Commentary: Big government ineptitude in a small town

I purchased an historic Strasburg home at the end of 2008, and moved in shortly afterward. I moved here from Northern Virginia because I wanted to restore an historic home, and to get away from the silliness of big government stupidity and elitist arrogance. Imagine my shock now that my new hometown of Strasburg is starting to take the cake in government stupidity, arrogance, and a refusal to listen to the residents of the town.

The town recently purchased a home at 218 King St, in Strasburg – the Brown house – and has been trying to demolish it ever since. Members of council and the town government have decided to take a $700,000 federal grant to demolish historic buildings that they purchased years ago and allowed to atrophy to build a public park, and then decided to purchase the Brown house to enlarge the park. The fact that a town of 6,500 people already has a park that very few people use has not been factored into the equation by the town government.

Several members of council then saw that maybe they had stepped too far, and did the best thing they could do under the circumstances, and offered to either sell the building or gift the building to a local charity. The town manager reached out to several local charities and found one interested in the Brown house, and several members of council thought it the right thing to do to gift the Brown house to this charity. Then the firestorm started.

Local activists found that the town had violated federal laws in trying to demolish the Brown house, and that if it did demolish the Brown house, we the taxpayers of Strasburg would be liable for the $700,000 grant, yet the council refuses to acknowledge the original mistake, and instead doubled down, with a council member saying the town is the “laughing stock of Virginia…” and that was not because of council, but because of the citizens.  This council member also used rather crude language in her monologue rant against local activists at the work session.

The arrogance of this council member is quite scary. But all is not lost. We should all thank Don Le Vine, who has been a hero in trying to save the Brown house and has been working with other council members to see if we can find a way to undo the mess we are now in. Mayor Richard Orndorff has been trying to keep the discussion civil, but when the elected officials clearly lose control of themselves it is hard for the mayor to get anything done.  And while I disagree with my good friends Red Hall and Jocelyn Vena on this issue, I do understand their concerns.  Reasonable people can agree to disagree and remain civil.

However we must credit these arrogant bureaucrats and elitist politicians for one thing. They have accomplished something that all politicians wish they could do – they have united people from all political factions, from liberal activists, feminist activists who marched against Donald Trump the day after his inauguration, to libertarians, to those who are on the center left or center right, to Trumpsters, to tea party members such as myself, in a fight against government stupidity and arrogance of elected officials and bureaucrats who will not listen.

John Massoud is the 6th Magisterial District GOP chair, is the head of the Freedom Caucus of the Shenandoah County GOP, and is one of the leaders in the fight to save the Brown house.