Friday, October 23, 2009

Shenandoah County assessment rally brings out 100 angry landowners

Shenandoah County is once again following in Augusta County's footsteps (after filing a lawsuit against a citizen who asked for FOIA information from the BOS). Shenandoah's new real estate assessments just came out and out of touch, just as Augusta County assessments were six months ago.

Today in a hastily-called rally with 12 hours notice (a 1" ad was in yesterday's newspaper asking that those upset with real estate assessments show up and speak out at 9:00 a.m.), over 100 county residents made of up angry farmers and property owners turned out. We heard that the crowd was so loud it could be heard by those attending court inside.

A preliminary write-up is in the Northern Virginia Daily newspaper with additional information in tomorrow's edition after one of their reporters came out of her office when she saw such a large crowd and began covering the rally.

According to our boots-on-the-ground, Mr. Philip Hunt of Strasburg, a citizen activist, took out the newspaper ad at the urging of his 18-year-old daughter and called for the rally at the Shenandoah County Courthouse in downtown Woodstock.

The crowd of over 100 was about 75% farmers ... those folks who live on the land, work the land, and pass it on to the next generation. While the rally took place, motorists drove by and honked their horns in support.

Mr. Hunt stood on the steps and asked, "Where are the supervisors to explain this to us? None of them are here. They work for us ... we pay their salary." There were no electeds in attendance ... but three candidates for the Nov. 3 election were present.

Write-in Independent candidate Cindy Bailey running for supervisor in District 4 (representing Fort Valley and Woodstock) promised no tax hikes and that the budget would be picked over with a fine-tooth comb. Her yard signs were a hot item after the rally and word is she has more yard signs in her District than either of the other two candidates.

Mark Prince, another Independent supervisor candidate who is running in District 5 (and who was sued two weeks ago by the Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors) also addressed the crowd, stressing transparency in government.

Connie Broy, running as an Independent for School Board, joined in with comments at the rally.

Fred Hughes with the group Citizens for Honest Government also spoke and said to the crowd, "We have been fighting the board of supervisors for three years. One or three or 15 can't do it -- we need you to be angry enough to do it." He received a roar of approval. He continued, "If you want to make a difference, go to supervisor work sessions because that is where decisions are made. By the time the public meeting is held, decisions have already been made."

Local small business contractors were in the crowd who wanted to know why local businesses weren't used for many of the BOS spending projects. "They don't hire locally," they said, noting that many were idled in these financially difficult times.

"This board of supervisors is becoming copycats," said Suzanne Curran, another member of the group Citizens for Honest Government. "This happened in Augusta County six months ago and the same situation arose with outrageous real estate assessments. Citizens got together and circulated petitions, collecting 10,500 signatures. The Shenandoah board of supervisors is following the Augusta County BOS example and now they have come out with the same kind of over-inflated real estate assessments."

One resident expressed the feelings of others:

Jerry Elbon, who lives in Strasburg, stood towards the back of the crowd.
"I'm here because of these taxes," he said in a brief interview. "[My reassessment] went up 100 percent. I think they're a bunch of crooks and a bunch of thieves, or whatever you want to call them. They're not for the people of Shenandoah County. They're for themselves. They're not for business."
ACTION ITEM: Residents are encouraged to attend the upcoming Shenandoah County Board of Supevisors meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 7:00 pm at the Government Center located on 600 N. Main Street, Woodstock. The parking lot is behind the school. Bring a homemade sign or get one when you arrive.

Directions: I-81 to exit 283. Turn east onto Rt. 42; go to 2nd traffic light at Rt. 11 and turn left. Drive through Woodstock to the north end of town ... watch for school and government center on right side of Rt. 11.

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