Tag Archives: Loudoun County

The living legend – farmer “Jimmy” Spring

The Movie – the Living Legend - “Jimmy” Spring

The Movie – the Living Legend – “Jimmy” Spring

Another example of why Western Loudoun is worth preserving and maintaining is the kind of farming folk that made this County.

Perhaps more people need to understand and consider what kind of people made Western Loudoun what it is, and why it must be preserved because what’s best about the West is a lot more than geography.

It’s about core values that sustain a community when the center doesn’t appear to hold any longer.

We have just recognized a “living legend,” long time Lovettsville farmer, James “Jimmy” Spring, 95.

Jimmy likes to tell stories, but this story I’m telling is about “Jimmy.”

It’s about Jimmy’s values, the ones we treasure as a community, that we celebrate, seek to emulate, because these values he shares give us a place to stand and enable us to achieve a worthy objective, whether it’s farming or anything else we might consider worthwhile.

Aristotle said, “Nothing improves your aim like having a target.”

Jimmy had a target, and a way to reach it, because he had the character transparent to everyone else, revealing exactly who he was, and what he was made of.

His force of character defines his life, as a living legend, and it’s particularly instructive for all of us to consider this man in our time of fact-free discourse of a seemingly rudderless and unworthy cast.

This past Sunday at about 3PM, at the local Lovettsville Lutheran Church in the basement, a crowd of 120 came to hear Jimmy’s story, and to watch a movie prepared by yours truly that expands upon the remarks I’m making here (the movie was posted on line after its premier at the award ceremony – and it’s free – https://vimeo.com/195151504 ). Continue reading

Loudoun citizens battle AT&T, declaring “not on our mountain”

The “view” from the Lovettsville Squircle on Memorial Day

The “view” from the Lovettsville Squircle on Memorial Day


The Short Hill Mountain is a scenic and pre-historic geologic treasure for which the County Board of Supervisors is responsible as stewards to maintain and preserve and protect; the County’s Comprehensive Plan memorializes this praiseworthy obligation.

Many citizens have objected that AT&T wants to deface the mountain, by placing a Costco size industrial building, atop the mountain, visible for miles around, sucking up millions of gallons of water, and megawatts of electricity, in a rural and residential area, and the community is calling foul, and demanding that the Board stop AT&T in its tracks.

Citizens on both sides of the Mountain are demanding that the Board overrule the permit that the Planning Commission, they charge, improvidently granted, and that the Board do this at its meeting scheduled for June 23, 2016.

There have been public and private gatherings all for the purpose of defeating this permit. There have been statements and letters published and forwarded to the Board and on social media. There are resolutions to this effect. Some are drafting reports they may submit to the Board. Citizens are seeking audiences with their elected representatives at every level – county, state and federal government. Continue reading

To vote or not to vote

voteThis year we have we have many elective posts in Loudoun County that will be filled with candidates in opposition to each other for the countywide board of supervisors, for constitutional offices, for the school board, for the soil and water board, and for the general assembly.

These offices generally and specifically determine policy that intimately affects the lives of each and every person living in the County.

But many won’t vote.

Indeed, it is highly likely that non-voters will determine the election by failing to vote; the number of non-voters is so large, it’s often referred to as the party of non-voters.

One observer noted that maybe what we are losing among the non-voters are a disproportionate number of the uninformed and uneducated who wouldn’t vote intelligently anyhow.

That may sound harsh but there is data that those with more schooling and more income are much more likely to vote in any election.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “A nation that expects to be ignorant and free expects what never was and never will be.” Continue reading

The developers are coming (again)!

handshakeIf you’ve looked around, you’ve seen our rivers overrun and mud and dirt flowing across the road. It’s because we’ve had a lot of rain in recent days. We may be surprised and concerned at these torrential conditions. But the real problem is – it could get much worse if some developers have their way.

The Developers want to build on steep slopes and in flood plains, now prohibited.

Our Board of Supervisors is considering allowing them.

The name, flood plain, is self-descriptive. If either side of a stream or river is prone to flooding, then it’s a flood plain.

As a trial lawyer, I imagine someone building in a flood plain, their home then flooded, and asking, “How did that happen?” Answer: – our Board of Supervisors changed the ordinance because that’s what their contributors wanted.

Of course, more happens than a homeowner or commercial business getting flooded.

If a storm water pond floods, it’s likely to send polluted sediment and water downstream.

If waters overrun a parking lot in a flood plain, you can have toxic run off from the vehicles.

If you have barrels of petroleum, consider the disaster should that petroleum be carried off downstream.

An area is declared a flood plain as a buffer, with limited uses, as a guard against having to clean up, at taxpayer expense, should one build in that area.

As for steep slopes, have you ever tried to plant cover on a steep slope. If you don’t have something that holds that soil together, everything you plant (dumbly) will just run down hill.

A “steep slope” is an incline greater than 25 degrees. That slope has a high potential for erosion and mudslides. What do you think would happen if you were to place a development on or below a steep slope? You’re right. Disaster.

Could some engineer re-make the contours of the land? Sure, I suppose, by destroying what exists, but such development is destructive and that’s what the current County policy acknowledges, and prohibits.

So why should we change either our ordinance limitations on flood plains or steep slopes, since they appear to be quite responsible? We shouldn’t.

The Citizens have already recoiled from the Board’s proposals to modify the steep slopes prohibitions, so the Board retrenched, directing the County Staff, “the Imagineers” (you might call them), to come back and present “a compromise.”

How in the world do you think that “compromise” can work?

The truth is the Board is delaying, waiting for a Hail Mary pass, because they are inclined to do what their bosses, the developers, want, and to push this round peg through a square hole– at a date to be determined – if we don’t fight them and stop this wrong-headed revision.

Our Board, transparently lackeys for the developers, want Loudoun County to be “more business-friendly,” so they say, by making more land available for commercial development.

The Piedmont Environmental Council (the PEC) issued an alarm, rightly declaring, that these proposed changes are plain wrong, and, as for Loudoun County becoming more “business friendly,” the PEC says, “that storyline just doesn’t add up. Loudoun has significant vacant commercial space, and more than 3,100 acres of commercially zoned land (greater than 50 million square feet of space) on the market that hasn’t been built yet.”

So what’s the real story?

On the off chance this Board is not returned to office, a much hoped for electoral result, they are going to reward those developers who brought them to the dance, by passing these revisions.

Don’t wait until the election to vote them out of office, appear at the public Board hearing on Flood Plains on October 14 at 6:00pm, and tell them to represent the public interest, and not the Developers.

Political brawling in Loudoun

boxingBrawlFighters like politicians don’t always know when to step down.

Loudoun County Board Chairman Scott York is that kind of fighter who doesn’t know when to quit.

On about January 8, 2015, Scott said he’d put a lot of thought into whether he’d quit and decided his future “just didn’t include being Chairman for another four years.”

If Ali, a three time heavyweight champ, had listened to Doc Ferdie Pacheco, he might have gone out like undefeated heavy weight champ Rocky Marciano, physically intact, laurels strewn in his wake, without the humiliation of a drubbing by Leon Spinks and Larry Holmes.

York badly wanted those laurels from the Chamber of Commerce and he told them, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, not to worry, he really wasn’t going to go for a fifth round to get elected.

The Chamber conferred on pug Scott York his desired “laurels,” and, no sooner did they rest upon his hallowed crown, did he throw a sharp left jab at his own integrity, and jump into the political ring, seeking re-election.

“Slippery” Scott is like a small club fighter who slips punches, shifts his stance to suit election year allies, tracks backward in the ring, the “Slippery” Scott shuffle, and, between rounds, his corner men treat his cuts, an expanding contributing entourage of developers, according to VPAP, including real estate developers, general contractors, highway contractors, building trades, excavation contractors, so they can have their hoped-for fifth round, more pay days by our County, for even more development. Continue reading

Gaming the crowded Loudoun elections

prefVotingThe candidates seeking countywide offices in Loudoun have been elbowing for political advantage for weeks and months.

The field is not yet set but, it appears, we’re going to have more than two candidates for several county wide offices and this favors split voting and an uncertain outcome that may not represent what most voters really want.

In some elections, split voting occurs by Machiavellian design, introducing a bogus candidate (or candidates), as a misdirection, to split the opposition in favor of a candidate who can’t win otherwise.

In Loudoun, this election cycle, we have more than two candidates, it appears by chance, in two countywide races – (1) to become Chair of the Board of Supervisors, and (2) to become our next Sheriff.

The Republicans chose lawyer and party activist, Charlie King, as their Republican nominee for Chair, and the Democrats chose a professional and community leader, Phyllis Randall, as their nominee. This is where the process, however, gets complicated. Republican Supervisor Shawn Williams challenged Mr. King for the Republican nomination for Chair, then Shawn withdrew because of embarrassing personal and seemingly disqualifying disclosures. That said and done, Shawn has now taken a U-turn, and decided to make a run as an Independent. Among the Dems, a former Democratic nominee, who lost in the election four years ago, Tom Bellanca, has decided he wants to run again, and, having sat out the Democratic nominating process, he’s running as an Independent.

In the Sheriff’s race, the Republicans chose the incumbent Sheriff, Mike Chapman, over a vigorous Republican Challenger, Mr. Eric Noble. Brian Allman, a law enforcement officer, filed to become the Democrats’ nominee. But there’s more. When Mr. Noble lost his party’s nomination, former Sheriff Steve Simpson, who was a Noble supporter, announced he’d run himself as an independent.

How does a voter game the choices, four seeking the Chair, three wanting to be Sheriff, and select the persons in the races most representative of what Loudoun needs? Continue reading

Don’t you agree, Brian?

Brian Allman, Democratic nominee for sheriff

Brian Allman, Democratic nominee for sheriff

Brian Allman is on the November ballot as the Democratic nominee for Sheriff.

As the public gets to know a candidate, it questions the background and policies that the candidate supports and hopes to implement once elected.

Brian is no different.

Last Thursday evening at the Democratic Committee meeting at the fire house, many Democratic Committee members had questions for Brian.

This is an ongoing dialogue the Committee conducts to learn what to expect from a candidate.

The occasion for the discussion was that Brian wanted to join the Democratic Committee as a member.

In order to become a committee member, the candidate must be nominated at one meeting (last week), and then the Committee votes approval (or not) at the next monthly meeting (in June).

Several questions at the May meeting had to do with the number of law suits that Brian has filed himself.

Of course, court is how we settle disputes that can’t be settled any other way.

But a large part of any lawyer’s practice is discouraging litigation and encouraging settlement.  And the job of Sheriff is not only to enforce the law but to be a peace officer as well, to calm rather than to disturb troubled waters. Continue reading

Law and disorder

lawDisorder

We have law and disorder in Loudoun County because of our Loudoun County Commonwealth Attorney and our Sheriff.

Our county slogan is, “We byde our time.”  Well, we’re finished “byding” our time.

A popular long-running criminal justice show, “Law and Order,” begins every episode, saying, that: “In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate and equally important groups, the police who investigate crime, and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders,” and then the intro concludes, “these are their stories.”

Well, we’ve got a sad story to tell in Loudoun County.

Our Commonwealth Attorney, Jim Plowman, prosecuted a black man for felonies when three Deputy Sheriffs violated the Ashburn resident’s constitutional right to be left alone.

More than that, this crack law enforcement duo, of Jim and Sheriff Mike Chapman, still can’t figure out, after 1 ½ years, who and how one or more Deputies allegedly embezzled more than $200,000 from the Sheriff’s Office.  At the least, that was awkward!

Only days ago, the Commonwealth Attorney, Jim Plowman, dissed his law enforcement “partner,” Sheriff Mike Chapman. Continue reading

Jail House Snitches Lie

jailCellWe all know jail house snitches are of a lowly character that can’t be trusted.  When I was a NY federal prosecutor, I would never think of using one in the grand jury or on the witness stand in a criminal case.

However convincing the rat, however seemingly useful the testimony to make your prosecution, you had to worry that you were being had – so that the snitch could get what he wanted, some consideration on his sentence, favors to ease his custody, or funds and rewards for his commissary or outside bank account for “cooperating.”

Often the jail house snitch seemingly offers “inside information” on what the target of your investigation said about an offense while the target was in jail, in the yard, at the sally port, by his cell, “admitting” to some aspect of the case you’re pursuing that helps you “make” your case.

These mimetic monsters absorb small and large details from an unwary or reckless prosecutor’s questions and weave a story that “fits,” that helps make a conviction possible in a difficult case where the prosecutor may feel he’s suffering an evidential shortfall.

Our criminal justice system is hardly perfect to begin with but taking one of these snitches and adding them to the mix of a jury trial is to infect an already challenged process with an ingredient you almost certainly know is flawed.  Yet it happens all too often that prosecutors use these snitches at trial in capital or murder cases.

Another challenging aspect of any criminal prosecution is how you use accomplice testimony, meaning someone who was involved in the crime, who “flips,” and agrees to testify for the government in exchange for some consideration on the charges he’ll face or the time he’ll spend in custody, from probation to fewer years than if he took his chances at trial.  You can appreciate how risky it is to shore up an accomplice’s testimony with a jail house snitch.

We will likely be having court arguments, even evidentiary hearings with prosecutors and investigators testifying, so that the court may decide whether a jail house snitch lied at a first degree murder trial in Loudoun County that resulted in a conviction on June 16, 2014, and a jury recommendation that the Accused be imprisoned for life.  Continue reading

The Board grasps the darkness not

parking_lot_lightsWe in Western Loudoun came here to these rolling open spaces because, among other things, we enjoy the dark night sky with its starlight, the heavenly map of constellations, that faint ribbon of smoky light called the Milky Way, and the flashing meteor trails disintegrated by our atmosphere.  We are closer to the nature that existed before humans cluttered this earth with disrespect for the gift of life found in nature.

We feel pangs at the ever-approaching ever-encroaching polluting clusters of artificial light that obscure the night sky.

Nor is this loss of the night merely an aesthetic preference for fainter light.  These blazing lights compromise wild life including birds, salamanders and frogs.  Endangered species of bird – the Cerulean Warbler and Henslow’s Sparrow, according to the Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy – crash into these light towers. Continue reading