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The answer to this question is yes, with the caveat that it is properly constructed to protect the rights of citizens in Roanoke County. The fundamental right to own property, i.e., real estate and land, in our country shouldn’t need explaining, but the insidious erosion of that right deserves examination.
As a practical matter, there is no longer a right to property ownership when local government taxes you to own it, taxes you when you improve it, and can change the rules of “ownership” through zoning, rezoning, permits, special permits, demands from special interests and even cronyism.
What a property rights resolution could, or should, do is level the playing field between local government, the citizenry and their private businesses by affirming the rights we do have and making the processes in place consistent with the idea of limited government.
We elect local government officials, and the Virginia Constitution provides them a limited degree of authority. When they fail to listen to the concerns of those who elect them, they are obviously negligent, at best. This is not an uncommon occurrence in land use planning, and is evidenced by the Keagy Village disaster and wind ordinance fiasco in Roanoke County.
These are just two examples where the concerns of the citizens most directly affected were entirely ignored by the board of supervisors and/or their political appointees on the planning commission. Since their authority is derived from us, it is only natural that we be given, at least, an equal voice in planning decisions.
There is clearly some need for land use planning. Public health concerns via industrial use might be one example. Infringement on another’s use of their property for any reason, or negative effects on the value of another’s property through planning decisions might be other examples. But the pertinent question is: Do we want our right to own and use our property planned into oblivion by government?
A properly constructed property rights resolution could restore confidence in local government’s decisions regarding land use for citizens and businesses alike throughout Roanoke County. Affirm what locally elected government should do for us, not what it can get away with when we aren’t paying attention. Create and confirm a consistent process where citizen and private business input is not only welcome, but is required.
What this board of supervisors has is an opportunity to provide assurance that the people have a voice, and to be an example of limited government and real leadership in Virginia.
To quote James Madison, “As a man is said to have a right to his property, he may be equally said to have a property in his rights.”
Christley, a small business owner, private property owner and 25-year resident of Roanoke County, is the president of the Roanoke Valley Republican Women and chaplain for the Virginia Federation of Republican Women. She is involved in many constitutional conservative movements and encourages citizens to take a stand and know what is going on in their local government.
By Jonah Fogel and Michael Chandler
In his proposed resolution, Roanoke County Supervisor Ed Elswick focuses on three guarantees that are ingrained in the American experiment, including: the right of citizens to be informed and heard in matters of governance; the obligation that the public’s business be conducted in a transparent manner; and, the right of citizens to use and enjoy the property they own. Few Virginians would disapprove of such concepts. After all, these ideas are as American as apple pie, baseball and Chevrolet. So in our view, the fundamental issues with the resolution as written are ones of need, scope and compliance with the code of Virginia.
As it is drafted, the resolution preamble states the proposed property rights resolution “is to some extent an affirmation of current law and current ordinances.” We agree. In fact, the bulk of what is featured in Elswick’s resolution has long been codified in state statutes, as well as the county code. So why duplicate a narrative that is already featured in the state constitution, the state code, as well as the county code and county ordinances? Is the resolution a redundant exercise? Yes. Is it wrong to draft and adopt such a resolution? No. Would the resolution serve a useful purpose? It depends.
If the rationale underpinning the resolution is one of awareness and education, then adopting the resolution, once it is refined, makes sense. After all, the periodic placement of speed limit signs along a busy highway reminds drivers of their rights as well as responsibilities as they use the road in partnership with other drivers. Elswick’s resolution, once tweaked, would do much the same and, in this light, would be a useful exercise.
The question of scope is a bit more challenging. Elswick has included language that, rather than add value, contorts the narrative in a manner that compromises the resolution’s ultimate value. Ideas that seem to expand beyond the scope of the resolution’s stated intent, include: the protocol for eminent domain proceedings as outlined in the resolution, the admonition that selected land in the county may not be rezoned unless a public hearing is held in the immediate area to be affected, and the statement that property rights disputes will be mediated by the Board of Zoning Appeals with any final decision reserved for the Board of Supervisors.
It is our view that these specific measures should be fully vetted opposite the standards and protocols noted in the code of Virginia. Until this is done, the resolution, as drafted, should not be acted on.
Fogel is director of the Land Use Education Program at Virginia Tech, Virginia Cooperative Extension specialist, and adjunct professor in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies’ Center for Public Administration and Policy at Virginia Tech. Chandler is director of Education for the Land Use Education Program at Virginia Tech and professor emeritus of the department of Agricultural and Applied Economics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.
Jeff Artis, president emeritus of the Roanoke chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, writes in “Marking Roanoke’s progress in realizing MLK’s dream:
Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the 1963 March on Washington. It is one of the greatest speeches ever given. Certainly, the speech is a checklist on whether or not America has lived up to or is living up to its creed of “liberty and justice for all.”
If a report card could be given 50 years later, what would it look like? Specifically, what would that report card look like in regard to King’s dream in Roanoke? Continue reading.
Timothy J. Heaphy, United States Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, writes in “Safe communities: today’s civil rights challenge”:
Fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stirred the hearts and hopes of a nation when he stood before thousands in Washington and described his dream of a world in which “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” As we celebrate the golden anniversary of his delivery of those powerful words, we have an opportunity to evaluate how our modern pursuit of justice compares to King’s vision.
While today’s world is demonstrably more just than it was in 1963, we cannot credibly claim to have achieved King’s dream of an equal opportunity society. Continue reading.
Bill Tanger, a business owner, conservationist and lifelong activist living in Botetourt County, writes in “A half century later, the dream lives on”:
The country was embroiled in civil rights issues in the early ’60s. It was a time of Freedom Riders, Malcolm X, Bull Conner and his dogs, churches blown up and civil rights workers murdered and missing. The pressure was building, but the solution was unknown.
On June 11, 1963, President Kennedy called for a Civil Rights Act. A. Phillip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, who had originally called for a march on Washington in 1941, called again for a new march on Washington.
Later that month, the call went out for a march on Washington for jobs and freedom. Continue reading.
Betsy Biesenbach, of Roanoke, is a freelance writer, title examiner and author of “Bits O’ Betsy Biesenbach.” She writes in “We’ve become our own oppressors”:
A few years ago, a black friend told me a story about working the polls with an older white woman from one of Roanoke’s more well-to-do neighborhoods. They chatted politely for a while, and then the subject of race came up. My friend said the woman told her how happy she was that the civil rights movement was over and done with, that black people have the same rights and opportunities as whites, and that we can all move beyond that ugly period in our history.
My friend was dumbfounded. She had moved to Roanoke as a child to live with relatives in the 1960s, when the county she lived in closed the public schools rather than integrate them. Being separated from her parents had a life-long impact on her, and although she now holds down a professional position, has a nice home and the kind of life her parents and grandparents could only have dreamed of, she does not see the world through the same rose-colored glasses. Continue reading.
Virginia finished the last fiscal year in the black, but fiscal challenges loom on the horizon.
Virginia finished its last fiscal year with a budget surplus of $585 million, the result of conservative revenue forecasting and a state workforce savvy about doing more with less.
Gov. Bob McDonnell reported the good news Monday to the General Assembly’s money committees, the fourth consecutive year that he has been able to boast of a year-end surplus. For three consecutive years, general fund revenue growth has exceeded 5 percent. McDonnell cited that growth as “concrete evidence” that Virginia’s economy is bouncing back from the Great Recession.
The Coalfield Expressway, Elm Avenue construction and Amazon and newspapers in today’s letters to the editor.
Halford Ryan’s commentary Aug. 18 (“A Republican gospel”) laid too much blame on one political party. Both parties have faults. It only makes for good poetry.
Knowledge is power and success in earnings. Both come from desire to succeed via education.
What is the graduation rate just for high school? Public education is free. Too many have limited desire for proper education and work due to the prevalent trend of getting something for nothing.
Low skill jobs and income are necessary for limited education and no real desire. Don’t blame the educated and successful, regardless of party, since they keep this country financially on the move. What is wrong with success?
And, they provide for helping those that can’t help themselves.
By Sarah Francisco
The oil and gas industry claims that opening the George Washington National Forest to drilling and fracking is the best choice for our children’s future. I imagine most people who have visited the GW will think that protecting a beloved forest where many have learned to hunt, fish and camp is what’s important for future generations.
Greg Kozera accurately describes the GW as a beautiful, multiuse forest — as he makes the case to sacrifice that for a single industrial use. When I envision the future, I want the same trails, views and trout streams to be enjoyed by families for years to come, without those landscapes scarred by drilling sites, access roads, heavy truck traffic and pipelines.
Clean water should be a top priority for this and future generations as well, and the GW is a source of drinking water for more than 260,000 people. The industry makes the highly questionable claim that no water contamination has been proven, but families from Pennsylvania and West Virginia who’ve seen shale gas drilling and fracking come to their communities paint a very different picture of what it can do to drinking water, streams and rural lands. Contrary to the assertion that fracking has happened for decades, this type of horizontal shale gas drilling and high-volume fracking has occurred only in the past few years, and we are just beginning to study the risks.
While the negative impacts are clear, the potential benefits are questionable at best. This is not a question of energy independence. The forest’s location on the edge of the Marcellus Shale makes it unlikely drilling will be viable, so the GW will not impact our country’s energy supply in the short or long term. Let’s make a decision that our children will be proud to inherit when it’s their turn to care for their forest.
Francisco is National Forests and Parks Program Leader for the Southern Environmental Law Center.
By Greg Kozera
The George Washington National Forest is beautiful, and we are free to enjoy it. Freedom isn’t free. Brave Americans have won our freedom with their sacrifices and lives. It takes energy to be free. We have been dependent for oil on foreign powers who are not our friends. Thanks to horizontal drilling and fracking, we now have enough energy in the United States to be free from energy tyrants.
We all need to do our part for freedom by being informed with the truth. In Virginia, the natural gas industry fracks horizontal wells on a regular basis with no water and no chemicals, only nitrogen gas. Where chemicals are used, they aren’t toxic. Check it out on www.fracfocus.org.
Oil and gas royalties are a leading source of federal non-tax revenue. We get a lot of energy from federal lands. If the new GW regulations are expanded to federal lands, they will be the beginning of the end of our dream of energy independence.
We can have both energy and beauty of national forests. Virginia Oil & Gas Association member companies are partnering with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries to successfully repopulate emerging species that thrive on first-growth grasslands on reclaimed gas well sites, creating an increase in deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, birds and even butterflies. This partnership also resulted in the first successful reintroduction of a herd of elk to Virginia in more than 100 years.
The new GW Forest Plan permits windmills that kill more than half a million birds annually, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. After reclamation, a horizontal well site takes up less surface area than a single windmill.
The GW will still be beautiful in 20 years whether fracking is permitted there or not. Will future generations have the energy and freedom to enjoy it?
Kozera is a registered professional engineer with a master’s degree in environmental engineering and more than 35 years of experience in the natural gas and oil industry. He is the president of the Virginia Oil & Gas Association.
More than six years ago, I retired from the natural gas and oil industry. I thought I had everything planned until I began worrying about my children’s and grandchildren’s future. Without clean, affordable, dependable, domestic energy, they will have a cold, dark future. If we have to depend on foreign powers for our energy, they won’t be free. My retirement was short — one day. A friend called out of the blue with a job offer, and I was back in the industry. Now with development of our shale reservoirs, we can be energy independent and won’t need OPEC.
In the George Washington National Forest debate, a big concern is horizontal drilling and fracking (hydraulic fracturing). Few know that fracking is a single or several-day event that occurs only once in the 30-plus year life of a typical well or that fracking is an engineered process injecting fluid or a gas under pressure deep underground to create a fracture (crack) in reservoir rock. This allows oil and gas to flow from the reservoir to the wellbore.
More than 1 million wells have been fracked since 1947 and no federal government agency has confirmed any contamination from the fracturing process, although there may be cases where drilling caused short-term contamination.
Lisa Jackson, former director of the Environmental Protection Agency, agrees that there has been no proven groundwater contamination from fracking. More than 90 percent of all natural gas wells drilled in the United States require fracking. Most people don’t know that without fracking, our domestic oil and gas industry would cease to exist. Don’t worry, our “friends” at OPEC or in Russia will gladly sell us oil and gas at their prices.
We know from basic engineering and underground observations that fracks cannot go up into groundwater. This isn’t theory or a study. I lived with my family in the middle of oil and gas fields where all of the wells were fracked. Our water well was fine. We never saw any of those dangerous fracking things that we now hear and read about. Our kids are all healthy. The most dangerous threat to our water is a neighbor’s unregulated water well.
The George Washington can be a great Eastern wilderness without development of any kind. It also can continue to be the beautiful multiuse forest it currently is. Regulations can protect roads and sensitive areas.
With the forest’s location on the edge of the Marcellus Shale, it will probably never be drilled. But should we take that option away from our children? Any forest plan must be based on sound science and engineering rather than fear and fallacy. We need energy to survive. Life without fracking is life without the fundamentals of life. Don’t we want the best for our children and grandchildren?
For more information, go to vanatgasfacts.org or justthefracksbook.com.
Kozera is a registered professional engineer with a masters degree in environmental engineering and more than 35 years of experience in the natural gas and oil industry. He is the president of the Virginia Oil & Gas Association.
Since they were established 95 years ago, the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests have provided a beautiful backdrop and a beloved back yard for the Roanoke Valley region. Now the GW, the largest national forest east of the Mississippi, faces an unprecedented threat as the federal government considers opening it up to natural gas drilling.
The treasured GW helps support Virginia’s multimillion-dollar tourism and outdoor recreation industry, as more than 1 million people annually come from around the country — and from next door — to hike its picturesque vistas, fish trout streams in the headwaters of the James River, bike winding trails, and hunt and camp in favorite family spots.
It’s hard to imagine a less suitable place for industrial gas drilling and fracking.
Shale gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) involve pumping millions of gallons of water, usually mixed with known toxic chemicals, deep underground to crack open shale rock containing natural gas. Reports of gas leaks and wastewater polluting drinking water wells, rivers and streams elsewhere in the country raise red flags about the risks.
Although the industry often disputes these risks, there can be little debate that drilling and fracking in the GW would have awful impacts on the land. This is a major industrial activity, requiring clear-cutting and bulldozing to build well pads and potentially hundreds of miles of access roads with heavy truck traffic and pipelines, carving up the national forest and disrupting adjacent farms and forestlands. Contrast this image with the undisturbed nature the GW now provides, which greatly enriches this region’s quality of life
Two years ago in response to widespread concerns about fracking possibly coming to the GW, the U.S. Forest Service sensibly proposed to prohibit horizontal gas drilling on the national forest for the next 10 to 15 years, which would limit the riskiest and most destructive form of fracking. More than 50,000 people (95 percent of those who commented) and 10 local governments surrounding the forest, including the city of Roanoke, asked for a ban or moratorium on horizontal drilling or fracking in the GW. But the gas industry and other drilling proponents pressured the Forest Service to reconsider the proposal. A final decision is expected this fall.
Large-scale gas drilling has never taken place in the GW. For decades, the Forest Service and locals have taken care of the national forest so it continues to supply clean water and timber, supports healthy fish and wildlife populations, and provides beautiful places to hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors.
We have a long-standing heritage in Virginia of appreciating and safeguarding our national forests. Let’s not abandon that now with the GW at stake. Read more at ProtectTheGW.org.
Francisco is National Forests and Parks Program Leader for the Southern Environmental Law Center.
By KATHLEEN PARKER
The media-created mommy wars haven’t just jumped the shark and entered the realm of “Sharknado.” Where women once debated ways to balance family-and-career — a hyphenated oxymoron if ever there was one — they’re now clashing over whether having babies is really all that.
To bear children or not — that is the only question left to those with first-world problems.
The scene: A tidy beach where a young couple is basking, carefree. How lovely. No little ones to intrude upon the perfect union of two selves entwined in rapturous indulgence.
This was the cover of a recent Time magazine featuring a story titled “The Childfree Life: When having it all means not having children.” The story explored a startling statistic: One in five American women ends her childbearing years without maternity.
Some of that low fertility apparently is voluntary. Note that the title is childfree, not childless. Increasingly, couples — and women, specifically — are deciding against childbearing for a variety of reasons, including the unwelcome prospect that scenes such as that depicted on the magazine cover might become less frequent. The pleasure principle seems to be gaining on the procreative impulse.
Fast on the heels of Time’s article came a story from the Guardian of Britain reporting research from the London School of Economics suggesting that smart women don’t have children. According to the author of the book “The Intelligence Paradox,” maternal urges drop by 25 percent with every extra 15 IQ points. Although he opines that such women are too smart for their own good, one could also infer that you’re dumb if you have kids.
Yet another story, this one from the BBC News Magazine, plumbed the stretch marks and “breasts … like Zeppelins” — as one reader put it — that frequently follow pregnancy and childbirth. The story featured a photographer who wanted to show women’s bodies as they really are after pregnancy. Most do not rebound miraculously as celebrity spreads would have us believe. As if we didn’t know.
But a young woman considering motherhood might also conclude that trading a young, fit body for that isn’t worth it. Combined, the three stories seem aimed at discouraging, or at least demystifying, motherhood.
Where to begin.
To the childless, as opposed to the voluntarily childfree, the debate about whether to have a child is no doubt painful. But even among those who can — and do or don’t — the conversation is rife with emotion. Everyone feels slightly insulted. Childless women feel that they’re viewed critically for not being mothers. Women who are mothers, whether working or stay-at-home, feel inadequate or mocked by iconic images of career women with babies in their briefcases.
Really, isn’t it time to retire this faux-ma?
Another scene: I am in the delivery room with my niece moments after she brought her baby girl into the world. She is sobbing. “I feel so sorry for men,” she says. “They can’t have babies.”
She was drowning in hormones, obviously, but never mind. Mothers know of what she spoke. So do fathers, though perhaps in a less immediately physical way. It is the joy that passeth all understanding. And, as with love, you can’t explain it to those who haven’t experienced it. That’s the unspoken truth.
Here’s another: Whatever else we choose to do, creation is what we were meant to do.
Sometimes creation takes other forms than parenthood. Would we have a Sistine Chapel if Michelangelo had been distracted by a half-dozen hungry mouths? On the other hand, would we have had Michelangelo if abortion had been available to his mother?
Knowledge of my niece’s joy (there is no other word) is the secret code of all parents, including adoptive. Mysteriously, the inevitable pain, suffering and sacrifice of parenthood are also part of that joy. What is a rose without thorns? Life without death is imponderably meaningless. I would argue that without death, there would be no love.
Indeed, what makes parenthood so relentlessly amazing — both the beauty and the beast of it — is the possibility of losing the thing you love more than your own heartbeat. Putting someone else’s interests above one’s own is the alpha and omega of parenthood.
Every person will find his or her own way in this conversation. Parenting surely isn’t for everyone and those who choose to be childfree probably have made the right decision. Then again, it’s hard to know for certain that one doesn’t want children. Many don’t, until they do.
Parker is a columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
Russian helicopters for Afghanistan and the Virginia governor’s race in today’s letters to the editor.
As a frequent rider on Amtrak, I would be quite happy if any passenger train serving Roanoke were to be named the “Taxpayer Express.” I have, after all, communicated with numerous senators and congressmen over the years, urging them to allocate less money to highways and aviation, and more money to Amtrak.
Furthermore, Amtrak appears to have survived yet another round of attempts by Republicans to defund it completely.
Taxpayer Express, however, falls so sweetly upon the ears that it suggests other naming possibilities. Interstate 81, for example, could very appropriately be named the Taxpayer Turnpike. The main building at the Roanoke Regional Airport would have a much stronger identity if it were called the Taxpayer Terminal.
And the GPS system that has eliminated the need to ask for directions; isn’t it really a TPS system? Those satellites didn’t get up there for free. Neither, for that matter, did the weather satellites that allow us to keep track of hurricanes. Shouldn’t the National Weather Service be renamed the Taxpayer Weather Service?
These new names might serve as useful reminders that taxpayers and the taxes they pay are what make life as we know it in America possible.
EDWARD S. STONE