In 1990, the West German Band Scorpions wrote “Wind of Change,” a powerful ballad about the failed coup and collapse of the Soviet Union. It also became the anthem for the fall of the Berlin Wall around the same time. This song epitomized the strength of a collective citizenry, uniting and standing firm against their administrations that had ceased to advocate for them.
On American soil, our founders harbored such a profound aversion to autocratic skulduggery that they enshrined the First Amendment and bestowed upon our newspapers the moniker of the “Fourth Estate”—an informal yet powerful fourth branch of governance.
“A free and independent press is the core institution connecting publics to the information they need to advocate for themselves, make informed decisions, and hold governmental officials accountable.” Said Secretary of State Antony Blinken on May 2, 2021.
Here at home in the Highlands, The Shadow has been swamped with whispers from our local citizens concerned about whether or not our public officials have been truly advocating on their behalf. Recently, The Shadow has been researching various issues including the Nettleton and Gordman’s (410 Main St) projects which seem to only lead deeper into a labyrinth of rabbit hole questions and require the assistance of a professional cat herder. This prompts the question, why is it so hard to find facts? Is it being purposefully obfuscated, or just a matter of an unorganized and outdated method of archiving and disseminating information to its citizenry? So as all good researchers do, let’s test this hypothesis.
We have requested several public documents from the City of Covington for these projects to verify that the various activities in question have been executed dutifully, ethically, and that the officials have faithfully and impartially discharged all the duties incumbent upon them as they are required. Hopefully, the City of Covington will produce them easily and timely as the Freedom of Information Act requires, without them mysteriously getting ‘lost’ as other document requests from concerned citizens have allegedly gone in the past. Stay tuned.
The Shadow Poll this week asked, “What’s the most important thing to help Economic Development in our Community? 21% said improving infrastructure; 16% said investing in local businesses; 15% said encouraging new industries; 12% enhancing education and training; and 9% promoting more tourism. The majority weighed in at 27% with “All the Above.”
It seems that all of these areas are being addressed in one way or another, but for whatever reason, there’s not yet been one significant catalyst that fires all these cylinders simultaneously to create the significant energy needed for change. For example, if you look at the neighboring cities of White Sulphur Springs and Lewisburg, they too were adrift at sea for many years without a clear course. Then their big catalyst(s) hit: mainly the resurrection of Greenbrier Resort, the massive floods in 2012 and 2016, and more specifically, the Greenbrier Sporting Club.
That combination infused a ton of new money into tourism, shifted population dynamics, and added new, non-government subsidized construction, investments, and a host of new businesses. On top of that, the TV Show “Barnwood Builders” also helped create a magical “sense of place.”
So what could be the catalyst(s) to get our communities moving once again? If you have an idea, please chime in on the Shadow Facebook group.
Last week we discussed the perceived increase in police shootings in our neighborhoods. Turns out, we’re not alone. Nationwide, a recent report showed police shootings have increased by 6.32% from last year, resulting in 1,340 deaths nationwide in 2023. There were only 14 days without a police-involved fatality last year and on average, law enforcement officers fatally shot someone approximately every 6.6 hours. Unfortunately, Covington and Clifton Forge have contributed to these statistics. I’m sure this is weighing heavily on the new Sheriff’s mind, but we might be in for a good Wind of Change here, he seems to be a fellow who can think and act intelligently and conscientiously both at the same time.
Thanks to all the concerned citizens who reached out to the Virginian Review regarding last week’s water violation. It prompted our staff to contact Town Manager Chuck Unroe to request an interview for clarification on the matter. Unroe was both polite and forthcoming, according to our reporter, as he explained that it all boiled down to a licensed operator retiring and another gentleman at the water treatment plant quitting. These events happened quite close together and left the town without the required number of licensed operators present at the plant.
Down in Iron Gate way, we heard from Mayor Craig that the town will continue with Jared Jenkins as the town attorney while his appeal is ongoing.
Tommy Garten passed away on Wednesday, Jan 24, 2024, at the age of 72. He was a long-time supporter and friend of the Virginian Review. The entire staff will miss him greatly.
Finally, among the various discussions about economic development in the area, one very large bell rang true above the others: everyone loves a good restaurant…or wants a good restaurant. We mentioned several local ones in last week’s column, and the concern was that even though the food is fantastic, some of them were still somewhat empty during peak eating times.
So my dear Shadowers, just as I’ve prompted you to be the Wind of Change for your government, let’s see if we can be the Wind of Change for our restaurants. Go have a date night, a boys’ or girls’ night out, take your colleague to lunch, or treat your family to a good dinner. And don’t forget, tell the shop owner, The Shadow sent me!
I’m out of time, out of coffee, but never out of hope that the “Wind of Change” will continue to breeze through our Highlands, rustling the leaves of transparency and nurturing the seeds of progress in our community.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.