A long-awaited resolution to a surprisingly contentious issue…

8 minute read

November 18, 2022, 10:00 AM

Sometimes, when it comes to elections, the ones that we lock onto most are little local issues.  For me, it was the courthouse issue in Augusta County, Virginia.  For those not familiar, Augusta County is the area where I grew up, and the courthouse is located in Staunton.  That means, due to all cities’ being independent from counties in Virginia, the Augusta County courthouse is technically located outside of the county (though that is not unique to Augusta County by any means).  As I understand it, for quite some time, Augusta County has been short on space for its courts, and has been looking to replace its courthouse with something bigger and more modern.  Then to add another wrinkle to this, the rest of the Augusta County government had moved out to nearby Verona, located just north of Staunton, long ago.  When we moved to the area in 1992, the Augusta County Government Center was a relatively new building in Verona, and since then, a regional jail has been built in Verona, the sheriff’s office moved to Verona, and the school system headquarters moved to Verona (though the schools moved from elsewhere in the county, not from Staunton).  The only thing left in Staunton was the courts.  The kicker there was that the location of the courthouse determined what town was the county seat, and moving the county seat required a referendum to be placed before the voters.  And as you know, voters can be an odd bunch.  Sometimes they perform the way you want or expect them to, but sometimes they don’t.  And generally speaking, some things will never pass by referendum.  If you’re raising taxes, for example, it will fail when taken to the voters, because in all fairness, who is going to vote to raise their own taxes?

The problem with the courthouse in Augusta County has been longstanding.  The Augusta County courthouse had fallen below state standards for court facilities some time ago, and because of that, the county had been given a “show cause” order to improve the courts.  County leaders also stated that they were unable to renovate their existing court facilities to meet current state standards.  Thus it was necessary to build a new courthouse.

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Augusta County puts enforcement cameras on its school buses…

10 minute read

May 20, 2015, 12:09 PM

I recently read in an article in The News Leader that Augusta County Public Schools, where I went to middle and high school, is partnering up with the local sheriff’s office to outfit two of its school buses with cameras.  These particular cameras are mounted on the exterior of the bus, on the left side, and are designed to catch people who pass a stopped school bus while their red warning lights are flashing.  Normally, drivers in all directions are supposed to come to a complete stop when the bus’s red warning lights are flashing and the stop arm is out.

Now we all know better than to think that this always happens.  I’ve written about school bus stops before, in regards to whether a right turn that begins just beyond a stopped school bus and moves away from it is a legal movement, or if it’s not.  I casually asked a Montgomery County police officer about this one time while I was out and about, and he said that it wasn’t a legal move, describing the area where drivers are required to come to a full stop for a school bus as being like a bubble, rather than as a line of demarcation.  I would have loved for the move that I described to have been legal, because then I could just zip past and be on my way.  But apparently, it’s not.

Also, for those of you who have never driven a large vehicle before, let me let you in on something: if you think that the people around you drive like wackos when you’re in your car, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve watched drivers around a large vehicle.  The “wacko” factor gets turned up to eleven when you’re driving a large vehicle.  After all, large vehicles are very different than your car.  They’re big, they’re heavy, and they’re slow.  And in the case of school and transit buses, they make frequent stops.  Drivers in cars know that, and as such, will do anything, even some very unsafe/illegal moves, to get past or otherwise not have to wait for a bus.  I have been cut off in just about every way imaginable when I’m driving the bus, and I don’t get special privileges like school buses get, i.e. I don’t get to stop all traffic when I’m boarding and alighting passengers.  And even if I could, fellow road users are still very poorly behaved and would stop at nothing to get past or around me while I was stopped, threat of ticket or not.

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Epic newspaper fail…

2 minute read

April 29, 2009, 9:52 PM

First of all, hello from Stuarts Draft, where I will be through Tuesday.

It’s funny… after we all said hello, I looked at today’s Staunton News Leader, and look at what sprang up from their front page:

Typo on the front page of the Staunton News Leader

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Categories: Virginia local news

So I find out that Augusta County is planning on killing an elementary school…

3 minute read

January 1, 2009, 4:28 PM

While my father and I were out today, he told me that he had heard that Augusta County might be closing Ladd Elementary, which is in Waynesboro.

First of all, before I even researched it, I said it was probably a good idea to abandon the site. First of all, the facility is indeed an Augusta County school, but it’s located within the independent city of Waynesboro. That happened because the area that the school is in was annexed by the city of Waynesboro in the 1980s or so. So it’s an anomaly for being a county school that’s no longer in the county. But it’s also now in the middle of a large shopping district, with Wal-Mart directly across the street, and Home Depot, Martin’s, Target, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, and a plethora of other smaller retailers within a short distance from the school. Traffic is hideous outside the school, with signs for tractor-trailers telling them that the school is not a turn-around. Plus I’m sure some other retailer would snap up the school site in a heartbeat to peddle more crap to people.

Then I found an article in The News Virginian about the plan. How interesting. They want to close and sell the Ladd location in Waynesboro, close Beverley Manor Elementary School near Staunton, and expand Wilson, Cassell, and Riverheads elementary schools to accommodate more students. They say no teachers will lose their jobs, since it’s more of a consolidation than a closing. And the idea of moving the Shenandoah Valley Governor’s School into the old Beverley Manor building was tossed around as well. Currently, that facility shares a building with Valley Vocational Technical Center.

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I certainly picked a good day to check up on my “local” news…

3 minute read

October 10, 2007, 8:08 PM

On my lunch hour today at work, I took some time to read about what’s going on in Stuarts Draft. I went over to The News Virginian and The News Leader‘s sites, and took a look around. By the way, Target’s now open at the site of the former Outlet Village.

But the story that really caught my eye was in the Staunton paper, about a man who is suing the Staunton city government over their swear/spam filtering system – a program called MailMarshal. According to the article, Dr. Adrian Riskin, a mathematics professor at Mary Baldwin College, filed papers in general district court seeking to obtain the list of words that triggers the software, after the city denied an earlier request for the list. The city denied his request on the grounds that it was proprietary information, and therefore was exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. Riskin argued that if the city edited the list, it is no longer proprietary. Additionally, Riskin is quoted as saying, regarding an unmodified list, “it cannot possibly be proprietary since the software vendor provides it for a free download from their Web site.”

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Categories: Virginia local news

As a former RA myself…

< 1 minute read

April 29, 2007, 7:26 PM

Since the shooting spree at Virginia Tech, I’ve been doing my usual rounds along the AM dial, catching all the different talk show hosts. And one thing that was mentioned time and time again was that the second victim was Ryan C. Clark – an RA at West Ambler Johnston Hall, who was killed in the line of duty, while responding to the situation. I consider that something of a heroic death, as a former RA myself.

You know what Tech ought to do? Name a building in honor of Mr. Clark. And considering the situation, it needs to be a dormitory building. Not necessarily Ambler Johnston, where he was killed, but possibly the next new dormitory to be constructed, or one that isn’t already named after a person or group of people.

If nothing else, it’s a nice thought, and it would certainly be a fitting tribute to someone who ultimately gave his life in the performance of his RA duties for the school.

Categories: Radio, Virginia local news

I feel like a kid on a snow day…

2 minute read

February 7, 2007, 1:24 PM

Look what it did last night:


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That ship looks vaguely familiar…

2 minute read

December 14, 2006, 2:09 AM

Take a look at this editorial cartoon by Jim McCloskey, the editorial cartoonist at the Staunton News Leader:

"American Star" featured in a political cartoon

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Categories: Ships, Virginia local news

Photos of mine, printed ABOVE the fold…

2 minute read

August 28, 2006, 7:51 AM

How often can you say that your photos end up on the front page of the local newspaper? And above the fold, no less. If you look at the August 28, 2006 edition of The News Virginian, you will see two photos anchoring an article about the Skyline Parkway Motel, which, you may recall, had been abandoned for some time, and then was torched in 2004. Both of them are tagged with “Photo courtesy of BEN SCHUMIN”. Here are the photos that the newspaper ran:

Skyline Parkway Motel before the fire  Skyline Parkway Motel after the fire

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Memorial Day weekend…

2 minute read

May 28, 2006, 11:07 PM

One thing you just have to love is Memorial Day weekend. People come in and buy hamburgers, hot dogs, buns, and beer. And some people are nice to their dedicated Wal-Mart cashiers who have to work the entire holiday weekend, while they’re eating and boozing it up. And then some people are crabby. The crabby ones are the ones you just want to strangle, because they make an unpleasant weekend even worse. Add to that the fact that I have a crummy schedule for the next three bloody weeks, and it’s just not fun. I have NO early mornings all three of these weeks. The earliest I come in is 9 AM. My usual schedule is coming in at seven, and out by four.

Otherwise, my birthday is this Tuesday. This year, I’m taking it kind of nonchalantly. No huge celebrations, but then again, I’m not rebelling against it this year like I did in 2005, where I wanted nothing to do with it at all. The only celebrating that I want is to go to dinner, and I haven’t even picked the restaurant yet.

I do know one thing, though – it’s not going to be T-Bone Jacks in Waynesboro. There was a fire there in the wee hours of Saturday morning, which basically gutted the place, and caused the roof to collapse in one place. They say it’s not arson, according to news reports. They say it started as an electrical fire in a back office. Most you can see from Lew Dewitt Boulevard is yellow caution tape all around the building and lots of smoke damage. Smoke seems to have come out of every possible opening based on the marks on the building. It even came out in between the individual sections of wood on the side. I figure when you consider the damage to the building, they’ll probably demolish the building and rebuild at the same location. I just hope they had insurance.

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Lee High in Staunton lost their state championship, and it serves them right.

2 minute read

March 12, 2006, 6:41 PM

I read today in the Staunton News Leader about the whole to-do about Lee High losing the state boys’ basketball championship, after having won it the past two years. Many people were hoping for a “three-peat” of the state championship, which was against Martinsville, and played at VCU in Richmond. Schools in Staunton were even dismissed early on Friday, to facilitate those traveling to Richmond to see the semifinals. Elementary schools in Staunton closed at 11:50 AM, Shelburne Middle School at 11:00 AM, and Lee High at 11:25.

Lee got to the final championship game, and they lost. And I have to say, it serves them right. And it serves them right because the school district took the bold step of officially putting athletics ahead of academics. Of course, realize that academics are what the whole purpose is of having a school system and such in the first place. But instead silly games get the spotlight. And my experience in high school was that athletics really were king, but they just never said so. And they certainly never cancelled school.

It just really bothers me for schools to be dismissed early for an athletic event. Especially with all the big to-do with high stakes testing related to Virginia’s “Standards of Learning” program and the federal “No Child Left Behind” program. Especially since, by having school and serving lunch, the day is considered “official”, even though school only lasted three hours and change. That’s barely even worth showing up for, and a waste of a day, if you ask me. If they’d cancelled school outright, then they would have to make the day up (I don’t know if Staunton had any built in snow days or not). That would be less offensive to me, because of the need to make the time up.

All in all, I think that the early dismissal jinxed them. Serves them right.

Categories: Virginia local news

“I nearly passed out when I heard you defending George Bush…”

2 minute read

January 22, 2006, 4:39 PM

As anyone who’s been around this Web site knows, I am very anti-George W. Bush. Thus why, when discussing a letter to the editor in the Staunton News Leader with some of my coworkers on my lunch hour, I surprised a few of them in that my response defended Bush. One coworker actually said, “I nearly passed out when I heard you defending George Bush.”

The letter was as follows:

I thought we fought the Revolutionary War years ago — the Boston Tea party included. Now President Bush has decided to make Washington, D.C. a smoke-free city. The Boston tea Party will turn into a smoke-in at the White House. Poor people enjoy a few things. One thing is a cigarette; another is an ice-cold beer.

Shame on you George Bush!

Ellen Edgar

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Categories: Virginia local news

What “abandoned former Wal-Mart sites”?

2 minute read

January 21, 2006, 11:17 PM

In the Staunton News Leader‘s January 21, 2006 house editorial, they discussed about the Frontier Culture Museum’s plan for using some of its property fronting US 250 and Frontier Drive for retail in order to help fund the museum’s programs (the museum itself is back and out of sight from the front of the property).

What made my ears perk up while reading this was this paragraph about the facility that anchors all this development:

Remember too that the retail leviathan that anchors the area is an aging Wal-Mart. Those who recall all the other abandoned former Wal-Mart sites around Staunton can attest that this chain is not the most faithful.

I question the accuracy of this statement. I am not even going to touch the issue of how “faithful” Wal-Mart is, because it’s immaterial to the discussion.

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I read an article that troubled me…

6 minute read

November 6, 2005, 10:31 PM

I was reading this past Saturday’s News Virginian, and an article on the front page of the paper troubled me. The article was called “Dilemma of threats on Internet”. Here’s a link to the article.

The basic premise of the article was about students’ reactions in their own online journals to an incident at Riverheads High School in Augusta County, where a 15-year-old student was given an “indefinite suspension” by school officials for an October 1 entry in his online journal hosted by where he contemplated “a massive systematical killing of people at rhs for the soul purpose of saying that i can”.

First of all, I will be the first to say that posting such things in a public space (which the Internet basically is) was not the best thing to do. But, to avoid dwelling on should-have-dones in that situation, let’s assume that what’s done is done. It’s posted, and that’s all there is to it.

In addition, I do not take issue with the principal’s encountering the material in question in the first place. These online journals are accessible to the general public without a password, and thus I consider the principal to be well within his rights to look at these online journals. When someone posts to an online journal that is publicly accessible, including this one, that means that anyone can look at it, and I do mean anyone. To make my point, I had no trouble finding AnothrDmBlnd’s Xanga site, whose November 2 entry was the source of one of the comments mentioned in the article.

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Mom got into the newspaper…

< 1 minute read

September 2, 2005, 4:38 PM

It’s an article in The News Virginian on Friday, September 2 about SOL writing testing in middle schools, and how the middle schools in Augusta County made the mark for the most part.

And here’s the picture with the caption:

Lauren Campbell and Clay Agee, sixth-graders at Stuarts Draft Middle School, read stories they wrote for a homework assignment to language arts teacher Jane Schumin. (Rosanne Viscuso/Staff)
Lauren Campbell and Clay Agee, sixth-graders at Stuarts Draft Middle School, read stories they wrote for a homework assignment to language arts teacher Jane Schumin. (Rosanne Viscuso/Staff)

And here’s a link to the News Virginian article: Middle schools make mark

It’s really neat seeing your mother’s name and photo in print in the newspaper. And in her room at SDMS, no less.