augusta free press news

Business, and personal

Yeah, we’re jumping the shark alright. “I haven’t agreed with Chris on much lately, so we’ll just add this one to the list,” wrote Cliff Garstang, the vice chairman of the Augusta County Democratic Committee and a member of the Sixth District Democratic Committee, in a comment posted on Cobalt6, a local Democrat blog that he runs with a former local radio deejay named Eddie Garcia who I got to know well a couple of years ago when I featured him in a story in our New Dominion Magazine.

I actually know Cliff pretty well, too, from our work in local Democratic Party circles and our involvement in a writers and artists group that I helped found.

Knowing Cliff as I do, I expected a reaction from him when news of my endorsement in the gubernatorial primary hit the news. I don’t know that I expected distortions and mischaracterizations, since we are still both Democrats, at least last time I checked I was still a Democrat.

“He took a very odd stance on the county reassessment issue; it wasn’t based on logic or data, simply on political expediency,” Garstang commented on a blog written by Garcia raising question with the endorsement.

Nice slam there, and as inaccurate as hell. As I explained to Cliff personally, and those who read our series of stories on the Augusta County reassessment issue earlier this year would already know this, that my stance on the issue came not from “political expediency” but rather on the logic and data that Garstang claimed to be lacking. To summarize the thousands of words that I wrote on the issue from earlier in the year, I crunched numbers based on local real-estate sales figures dating back to the beginning of calendar-year 2005 and found what appeared to be a sizable discrepancy between those numbers and the numbers being touted by the majority on the Board of Supervisors, and the reason that was made clear to me in conversations with Riverheads Supervisor Nancy Sorrells for the discrepancy was that the company conducting the reassessment was using a new method for determining value of land in agriculture districts that inflated the values assigned to wide swaths of land in rural parts of the county.

These objections weren’t “political expediency,” and for Garstang to characterize them as such is dismissive and disingenuous.

He then went on to write that I had written “some slimy words about a public official in Augusta County, without any evidence that he revealed,” obliquely referencing a column written on Board of Supervisors Chairman David Beyeler’s wagging of the finger at Board critics that had him pontificating from on high about people only agreeing with laws “when it suits our fancy.” My column took us back five years to 2004, when Beyeler found himself caught up in a controversy regarding a trip to an international builders conference in Las Vegas that was the subject of much discussion in county-government circles due to a controversial vote and revote on a matter that benefitted a local builder who had invited Beyeler and two other members of the Board of Supervisors to the Vegas conference.

The Augusta Free Press broke that story and did the only original and followup reporting in the local media on the issue. The reporting cited an advisory opinion from the local Commonwealth’s attorney and quotes from members of the Board of Supervisors, including Beyeler, on the matter. Which might render Garstang’s observation that the reporting was done “without any evidence” nonsensical considering.

Let’s not miss the forest for the trees here. This was written in response to a column that was critical of my decision to endorse Terry McAuliffe for governor. For this I am subjected to the level of gutter tripe that I wouldn’t expect and haven’t received from Republican friends and readers.

I guess I’m supposed to be the adult here, because really, what ends up happening if I respond in kind and slash and burn my way through this dustup? It has become apparent that the county Dem leadership is backing Creigh Deeds for governor, for example. I could make it a point to blog down Deeds’ qualifications for the job, sophomorically refer to him as a glorified loser in reference to his near-miss in 2005 in the attorney-general race, emphasize that his backers locally couldn’t even win the county for Mark Warner in a 63 percent landslide statewide and have exactly one elected Democrat to show for their efforts, and they talk about him behind his back like they do me every chance they get.

This all does us any good – how, again? When we’ve got three House of Delegates races to work on locally, any one of which could end up being the upset win that turns the majority in the junior chamber back in our favor? And when we’ve got a gubernatorial race that’s going to come down to any one of our three qualified candidates running against Pat Robertson acolyte Bob McDonnell?

I like to tell people that my feelings don’t get hurt, that everything to me is nothing personal, just business. A lesson I’m learning here is that sometimes business can be personal. I got next.


– Story by Chris Graham