it wasn’t needed, but all the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t rearrange all the Thanksgiving week schedules for local instructors, so the designers of this plan couldn’t just put those days back on the school calendar.
Now they’re gonna get paid, and on top of that, a teachers’ organization is planning to institute a ‘mandatory work only’ order starting this winter- to demonstrate the amount of above-the-call-of-duty effort extended by those in the classrooms.
I do empathize with them there- the requests are endless- volunteering at events, helping students before and after school, working on projects at home at all hours, and so on.
But, in the grand scheme of things, I still see this as a maneuver which resembles a shot fired over the gunwales.
Not sure it’s gonna appease the Captain of the ship over at the County Government Center.
But, then again, maybe the school system has their own Farragut.
And- just think: we wage this one every year.
The Sun Also Rises… in the East
Shopping and office space, in a year or just a bit more- that’s what comin’ to a spot on the more ‘civilized’ end of Purcellville; the Gateway Center project got off the ground in an official ceremony, despite an ongoing legal appeal by its neighbors across the street. The former Cole Farm site stands to gain a Harris Teeter grocery store, a handful of private homes, and some considerable retail and office footage.
If you haven’t noticed, this Town’s bursting at the seams: a new high school opened on the north side of the community this fall and the Council approved a shopping center for Catoctin Corner- just to the east of the Gateway site.
The developers for Gateway- to their credit- plan to incorporate the existing buildings from the Cole Farm into their project, so we don’t need to mourn the loss of the familiar silhouette.
I don’t think, anyway.
That pending legal challenge came from some town residents- including the Browns- of Crooked Run Orchard- another familiar fixture on the eastern entrance to Purcellville; there’s much more history between them and the town government than we’re going to get into here, but their case versus the project is still active, at any rate.
I do know that some folks oppose much of the commercial development for the Town; I will say that it’s sometimes hard to see the quaint and familiar change into the slick and profitable.
And sometimes the best efforts at preservation and conservation so fail.
I also understand- the more I age- the words of one of the more celebrated writers of the past hundred years: “He who is not busy being born is busy dying.”
Bob Dylan said that, but then, he said a lotta things.
At Least until Budget Day
And, not to be outdone by the commercial activity in her sister town across the Catoctin hills, officials in Leesburg decided to extend a welcome mat for shoppers which runs well into the New Year. The Town Council voted to allow free parking in the Town Hall garage until nearly the end of February, and maybe more.
With budget constraints looming on their own horizon, they opted to end the free gesture on the day that they get next year’s financial recommendations from Town Manager John Wells.
This free parking issue creates about a $15,000 hole in the budget, from what I’ve heard, and town staff isn’t really sure just how much extra shopping money the incentive brings to the downtown area.
The Town’s been ending their holiday parking program just after New Year’s (it starts the night before Thanksgiving).
I say: Enjoy it while it lasts, you never know how tight the fist will get once the budget numbers come in.
Dressing the Turkey
It’s time to say ‘Thanks.’ Let’s see: what do we have to be thankful for?
Oh, come on, if I can feel thankful with my fairly monastic means of living, I’m sure most anyone in Loudoun County with a roof over their head can be pretty grateful if they put their mind (and heart) to it.
Friends, family, a home (even if it’s mostly owned by the mortgage company), employment, a place in one’s community, plenty of opportunity for healthy activity, a stimulating environment, the list goes on.
And, since you feel so good about it all, don’t forget to remember (yes, I realize what I just said) some of the other side of life.
Not all of us have house, a job, a wife, a best friend to rely on, or that undeniable sense of hope that gets us out of bed every morning.
Just a reminder that the needs served by some of our local organizations: Interfaith Relief, LINK, the Holiday Coalition, Messiah’s Gate, Tree of Life, and Seven Loaves are real, local and ongoing.
It could be your neighbor, your co-worker, your friend, or (next year) you.
So, spread the dishes to all corners of your table, and have a great Thanksgiving.
Hope you wild gobblers out on Snickersville Turnpike and Paxson Road have a good Thanksgiving, too.
Tim Jon for the Blue Ridge Leader