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...

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Elkton: Can't we all just get along?


I've been lurking on the Elkton election thread for a while now,
waiting for a voice of reason to emerge, but to my dismay, no one has
stepped up to offer a balanced explanation of what's going on in my
beloved home town. Despite that the rest of Rockingham thinks we can
wall off the town and have it declared an asylum, there are good
reasons for the election results and everything that lies behind them.
I want to outline what I think they are.

I also, and most of all, want to correct the record about Wayne Printz.

Much of what other people on this blog have been saying about Mr.
Printz I can shrug off as the rantings of sore losers, but I've learned
that a lie told often enough and left unchallenged takes on the varnish
of truth, if no one will expose it for what it is.

I've known Wayne Printz for many years, and for many years I've counted
him a friend. In all the time I have known him, from the years he
served on the town council, to his volunteer work in many capacities in
town, to his devoted mentoring of Lucky Sigafoose's son, I have known
him to be a thoroughly good man. Not a perfect man, but an extremely
good man. Every time I've read some nasty snide remark about Wayne, I
think of him putting together a 9/11 Memorial Service, or pitching in
to help in some project, or bringing flowers or food to a neighbor who
needed the cheering up. Good works aren't sexy, they don't get a lot
of attention, and they're easy to overlook, but they are real, and
anyone who has lived in Elkton for more than a year or two has
certainly run across Wayne in private life quietly doing something good
for somebody.

You might say, okay, so he does community service, so what? It's not
that he does community service, it's that community service is an
extension of the way he conducts his life. Anyone who knows Wayne
personally knows that he's genuine, honest, and works hard for the
public good. His heart is thoroughly in the right place. In his
previous years of public service, he's brought these ethics to
government, but recently they have been ignored in the firestorm that
has swirled around him.

It began, as it so often does, with inaccuate media coverage. When a
reporter under a time constraint gets only part of a story and runs
with it, when a reporter new to an area makes a bad impression on the
locals and the locals won't bother talking to him or her, that coverage
is going to be slanted. Since then, with the media guiding perception,
it's only gotten worse.

Two years ago, Elkton elected a divided, but balanced, council. Even
that election was a little underhanded, as some of the candidates
counseled their supporters not to vote for a full slate, but only for
one or two candidates. Thus, two councilmen, Mr. Snow and Mr. Workman,
were elected by slim margins in an election whose voting totals were
peculiarly skewed. It was legal but it was slick, and many Elktonians
weren't expecting that kind of strategy. To many of us, it didn't bode
well for the future.

Then Lucky Sigafoose passed away, and the council selected Mr.
McDaniel, who is also a good person, but who never ran for office,
never attended a council meeting before he was put in office, and whose
vision for Elkton was about as far removed from Lucky's as it's
possible to get. The result was a council that was weighted heavily
towards business interests. When Mr. McDaniel joined the council, Mr.
Dean, who works for Mr. McDaniel and who before had voted as an
independent, fell into line with Messrs. McDaniel and Snow, both of
whom envisioned the Kite property as a golf course and were willing to
do almost anything to make it happen. (I want to be very clear on
this: all of these people are decent. I know all these men, and I
believe they were doing what they thought was best for the town, their
opinions strengthened by the fact that it was also what they wanted to
see happen.)

Add to this a political town manager with ambitions of his own and a
developer offering that very thing that the new majority of councilmen
wanted so badly in exchange for more than doubling the town population,
something that resonates well with businessmen, and you have the mess
that is Elkton today.

At first, the council tried to run over the mayor with their votes and
the pressure of their majority status. When he wouldn't be run over
without putting up a fight, they castigated him in public, accusing him
of being power-hungry, reactionary, divisive, and the puppet of a vocal
minority of old ladies and fuddy-duddies. Talk about projecting your
own faults on your opposition! When Wayne tried to preserve the office
of mayor as he had received it, when he refused to let the office be
eviscerated, they branded him as power-hungry and accused him of trying
to pull an unprecedented power grab, when in truth, that was the very
thing they were trying to pull off with the town charter fiasco. If
the charter that was first submitted to the legislature in Richmond had
passed, this past election would not have been held, and the old
council would have remained in place for another two years, long enough
to have achieved its aims.

Now, some of those people who don't like the results of the May
election and don't like the composition of the new council, for example
on this blog, are blaming all the bad decisions the previous council
made on the mayor. They're blaming him for the town being so deep in
debt, but the fact is, the old council dug the hole so deep, and over
the mayor's objections. They say he's a lousy negotiator, but forget
the the council tied his hands, undercut his authority in public and
gave every indication they didn't care what they had to give away in
return for attracting growth, especially for attracting a golf course.
(You folks in Harrisonburg know something about this--it's one of
those, "how often do we have to say no?" kind of deals.) I think it's
entirely possible that the council willfully stuck us in a no-win
situation, so that, if they could not see the golf course development
through personally, they could justifiably say that getting out of the
deal is prohibitively expensive, which is the same thing that happened
with Harrisonburg's golf course and almost happened with Elkton's
near-disastrous Rockingham Street makeover.

On this blog both Mr. Corbo and "Jeff" have challenged Wayne's
assertion that he supported the town buying Miss Kite's property to be
nice and because she has selflessly given so much to the town. Well,
folks, it's true. It's the way things happen in Elkton, and anyone
who's lived here for any length of time will tell you so. For more
than a century, Elkton's been ignored and/or disrespected by the rest
of Rockingham. We've grown to like it that way. It's made us a tight,
self-sufficient community. We even enjoy our bad reputation--we say it
keeps the riffraff out.

The fact is, Elkton is not like anywhere else, and it doesn't want to
be like anywhere else. Now, I don't know whether the Angler deal is a
good one or a bad one. I don't know. No one does. I can tell you it
hasn't been sold to the public well, and most people know almost
nothing about it.

I can tell you what it sounded like to the average Elkton resident: it
sounded like Mr. Snow's voting bloc was getting ready to turn Elkton
into the next Manassas or Fairfax. And anyone who voted against their
interests was either ignorant, rednecked, or plain stupid. The people
in Elkton didn't want to be the next NoVa community, and they didn't
appreciate being treated so disrespectfully.

The fight in Elkton has gotten very personal and very mean. Throughout
the election and in the public forum the rhetoric has generated more
heat than light. I think a lot of it has gone unanswered because the
people who won are busy getting ready to guide the town out of the
disadvantageous mess that's been left to them. And it's a pity,
because it shows good people in a terrible light (and I know and
personally like all of the players in this drama,) and because I know
that words put out in public, over time take on a life of their own.
It goes down hard with me that so many good people have gotten into a
situation where others with extreme views, bad tempers or only part of
the story are making or breaking their reputations at large.

I believe that the old council was doing what it thought best, but it
forgot to consult the public. It believed its opposition was confined
to a vocal minority. The council members forgot who they were working
for. They didn't ask the public what it wanted. They assumed they
knew better. The Angler deal may be the best thing to come down our
way this century, but if the only thing the public hears about is a
golf course that almost nobody wants and if almost nobody trusts the
builder's intentions, it doesn't matter how good the deal is--the
public's wishes will rule.

This election was a definitive statement from Elkton. Here's what I
think it said: We like our town the way it is. We like our community.
We don't want our town to be like anyone else's. Maybe that's a
stretch, and maybe I'm misreading the situation, but I don't think so,
and here's why:

Folks from Elkton are, by and large, modest, hardworking people with
deep roots in the community and a strong sense of pride. The fourth
grade at Elkton Elementary sponsors an annual heritage day. Through
the whole year, the kids learn about Elkton's own history; they learn
about our culture, they learn who we are. Elkton is not the same as
the rest of Rockingham County; whether our isolation, or the long
experience of being the County's "bad side," or the absorption of
people from off the mountain when the Shenandoah National Park was
built, or for whatever other reason, we see ourselves as different. The
public is not opposed to the future, but in the last election, I think
they saw our sense of self being sold on the cheap, and they said no.

They also saw a council that wasn't listening to them and wasn't
respecting them, and so they elected new leaders to do the public's
work and look after the public trust. We all know each other. We all
work together. It wasn't personal--it was about the future of Elkton.
May the new council do its job well. It's time for those mean spirited
people whose interests don't accord with the majority to suck it up and
deal with the fact that they are in the minority, and to recognize that
good people can disagree on issues and remain civil. Every time you
accuse others of underhanded or unethical motives, you say much more
about yourself than you do about them.


  • At 5/17/2006 10:09 AM, Blogger jeff said…

    Very well written.

  • At 5/17/2006 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Afterall, the people must like Wayne. Just look at the elections results, he's doing something right.

  • At 5/17/2006 3:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Paging Mr. Carbo, paging Mr. Carbo. Your response is being requested! Mr. Carbo are you still in the building?

  • At 5/17/2006 5:54 PM, Anonymous Vic Corbo said…

    Since I have been the only one here to use their full name it would be nice if you figured out how to spell it and do it correctly. I have not left the building. I am formulating a response but due to having to research old news paper articles it may be a while before I post. Trying to go back in history to document the great jobs done by previous councils and mayors.

  • At 5/17/2006 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's spelled newspaper Mr. Carbo. Just one word.

  • At 5/17/2006 10:55 PM, Anonymous Vic Corbo said…

    I at least use my real name to let folks know where I stand and take any gaffs due to a spelling error. You apparently are ashamed of what you write and rather then stand behind your writings you hide behind the catchall anonymous banner.

    D.F.E.'s post is well written and I cannot put him down for his views except that he seems to be a long time friend of Mr. Printz and in that light his post is probably a bit slanted.

    You do not have to go far back in time to find that some of those just elected caused much divisiveness on the council and in town when they served previously. One who because of a personal problem with the then chief of police wound up firing the man, seemingly to get even. Another caused such a hostile enviroment, one of the council members resigned. Look back over the years and judge for yourself what progress has been made by the past mayors and councils. The infrastructure is crumbling, the downtown area is a disgrace and property owners pay taxes over and above the county taxes for basically no more services than is provided by the county. This state of the town is not something that happened over the last four years that the current council has been in place. As Mr. Donachy said at the last council meeting the current state of the town has been caused by 98 years of neglect. Right or wrong, the current council attempted to do something to bring growth and hopefully prosperity to the town, and a number of folks, for reasons only they can explain, are attempting to derail the project.

    Since my property was annexed Jan 1, 2005, I have been quite vocal at what I deemed to be growth at a too fast pace. Since the annexation I have yet to see anyone else letting the populace know how they feel on these issues. Not until the advent of the election cycle did any of the candidates start saying anything. Where was their concern for the town for the past year and a half? At the council meetings I have attended Mr. Dearing's main concern has been the cemetery fund.

    As soon as the election was over the council elect are so suddenly concerned with the terms of the contract with Angler for the Kite property. Not one even bothered to obtain a copy of the contract, read it, and try to understand the document. At the May committee meeting copies were passed out to the coucil elect. At mondays council meeting Mr. O'neill complained that he did not have an exhibit called out in the contract. When I asked him if he had bothered to go to town hall and get a copy he replied that he did not have time to go through the process of the Freedom of Information Act. I am not personal friends with any of the employees at town hall, yet when ever I went there to obtain information and documents I was never refused. All he had to do was try.

    I do not think it will be long before the egos of those who served in the past will once again begin to flair. Mr. Printz said in the paper that he can put his pride aside and work with the new council. Only time will tell. I fear we will have four years of infighting and nothing will be accomplished once more.

  • At 5/18/2006 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't live in Elkton, but I find the threads posted on Elkton to be highly interesting, and sometimes entertaining! So thanks!

    A few days ago in the Daily News Record I read where the current town manager essentially challenged Mayor Printz on his former assertation that the town manager was somehow embezzling funds from the town's coffers.

    It appeared that the town manager challenged Mr. Printz and (to clear his name) demanded that a full adit be conducted. Printz then appeared to back off of his former assertation, and even voted againts the audit.

    My question is why? I know this is a complex issue, but in my opinion the town manager was correct to take the actions he did, and force a vote (which was approved) to conduct the audit. Which by the way will cost somehting like 15K.

    Any opinions on this?

  • At 5/18/2006 1:07 PM, Anonymous Vic Corbo said…

    The January 16th 2006 minutes of the council contain the statement Mr. Donachy read to the council. You can read the minutes on the Elkton web site, It requires a fair amount of time to research all of this but I feel it necessary to get the full picture of what has transpired.

  • At 5/18/2006 8:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well you asked.

    The Mayor has had enough. The town manager has had enough. The council has had enough and the voters have had enough. SInce everybody is sick of it and everybody is upset about everything, it is simply time for a change.

    The town manager is an outsider who does not live inside the town and has decided to participate in the politics of this crazy little town. His wife is a nutball who just can't stay out of the picture. The outgoing council members are leaving in part because they supported the "outsider" instead of the Mayor. Wayne Printz is a pretty good guy. You may not like his politics, but he's OK. The incoming council and the mayor need to replace the current manager and the inside word is he's out. If you don't bleed Elkton blue, it's tough. Mr. Corbo, a self admitted transplant couldn't break into the circle and has been bitter ever since.

    There is a right way a wrong way and the way we do it in Elkton.

    "If you don't like the way I'm living"

    "Just leave this long haired country boy alone."

  • At 5/18/2006 9:54 PM, Blogger Will Vaught said…

    Nice post! Maybe the most honest piece of information I've ever read on this blog and in the local media in regard to Elkton...

    "We built this city, we built this city on rock-n-roll!"

  • At 5/18/2006 10:13 PM, Anonymous Vic Corbo said…

    I am not bitter about my inability to "break into the circle" Actually I feel very good about my showing. I ran on my own, campaigning on what I thought to be the issues facing the town. I did not have the mayor or the local Political Action Committee behind me. As the "self admitted transplant", I actually made a very good showing at the polls, 25% of those that voted. Just a few years ago this would never had happened, from stories I have been told about other transplants efforts.

    My opining about the issues here in Elkton is not recent. As I have said in the past, I have been offering my opinions in the newspaper since my property was annexed on 01/01/2005.

  • At 5/19/2006 1:19 PM, Anonymous Vic Corbo said…

    One last item:

    I am considering starting an Elkon Information web site. This site will be available to local service organizations, Little League, church organizations, etc., to post information about their activities, upcoming events, praise of people they feel deserve such mention, and other such stuff of interest to the populace of the area.

    This will not be an open forum as this is. Any and all information posted will be verifiable and will contain the real name of the person requesting the posting. No anonymous tag lines.

    There will also be an area for relevent news items of interest to the Elkton area. Again all must be verifiable, non inflamatory, and will contain a by-line of the person submitting such news items.

    This will be a free service to the organizations/persons submitting information and articles. If any one is interested in being involved in this endeavor please give me a call. I am in the book. This will be a free service to those submitting information and articles.

    Vic Corbo has left the building.

  • At 5/19/2006 4:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The belief that a newcomer can't break in to Elkton politics is sheer nonsense. After all, the mayor himself is a transplant. And, for example, Bill Holt, Dan Dail, both transplants, were Council members, and in the past a great number of leading citizens came in with Merck. Elkton has always welcomed people, as long as they conduct themselves with honesty and some dignity. What we don't like are when newcomers try to "save" us from ourselves, or whatever arrogant attitudes they bring with them.

  • At 5/20/2006 8:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Honesty and integrity, wow, something we all would like in the mayor of our town.

  • At 6/02/2006 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This was on Channel 3 on Aug 16, 2005. He was concerned with the debt load he helped create by purchasing the property. Seems then Lord Printz thought this was a decent idea back then. The actions of the new council can once again create a real financial problem. Now there is no 4.7 million to cover the huge debt load. Let us wait and see what financial magic they pull out of the hat.

    "Given everything that's on the table at this point in time in this environment we really had no choice but to go the direction we have," said Wayne Printz, Town of Elkton Mayor.

    The direction of selling 365 acres to Angler Development after years of talking. It's an issue on the minds of many in the Town of Elkton.

    "My biggest concern was the debt load we had when purchasing the property off of Mrs. Kite," said Printz

    But Angler came along offering $4.7 million to buy the land for a golf course and a housing development that could see more than seven hundred homes.

    "We might have had no one there to deal with then we really would have had a problem cause you would have seen your taxes go up and all the things we don't want to see happen," said Printz.

    The golf course has been a controversial issue, but Printz says it won't be under the town.

    "That's what the town officials wanted to make sure that there is no liability that could be transferred to the town citizens," said Printz.

    All in all, Pritz says at least the development is being guided by the town.

    "The development at Mrs. Kite's property or any property in the town would have Occurred with or without us," said Printz.

    In reality Printz sees the beginning stages of this development happen sometime next spring.

  • At 7/11/2006 9:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wouldn't it be just great if we logged onto our computers and we read only good things about our Town, our Mayor and our citizens. Would it be too much to hope for? We can do without the vitriol and negativity which seems to be what some bloggers can only do. We want to hear the good things about our Town, not someone's perception of what they presume to be the "bad" things. If bloggers would just refuse to answer all the "garbage" spewed out by hate-mongers, we would all be better served. God bless all the good people of Elkton - especially our Mayor and Council. Pray for those who would try to tear this Town apart. We have had enough of that - that's why we have re-elected our Mayor, and elected a new council who will bring this Town together. They are off to a good start. We pray God will guide them in their efforts to make Elkton a place where all our citizens are prouod to say they live here.

  • At 7/11/2006 9:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Why does Mr. Carbo give a compliment praising D.F.E.'letter, then turn around and posit that he must be a friend of the Mayor in the same paragraph? You see, this is what he does all the time. He builds up, then tears down. What a waste of energy. Obviously he is one unhappy fellow, and doesn't even like himself. Someone said Mr. Carbo is a "study in frustration." Don't know about that - sure seems frustrated all right. (Got 25% of the vote? Our math says otherwise.)

  • At 7/11/2006 9:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    9:30 AM - Boy did you peg Carbo correctly. This guy can't say a positive thing about anybody except himself. He has to get a "dig" in, no matter how informative and positive the posting. Notice - a posting is good, "BUT". There always has to be a criticism. Bitter? Read his postings, then judge for yourself.

  • At 7/12/2006 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Just came across some very good and decent blogs. How we wish all of these blogs were positive and enlightening. What I cannot figure out is, who is this guy who seems to think he has to go after your Mayor, with all his smugness and anger? Did the Mayor do something to get this guy's "engine" reved up that he spends all his time on the computer raising all this chaos? He certainly seems to be self-destructive and a real trouble maker. You extremely intelligent people out there in Elkton, if you keep answering this "old fellow's" odd rantings with your good and decent replies, it will befuddled the daylights out of him, and show him up for the misguided creature he is. Apparently he is a very lonely man, because he spends so much time on the blogs. Good luck, and God bless all the nice people in Elkton who seem to love their town, their Mayor, councilmen and citizens.

  • At 7/12/2006 8:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    To the previous posting, we thank you for your insight into a mind that seems to go in only one direction. Apparently you don't live in Elkton, but by your blog we realize you have digested the postings (negative and positive), to make an intelligent diagnosis of one persons human psyche. Thanks again. We sincerely appreciate your kind wishes.


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