Greetings, fellow citizens. We hope that you are all safe, healthy, and doing well. Happy 4th of July to everyone.
Two of mankind’s greatest achievements and the perspective they give us on our county and its leadership — We’re long-time fans of blues and early jazz music. In our opinion, this music, on its musical merits alone, is one of America and the world’s great cultural jewels. But we’re inclined to see it as even more than that when we remember that something so moving and powerful was born out of centuries of ugliness and suffering of every kind — suffering that was caused by some people thinking they were better than and could subjugate and control others not like them, depriving them of meaningful rights and power. For the ~ 5,000 years or so of recorded human history, much of the world’s suffering has been caused by such attitudes and behavior.
As we were recently traveling, listening to our favorite blues station, the radio announcer diverted from her normal music news and commentary as she introduced the next blues song: “What the Devil Loves.” She said that what the Devil loves is “mayhem” — referring to the Minneapolis police brutality, the legitimate protests against it, and the unjustified and opportunistic criminal looting, destruction, and violence that followed in many cities. Whether you believe in a literal personified devil, or see the Devil only as a metaphor of evil, or benightedness, or sin (whatever you may believe that to be), the radio announcer was right: the Devil loves moral chaos, hypocrisy, lies, darkness, tribal hatred, erosion of the rule of law, and mayhem. After all, it creates such excellent opportunities for devil’s work. But more on that later and why we think it’s relevant to Prince William County.
Now let’s move to another one of the world’s greatest and most foundational achievements, the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights, starting with the First Amendment, which, for the first time in over 5,000 years of recorded history, guaranteed freedom of religion, speech, the press, peaceable assembly, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances as the most fundamental rights in a free society. (See: https://constitution.findlaw.com/amendments.html) The First Amendment, the rest of the Bill of Rights (the first ten), and the subsequent amendments, a core part of the supreme law of the land, clearly and indisputably show a relentless and ongoing march toward increasingly greater freedom, inclusivity, and opportunity for all Americans within the rule of law — ideas and aspirations far more eloquently expressed in Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech than anything we could ever write. (See: https://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm# and https://www.archives.gov/files/press/exhibits/dream-speech.pdf )
Even the virtually universal, over-5000-year-old scourge of slavery — an integral and apparently intractable part of every major empire, nation, or tribe in history that we know of until the 19th century — was finally outlawed in the US (preceded by Haiti, Spain, Britain, and France and followed by many others), though it took the US’ bloodiest war by far, the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments, and another 100 years until legislation was passed in the 1960s and early 70s (including the 24th Amendment) that promised real equality of opportunity for African-Americans and other ethnic minorities.
Most of the current 27 amendments to the Constitution are completely unprecedented in their scope and effect, and are a truly miraculous achievement in world history. They, and the Constitution in general as amended, have enabled the US to be the freest, most stable and prosperous, most powerful nation in the history of the world. (For any who cannot accept this demonstrable truth, we’d love to know: When in world history has there been any major country, much less a truly multi-ethnic one, that has been as free, prosperous, and stable as the US, and been so before the US first pioneered/implemented most of the models, methods, and ever-advancing capabilities that made it possible?)
And now we come to the crux of the matter. Civilization, the rule of law, our freedoms, beginning with the First Amendment, and modern progressive economies are resilient, but they are also fragile, as the last five months of this year have clearly demonstrated. “Fragile” because targeting of minority groups of any kind (including but not limited to ethnic, religious, and political minorities), disrespect for the rule of law and others’ rights, and carelessness regarding the economy in pursuit of ideological purism or other foolish ends can eventually undermine — or even destroy — our freedoms and prosperity, as has actually happened repeatedly, to varying degrees, throughout the world and world history, including now and recently.
In Prince William County our freedoms and prosperity are both at risk due to a series of extreme abuses of power and maladministration by Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) Chair Ann Wheeler — deliberate decisions in which she has been, unfortunately, usually joined in lockstep by the other four members of the BOCS’ Democratic majority. Here are eleven examples:
1. At the last BOCS meeting on 16 June, Chair Wheeler allowed numerous foul-mouthed, abusive, and threatening verbal attacks on two female Republican supervisors, Yesli Vega and Jeanine Lawson. These attacks, reportedly from CASA in Action, a regional immigrant rights activist group, were clearly intended to physically intimidate and silence the two minority-party supervisors, who disagree with Wheeler on key issues. Although these obscene personal attacks were flagrant violations of BOCS rules and procedures — at least they would have been before Chair Wheeler’s reign — and the speakers should have been warned once, and then, if that failed, removed from the BOCS chamber, Wheeler did nothing to stop them, and consequently lost control of the meeting.
(For more details, see https://potomaclocal.com/2020/06/16/prince-william-supervisors-lose-order-as-black-lives-matter-supporters-call-for-abolishing-police-u-s/ and click here or on picture below for video excerpts from the 16 Jun BOCS public hearing, which a frequent target of the attacks, Supervisor Vega, described as “hours of unhinged radical leftists calling for us to defund and abolish our local police force,” etc. )
Such attitudes and behavior are very reminiscent of early days in the histories of the Nazi Brownshirts and of Chairman Mao’s Red Guards during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
2. Wheeler and other Dem supervisors’ sympathetic reaction to the goon-like behavior above and her non-response to their intimidation tactics and threatening language directed against other BOCS members by name in an official, public county government meeting is unprecedented in our experience. It stands in dangerous and extremely hypocritical contrast to her response at the 19 May BOCS meeting to protesters who, unlike Chair Wheeler, support the county’s longstanding cooperation with ICE (federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement) on illegal immigrants jailed for crimes in the county. Per the Potomac Local report linked above, at the 19 May meeting Wheeler “threatened to have police remove [the] crowd of conservative protesters who stood outside the BOCS chamber and heckled the supervisors during the session, but used no profanity.” Wheeler showed a similarly extreme double standard in threatening to use police to shut down the 23 May rally to reopen county businesses described in example #3 below.
Apparently for Wheeler and her allies, bigotry and racist hate speech (see #1 above), as well as police state tactics (see #s 2 and 3), are just fine if they’re targeted at shutting down her opponents and denying them their First Amendment rights.
3. According to local media reports and reliable confidential sources, Chair Wheeler tried to use the county Sheriff’s Department to forcibly shut down (by arrest and/or forcibly blocking or removing any participants who showed up) a legal, peaceful Reopen Prince William rally on 23 May. She called County Sheriff Glen Hill two days beforehand, asking him to stop the rally, ostensibly because of Covid-19, but in reality even more importantly because the rally would be critical of her.
Sheriff Hill refused to comply with Wheeler’s demand, saying the protesters have constitutional rights and he would not be arresting anyone. Wheeler then instructed County Executive Chris Martino to call Sheriff Hill for further details. Apparently still unable to let it go after her and Martino’s earlier calls, especially after hearing a WMAL Radio interview that she didn’t like, Wheeler called Hill yet again, insisting that he stop the protest, at which point Hill said: “I work for the people, not for you.” (See: https://potomaclocal.com/2020/05/26/reopen-manassas-rally-highlights-residents-lockdown-frustrations-tensions-in-county-government/ )
Hypocritically, Wheeler showed no such Covid-19 or other legal concerns regarding the 30-31 May protests in the Manassas area inspired by George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis, even when the protests turned violent and damaged local businesses. (Nor did she criticize her partisan friend Virginia Governor Northam who showed up at Virginia Beach the same day of the Reopen Prince William rally, completely ignoring social distancing and not wearing a mask, in violation of his own edicts.)
(Here is a serious alternative view from a well-known scholar and commentator on these and related issues that we recommend for your thoughtful consideration and to add perspective: https://pwcbg.org/2020/06/a-critical-look-at-the-current-state-of-american-politics/ )
4. Chair Wheeler held two BOCS meetings (on 12 and 19 May) without full, in-person public debate regarding ending the 287g County Jail-ICE cooperation program. This was done in apparent violation of Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) law and the BOCS’ own emergency legal justifications for holding said meetings (as printed in every BOCS meeting agenda since the Covid-19 shutdown.) She did so to pack the County Jail Board with political cronies, including, nepotistically, Potomac District Supervisor Bailey’s husband, in order to end on 17 June the County Jail-ICE cooperation program, which the five BOCS Dems oppose, and to minimize public comment.
Note: Regardless of one’s views on the appropriateness and/or efficacy of the ICE program, this was a major decision that should legally have waited until the county was sufficiently open again (from the Covid-19 shutdown) to allow in-person comment by all county citizens so inclined. At least one Dem supervisor has suggested — as justification after the fact — that the new Jail Board appointments were too few to make a difference in the outcome of the Jail Board vote against the ICE program. If so, then the 12 and 19 May BOCS deliberations/vote with no in-person public comment were neither necessary nor an emergency — and thus illegal. You can’t have it both ways.
(See: https://potomaclocal.com/2020/05/20/newly-appointed-prince-william-jail-board-member-vowed-to-abolish-287g-immigration-program/ and https://potomaclocal.com/2020/06/17/prince-william-jail-board-abolishes-287g-program-used-to-id-suspected-illegal-immigrants/ )
5. On 31 May, Chair Wheeler and the other four BOCS Democrats attended a “community meeting” with police “on use of police force during a Manassas-area protest the previous evening.” The meeting excluded the three Republican supervisors and thus violated FOIA laws on open meetings, which require public notice when three or more members of the board are meeting and discussing policy. (See: https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacodepopularnames/virginia-freedom-of-information-act/ .) The five Dems then — incredibly — denied that they discussed any matters of government business. (For fuller details, see: https://www.insidenova.com/news/politics/prince_william/amid-protest-response-supervisors-fight-over-closed-meeting/article_7a89b5de-aa99-11ea-8d28-dfff86ac0107.html and https://potomaclocal.com/2020/06/11/resident-slaps-prince-william-board-of-county-supervisors-with-foia-lawsuit-after-post-riot-meeting/ )
So let’s diagram this logically: The county government’s leaders, including BOCS Chair Wheeler, County Executive Chris Martino, County Attorney Michelle Robl, and Democratic supervisors, attended a meeting with the chief of the county Police Department to discuss police handling of a very controversial issue — a protest followed by rioting and violence. The four other Dem supervisors were all there (though the head of the county government and leader of the Democratic Party in the county, Chair Wheeler, claims she had no idea they’d be there.) The topic was the protests and riots occurring in the western part of the county, represented by Republican Supervisors Candland and Lawson, who were not invited. Yet, according to Wheeler, “no county business was discussed.”
So exactly what was the purpose of the meeting? A barbecue? Dinner and dancing? Karaoke? Probably not, as evidenced by the following 31 May Facebook entry from Woodbridge Supervisor Margaret Franklin, apparently describing the business that she and the other Democratic supervisors conducted at the meeting at which they claim no business was conducted. At the very least, the enthusiastic support for and laser focus by Dem supervisors on the ongoing protests makes it very hard to avoid the conclusion that the “community meeting,” from which the Republican supervisors were excluded, attempted to influence police behavior … and thus conducted business and thus broke the law.
Chair Wheeler’s repeatedly childish, preposterous lies and denials after being caught breaking the law or doing other scandalous things show her contempt for county citizens’ intelligence and the rule of law.
Note: Since the riots occurred in the western half of the county, wouldn’t it be logical to assume that the supervisors representing the directly-affected districts, Supervisors Candland and Lawson, should be the first to be invited to the meeting, not “diss”-invited? Furthermore, isn’t it interesting that the riots occurred in the western end of the county and not elsewhere in districts represented by Dems? … Probably just a coincidence.
6. Chair Wheeler unilaterally asked Virginia Governor Northam to keep the county’s economically devastated small businesses/employers closed from 15-29 May, two weeks after most of the state began Phase One of Reopening. Then, amid a groundswell of opposition to her precipitous and unilateral behavior on something that impacted so much of the county’s population, the BOCS voted 5-3 (in a very rare show of bipartisanship on major issues) to request Governor Northam allow earlier, partial reopening of some business activities. Northam denied the request. Then on 24 May, appearing to panic, Wheeler completely reversed direction and publicly supported early reopening of the county’s economy. (See: https://www.insidenova.com/news/special/coronavirus/leaders-making-preparations-for-may-29-reopening-in-northern-virginia/article_c377cd60-9ecf-11ea-8a79-7fdd58140b9b.html and https://www.princewilliamtimes.com/news/northam-denies-request-to-open-local-restaurants-to-outdoor-seating-hints-at-statewide-mask-policy/article_51a422e2-9c68-11ea-af0b-e758dd6e6ae6.html and https://pwcbg.org/2020/06/letter-to-bocs-on-19-may-bipartisan-vote-ending-lockdown/ )
We realize that decisions on opening and closing the economy during the pandemic are difficult ones. We also realize (as the many big pharma researchers and medical doctors in our extended family regularly remind us) that there is no settled science specifically regarding Covid-19 to guide such government decisions, despite Chair Wheeler’s frequent phony and pseudo-intellectual implications and claims to the contrary. However, Wheeler might have made better decisions, and at least decisions with more buy-in, if she hadn’t, yet again, shown contempt for everyone’s views but her own. The importance of consultation, building consensus, and listening to and often accommodating different points of view are some of the most basic, important lessons of leadership. Clearly, Chair Wheeler has no idea about and/or interest whatsoever in how to be a good leader, only in dictatorially trying to impose her will, her ideology on others.
7. On 12 May the BOCS voted 7 to 1 to send a letter to the elected county school board asking it to explain how it is investigating School Superintendent Steven Walts, after allegations against him of multiple instances of inappropriate behavior with and online messaging to students. The supervisors also voted 7 to 1 to submit a FOIA request to the county school division asking them to release all direct messages Walts exchanged with students over the past 18 months, redacting students’ names for privacy. (We welcome this as one of the two times we can recall since the new BOCS took office — #6 above is the other — in which a major vote has been decided by a bipartisan majority.)
Chair Wheeler was the only dissenting vote, saying she trusts her political crony School Board Chair Lateef and the rest of the Board to do the right thing, with no oversight, after they previously provided poor oversight of very highly-paid Walts.
(See: https://www.princewilliamtimes.com/news/county-supervisors-vote-to-foia-superintendents-twitter-exchanges-with-students/article_0589f508-94ca-11ea-b41a-5f444d501ab6.html and https://www.fox5dc.com/news/prince-william-county-schools-superintendent-under-investigation-over-private-messages-with-students )
8. According to the 16 Jun BOCS meeting agenda and recent news releases from Chair Wheeler praising herself and announcing “A New Era” in the county, the county is now implementing a new program called “Diversity Lens” that will be a significant factor in designing, evaluating, and implementing county programs and strategic planning. At best, this program — if properly designed, limited, and audited — might bring business, development, employment, and volunteer expertise together with underserved areas of the county. However, with absolutist ideologues such as Chair Wheeler in charge, that seems unlikely.
We wonder why no “Diversity Lens” was used to evaluate Chair Wheeler’s decision to keep the economy closed longer than the rest of the state or in changing the Jail Board in order to end the county jail’s cooperation program with ICE. Minority communities and underserved areas of the country were benefiting relatively more from the booming economy before Covid-19, with labor participation rates higher and unemployment lower than they’d been in over 50 years, and wages rising much faster (percentage-wise) for lower- and working-class wage earners than any other group. These communities thus had the most to lose from the county’s longer shutdown (see #6 above.) And minority communities also have the most to lose from immigrant criminal predators potentially being released back into their communities. As far as we know, no one asked these communities how they felt about either of these decisions — the first a unliteral decision by Wheeler. There were no impartial statistical surveys pursued with the kind of zeal and enthusiasm that the five Dems have shown for their new and future pet big government projects, no independent “Diversity Lens” to evaluate the impact of these two Wheeler decisions.
9. With official unemployment at almost 15% (over 23 million workers nationally) and a severe economic recession threatening to bankrupt tens of thousands of county residents and businesses, on 28 April multi-millionaire Chair Wheeler, oblivious and/or indifferent to this suffering, led the way to raise rather than reduce private employer & homeowner taxes and to increase government spending. (See paragraph immediately above. Also see Wheeler’s financial disclosure statement here: https://www.pwcgov.org/government/bocs/Documents/WheelerSOEI20.PDF )
So much for Wheeler’s promises to improve the already-fragile commercial part of the commercial:residential tax base and improve the economy. Big government and Dem supervisors’ new pet projects and long-planned tax-and-spend party after taking office come first. The survival of thousands of small businesses and their employees, whose problems started when they were closed wholly or partly by government shutdown decisions, can wait. Citizens and businesses exist to serve the government and provide tax revenue to fund the pet projects and political whims of imperious county supervisors such as Wheeler, not the other way around.
(For more info, see https://pwcbg.org/2020/04/what-you-can-do-11-thru-14-apr-re-bocs-dem-majoritys-callousness-in-proposing-tax-increases-amid-employer-jobs-meltdown/ and https://pwcbg.org/2020/04/alert-chair-wheelers-phony-reversal-under-pressure-on-real-estate-tax-replacing-it-with-even-higher-taxes-2/ and https://pwcbg.org/2020/04/action-taxes-1st-amendment-devlin-rd-and-bocs-chairs-hamster-wheel-of-government/ .)
10. In March, Chair Wheeler attempted to permanently restrict citizens’ First Amendment rights at BOCS meetings, then lied about and denied responsibility for doing so. (For fuller details see: https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/chair-wheeler-holding-semi-public-31-mar-bocs-meeting-to-implement-greatly-increased-emergency-powers-suspension-of-public-comment/ and https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/civic-associations-holding-public-hearings-during-pandemic-with-greatly-reduced-public-participation-will-undermine-the-public-process/ and https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/bocs-urged-to-ensure-banning-of-public-comment-does-not-become-permanent/ )
11. Chair Wheeler forced the big Devlin Rd. residential development project upon West County citizens on 10 and 31 March, ignoring virtually unanimous local opposition, including over 1,000 petitioners, while also ignoring BOCS rules and procedures and unresolved flooding, eminent domain, phasing, and housing density problems. (For fuller details see: https://pwcbg.org/2020/04/bocs-majoritys-incompetence-vindictiveness-false-pride-devlined-west-county-tax-increases-despite-growing-business-jobs-meltdown/ and https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/second-chance-for-5-new-bocs-members-deceived-by-developers-on-devlin2-pwcbg-suggests-tax-relief-for-local-employers-employees-facing-layoffs/ and https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/open-letter-holding-pw-county-attorney-accountable-on-land-use-covid-19/ and https://pwcbg.org/2020/03/supervisor-boddyes-help-requested-in-defeating-devlin-kline-projects-to-protect-west-county-revitalize-east-county/)
So, in sum, Chair Wheeler continues to ride the hamster wheel of big government/government process, constantly indulging in self-praise about it to give the illusion of constructive progress, while in reality frequently regressing to pre-modern, anti-democratic repression of dissent and heretics to try to get her way. (“Heretics” are anyone who doesn’t agree with Wheeler’s absolutist secular political religion.) She is strong to undermine, damage, and destroy, strong to incite factional and other hatreds, but very weak to build anything constructive and substantial. She is also strong on pretension, virtue signalling, moral exhibitionism, and hypocrisy. Yet, she is weak on truly protecting the county’s under-served and most vulnerable communities whose needs and struggles she — as a wealthy, silver-spoon elite — claims to understand and know how to solve (i.e., through more big government dependency.) Her actions and focus also show no interest whatsoever in improving the quality of life for the county’s middle class, ensuring the greatest good for the greatest number, or protecting the rule of law and civil order.
Can it be that Chair Wheeler and her closest allies, including some of the BOCS supervisors, see disrespect for the rule of law, disrespect for the First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights, support of social mayhem and moral and legal chaos, and illegitimate centralized economic control as legitimate means to their extremist ideological ends, whenever that suits their purposes? Can it be that they nurse intense hatred and vindictiveness toward those who think differently from or oppose them? (Sadly, we continue to hear indications from some of them and others who work with them that this is indeed true.) Can it be that they still have very little interest whatsoever in learning and properly doing their core jobs, which are tax and land use policy? Increasingly, it sure seems that way to us.
As critical as we have been of previous BOCS leadership, this BOCS leadership is already far worse, repeating the previous BOCS’ negligent land use policies and adding many new aspects of misrule and disrespect for the rule of law that previous leaderships probably never imagined.
So what are we going to do now? We request that you start by sharing this letter on social media and/or by forwarding it to your friends. (Here’s a link: https://pwcbg.org/2020/06/bocs-chairs-disregard-for-others-rule-of-law-is-undermining-our-freedoms-prosperity-11-examples/ ) As needed, we’ll begin a new feature on our website (https://pwcbg.org) in which we’ll regularly keep citizens updated with Chair Wheeler’s latest crimes against the people of the county.
It’s our county. We can either choose to live with the above abuses of power, choose to live with ever-eroding freedoms and prosperity under Chair Wheeler’s anti-democratic, police-state rule or fight back.
We’ll leave you with two thoughts. The first is from the screenplay of the movie “A Man for All Seasons,” which tells the story of the great 16th century English statesman, Catholic humanist philosopher, and saint Sir Thomas More and his conflict with King Henry VIII over the future of the English state: “… This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s. And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give [everyone, even] the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”
Second, from British crime novelist Michael Gilbert: “If there’s one thing that can keep me awake at night it’s a vision, which I sometimes have, of this country being ruled by the wishes of its rulers and not by the rule of law. Could it happen here? Of course it could. It’s too bloody easy for a Government to panic [or to arrogantly see its own intolerant political vision as absolutely superior to and replacing all others] and set the law [aside] because it happens to be inconvenient. Temporarily, of course. They always mean to bring it back again — some time.”
Ralph & Kathy Stephenson
Only in the bright light of public scrutiny can the common good be secured,
while in darkness and obscurity the interests of the powerful and affluent prevail.