In 1956, the most celebrated superstar of the day, Elvis Presley, and Ed Sullivan, the undisputed monarch of television entertainment, found themselves at a crossroads. Rock and Roll just wasn’t what the powers in the entertainment business wanted on its airwaves. But they couldn’t ignore Elvis’s enormous popularity. Realizing that if they could find a way, they would both highly benefit from a working relationship.
Through a lot of skillful negotiation, they eventually found the way, and progress was made.
Elvis could continue his unique “hoochie-koochie” style performance of “Hound Dog,” but the cameras would only capture him from the waist up. This clever solution marked a pivotal moment in the contentious coexistence of rock and roll’s rebellious spirit and the conservative music establishment.
Now that you have ‘You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog” endlessly rattling around in your brain, let’s follow the scent and see where this trail leads.
An earlier Shadow poll showed that 57% of respondents are worried about local government, and in this week’s survey, we dove deeper into that concern. 37% of respondents are primarily concerned with the ethical conduct of civic leaders. Another 21% are concerned about fair taxation and fiscal responsibility while the remaining 42% rolled up into concerns over City Hall operations, public safety, and education.
Interestingly, discussions around these issues revealed an even greater concern: a growing mistrust toward city and town officials who are perceived to be disconnected from the citizens they represent. Stories from citizens having their voices silenced more than once illustrated the frustration faced when seeking answers from those in power.
So why can’t citizens participate and gain a better understanding of the decisions their public officials make, instead of being met with a thunderclap in a quiet sky, sudden and commanding, echoing with absolute authority and consequence?
It seems to me that this erosion of trust, and ignoring basic ethical standards is negatively impacting our community, leading to dysfunction, while other towns and cities around us seem to have found success and progress in actively fostering working partnerships between the community and its official representatives.
Take, for instance, the recent violation notice that the Town of Clifton Forge was not properly stewarding our most essential and precious resource – water. Given the strict State and Federal laws regulating water due to its immediate and significant impact on our community health, one must ponder: why didn’t our leadership rectify the problem before the regulatory authorities had to step in? Clifton Forge further states it ‘…expects to resolve the matter within six months… to bring our waterworks into compliance and proper permit status.’
Would it be acceptable if you saw a notice in a restaurant window stating, “The kitchen has received a health code violation, but it’s still okay to eat here? If you have specific health/allergy issues, consult a doctor first. We’re hoping to have the problem fixed in 6 months.”
The main difference here is, with a restaurant, we have a choice and can walk away. With our community water, we can’t.
There are two things to unpack here. Firstly, let’s not ever negate that our water operators do an amazing job decade after decade keeping our water safe and available to not only Clifton Forge but also parts of Alleghany, Bath, and Botetourt counties, including the communities of Iron Gate, Selma, Low Moor, Cliftondale Park, and Douthat State Park. It’s a tough job with a very high-performance benchmark, and for good reason. For this, we say thank you to the operators for their dedicated service.
However, what immediately kills this goodwill is the kind of lackadaisical response with a generic notice that sends all the wrong signals to its citizens. It erodes the trust and belief that public officials are working for, and in the community’s best interest. A “Thank you”, turns into, “What are you hiding?” Isn’t our community water important enough to warrant immediate action, instead of ‘hope’ and ‘6 months’? Yes, we all understand there are always two sides to the story, i.e. issues with hiring properly licensed operators and such. So why not say it like it is?
For Instance, one of the members of our FB Shadow Group works at the plant and took the time to explain some of the issues. Hurray! That went a very long way in helping to better understand the situation. We need more of this and a partnership between public officials and the citizens that work together towards progress instead of slipping into finger-pointing, mistrust, and dysfunction. I bet if Clifton Forge put out a better, more cohesive, statement other than the required canned response, they would experience a happier and a more understanding citizen response.
Speaking of progress, you’re probably aware of the unsettling police event on January 15, where a suspect was shot. That incident has sparked a wave of concerned chatter about the rise in violent police encounters. The Shadow community offered a wealth of thought-provoking viewpoints on this matter, and I must say, it’s incredibly refreshing to see this kind of dialogue.
Seems there’s an increasing agreement on the need for better training, education, and prevention services for both police and citizens. Such measures are crucial not only for addressing the root causes of criminality but also for bolstering health care services, with a special focus on mental health, and forging stronger approaches to combat the drug problem. Perhaps, with a new Sheriff at the helm, this discussion will broaden to encompass our public safety officials, paving the way for progress much like the harmonious solution found by Elvis and Sullivan.
There’s been an update on the curious case of Jared Jenkins. Bless his heart, he seems to struggle with the art of timely silence and the grace of a strategic retreat. Last week, a panel of Rockbridge County judges ruled against Jenkins for violating two Virginia State Bar codes. Jenkins, who has been embroiled in cases across Rockbridge, Lexington, Clifton Forge, and Iron Gate, has now been suspended for 9 months and plans to appeal. Looks like Iron Gate may be possibly joining Clifton Forge in its search for a new town attorney.
Finally, I want to leave you with the wonderful words of Shadower Lynda T. In our FB Shadow group, she writes: “I thank God every night for the privilege of living in the beautiful Alleghany Highlands with good, kind, and loving people. Our people are its greatest resource–very giving. Our outdoor activities are second to none and are healthy, fun, and mostly free opportunities for entertainment. We have a fantastic, state-of-the-art library, where one can not only check out books, but also many games, and a wonderful YMCA, which does charge admission, but offers scholarships to those who qualify. My grandkids are involved in five different sports, which doesn’t leave a lot of time for much else. In the last two weeks, we’ve spent a couple of hours at the library on two different visits–it’s not for just checking out books–been to the Discovery Center, checked out the Trading Post on Main St., and seen a movie at our very nice hometown theater. In the summer, we hiked, played miniature golf, spent several afternoons at the City pool, and enjoyed the playground at our outstanding Jackson River Sports Center.”
She continues, “It is disappointing to have to often go out of town for clothing and shoes, but we try to buy in town from the many businesses we do have. Main Street is sporting several new businesses, such as Barnwood Blessings, Ray’s Sweet Shoppe & Poutinerie, and Kanawha Cafe. Tropical Spice LLC is right down the street on Lexington Ave. Also fairly new to the area is the Brewhouse at Cliff View Golf Course, The Inn & the Brewhouse in Falling Spring. So, people are trying to bring new businesses to the area, but they can’t survive if we don’t support them.”
“I’m thrilled to live in a place that is safe at all times of the day/night and where you’ll probably get a call if someone finds your lost wallet. I’m also thankful for good, small schools. People who come here to ride in the Alleghany Grand Fondo and to bike/run/swim in the many other races, etc., held each spring, summer, and fall never fail to comment on how much they love it here.”
I’m out of time, out of coffee, but optimistically hopeful that, akin to the flip side of “Hound Dog” the song “Don’t Be Cruel,” can lead us in harmonizing the vibrant spirit of our community with the deeds of our public officials, setting the stage for authentic and meaningful progress.
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