Letters to the Editor: Week of May 16, 2013

Posted on Wednesday, May 15, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Closing the theater seems contradictory

I just returned from Winston-Salem, N.C. where I was asked to give advice on the creation of a new Theater District in their Downtown.
You can imagine my surprise, when I returned to find that my beloved Ashland is seriously considering closing the only working theater in town, one which is located in our downtown and within our new Arts District.
Seen from the outside, with no more information than what I read in the H-P, it seems that surely there is another way to solve the town’s storage problem without closing the increasingly useful theater. Comments that a decision would be made “in two weeks” seem rather rushed for such a profound action. I truly hope that our very wise council and staff will take the time needed to study the options for both issues – the storage and the theater.
I have long valued the judgement of both my council and our staff, but the suggested consideration of closing the Theater seems contradictory to many of our cherished community values. I therefore look forward to hearing of more discussions about this. Thank you.

Bob Brown

Editor’s Note: The writer is a member of both the Ashland Planning Commission and the Board of Ashland Main Street, but stressed the above letter expressed only his personal views.

Don’t give up on Ashland’s downtown

My name is Rachel Levy and I live in the town of Ashland with my husband and three children. It has come to our attention that the Town Council is considering turning the Firehouse Theater into a storage space. I am writing to urge them not to do this.
First, I want to acknowledge that the theater is, in fact, owned by the Town of Ashland, and to thank the town for facilitating, thus far, the mission of the Ashland Firehouse Theater.
Although we don’t attend as many as we’d like, my family and I have been to several films, events, and public meetings at the theater. When we have friends and family visit from out of town, the Firehouse Theater is always on the tour—it’s emblematic of how special and unique our town is. The Firehouse Theater is a vital part of the heart of our wonderful downtown and the presence of community institutions like it helped to convince us to settle in Ashland when we did two years ago. We love walking to the theater with our children on a Saturday evening, watching a film with friends, and walking home after. Besides the films, we’ve attended forums there, which are vital to facilitating civic engagement.
This is a critical stage in the Firehouse Theater’s development and we are hoping as time goes on it will grow and offer even more. It would be a shame to shut it down just as it was beginning to take off. Imagine the possibilities: Pre-theater dinner promotions at local restaurants, documentary premiers, town halls with statewide elected officials and political candidates, an in-house theater troupe, charity galas.
Ashland just designated part of its downtown as an Arts and Culture District. It would send the wrong message to members of the community and prospective arts-related vendors to shut down such a community arts institution as the Firehouse Theater now. It says loud and clear: We are giving up on downtown. This might give the impression that the town is not committed to being a center of the arts or to supporting citizen-initiated community-building endeavors. We know many people who have worked selflessly to further the mission of the Firehouse Theater and we believe it would have a chilling effect on similar initiatives if their hard work were to be for naught.
As the theater’s executive director Megan Mudd said, “Storage is not special. But the Firehouse Theater certainly is.” Mayor Faye Prichard once said (at a forum for Town Council candidates located at the Firehouse Theater, of all places!) that our downtown is our treasure. The Firehouse Theater is part of that treasure. Don’t relegate it to a bleak future of housing dusty boxes. Don’t give up on downtown.

Rachel Levy

We are blessed with some quality leaders

I attended a government/landowners committee meeting recently and am so glad that I did.
Sean Davis chaired the meeting. Also in attendance were board of supervisors members Canova Peterson, Wayne Hazzard, and Ed Via. The meeting centered around reviewing current policies and ordinances that affect businesses and citizens. The tone of this meeting was, “How can we make things even better?” The emphasis was one of finding ways to help our citizens and businesses meet their objectives successfully. I was impressed as to how attentive these gentlemen were in “being fair” and reducing barriers.
I urge every citizen to attend our board of supervisors and planning commission meetings. We are truly blessed to have such quality in our leaders. Will mistakes be made? Yes, but I have always found those who can change or correct those mistakes are very willing to do so. When you see these leaders, please take the time to say, “Thank you.”

Dan Johnson

Praise may be due when we get answers

With all due respect, if Mechanicsville Local editor Melody Kinser thinks Cold Harbor supervisor Elton Wade “took on his critics,” she doesn’t read her own newspaper.
The 21-paragraph public statement by Wade to which she refers (published in the May 8 edition), and which appears on the same page as her editorial, goes into exhaustive detail as to Norman Sulser’s qualifications to be a member of the Hanover County School Board.
This would be all very well and good—if anyone had ever challenged them to begin with.
The issue is not whether Norman Sulser has the resume for the post. The controversy centers entirely on statements attributed to Wade in the April 15 issue of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, in which Wade was quoted by the writer as stating that he had been told that he promised the appointment to Sulser as political payback for successfully getting him re-elected to the board of supervisors in his last election, and that while Wade can no longer recollect making that promise, the justice of it seemed “right” to him.
Sulser’s fitness for the job was never called into question. Wade’s honesty and judgment were.
It may well be that Wade was completely misquoted by the Richmond Times-Dispatch. But nowhere in his 21 paragraphs does he even make reference to the interview, let alone contest its veracity.
Wade has indeed offered Melody Kinser a lengthy and minute answer. Unfortunately, it is not to the question so many of us have asked: Did Elton Wade—himself a paid employee of the Hanover County Public Schools—promise Norman Sulser the appointment to the very board that serves as Wade’s own employer in return for his service in Wade’s re-election effort, and did Elton Wade make the statements attributed to him in the Times-Dispatch?
Should Wade ever provide an answer, he will merit the praise the Mechanicsville Local was so precipitate in bestowing upon him.

Joseph Pierro

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