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Are our priorities in order?

Published 9:30am Saturday, August 3, 2013

Franklin, for all of its quirks and idiosyncrasies, is in most ways like any other small city I’m familiar with. Generally speaking, it is a great place to live and to work. There are many close-knit relationships and a sense of familiarity that easily develop here, even if you are not native to the community. It is an easy place to fall in love with if you are relatively new, and a place in which many want to stay and live in forever if it is your hometown. It is rich with history and traditions that are unique to Franklin, yet not altogether unlike those in other communities.

But, like any place else, it is not without its flaws.

As is the case with many other communities in Southside Virginia, the previous decade has not been kind in terms of the economy. As a result the unemployment rate is unacceptably high, and the predictable fallout has been a steadily declining middle class. Much hard work has been done to reverse the trend, and a number of positive announcements recently been made with regard to new industry and new jobs prove that out. And, I optimistically suspect, that there are even more to come. But for the time being, times are still a little tight, and no one feels that more than the working poor or unemployed.

Which makes it understandable, to a certain extent, that a group of citizens would join together to give a unified voice to their collective concerns. The group formerly known as Concerned Citizens Against High Utility Bills is a perfect example. Believing their utility bills were unjustly high, a group of individuals unified to air their grievances with the city to push for change. While I don’t believe that their fundamental complaints were based in fact or sound reasoning, I absolutely believe that organizing for the purpose of bringing attention to their cause was both well within their rights and the most effective way to go about demanding change. Having run into a proverbial brick wall on their complaints over high utility bills, the group, led by Linwood Johnson, has changed its name and the scope of their issues. Now seeking to be known as Citizens United Against High Taxes, Johnson recently stated that the group’s purpose would be to “keep real estate taxes low, promote economic growth and opportunity for all citizens, only support redevelopment that respects and protects the rights of all property owners, and find an equitable solution to lower the garbage, water and electric bills that will make this city attractive for people and businesses to move into” (“Citizens group dissolves, new group arises,” by Cain Madden, The Tidewater News, Wednesday, July 24, 2013).

At face value, this seems a noble calling and a fitting set of issues for a community group, and in reality the entire community, to strive for. But this list of issues paints an incomplete picture, leaving out some significant problems that should not only make it onto this list, but also create an outcry of protest that far exceeds the volume of one aimed at high electric bills.

Which brings me back to my original point.

Franklin, like every other community, has its imperfections. Including, but not limited to, the fact that we experience crime. Usually it’s the garden-variety property crimes, cars being broken into, homes being burglarized and those sorts of things, which fill the police blotters but largely fly under the public radar.

But violent crimes, the ones that grab our attention and tend to linger longer in our collective consciousness, happen as well. They do not set us apart, as violent crimes affect all communities at one time or another, whether it is in Chicago, Ill., or Sanford, Fla. It’s the way we seem to react to them, or more specifically don’t react, that does.

It was just last Wednesday, July 24, when Franklin citizens awoke to learn that two people, a 17-year-old girl and a 48-year-old woman, had in separate incidents been attacked and sexually assaulted by the same man. No public vigil was held. Community leaders issued no statements. Yet on Wednesday, July 31, a program was held by a local seniors’ group to show support for the family of Trayvon Martin, the young man shot and killed during an altercation in Sanford nearly 18 months ago. No civic group, not even one whose stated objective is to “make this city attractive for people and businesses to move into,” has uttered a single word decrying the senseless and violent crimes that took place right here in Franklin a little more than one week ago.

I find it a sad state of affairs, indeed, when a light bill generates a public reaction and the assault and rape of two of the city’s residents does not.

Franklin has problems like every other community. I just wonder if we know what our priorities are.

  • handkusp45

    Did anyone notice that most of these “groups” are the ones who want something for nothing? Instead of all these gatherings spewing hate you could maybe look for a job. Just saying….

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    • simplifyingit

      Notice how none of the usual people are commenting on this??

      It’s because the black community has spread racism throughout its people for years while blaming the whites. All the while using slavery and “daily indignities” as a crutch to cry for more free handouts. Now that the white community is fed up with the whole premise and ready to stop “giving in and bowing down” they are huddled in their little meeting halls trying to plan the next strategy. Times are a changing people and it’s time for ALL people to earn their existence.

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  • DryRain

    “The vigil for Trayvon should have taken place months ago, directly after his death, not after his killers aquittal”.

    “I find it a sad state of affairs, indeed, when a light bill generates a public reaction and the assault and rape of two of the city’s residents does not”.

    Very good article by Tony Clark, followed by some very good comments.

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  • mason

    Spider68, you really, really need to read “Another Young Man Dead,” a commentary in today’s Virginian-Pilot written by Coby W. Dillard — a black man — the vice chairman of the Norfolk Republican Party, at: http://hamptonroads.com/2013/08/another-young-man-dead. He has walked in your shoes, but unlike you, he does not use his experiences as an excuse to lay guilt and blame at the feet of “white folks.” Instead, he, like Mr Clark, calls for us all to accept responsibility within our own communities to make things better through constructive actions.

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  • simplifyingit

    it seems that Sedley Sam has, in effect, given “lockjaw” to spider with his very honest & truthful comment.

    I also wonder where Mak is since he has always been quick to take up the civil rights/discrimination issue in the comments here on TN???

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    • spider68

      Contrary to you local Repubs opinion, I do not have “lockjaw”. I knew when I made the comment that the regulars on this forum would pounce. And I still say that an individual racially profiling a young man and murdering him has no parallel whatsoever to the rape of the women here. I have sympathy for these women, however until anyone of you white folks walk in the shoes of a minority, and suffer the daily indignities inflicted upon blacks just for being black, then not a one of you will ever understand what I mean.

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      • Sedley Sam

        Boo Hoo…cry us a river! Daily indignities???? Blacks have not been oppressed in 40yrs. You had the same (or better) opportunities to get an education and fight for yourself that i did growing up. I had rich.city folk calling me names and telling me i was poor, white trash but i ignored them and succeeded in life and never ask anyone for any handouts. No welfare, free lunch or any other BS. I earned the job because i was the best canidate not the best minority that applied. The world has been laid at the black mans foot all my life (over 40) and all most of them did with it was stay home and have more babies while educating each other how to get by and get more free stuff from the govt! You did this to yourselves but anyway. You believe that crap you spew if you want…….it was never anyones fault but your own

        Golf clap while i take a bow!

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  • http://www.blackwaternottoway.com Jeff Turner

    Well said Sedley Sam.

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  • wannabe

    Well said Tony. Take care of home first!

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  • RWH

    Mr. Clark. In my opinion your comments are spot on and the events in Florida and Franklin are an excellent analogy. What some may find disturbing is the intellectual honesty they lack in calling a spade, a spade.

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  • mason

    Sedley Sam is right. And Mr. Clark is right. The best way to address problems that are national in scope and appearing on the national stage is to start right here at home. We (average citizens) should be concerned about but also take constructive actions aimed at fixing our own local problems, whether the sexual rape of our own citizens by criminals or the intellectual rape of our own children by a failing public education system. We need more leadership, and comments such as Mr. Clark’s are little steps in the right direction.

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  • spider68

    Mr. Clark, you use a lot of nice flowery words to get to the gist of your article. The Trayvon Martin case. Whether a seniors group or anyone else locally chooses to hold a vigil for the Martin family I feel is none of your concern. What happened in Franklin, Va and Sanford, Fla has no parallel whatsoever.
    Also, as the associate publisher of a local hometown newspaper, it would be nice if you would cease throwing out your little personal dog whistles for the ultra conservatives.

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    • Sedley Sam

      your interpretation of what he said or meant is way, way off base.
      He is essentially asking us…is something that happened to a young man in Fla more important to us than what happened to two of our neighbors!
      I would think that we should start to work toward fixing problems at home (Franklin) before we spend resources and time on something in Florida.
      This group of seniors did nothing for the violated local women while holding a vigil for slain young man that was murdered/killed months ago because it may/may not be a civil rights matter depending on your view.The vigil for Trayvon should have taken place months ago, directly after his death, not after his killers aquittal. A vigil or fundraising event,etc needs to be held now for the our female neighbors.
      Some would think their priorities are not in the right place as Mr.Clark suggested.

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    • employee2

      Dog whistles? turn off MSNBC.

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      • spider68

        So, I see that you watch MSNBC also. B.A.

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      • employee2

        I watch them all, it is the only way to be sure I am getting “All” the story. If you only watch MSNBC, I can see why you think Travon was targeted. There is so much more to the story than they portrayed. Ever hear of NBC editing the 911 call to make it appear as though Zimmerman was racist? they did it and someone was fired because of it. That is the basis of Zimmerman’s law suit against NBC.

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  • A

    There is no real unity and vision for our community though it must be said that Franklin’s city council is working on the unity aspect. Replace pie-in-the sky with dealing with reality as it comes at you daily.

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  • Typhoon

    Well written and to the point I hope it is read by some of these organizers of so called citizens groups that are creating problems.

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