The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

BASIC CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS UNDER FIRE IN SALTVILLE


Town of Saltville Finds Innovative Way to Fill Town Coffers

And To

Silence Citizen Voices


The Iconoclast never has any difficulty in finding good examples of bad behavior by public officials.

Our latest example is the little Town of Saltville in Smyth County out in Southwest Virginia.

According to a recent news item in Richmond Times Dispatch, the Town of Saltville has filed a $687,760 civil law suit against one Shirley Ann “Sissy” Bailey of nearby Glade Spring alleging that her “strenuous protest of the town’s plan to turn an abandoned railroad track into a hiking trail has crossed the line from opposition to unlawful and belligerent interference.” The suit includes $337,760 in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages. See more details on this in the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Town officials justify the law suit for fear that the 51 year old lady or her fellow protesters “could turn violent.” Saltville economic development director Tracy Mitchell was quoted as saying that “We just don’t want violence” and explained that Ms. Bailey was “targeted” in hopes that it would “quiet other land owners and end the dispute over the ownership of the rail line.”

Could turn violent? Targeted? Quiet others?

Since when is a hypothetical crime actionable? One might reasonably guess that Ms. Bailey is probably a royal pain in the butt to the town officials. But the words of the economic development director reveal a disturbing motivation behind the town’s action against this lady and her friends. This sounds an awful lot like intimidation to quash voices of dissent under the color of official governmental authority.

Let us be very clear here before we go further. The Iconoclast is not going to take sides on the merits of the dispute over the ownership of the rail line. The Iconoclast does not know all the facts of the case concerning the history of this dispute or the various legal arguments and facts pertaining to the ownership of the rail line property. These kinds of legal questions just need to work their way through the process. Also, the Iconoclast has absolutely no problem with the Town of Saltville trying to pursue this economic development project.

However, the Iconoclast does have a problem with the idea of public officials from the Town of Saltville trying to intimidate and stifle the right of free speech by filing a law suit that threatens financial ruin to a “targeted” individual with the express hope that it will “quiet others” involved in this dispute.

This is fundamentally wrong!

It is also an attempt by people who are in public offices to undermine a basic Constitutional right as provided in the First Amendment, namely freedom of speech.

Citizens can some times be cantankerous and disagreeable. However, in America, citizens have a basic right to express their opinions so long as those expressions do not go beyond certain boundaries to jeopardize public safety or the rights of others.

If Ms. Bailey is committing some act of violence, she is probably in violation of some section of the criminal code. So the Town of Saltville should file appropriate criminal charges whether they are felony or misdemeanors. Haul her into criminal court, present the charges and the evidence and let her face the charges. If she is convicted, let her face the consequences prescribed by law.

But no, the Town of Saltville is going after this lady through a civil suit to recover what most would see as a very significant amount of money… probably far in excess of any monetary fine likely to come from any criminal prosecution of her actions. The word punitive, like in to punish, should sound some alarms here.

Is this some new form of creative public financing? If successful it will certainly keep the local tax rate low and disgruntled citizens silent and bankrupted. Anyone having even the mildest of concern about any public action by the Town of Saltville will be well advised to keep their mouths tightly shut for fear of similar repercussions.

But seriously, this action is a sign of something much more ominous: an attack on civil liberties by the very government that is supposed to be protecting those liberties.

For a local unit of government to file a civil law suit against Ms. Bailey based on what Ms. Bailey or her friends might do in the future is a ridiculous concept and abuse of civil liberties. It is also, clear that the intent of the Town of Saltville to intimidate and silence dissenting voices of citizens within their community. Intimidation of this sort is something we like to think is only found in backwards countries where you have dictators and military bosses in charge.

Citizens of America deserve better behavior of their public officials. This abusive behavior by public officials in the Town of Saltville should be loudly condemned by all freedom loving citizens everywhere.

As for Ms. Bailey, she had better watch her self and stay on the right side of the line or she will surely be facing the consequences. But so long as she remains on the right side of the line, let the lady speak.

Let freedom ring!

30 Comments:

  • At 3/18/2006 5:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I can't say that I'm surprised, afterall the town's is called Saltville!

     
  • At 3/18/2006 11:26 PM, Blogger Tom James (aka Brave Hart) said…

    Saltville- Civil War town where the South's supply of salt came from.

    First our right to secede was brutally and mercilously taken away and now freedom of speech.

    Did the right side really win. And no I don't believe in salvery!

     
  • At 3/19/2006 9:56 AM, Anonymous A Voice in the Valley said…

    Trust me, the right side won the Civil War, but still I get your point. I would guess that this situtaion in Saltville is an isolated incident...but when you consider that Saltiville is in close proxiemty to Buchanan County, the Town of Appalachia, et. al, it sort of makes you wonder what the hell is going on way out in the western part of the state?

    The infamous battle of Saltiville is interesting. If I can recall my fact correctly, I believe that some Conferderate troops were prosecuted after the war for war crimes for some of the atrocities (sp?). Now -if this is true- you could just imagine what these crimes must have been llike, because I think it's safe to say that the American Civil War was probably one of the bloodiest conflicts known to man. Once, again, I could be off on some of my facts.

    Let's hope the town government doesn't resort to torture (like confederate troops did) to cajole Ms. whateverhernameisagain to sell her land!

     
  • At 3/19/2006 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is not about fighting the civil war again. And there is nothing wrong with Saltville and its historic heritage. We are dealing with a "here and now" abuse of fundamental constitutional freedoms by current officials of a local unit of government.

    While only one official was named, you can bet the economic development director did not act independently. Any public official of Saltville supporting this act of intimidation should be exposed.

     
  • At 3/19/2006 6:11 PM, Blogger Tom James (aka Brave Hart) said…

    Here's a copy of an email a friend sent me:


    She should get a lawyer and file a Federal Lawsuit about her fist amendment rights being trampled on. That lawsuit against her is called a SLAPP suit. and she should SLAPP them back. There is a book about just this type of thing called SLAPPs - Getting Sued for speaking out!

    SLAPP stands for STRATEGIC LAWSUITS AGAINST PUBLIC PARTICIPATION

    One big one happened in King William about the Kitty litter plant. When people sue back they usually win but mmost don't have the resources or money to SLAPP back.

    The book was published in 1996 and was written by George W. Pring and Penelope Canan. Everyoneinvolved in politics or activism should get a copy.

     
  • At 3/19/2006 10:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    SLAPP suit? That is a scary concept. Does anyone know how to get this information to Shirley Ann "Sissy" Bailey? She needs this information quick. Thanks Brave Heart for this very useful information. We will be watching.

     
  • At 3/20/2006 7:26 AM, Blogger Tom James (aka Brave Hart) said…

    http://www.museum-mid-app.org/civil-war.htm,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Saltville


    My observations:

    I've spent a lot of time visiting businesses in the SW region of VA.

    I lived in that area of the state for 2 years.

    I would say that is still the most racist part of VA. I saw no blacks working in the businesses I visited and very few living in the region.

    The standing joke for all outsiders and others who create trouble was, nobody did a lot of snooping in the old coal mine shafts.

     
  • At 3/20/2006 9:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The article that preceeds this blog is incorrect and misleading. The Richmond article was written by a journalist who was largely uninformed. If you want the real story, check out bristolnew.com. They have covered the Saltville rail issue since it started in January. The issue is not about freedom of speach. It is about land ownership.

     
  • At 3/20/2006 10:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I guess Rex Bowman from the RTD has some explaining to do then...

     
  • At 3/20/2006 10:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think there is probably no doubt that Ms. Baily is a royal pain in the you-know-what! I agree Will, the comments made by the ED of Saltville are not appropriate for a public officials. If the town is truely in the right on this matter, then they will win, and I suspect they indeed are.

    Just maybe the Town's Economic Development official made a poor choice of words when describing her (and likely many others) feelings towards Ms. Baily to the Times Dispatch's reporter? Therfore, maybe this could be filed away as a lesson learned in what NOT to say when you're a public officials.

    Some members of the public can be a total pain in the ass, but as long as we live in the USA - and you do not break the law - that is indeed their constitutional right.

     
  • At 3/20/2006 11:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Anyone who is familiar with investigative journalism knows that the beauty of getting candid, unrehearsed comments is that those comments often cut right to the heart of the issue.

    If an individual, say a public official, is given an opportunity to think about the question or to review it with an attorney, you are going to get an answer that is calculated to show the respondent in the most favorable light.

    So, chances are, assuming the quotes are accurate, the ED person in Saltville was revealing the unvarnished truth of the issue- the intent to intimidate.

     
  • At 3/20/2006 12:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I need some help here. Anon 9:46 provided a link to get the accurate facts. I tried bristolnew.com and could not find any mention of this matter. Could Anon 9:46 please come back and provide more detailed link? Thanks.

     
  • At 3/20/2006 12:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    try this:

    http://www.tricities.com/tristate/tri/home.html

     
  • At 3/20/2006 3:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks. This is helpful.

    There are indeed two separate issues here. One is the determination of the ownership claims for the railway. The second is the question of the civil suit for actual and punitive damages.

    The first is clearly a matter for the courts to take up and decide. The second involving the civil action, especially the "punitive" aspect, is still not explained adequately.

    If the ownership issue is still unresolved, the lady may indeed have a legitimate reason to hold up work. She might eventually win her case, thereby justifying the delay. If she loses this court decision, so be it. Her fight is over.

    The claim of punitive damages is just real hard to understand. Is there something that I do not understand here? Does this lady really need to be punished?

    Seems to me until a court finally decides the ownership thing, the lady should have a right to fight agressively for her rights so long as she doesn't otherwise break the law.

     
  • At 3/21/2006 11:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It seems very simple. Who has the deed that states ownership? The town? Then she does not have a leg to stand on. Ms. Bailey? Then the town is in the wrong and needs to step down. Who can produce the legal documents for the court?

     
  • At 3/21/2006 11:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If you people don't know Saltville, the people in Saltville, or the situation with Sissy, or as to why there aren't any black people here or working here..... Keep your mouth shut!

    Both Sissy and the Town have great concerns in the situation! We are a wonderful town and we have very loving and caring people who live here! And further more.... If there aren't any black people here nor working here it's because they choose not to. We have black people that have and do live in Saltville.

    Thank You!

     
  • At 3/21/2006 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Excuse me?

    How on earth did the issue of "black people" get introduced into this discussion? What's that got to do with anything here? I thought this was a debate about legal issues of ownership and freedom of speech.

    Is there something else going on here that we don't see?

     
  • At 3/21/2006 12:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think because a previous post (by Tom James) stated "I would say that is still the most racist part of VA. I saw no blacks working in the businesses I visited and very few living in the region."

    Regadless, this isn't what the debate is about. I agree. But still I'm sure Tom probably knows what he is talking about..afterall they seem to like to use intimidation as a tool

     
  • At 3/21/2006 2:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I would say that is still the most racist part of VA. I saw no blacks working in the businesses I visited and very few living in the region.



    THAT'S WHERE "BLACK PEOPLE" CAME FROM.

     
  • At 3/21/2006 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Due the fact that Saltville likely has very, very few African-Americans - I wouldn't expect to see many minorities in local government or business postions.

    BUT I live here in Southside Virginia (Cumberland County to be exact, where the A-A population in close to half) our local governments have very few African-American professionals.

    Not trying to change the subject, but this is sad to me.

     
  • At 3/21/2006 10:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    one from the tracks says-- let me assure you of one thing. Ms Baily does NOT know Rex Bowman. Mr. Bowman called her home for comment this past Thurday, after the hearing and the ONLY comment she made to him was what he wrote in the paper. I would like to Thank Mr Bowman for trying to get the real story. Bristol News paper has NOT done that. They have told me thru email that their opinion is for the TRAIL, so therefore they have been very one sided. All we ask you to do is try to understand our concerns and they are many. If a TRAIL was coming thru your front yard, back yard or close to your home that you have worked very hard for, would you like it? would you feel safe? Saltville sent out letters to the landowners 2 days before removal of the rail started. They did NOT talk personally to any landowner to let them know what was going on. They just came in and expected us to just roll over and never say anything and let them do what they wanted to do. We will continue to voice our issues and concerns and fight this trail. We DO NOT want it coming thru our farms and home places. We have nothing against the people in Saltville, we have family there. We are not trying to stop economical growth (although we do feel they are blinded by what they THINK this trail COULD bring) What we do have a big problem with now is they are trying to make us shut up and sit down and be quiet, because if we speak out, then others many speak out about other things they may not think is right. Stand up good people, don't be affraid--you have the right to speak and to be heard. It is to scare you so you will not speak out against anything they want to do. I'm not a child--Saltville does NOT that the right to tell be to be quiet.

    God Bless you all--

    by the way --we are having a meeting in Glade Spring Squad Hall this Saturday at 10:00 am if you would like to know what our concerns are.

    Thanks for your time !

     
  • At 3/22/2006 11:35 AM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    Thanks for your post, Also, if you (or anyone else) would like to write a piece in regard to this issue in Saltivlle, please do not hesitate to send me somthing via the e-mail address provided on my profile. All I ask is that you comments are well-reasoned. I do not have to include your name if you don't wish to reveal your identity.

    Thanks again, WV

     
  • At 3/22/2006 10:30 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well it does not take much to make a National debate on certain topics. I am opposed as well about the Rails-To-Trails Act. Until now I have never really had a reason to research much of anything that involved government or towns. I assure you just from about 4 months worth of research that some things can get discovered, that many people may not want to know about, or anything said about it. So do some research you may find that not everything you read is the truth. Know what you are talking about and please be kind to everyone. Every opinion counts ! Thank you!

     
  • At 3/22/2006 10:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To anon 10:30 p.m., I say, a discussion about basic constitutional rights is not a trivial matter.

    A search of the WWW on the subject will scare the crap out of anybody.

    Dont think for a second that your constitutional rights are protected and secure.

    The second you dont pay attention, some well intending, know-it-all politician (an Adolph Hitler type personality) will be sweet talking you out of your rights and making you a true believer.

    Little people in little offices are potentially dangerous. Believe it. Dont be afraid of them. Stand up and ask questions while they are little people. Dont wait until they are president.

     
  • At 3/27/2006 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't think it is the fact that Miss Bailey is speaking out that is the issue rather it is what she is doing.The law suit was filed due to her interference... with the company A&K railroad taking up the rails. So, before you comment you should get all the fact.....

     
  • At 3/27/2006 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think the whole point of the original article was that government is more powerful than the individual citizen and should exercise its powers judiciously and in proportion to the situation.

    The comments attributed to Tracy Mitchell the Saltville official indicate a clear intent to intimidate others to silence under the color of governmental authority.

    If Ms. Bailey was breaking the law, arrest her and charge her. But a six figure law suit is not in keeping with the concept of judicious exercise of governmental power. There is no way in earth that Ms. Bailey did the amount of damage that is claimed in the law suit.

    I don't think anyone has refuted the basic facts of what Tracy Mitchell said. So, those are the facts we know.

     
  • At 4/01/2006 11:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Trust me I know the facts and they are not due to the interference...with A&K railroad taking up the rails. She has NOT in any way stopped them except on her private .personal property. From the beginning if they could get to them through the right-away, A & K would already have them. So maybe you should learn the facts before anymore comments. Thats what makes this world go round though isn't it, people make up and believe what they want! I could set right here and tell you all the facts but in truth you would think I was just another one sided person thinking that I am right and they are wrong. So don't beleive everything you read unless you know it to be true. Thank You!

     
  • At 4/04/2006 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How are we supposed to know what facts are true if we don't even know what the options are? So, if you have them, enlighten us please on the alternative theories of truth.

     
  • At 6/10/2006 12:40 AM, Blogger danny said…

    I have known sissy all my life,I also have a first hand look into the unconstitutional way things are done in saltville on an everyday bases.now they have run up on someone who will not take there bulls--t.. GOOD FOR YOU SISSY.dont back down. your friend Danny Poore

     
  • At 6/27/2006 12:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Here is an update from a land owner along the trail line from Saltville to Glade Springs. Hope u enjoy. We as land owners know the history of Saltville and the land around us, and just today we found out that are wells ,ponds,railbed, water supply are poluted. This is what we are facing. Mercury, Lead, Arsonic,Iron ,levels are very high
    We had our water tested and this is what our animals drink along with what we drink.Samples were taken from the rail line were back years ago there was a derailment right on this track and it was carrying Chemical from Olin Corporation out of Saltville. We have all the pictures since day 1 and until someone lets me show these pictures know one can come even close to what we are going through.I have offered these pictures to the Smyth County Paper and other papers. Know one wants to print the truth. Someone who would love a good story needs to talk to the people invovled in it. This is know laughing matter. NOONE will listen to us!!

     

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