Category Archives: Shenandoah Valley Politics

There’s More to the Courthouse Issue Than Many Realize

David KaraffaBy David Karaffa
Guest Post

[Editor’s Note: The ongoing Augusta County courthouse issue is once again in the news. The Staunton News Leader’s articles (see County approves courthouse referendum petition, Staunton responds to county courthouse decision, County approves courthouse referendum petition, and New courthouse would not serve the greater good) are helpful for background in the ongoing discussion as well as those from LynnRMitchell.com writers (see Augusta County Courthouse: ‘This is the song that doesn’t end‘ and Augusta County Courthouse moving forward, Staunton counters and The Augusta County Courthouse decision and Augusta County: Renovate courthouse in Staunton or build new one in county?) in this two-year-old issue. Former supervisor David Karaffa, who was very involved in the courthouse issue, provides background in a less-confined way than when he was on the board. Originally published May 16, 2016.]

I have been reading the online News Leader and other news sources as the Augusta County Courthouse issue heats up again and I feel the need to tell the truth about the discussions that have been taking place for years between Staunton and Augusta County about it.

First, the News Leader is incredibly biased (if you didn’t know that already). When I was in my first or second year on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, we opened a dialog with Staunton to discuss the overwhelming issues we were having with the courts. We also reminded the Staunton City Council of the many promises and deals that were made in good faith to keep the facilities up and running and in Staunton at a shared expense.

The Board of Supervisors, the courts, and the citizens of Augusta kept up their end of the deal for decades (yes — decades; you read that right), and the Staunton City Council never moved forward on their end of the deal. Shameful. Now, of course, over the decades many of the people on the council and board have moved on, but some are still there. So that is some deep background.

Augusta County CourthouseNow for the more recent history that needs to be told….

As I said before, I was on the Board when we reminded Staunton of its past agreements with the county. We invited Staunton into the discussion as we moved forward with Frazier & Associates on what the cost would be to renovate the court building to provide another couple of decades of use. The numbers were out of this world high and still didn’t address all the issues. The Board of Supervisors gave all the information to the Staunton City Council and they basically said, “It’s not our problem.” (Thanks for that, by the way.)

At that point and after many discussions the idea was dusted off that the courthouse should be and was always planned to move to Verona when the county’s other services moved there (novel idea!). So the board hired an architect to look into what it would cost to move and build a new courthouse that could last for some 75 years (remember our current one has been in use for more than 110 years).

A plan was delivered. It was also shared with Staunton, and another round of talks with them about other options took place.

Staunton then hired Frazier & Associates to come up with another plan (yes, the same firm the county hired). Another plan was delivered, more tailored towards Staunton’s requests. We all got to see it and it included a SKYBRIDGE! Wait … what? A SKYBRIDGE that was going to cost like a MILLION dollars or something (I cannot remember the exact figure but it was out there; like, in orbit out there).

Staunton City Council’s Miss Dull said she couldn’t justify spending Staunton taxpayer money on the Augusta County Courthouse, but she was sure willing to spend it on a SKYBRIDGE! Then it involved demo of other buildings downtown at even more cost. Needless to say, it was not a plan that the Board of Supervisors could sign on to and not a good fiscal plan for the county taxpayers.

Now we have arrived at the current plot. The county exhaustively has discussed this with the City of Staunton, an agreement cannot be made because all the options to staying downtown don’t meet all the needs, and the costs are way too high for the short amount of time that it could all be jury rigged (pun intended) to work in downtown Staunton.

The best option is to build a new courthouse in Verona. It will save a ton of money in the long run, be better access for the public, safer for the citizens with more secure transfer of prisoners, and consolidate services for Augusta County residents all in one place, and you don’t have to pay to park. Ah! That’s nice.

Now it’s up to the citizens of Augusta to answer the Board of Supervisors’ question: Would you like a new courthouse in Verona?

Just one more thought. The News Leader opinion piece that basically demoralized every citizen of Augusta County was absolutely inappropriate and rude toward you all. I was very disappointed. Funny thing is, if Staunton City Council had just kept up their end of the deal DECADES ago we wouldn’t be talking about this at all. Just goes to show you, keep your promises…. (Drop the mic.)


David Karaffa is a former Augusta County supervisor for the Beverley Manor District (2011-15) who now lives with his three daughters in Palm Coast, Florida.

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Augusta County residents: First Courthouse informational town hall is tonight

Augusta County Courthouse

There is a storm brewing between Augusta County and the city of Staunton over the historic-but-outdated historic Courthouse located in downtown Staunton. Interestingly, Augusta County should make the decision on what is best for the county, not those outside the county whose defiant opposition has the potential to split the community.

Supervisors voted in May to take the issue to a referendum on the November ballot, leaving the final decision up to Augusta County voters. Wednesday night kicks off the first of five town hall meetings attended by supervisors to provide information to voters and respond to questions. This is an issue that needs to rise above the emotional pleas to save an aging building, and dig into the important issues of safety, bringing the building to code, storage, handicap access, and much more.

Join the supervisors tonight at Wilson Memorial High School in Fishersville at 7:00pm for an update and background on moving the Augusta County Courthouse to the county complex in Verona.

Here is the press release from the county with dates of all town halls:

The Augusta County Board of Supervisors is pleased to announce the dates and times of the upcoming Courthouse Town Hall Meetings. The board will present information and be available for questions concerning the upcoming referendum to move the courthouse to Verona. The Town Hall meetings will give citizens an in depth look at the issues and concerns around the existing Circuit, General District, and Juvenile Domestic Relations courts.

We encourage citizens to attend and ask questions concerning this important decision for the future of the courts in Augusta County.

The Town Hall Meetings will be held at 7:00 PM on the following dates and locations:

September 7 at Wilson High School Auditorium
September 12 at Buffalo Gap High School Auditorium
September 19 at Riverheads High School Auditorium
September 21 at Stuarts Draft High School Auditorium
October 3 at Fort Defiance High School Auditorium

For further information please contact the County Administration office at 540-245-5610.

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Bob Stuart: ‘Little interest in 6th district GOP primary, officials say’

In the 6th Congressional District, there isn’t much interest in next Tuesday’s Republican primary, according to political reporter Bob Stuart. That is in agreement with the general public that I’ve encountered including my neighbor who saw precinct yard signs on my front porch and wondered what was going on. When I informed her there is a primary next week, she was unaware that the polls would be open for voting.

In the News-Virginian, Stuart wrote:

Next Tuesday’s 6th District Primary pits the 12-term incumbent Goodlatte against private pilot and Air Force veteran Harry Griego. Griego’s campaign has been a low-key one — so low key, in fact, that it hasn’t included stops in the area or even billboard or yard signs.

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Karaffa: There’s more to the courthouse issue than many realize

David KaraffaBy David Karaffa
Guest Post

[Editor’s Note: The ongoing Augusta County courthouse issue is once again in the news. The Staunton News Leader’s articles (see County approves courthouse referendum petition, Staunton responds to county courthouse decision, County approves courthouse referendum petition, and New courthouse would not serve the greater good) are helpful for background in the ongoing discussion as well as those from LynnRMitchell.com writers (see Augusta County Courthouse: ‘This is the song that doesn’t end‘ and Augusta County Courthouse moving forward, Staunton counters and The Augusta County Courthouse decision and Augusta County: Renovate courthouse in Staunton or build new one in county?) in this two-year-old issue.]

I have been reading the online News Leader and other news sources as the Augusta County Courthouse issue heats up again and I feel the need to tell the truth about the discussions that have been taking place for years between Staunton and Augusta County about it.

First, the News Leader is incredibly biased (if you didn’t know that already). When I was in my first or second year on the Augusta County Board of Supervisors, we opened a dialog with Staunton to discuss the overwhelming issues we were having with the courts. We also reminded the Staunton City Council of the many promises and deals that were made in good faith to keep the facilities up and running and in Staunton at a shared expense.

The Board of Supervisors, the courts, and the citizens of Augusta kept up their end of the deal for decades (yes — decades; you read that right), and the Staunton City Council never moved forward on their end of the deal. Shameful. Now, of course, over the decades many of the people on the council and board have moved on, but some are still there. So that is some deep background.

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2016 Staunton City Council election results

Staunton City went to the polls today and reelected all incumbents on City Council and School Board.

Here are the City Council results. Congratulations to all!

 

Candidate Votes Percent
Sarah P. Crenshaw 782 12.35%
Erik D. Curren 1,009 15.93%
James J. Harrington 1,153 18.21%
John A. Hartless 886 13.99%
Ophie A. Kier 1,261 19.91%
Andrea W. Oakes 1,229 19.41%
Write In 13 0.21%
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Flashback August 2008: Standing room only SWAC Breakfast kick-off with Goodlatte for fall campaign season

By Lynn R. Mitchell

While browsing through 10 years of posts looking for pics to use in the Facebook nature picture challenge, I came across this one from the days when SWAC GOP was in full swing under the leadership of Chairman Kurt Michael (Augusta County GOP) and Chairman Alex Davis (Staunton GOP). The standing-room-only crowd at Rowe’s was typical of the monthly breakfasts that began in 2001 and continued until new leadership discontinued them in 2009. They offered an opportunity for Republicans from Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County (SWAC) to gather in a social setting while supporting Republican electeds and listening to updates about the latest GOP news.

The original SWAC Breakfast Committee consisted of Pat and Brenda Haley (Pat was chairman of Staunton GOP at the time), Bill and Lynn Mitchell (I was Augusta County GOP vice chair of communications and SWAC Newsletter Editor), and Kurt and Pam Michael (Kurt was chairman of Augusta County GOP).

Looking at these photos I see many familiar faces of those who were very active from 1999-09. This SWAC Breakfast is a tiny look into what was happening politically that year….

 

Congressman and Mrs. Bob Goodlatte
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Rockbridge mass meeting: ‘I heard you used to be a conservative’

Republican elephantBy Lynn R. Mitchell

While at the Rockbridge Area Republican Committee mass meeting Saturday morning, I set up my laptop in the lighting/press box area in the back of the auditorium overlooking the seats and stage. As I busied myself getting ready to begin live-blogging the event, a gentleman stepped up to the window and looked in at me.

“Someone told me you are Lynn Mitchell,” he said.

Looking up, I smiled and said, “I am Lynn Mitchell!”

Reaching his hand through the window to shake mine, he said, “I’m Ken Adams. Nice to meet you.”

“Oh! Nice to meet you, too,” I said as my brain raced. Ken Adams. Ken Adams. Ken Adams. It took about 0.5 second and then I realized he was the controversial Waynesboro GOP chairman who had brought the lawsuit against the 24th Senate District to prevent incumbent elected officials the choice of nomination and requiring it to be only conventions.

“But,” I added, “I don’t agree with everything you have done within the Republican Party.”

“Oh?” he asked. “Like what?”

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Jarrell Increased Voter Turnout In Key Races

Editor, The News-Gazette:

We are urging all Rockbridge area Republicans to attend the Rockbridge Republican mass meeting this Saturday and vote to reelect Roger Jarrell as chairman.

Roger is a well-qualified, proven servant leader, with substantial successes already for Republicans in our area.

Two years ago, Roger was first elected as chairman and immediately several milestones were achieved: not
only a noticeably organized constituent base, but an increased participation and voter turnout in several critical races. Roger began his tenure as a campaign and congressional staffer for Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s first term and as progressed, serving in positions of increased responsibility within the Republican Party. He truly has a heart for service.
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LTE: Jarrell has increased local GOP participation

Roger Jarrell

Roger Jarrell

Editor, The News-Gazette:

For many years I’ve been proudly active in the Rockbridge Republicans (RARC), holding the office of vice chairman and attending the majority of the meetings.

During Roger Jarrell’s two years of being chairman, RARC has seen a positive increase in membership, increase in attendance at meetings, and increase in volunteers working for our Republican candidates at elections. With Roger’s many hours of involvement with Del. Ben Cline’s Nov. 3 election, Ben received a record 71 percent of the votes.

Roger, with his degree from the Washington and Lee School of Law, is who we continue to need as chairman.

DENNIS HAWES
Buena Vista

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LTE: Jarrell well-qualified to lead local Republicans

Roger Jarrell

Roger Jarrell, Chairman, Rockbridge Area GOP

Editor, The News-Gazette:

An important Rockbridge Republican mass meeting is being held Saturday, April 2, at Rockbridge County High School. Doors will open for registration at 9 a.m. and the doors will be closed at 10. Pre-registration is encouraged. Call 464-1073 for a registration form.

Two years ago, current chairman Roger Jarrell defeated incumbent Cher McCoy 96 votes to her 34 votes. With his expertise as an attorney and knowledge of political procedures, Roger has been an outstanding leader of the Rockbridge Republicans.

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Roger Jarrell picks up endorsements in Lexington-Rockbridge-Buena Vista

By Lynn R. Mitchell

I have a new post at Bearing Drift that expands on the earlier article about Roger Jarrell, chairman of the Rockingham Area Republican Committee (see Del. Cline endorses Roger Jarrell for Lexington-Rockbridge-Buena Vista GOP chair).

Most notable is the fact that Roger has done everything a Republican chairman is supposed to do — recruit and elect candidates, build the party, regular meetings, expand outreach … there’s no reason to “fire” him from a job he has done so well. Fellow committee members have written about how well he has done; some have had letters to the editor in his defense.

Roger should be reelected at the mass meeting on Saturday, April 2, at 10:00am, at Rockbridge County High School.

 

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Del. Cline, Rockbridge electeds endorse Roger Jarrell for GOP chair

By Lynn R. Mitchell

Two years ago Roger Jarrell II was elected chairman of the Rockbridge Area Republican Committee and, in the time since then, he has diligently worked to build the party, recruit candidates to run for public office, and supported Republican elected officials.

Roger JarrellThe Rockbridge Area Republican Committee is part of the 6th Congressional District that is represented by Congressman Bob Goodlatte (R-6th District).

Roger a Lexington native who attended local schools, is well known in the area and had won support from residents and the business community. After graduating from Lexington High School and Virginia Military Institute, he went on to earn his law degree at Washington and Lee University and now is in private practice. His involvement in politics began more than 20 years ago when he worked on Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s campaign for Congress as well as campaigns for Oliver North and John Warner.

Now up for re-election, the meeting to vote for him will be on Saturday, April 2, at 10:00am at Rockbridge County High School.

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Breaking: Ralph Smith quits as candidate for 6th Congressional District chair

From Ralph Smith’s Facebook page (see expanded companion article at Bearing Drift):

When Thomas Paine penned the words, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” he could have been speaking about Virginia’s Sixth Congressional District’s Republican Committee. When I was first approached by party leaders and activists to consider running for Sixth District Chairman, they pointed out that I could use my skills as a unifier and consensus-builder to bridge the gap that exists among factional elements within the party. I am, and have always been, happy to lend my assistance to advancing the principles of the Republican Creed, and so, I agreed to enter the race for District Chairman.

The outcomes of recent local unit chairmanship races and the degree of turnover within those units, makes it abundantly clear that the gap within the Republican party that I saw earlier has continued to expand rather than shrink. This divide has resulted in grabs for power by certain elements who are using “slating” to exclude and limit other Republicans from participating in party decisions. I believe many of these same people wish to throw out current Republican office holders, and replace them with “their own people.” While that might be an acceptable goal for Democrats, I do not feel we should do that to ourselves as Republicans. If an incumbent is not performing, let the people themselves decide at the ballot box.

The Sixth District is but an indicator of what’s happening on the national scene. Donald Trump’s rude, crude, and obnoxious campaigning has made him the frontrunner in the race for the Republican nomination for President. The “gap” that existed when I began this race has unfortunately expanded to a chasm. Not only does this divide affect elements within our party, but it also reflects an even greater disconnect between our party and the electorate itself! For example, while so many of the newly elected unit leaders apparently support Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s primary opponent, clearly a substantial majority of the voters within the district support our responsive and effective Congressman. The idealogical zeal of this newly emerging leadership is losing sight of practical electability.

Realizing that the environment has changed significantly since I entered this race for Chairman, there is nothing to make me want to work in a caustic environment that essentially wants to run a new candidate for every current Republican officeholder in the District and the Commonwealth. Consequently, I have decided to re-direct my energies and efforts to helping proven conservative leaders who have been serving their constituents well.

Also see Wendell Walker out, Ralph Smith in as candidate for 6th District Chair.

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Photos … Augusta County GOP Mass Meeting

By Lynn R. Mitchell

See Live-blogging Augusta County GOP mass meeting.

1John Adams is running for Virginia Attorney General in 2017. (See my post, John Adams, Republican for Virginia Attorney General.)

1Former Augusta County Supervisor Larry Wills, 6th Congressional District Chairman Wendell Walker, Augusta Supervisor Carolyn Bragg (left to right).

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Live-blogging Augusta County Mass Meeting – UPDATED

GOP elephants fightingBy Lynn R. Mitchell

9:00am: It’s Saturday morning and we’re live as Augusta County Republicans are gathering at their mass meeting to vote on a chairman, reconstitute the committee, and elect a variety of delegates. (See the Call here.) The 10am meeting is expected to draw a couple of hundred participants.

News-Virginian political reporter Bob Stuart has a good background post (see Saturday’s election will decide Augusta GOP leadership).

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