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Staunton Republicans continue their odd crusade to spite Augusta County

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(© James Steidl –

Republicans in Staunton aren’t happy that Republicans in Augusta County are a step closer to a second referendum on a new county courthouse.

“This bill is essentially flipping the will of the voters in the 2016 referendum,” Staunton City Council member Amy Darby said in virtual testimony before the House Committee on Counties, Cities and Towns, per reporting in the News Leader.

The committee would go on, in a 20-2 vote, to advance legislation authored by Republican Del. John Avoli authorizing a second courthouse referendum.

What Darby could possibly care about the will of county voters is anybody’s guess.

Actually, it doesn’t take much to figure what city leaders want out of the ongoing nonsense over the courthouse: leverage.

To do what, I’m not sure.

The county is under a court order to do something to address myriad issues with the current courthouse in Downtown Staunton, which is hopelessly landlocked, from the county’s perspective.

Which is why the county wants to build a new courthouse complex in Verona, which has untold acres of open space for the project.

To be able to do that, the county needs county voters to give their approval via referendum.

State law allows for a revote on a failed referendum only after at least 10 years have passed, but, see above about the standing court order.

Staunton’s Republicans don’t want to play ball, so Augusta County’s Republicans engaged Avoli, who happens to be a former long-time mayor of, guess where, Staunton, to help them out.

Avoli, for his part in this, thinks, correctly, that the current courthouse building “has a better reuse for it.”

Avoli, before recasting himself as a rabid Trump Republican upon his election to the 20th District House seat, was a key player in the City of Staunton’s two-decade effort to revitalize Downtown Staunton from empty buildings with broken windows to a bustling central business district with niche shops and locally-owned restaurants.

More from Avoli on the courthouse: “It will add much to the synergy of what’s currently there instead of adding people in jumpsuits and cuffs.’

The old Avoli is still in there, somewhere.

Back to why the Staunton Republicans are upset, and it being about leverage: I get that leverage is the only logical thing that could be getting their bloomers in a bunch, but what I don’t get is, what does leverage do for them?

There is literally nowhere for the county to go at the current location; it’s that landlocked.

It’s not like a new county courthouse in Verona takes business away – and spending, and tax dollars away – from the City of Staunton.

Maybe some law offices relocate; that’s about it.

As Avoli has made clear, there’s a creative reuse for the current courthouse location that could be far more lucrative in the short- and long-term.

Maybe it’s time for the Staunton Republicans to just take the L here.

Funny thing is, doing so would actually be for the good of Staunton voters.

Story by Chris Graham

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