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Man seeks abolition of Va. town's government

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By Christian Davenport
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 7:11 PM

David Silek was booing, heartily, hands cupped to his mouth, lips curled, as if at the rowdiest of sports events. Afterward, his mother chastised him. This was a town council meeting, not a football game.

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Silek was unapologetic: "Our relatives picked up arms against the government. Booing is nothing."

Silek, a highly caffeinated, fast-talking lawyer who once pulled over a police officer for running a red light, proposes to do much more than boo the government of Front Royal, Va., a town of 15,000 along the Shenandoah River. He's leading an effort to disband it.

It's a long shot that would involve a petition drive and then the courts. If it clears all the bureaucratic hurdles, which could take months, the issue would still have to go before voters, not all of whom want to do away with their local government and consolidate with surrounding Warren County.

But with his attempt to upend the town he says his ancestors helped found, Silek has tapped an anti-government anger that is playing out far beyond this 222-year-old town 60 miles west of Washington.

A member of the tea party, Silek is not. (He's a self-proclaimed "Jeffersonian libertarian" whose previous brush with celebrity came from his representation of the White House gate-crashers, Tareq and Michaele Salahi.) But the discontent Silek embodies - and the antics he's used to express it - stems from the same sense of frustration that fueled tea party supporters in this year's election campaigns.

"We the people are beginning to wake up again," he said. "We the people lost attention to what was going on in government. I think there has been a great awakening, not just in Front Royal but nationally."

Like the tea party, Silek expresses an anger driven by what he sees as heavy taxation and government spending at a time when many are struggling with unemployment. Front Royal residents pay taxes to the town as well as to the county. Eliminate the town, Silek argues, and a significant portion of the tax burden will go away.

Much of his anger stems from the recent firing of Front Royal's town manager, J. Michael Graham - a move Silek and others call unjustified, ill-advised and costly. The town plans to pay Graham almost $175,000 in severance.

But the dispute over the firing of the manager was only the latest in a series of feuds Silek, 38, has had with his home town.

Two years ago, Silek was fuming over the speed trap a police officer was routinely setting up on the outskirts of town. Silek viewed the trap as an added tax on citizens at a time when many were hurting financially.

So when he saw another officer blow through a red light one night, Silek took off in pursuit. He caught the officer at the next light, he said, and told her to pull over. He said he gave her a good talking to and called her sergeant.


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