Crime- and Punishment
Up to two years in prison and $5,000 in fines; how’s that for making racist remarks at a local department store and then beating up another customer who objects to your comments? The accused attacker from the January 2 incident at the Dulles Town Center Sears has been charged with a couple of misdemeanors, and may walk away with what many may feel is light sentencing.
Adam Clark Branson of Ashburn turned himself in to authorities and faces one count of assault and battery and another for disorderly conduct.
Perhaps they could force him to watch a screening of To Kill a Mockingbird, or The Defiant Ones, or even to read a copy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or maybe some of the more stirring speeches by the late Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.
But, poetic justice seldom reigns supreme in our country.
Come on, Steve
Just go with me on this one: if I were to rob a bank, and give the money to a friend, would that person not be bound (knowing the money was illegally obtained) be bound to make the best attempt to get the cash back to its original owners?
Now- how about if I were to give the money to the Sheriff of the County, and he were to later hear that the money came from robbing a bank?
Are you with me on this one?
Well, our real Sheriff- Steve Simpson- recently donated $15,000 to various charities in Loudoun- a nice thing, in its own way; trouble is, this came in response to some heat from the media regarding some big donations to his campaigns by an eventual convicted felon (a man found guilty of defrauding various banks of tens of millions of dollars).
Now, you know the drill on Osama El-Atari- the Ashburn restaurateur who was put away for 12 years?
Well, he gave the Sheriff something like $35,000 over a two-year period- but only $15,000 of that came from the time El-Atari was proven to be stealing from banks.
One of the local papers got after the story and the Sheriff made his donation to 15 different charities- $1,000 each- this past December.
He happens to be in a re-election campaign.
I’ve voted for Steve every time he’s run for office, at least since I moved to Loudoun.
I’m not saying this situation erases my support, but I’d have to ask, whether or not he ever tried to find out what really should have been done with the money received from El-Atari- all of it.
Never mind if it was all spent on campaigns.
I’m sure- with his annual salary- he could take a $35K hit if it meant keeping his job.
He’s been a good Sheriff, in my opinion, and I’m glad he helped those local non-profits, but gosh-darn it, even if I mistakenly receive a piece of mail addressed to another person, I’m legally bound to direct it to its proper source.
Are you with me on this one?
Left and Right- Brain, that is
We’re confusing emotion and reason. It happens every year at this time- and I ain’t talkin’ Christmas.
No- it’s the budget.
See- reason tells us that the Supervisors agreed (at least by majority) to advertise a tax rate of up to $1.33- at a time when property assessments increased by a little under a percentage point.
Now, I’ll leave mathematics to the slide-rule boys, but even I can figure out that I’ll be paying more by the time all the shouting’s over.
And that’s where the emotion kicks in- and I say it’s unfair to confuse the two.
Who wants to raise taxes- or pay more than last year?
But you know we will.
Because the School System put in their wish list of some $757 million.
Like I said, this is where the emotion kicks in.
Who wants to cheat the teachers out of adequate pay- or force children to sit in the snow to learn?
But this will be pretty close to the rhetoric you’ll hear if you attend the public input sessions on the County budget.
I like low taxes.
I also like kids- and I love teaching.
So, here’s an idea: in order to be fair to the local taxpayers, and to the students who already live here, let’s just make a rule that we’ll only allow more families to move into Loudoun County if they don’t have any kids- and if they agree to a sterilization process, so we don’t have any ‘accidents.’
That’s really the only fair thing to do, as I see it.
We pay for the students who live here now- we don’t need to build any new schools- or hire any more new teachers- or expand the system in any way.
Because, unless we’re willing to make that rule- and enforce it- you can bet your bottom dollar that we’ll all end up paying more in taxes every year, just to run the system that Loudoun’s in.
If you want you order a bigger hamburger, you have to pay for it.
And every year, this County orders (metaphorically) a bigger educational hamburger: more kids, through an already high birth rate and the attrition of welcoming more residents- none of them sterile, by the way.
So, I don’t need to get all emotional when I consider the annual budget; even a simple story teller like me can see that I’m gonna have to fork over more money- ’cause I live in a County that likes big hamburgers.
Yellow Brick Road
And, speaking of the green stuff, they’re gonna have to show me the money on this one: I’ve heard some early celebrating about the state agreeing to pay for some important local road projects. I say, let the party start when the check gets here.
County Board Chairman Scott York issued a heads up on a proposal by the Governor to fully fund a new interchange at Route Seven and Route 659- Belmont Ridge Road in Ashburn- as well as a flyover at the critically-busy crossing of the Bypass and Sycolin Road in Leesburg.
But- there’s the rub.
We gotta remember, it’s just a proposal, and it’s in Richmond, where strange things can happen- especially where money for Northern Virginia is concerned.
See- the legislators from the other sections of the Commonwealth- well, let’s just say that at least some of them believe we can pay for those two interchanges ourselves- we’re rich and we got it made up here.
The cost of those two projects may extend to $100 million before all is said and done.
Anybody got an extra hundred ‘mil’ lying around?
That’s what I thought. I’m fresh out, too.
I’m reminded that there’s a portion of the Formula One racing calendar called the ‘silly season.’
For some reason, trying to connect the dots between the Virginia Legislators, the General Assembly Session, and $100 million in Loudoun road money, this came to mind.
Train Wreck, or Intelligent Rule?
And, on this one, I’m honestly afraid to guess as to what the elected leaders in the Holy City may do; a couple of our local legislators crafted a bill that would give the County Board veto power over the controversial utility rates set by the Town of Leesburg. Senator Mark Herring’s legislation (co-sponsored by Delegate Joe May) refers specifically to the payments incurred by the residents outside the corporate limits.
It’s been an ugly situation since time immemorial- or immoral- between the Town leaders and the utility customers on the other side of the fence- but linked up to the municipal water and sewer system: it’s been through the courts, the papers, the Town Council Chambers and coming to a big screen near you (well, maybe not that last part, but it’s just about melodramatic enough for an episode of Desperate Housewives).
The pending bill would not allow the Town to charge higher rates than already ordered as of the first of this month; Council had lowered the prices after losing their initial lawsuit in Circuit Court, which was eventually overturned by the State Supreme Court. With all the jostling back and forth, the planned 100 percent was reduced; Council maintained privilege to revisit the pricing situation at a later time.
Now, with the Herring bill in the General Assembly, it may be out of the Council’s hands.
That is, if Senator Herring can convince his fellow Legislators to side against the Town of Leesburg, which has (arguably) more powerful lobbying clout than the backers of this item.
Like I said, I’m afraid to guess what the wise Virginia statesmen will do with this one.
After a morning’s news writing such as this, I often find I must turn to the solace of the great bard- Shakespeare- in which I find the comfort of simple treachery, drunkenness, lust and misbegotten love.
Tim Jon for the Blue Ridge Leader