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Opinion

Loud and clear

Among the messages from the Nov. 7 election: All politics is local.

Losing a neighbor

An old neighbor, Fred Martin, the longtime pastor at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Halifax, died Tuesday after a lengthy struggle with leukemia and other illnesses. The majority of the Martin clan relocated to Richmond years ago, but prior to that point our two sprawling families —five McLaughlin kids, nine Martin children—grew up together as next-door neighbors in Halifax. As one of the few adults in the fray, Fred was the sharp-tongued presence at backyard get-togethers, beer in hand and a slightly owlish look on his face, unless he were laughing at something, which was often, in which case his visage more closely resembled that of the Cheshire cat. Although it wasn’t as evident during those childhood years, Fred made his mark on the world as someone who could be quite outspoken on the great issues of the day. He famously sermonized against the Vietnam War at a time when that sort of thing simply wasn’t done, and on questions of race relations, equality and justice he would challenge the conscience even as others held their tongues. Whether motivated by his faith or an abiding fearlessness or just plain old orneriness is hard to say — one would guess a combination of all three — Fred Martin made this community a better place during the time he lived here and forever after. He will be greatly missed.

Questions and answers

I ran into three people this week who sought out my opinion on three separate items in the news. That, of course, was all the fodder I needed for today’s column:

Back in black

The issue of ag/forestal districts is back on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda, and it’s clear the votes are there to pass the policy with room to spare. I wrote a series of columns last year outlining why I think ag/forestal districts are a middling-to-bad idea, and nothing has changed since then to warrant a change of heart. That said, I do think county officials have come up with a reasonably thoughtful proposal, regardless of how misguided the notion may (or may not) be.

BTU overdrive

First rule for countering groupthink: When everyone else agrees on a plan of action, that’s when you should become suspicious. Conventional wisdom now says the path to a healthy Southside economy begins with the development of alternative energy technologies. By harvesting our natural resources in innovative ways, so we are told, Southside can become the Saudi Arabia of wood scrap, corn cobs, chicken poop or whatever.

Crime and punishment

Much to get to this week: Let’s start with Jeff Oakes. With the former sheriff stuck with a $37.50 fine for low crimes and misdemeanors (his jury bill, on the other hand, will run $1,620) people will debate ad nauseam whether the investigation into the wiped computer at the Sheriff’s Office was worth the time, money and effort, coming as it did at taxpayer expense.

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