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May 21, 2020 · OPINION

Localities need direct federal relief now

Photo/Lawrence Emerson
The Warrenton Town Council meets in April, with four of its seven members participating remotely via Zoom.
By Sean Polster

These last few months have been heartbreaking for our state, our nation and the world. As a father and husband, I worry about my family. As a member of the Warrenton Town Council, I worry about my community. As a Virginia Municipal League board member, I hear from Alexandria and Bristol, Virginia Beach and Pennington Gap, Danville and Winchester…and all the communities in between. And I worry about them.

But as a firefighter by profession, I am trained to not let worry prevent me from acting.

Like all first responders, I am trained to fix the most urgent problem in front of me and then move on to the next problem. I have faith that the sum of such efforts across our communities will lift us out of this awful health crises.

But surviving the economic devastation from this pandemic will require more than individual actions; it will require the pooled resources of our nation. The economic threat to localities is real, unprecedented and unbudgeted. Without a lifeline to give us time and resources to restore local economic activity, we will have to make cuts to essential services and lay off workers, including emergency personnel, sanitation workers, social service providers and others who keep our communities safe and functioning. Moreover, federal and state laws require local governments to have some of these employees, whether the funding is there or not, necessitating cuts in other areas.

So far, local governments have done extraordinary things to help their local businesses. Examples include the Town of Middleburg, which issued monetary vouchers to be used at local restaurants, the City of Roanoke, which established relief loans to support small business employees, the City of Virginia Beach, which suspended meals taxes for two months, and the Town of Warrenton which is waiving parking minimums and opening streets for outdoor seating.

But these efforts, while providing limited short-term relief, will not answer basic questions:

• How can a community continue to help its businesses while struggling to maintain essential services?

• How can residents feel confident returning to “business as usual” when funding for essential services is threatened?

And our communities are hurting. Our neighbors and friends are out of jobs. Many are scared that a business they’ve worked hard to build won’t survive. Others worry that their place of employment will close and never return. Workers and their families don’t know where the money will come from to pay for groceries, mortgages or rent, medical bills and health insurance.

As the true scope of the pandemic began to unfold, communities took exceptional steps to protect the health and safety of their residents. Even as revenues spiraled downward, money was spent to preserve the continuity of essential services and the safety of their citizens. As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, localities have been forced cut their budgets to continue these services. Next year’s budgets must be adopted in the coming weeks, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that local economies across the commonwealth can neither fully recoup this year’s lost revenue nor count on the local tax base to pay next year’s bills.

The CARES Act funding did not allocate money directly to localities to assist with economic recovery and a continuation of essential services, yet the demand for these essential services will not diminish for the foreseeable future.

This is why I’m asking everyone who cares about a real recovery to support direct relief to localities in the next federal package. This package should include the points recently outlined in the National League of Cities’ “Cities Are Essential” campaign:

• $500 billion of federal aid over two years for local governments.

• Fair and direct funding allocations to every local government with no population-based exclusions.

• Equal funding overall for municipal governments and county governments.

• Maximum flexibility for the eligible use of funds to address the budget consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Local governments are not asking for a handout. Nor are we asking for funds to correct any pre-existing problems with local finances. Rather, we are asking that the federal government recognize that local governments are the key to reopening our nation’s economy. Direct relief to localities has the power to restore the economic health of our nation by ensuring that every Main Street is safe and thriving.

The writer won election to a first term as an at-large member of the Warrenton Town Council in 2014 and re-election in 2018. This column initially appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

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AmericanPatriot · June 4, 2020 at 3:27 pm
Remember when jill stein whined about a recount - and then all the voter fraud started to become clear, and the freak ran like forrest gump
Jim Griffin · May 31, 2020 at 7:47 pm
The risk of sickness and a virus bent on replication create unemployment.

As for absentee ballots, Republicans were convicted and an election overturned in NC recently for ... yes, ballot harvesting.

Results suggest Trump won Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan on the strength of absentee voting. Certainly helped Republicans flip back the recent congressional election in California.

People like voting on traceable, auditable paper ballots through the mail. Trump does it. It's working, it's growing and it is an ill-advised strategy to oppose it, resentment about which hit hard in Wisconsin recently.

Gonearethedays gets it: Those days are gone. Let go. It's over. Win a statewide election, any statewide election, and claw the way back. Know this: It will involve mail ballots; The law has changed.
AmericanPatriot · May 31, 2020 at 7:37 am
We read in other media about how Virginia's unemployment is worse than during the great depression. You know who ISN'T unemployed? The people making everyone else unemployed.
Gonearethedays · May 30, 2020 at 9:28 pm
Need more evidence of Democrat Ballot Harvesting now being proposed for the nation by Nancy Pelosi's U.S. House of Representatives under the ruse of "COVID-19 safe voting" for all?
Jim Griffin · May 30, 2020 at 10:18 am
The world beyond our backyard is not represented by tyrants. The world is no less noble than Virginia and America herself. Relations and trade beyond our borders are a hallmark of this Commonwealth.

At our best, we lead the world.

Yes, voter fraud is taken seriously. Increasingly, we vote absentee, as does our president and officials. No surprise. Postal paper ballots can be audited in ways machines cannot, so it is an improvement.

Republicans seem focused on less voters. The 5th District primary cancelled, a small committee in Lynchburg in its stead. Virginia Republicans oppose anything making it faster, easier to vote. Sad that, but understandable given its growing minority status.
AmericanPatriot · May 30, 2020 at 9:54 am
We are not 'the world', we are America. The world is represented by the tyrants in Cuba, Iran, Venezuela, Germany, Mexico, etc.

No, voter fraud is NOT prosecuted vigorously.

Jim Griffin · May 30, 2020 at 9:49 am
I like and trust Sean Polster. When he asks, I listen. I will add this: I generally favor our local elected community leaders. I believe they act with our best interests in mind.

I also believe our elections are honest with exceptions rigorously prosecuted. Harping on photo ID is silly, especially so in a world moving towards more absentee ballots.

Any ballot cast that lacks full confidence of even one local election official is made provisional, counted only when determinant and authenticated judicially. As it should be.
AmericanPatriot · May 30, 2020 at 9:29 am
Why is northam removing the only way to ensure honest elections? Thats an excellent example of a community destroying democrat.
AmericanPatriot · May 30, 2020 at 9:27 am
We don't need more money, we need clearer heads spending it. How much of Fauquier's money is being spent on illegal aliens? Why isn't THAT money being spend on EMS>
Jim Griffin · May 30, 2020 at 9:12 am
Got it. Mistakenly thought your reference to the "election cycle" was to offices where we have a vote, not cities where we don't live, responding as you were to local Republican Sean Polster's clearly articulated call for resources for first responders.
AmericanPatriot · May 30, 2020 at 9:04 am
How about every single democrat running our third world cities? No one needs to guess - just look at the news this morning.
Jim Griffin · May 29, 2020 at 11:19 pm

Please list the names of "community destroying democrats" and the community destroying acts they committed. Hate to leave people guessing and wondering how they got elected here in the first place.

From what I read, 5th District Republicans are devoting their resources against 5th District Republican US Congressman Denver Riggleman.

As for Northam, he's not eligible to run again, best to keep your powder dry. Try to end the drought: No Republicans elected to statewide office since 2009. Focusing on Northam won't change that outcome.
AmericanPatriot · May 29, 2020 at 4:37 pm
Thank you gonearethedays. Truth is a rare commodity these days.
AmericanPatriot · May 29, 2020 at 4:36 pm
What you can do, is next election cycle, vote out the community destroying democrats.

Gonearethedays · May 29, 2020 at 6:37 am
Here are a couple more recommendations:

1. Address the ROOT CAUSE of much of our economic pain and suffering here in Virginia and in Blue States across America- stop asking for American Taxpayers to bail out liberal Democrat-controlled local governments, cities and states for their failure to properly manage their cities the past 80+ years with all kinds of irresponsible public spending, borrowing and leftist programs and redistribution of wealth. When Nancy Pelosi states the current COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity that Democrats should not let go to waste- believe her awful motives. By their actions you shall know them. And we have seen their awful actions and need to hold our local elected officials who support that mindset accountable at the ballot box. Election Day in November, 2020 is coming- throw the Leftist Big Government Candidates of both Parties of out office- that includes RINOs as well as Democrats. On a larger scale, Democrats are indeed the deadly Virus afflicting the health, safety, security and moral and economic strength this nation. Let's Rid Ourselves of the Democrat Virus- you know- the one in the Governor's mansion currently mandating the wearing of face masks in order to enter any struggling, re-opening small businesses that have been shuttered for months- forget all the evidence that masks up to and including N95 quality are useless in stopping the COVID-19 virus at 0.06 to 0.14 microns in size. Your Democrat Governor wants everyone to bow to the State and Communist thought that "..we are all in this together!" No, actually, we are not all in this manufactured crisis together. Fixing the ROOT CAUSE of the crisis will, however, aid and lift all suffering citizens economically and allow them to return to a more normal way of life prior to the latest COVID-19 manufactured crisis designed to destroy the American economy and way of life just in time for Election Day.

2. More conservative-led local governments can assume increased responsibility for cutting services and reducing the size and scale of local government. A line-by-line review of the local budget would reveal all kinds of non-essential taxpayer-savings opportunities to close financial gaps and shortfalls in revenues- which continue to be inflicted by the bills and policies being passed by the current Democrat Governor and his Regime here in Virginia. Cut back services. Defer capital projects, defer maintenance and vehicle replacements (why replace public vehicles after 65,000 or 100,000 miles instead of 150,000 or 200,000 miles?) Trim county employees to essential personnel only- why has our Fauquier County Government sharply expanded- exponentially- over the past 20 years to meet the needs of an ever-expanding County Government mindset? New facilities and offices, new and expensive staff members have all been added over the past 20 years, far disproportional to the increase in population of about 5,000 residents. Why? So we can have more fees, more taxpayer subsidized soccer fields, and Multiculturalism and Diversity indoctrinations in our public schools as they see steady annual declining enrollments? If the County Sewer Commission is so corrupt with cronyism and sweetheart deals for Catlett sewers by past County Chairmen- then its time for the current elected Government to clean house- or face the wrath of the taxpaying voters. And don't even get me started on the Board of Zoning Appeals- unaccountable to the voters- the Best Local Government Money Can Buy.

3. How about more open and transparent local Government hearings and decision-making? Why continue to make County hearings scheduled at difficult times for working citizens to participate and have their voices heard? Why vote on every controversial measure during "Closed Door" sessions and Closed Door Horse-trading Meetings?

And this is just a preliminary start to rid ourselves of our local and County Big Government Virus and deadly Democrat Mindset Virus.
DonaldWilson · May 28, 2020 at 2:46 am
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Tony Bentley · May 22, 2020 at 11:10 am
Dear CEO/Decision Maker,

No point in sugarcoating this, so I’m just gonna say it. For some time now we’ve all known the Republican Party has been overtaken by a corruption and cruelty that are eating away at the fundamental decency upon which America was built. In these last few weeks, in the wake of Republicans refusing to hold the president responsible for his crimes, any sense that this will all get better on its own has gone out the window. To fix this is going to take the voices of those who can make a difference. As a business leader you have the ability to make that difference. All that is good about America is no longer safe. Now is the time to do what is right.

America has been blessed with quite possibly the world’s best and most well-thought-out system of government carefully interwoven with checks and balances. And holding our government responsible is our robust free press guaranteed by the very first amendment to our Constitution. But as we’ve seen in the past few weeks, even the combination of dedicated government workers and committed journalists is no longer enough to withstand the demagoguery and propaganda fueling this administration.

In this last week it was uplifting to see thousands of former Justice Department officials openly call out for the resignation of our corrupted Attorney General, but with how far we’ve already fallen, Justice alone won’t turn the tide. It’s been said that the business of America is business. As business leaders we really are in a position unlike anyone else to say it’s time for America to get back to the business of being America.

Our founders knew just how fragile democracy is. As Benjamin Franklin said: “We are giving you a republic if you can keep it.” As much as many of us take America’s way of doing business for granted, the honesty and fairness it depends upon are equally at risk. If, like us, you do business throughout the world, you know how quickly corruption eats into the very bedrock countries are built upon. America has many advantages in the world, but maybe our greatest advantage is our democratic beliefs have always lived within our way of doing business.

That in America, when it comes to doing business, quality and price matter far more than political connections has meant everything to our nation’s economic success. Once it’s no longer about how good of a job you can do, but instead about who you know, everything that is America is at risk. When capital no longer flows to where it is most likely to flourish, but instead flows to those most likely to be loyal to the administration, everything is lost. In your heart you know this is exactly where they are trying to take all this. Now is the time for everyone whose job gives them an amplified voice to use their voice to call the American people to action. Your country needs you.

So, what should you do and when should you do it? Let’s hold off on the what for a minute and start with the when. Everybody needs deadlines, and looking at my calendar I’m liking April 18 a lot. April 18 is the anniversary of Paul Revere’s ride alerting all those along his path who stood in opposition to the monarchy of the impending threat they were now facing. It’s very much worth remembering that the Revolution that set America in motion wasn’t one of just college students and anarchists. From our very start it was people of business willing to put their livelihoods at risk who set our country in motion. Let’s be like them.

Please give this real thought. Everything America is as a country and as a force for good in the world are in this moment at great risk. Now you have the opportunity to do what is right and stand in the long line of American heroes. There is greatness inside you. Now is the time to put that greatness to work. Opportunity is here. Please do all you can to seize it.

Thanks for your consideration,


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