A Devil of a Situation

Having worked in Congress and at the White House, I often pride myself on my inability to be shocked by anything anymore. I've seen stupid at the highest levels of government, but when I learned that one person's letter to the editor and his rigid interpretation of the Grammy-winning song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" caused an entire marching band to change its program, I have learned that an entirely new height of stupid is attainable, right here in Prince William County!

I am not a Hylton band parent, neither do I have any stake or interest in its program, but I do know a little something about marching bands. My daughter was drum major of the Woodbridge Senior High School marching band in 2000. Her sister was clarinet section leader, and her other sister was in sideline percussion. This was over a 10-year span.

As a parent and a musician, I also know what kind of hard work goes into these programs. In the winter and spring, the program must be ordered. The band directors and section leaders memorize drill charts and music all summer. Band camp hits in August, and it is a very intense one or two weeks to teach an entire program.

It is very rare for a band director to pull part of the program toward the end of the season, unless it just isn't working. This has caused chaos in the Hylton High School band and much discord among parents, from what I understand. It isn't fair to the kids, and the explanations given aren't good enough.

My daughters have met and performed with Charlie Daniels on the University of Tennessee football field in front of 110,000 people. They agreed that it was the highlight of their marching band careers in high school and college. The song in question was a huge hit, and the audience roared with approval.

Other than Mr. Robert McLean, whose children are home-schooled and have not had the privilege and honor of participating in a marching band, are there many others like him out there? It's hard for me to believe that someone could disapprove of that song.

I suspect there is more to band director Dennis Brown pulling this piece from the program. I would venture a strong guess that the school administration was also behind this. Why hasn't Principal Carolyn Custard commented on this yet? It has been spread all over the newspapers, so shouldn't Ms. Custard explain what's really going on? Mr. Brown and Ms. Custard owe the band, the parents and now the public a decent and honest explanation for this situation, which suffers badly a lack of credibility.

If it weren't so sad, it would be funny. Only someone such as Jay Leno, whose writers now have the story, could make this funny. Stay tuned.

As Charlie Daniels said in the Oct. 14 Potomac News, no high school band in the nation has ever pulled this song from its program because of a "religious" question. That makes Hylton a first, and it's not a first of which Prince William County can be proud. This is a Prince William first that ranks right up there with Lorena Bobbitt.

Melanie Berney

Lake Ridge

Of Marxists and RPAs

I hate to interrupt all the rhetoric flying around regarding the Resource Protection Area (RPA) issue and bore everyone with facts, but I just don't think childish name-calling is helpful to a rational discussion. Regarding a recent letter to the editor citing "Marxist environmentalists" [Extra, Oct. 16], it looks like the spirit of Joe McCarthy lives on!

Let's at least debate based on facts instead of rhetoric, innuendo or accusations of communist tendencies. I'm no expert on RPAs, but I can read the regulations.

Some RPA facts: The RPA rules are not a taking, an easement or a confiscation. No one has any right to access your property without your permission. There are certain limitations on what can be done in the RPA by the property owner, just like there are with many other rules regarding property in Virginia, such as setback requirements, zoning requirements, etc.

The major thing you can't do in the RPA is clear-cut the existing vegetation. This is to prevent erosion, water contamination and undermining of the natural filtering capabilities of the wooded buffer. This is for the good of all Virginians who drink water, fish in water, boat in water, or care at all for stream ecosystems. You also can't build a shed near the waterline.

Some things you can do in the RPA: build a road, prune lower tree branches for a view of the water, remove dead trees and construct a path. Under existing rules, there are also other exceptions to some requirements allowed under certain conditions.

I think it's also important to note that in all the cases I've heard of, the reason that the county addresses RPA infractions is that a resident has complained. I think this shows that the majority of folks think these restrictions are a good idea and will protect the health of our streams in the future. It seems to me it's the least we can do to ensure that our children and grandchildren have clean water, whether they're Marxist or not!

Martin Jeter


Protecting Our Water

Mr. Robert T. Molleur is the one who "doesn't get it" [Extra, Oct. 16]. Property owners have a responsibility not to harm others or degrade our common resources. Private property rights are not absolute. You cannot legally pour oil on your lawn and contaminate the water or have a mosquito breeding ground in your back yard. You cannot prosecute the rain for trespassing or charge it with theft when it moves a little dirt to your neighbor's yard.

Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) are important and necessary. They protect our water supply and prevent erosion. They help keep real streams from becoming degraded drainage ditches.

Prince William County has a history of erosion. Dumfries was once one of the main ports on the Eastern Seaboard, rivaled only by Boston. This was completely destroyed by the silting of Quantico Creek. I hope we will not have to painfully learn this again by having Occoquan Reservoir fill with dirt.

If Mr. Molleur is so hostile toward RPAs and people doing their fair share for the community, perhaps he should import his water from elsewhere. Perhaps Mr. Molleur owns a bottled water company. I can think of no other reason he would have such a myopic and cavalier attitude toward our water supply.

Kevin Parker