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Posted July 13, 2011 | comments 3 Comments

Petition drive begins to get issue on ballot

By Ben Orcutt -- borcutt@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Local residents are moving forward with a petition drive for a binding referendum on whether town elections should be moved from May to November.

Linda Allen, who is helping to collect signatures to petition a Warren County Circuit Court judge to order a public referendum on the question, said the drive started after the Town Council rejected the proposal.

"Well when they decided that 556 people who answered the survey [that] they would rather have the election in November and they chose not to pay attention to that part of the town survey, we decided that we would go ahead and see what the voters actually had to say," Allen said Tuesday.

On June 13, Mayor Timothy W. Darr cast the tie-breaking vote against moving the election to even years in November. Darr was joined in the majority by Vice Mayor Chris W. Holloway and Councilmen Carson C. Lauder Jr. and Hollis L. Tharpe. Councilmen Thomas E. Conkey, N. Shae Parker and Thomas H. Sayre voted for the switch.

In April, 556 of the 925 respondents to a town survey indicated they supported moving the election to November, while 260 favored keeping the voting in May.

Allen said canvassers have to collect the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters to get the issue on the May ballot. To date, they have collected a couple hundred of the roughly 850 signatures that will be necessary, but Allen said she and others in the effort are confident they will get the necessary signatures.

"Oh, absolutely," Allen said, adding that she and fellow town resident Leonard Sherp received a warm welcome recently while canvassing on South Marshall Street.

"It was easy as pie to get signatures and people knew what we were talking about," Allen said. "We weren't making a political speech for one or the other. We were just simply asking if we could put it on the ballot and people were telling us they wanted it to be in November."

Sherp said that canvassers will be at the Royal Plaza Shopping Center on Saturday collecting signatures.

"Saturday's going to be our first real set-up of a booth," Sherp said.

Sherp said that he has collected 70 signatures and Allen has collected more than 60. There are about 11 people collecting signatures, and Sherp said that he has contacted them to get a more accurate count of the total collected.

"People are going to be turning in their signed petitions to me," Sherp said. "I'm going to be the repository."

The language on the petition simply states whether the election should be changed from May to November, Sherp said.

"The petition that we're circulating is position neutral," Sherp added. "So, I mean I've had people who are in favor of May elections sign the petition as you would expect people in favor of November. So it truly is in response to the question, to the statement, let the citizens decide. OK, but in order to do that we have to be on the ballot and so people are volunteering their signatures."

3 Comments | Leave a comment

    Most public officials are fundamentally honest, but there is a powerful cadre of the local political culture with an ethical blind spot that is really not motivated just by public service. Real estate development, speculation, and exploitation is by far the largest industry in Warren County — it’s what oil is to Alaska. Low voter turnout resulting from off cycle elections facilitates minority control of real estate development by government. The developer-friendly policies of previous -- and current-- county and town leaders points out the fact that it is the responsibility of the electorate not to give up the reins of responsibility to elected officials. Too many public officials have long regarded their role as doing favors for friends, often with public funds, and preferably without accountability to the public, or to the media, or any scruitny from other “outside” elements.. You can’t blame personal misconduct on the political culture, but it certainly provides the proper context for allegations about leaders abusing their power that continue to resurrect and perpetuate the old notions of politically connected, back-slapping Good Old Boys.

    This is what happens when the citizens get tired of a Mayor and Town Council who refuses to listen the People. The people who voted them into office. This citizens movement is one of the best things to happen to this town in a long time. I truly believe it will unite the town and bring about change in a way that has never happened before.

    It is also important to note that this issue is not about who is in favor of the move to November or who is in favor of keeping the Town Elections in May. This issue simply about the People of Front Royal being heard. And to put the question on the ballot. Put the issue on the ballot and let the people decide when they want their elections to be held. We tried to let our leaders lead on this issue and the majority of them backed away from the table. Now it is the peoples turn.

    When did this Council at large ever listen to the voice of the people?

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