Guest Post by Cindy Brookshire.
Cindy was one of the speakers at citizen time last night in the City of Manassas. She shares her reflections.
Disclaimer: All guest posts are the opinion of the poster and do not necessarily represent the views of moonhowlings.net administration. M-H
I was there for the full time of citizen comment. I was in the minority – only four of us spoke in defense of this shop owner: the attorney for KK Temptations, a patron of the MVC store near Kindercare on Mathis Ave, the owner of the Manassas Junction Bed & Breakfast and me, another woman-owned small business owner in the City of Manassas. I was the only one of the four who stayed for the whole 3+ hours.
And despite that, it didn’t have the feel of a pitchfork and torches event. I knew a good many people in the room – longtime residents of the City, parishioners of local churches, parents involved in their schools. There were counselors and doctors and those with careers in law enforcement. There were business owners in Old Town. There were people from my neighborhood watch, and the Chief of Police, Doug Keen.
I found many of the comments very eloquent – one elderly man spoke so beautifully about the love between a man and a woman, and he addressed the gathering more than to the council, that when Mayor Parrish had to interrupt him to tell him he was going over time, we didn’t want him to stop. Another young man got up and spoke and anyone would have been proud of him.
There were funny moments, too. A man overheard someone asking a city official during the break, “How did this happen?” and the answer was “It just fell through the cracks.” So he got up to speak about how when he was new to Manassas he parked his commercial vehicle in his driveway just so, and got a letter and a subsequent visit from a zoning official, who told him he was parked on a crack. So he admonished the council to go up to their own zoning department and “fix the crack.”
There were some threats – a business owner who said he would not renew his lease if this opened, representatives from the local Catholic school that they would stop allowing students to come into Old Town at lunchtime, and a question to the attorneys if it was legal to videotape people going into the shop and stream it live to the Internet.
There were some digs – who were these owners, why did they pick this location, why aren’t they opening it in Centreville, what kind of good neighbors are they, coming in when they know there’s this much opposition.
But the fact is, this store will open, they will have a sign up after it is reviewed by the architectural board, they can keep up the current temporary wording because there’s a precedent that the City has allowed other businesses to keep up their temporary signs. The council passed a resolution to study the negative secondary effects of adult-oriented businesses, both current ones and future. One council member tried to slip abortion clinics into the resolution, but they didn’t vote it in because they didn’t want it to dilute the key issue.
Del. Bob Marshall appeared at the end, long enough embrace his colleague, Del. Miller, and suggest roundabout ways to oust the business, like making sure their lease doesn’t get renewed.
It wasn’t easy to stand up and speak in defense of this store owner. But I’m proud that I did. She did everything legal and she has a right to open her shop. I still respect Del. Miller but I think he and others have mischaracterized this store and prejudged this business owner. I talked to several shop owners who said she met them and talked with them. She has been trying to be a good neighbor, but Manassas has not been welcoming.
There’s a memo that City Attorney Bob Bendall circulated that is for public release. It has good information in it if you want me to key it in, I can, but I have two meetings this morning and will have to do it later. I expected the headline in the News & Messenger to be his quote: “The pig is in the parlor. Now how do we get it out?”