Martinsville and the Reversion – Part 2

by James C. Sherlock

Dick Hall-Sizemore yesterday gave us a rather bloodless, bureaucratic, and relatively positive description of the upcoming shotgun marriage between Martinsville and Henry County. He could not seem to understand the angst on the part of Henry County.

I’ll try to help him out.

It was good to have the historical perspective that Dick always brings, but I am going to take the opportunity to offer a bit of the human side of that merger.

First, these are two profoundly poor areas. The people, white and black, are also much less healthy than the rest of the state. The tale, however, doesn’t stop there.

Selected differences


  • The 2020 population of Martinsville was 13,821. The median age was 42.7 compared to the state average of 37.8. The population was 53.5% female. Percentage in civilian workforce 54.9%.
  • The median household income in Martinsville, VA in 2019 was $35,405, which was 115.9% less than the median annual income of $76,456 across the entire state of Virginia.
  • The FY 2021 budget for Martinsville was $103 million, of which $27.6 million is school-related for 1,881 pupils. Totals: $7,452 per citizen, $14,673 per pupil. Black student 2019 SOL pass rates: Math, 74%, Reading, 59%.
  • Persons under 18 years: 25.4%
  • Persons over 65 years: 18.1% because of much lower life expectancy
  • Building permits 2020: 1

Henry County

  • The 2020 population of Henry County was 50,953.
  • The median household income in Henry County in 2019 was $36,683
  • The FY2021 budget for Henry County is $157 million. $88 million of that is for schools for 7,130 pupils. Totals: $3,081 per citizen, $12,342 per pupil. Black student 2019 SOL pass rates: Math 76%, Reading, 68%
  • Persons under 18 yrs: 19.2%
  • Persons over 65yrs: 24.5%
  • Building permits 2020: 18
  • Tax rates are far lower across the board in Henry County than in Martinsville because of the far lower expenditures per citizen in Henry County.

County Health Rankings 2020.

  • Health Outcomes overall. 133 localities in Virginia. Martinsville ranked 128/133. Henry County ranked 97/133
  • Poor or fair health. Virginia 16%, Martinsville 22%, Henry County 21%.
  • Low Birthweight. Virginia 8%, Martinsville 13%, Henry 9%.
  • Diabetes prevalence. Virginia 11%, Martinsville 14%, Henry 21%.
  • Access to primary care physicians. State 1,320:1. Martinsville 13,140:1, Henry 1,650:1
  • Mental health providers: State: 570:1, Martinsville 2,60:1, Henry 8,490:1.
  • Children in single parent households: State 30%, Martinsville 61%, Henry 36%.
  • Children receiving free lunch. State 44%, Martinsville 99%, Henry 85%

You get the idea.

Both Martinsville and Henry County are poor. But Henry County, conservatively governed, spends less than half as much per citizen on government than does Martinsville.

Henry County, spending 19% less per pupil, has better SOL results for Black students.

You can perhaps now get some idea of the reticence of Henry County to absorb Martinsville. Henry County can’t afford it in more ways than one.

Just raise taxes

Dick’s idea for the county to raise taxes on Martinsville’s rich and businesses doesn’t work here. What rich? And does anybody think that business can successfully raise prices on their profoundly poor customers to cover added costs? Higher prices, like higher taxes, in this case will mean lower revenues.

Can annual building permits go below zero?

I don’t know how much of the taxable property in the city is now owned by the city from tax foreclosures, but it is a lot. Is Henry County to tax that? Martinsville’s own tax receipts continue to decline with the population.

Increase taxes on Sovah Martinsville Hospital?

The West Piedmont health district serves Martinsville and the counties of Henry, Franklin, and Patrick. Patrick County west of Martinsville lost its only hospital two years ago.

So Sovah Health is the only hospital in the health district and a for-profit system. It is already cutting back services to maintain margins. If it can’t make a profit it will close. It would do the same if it were non-profit.

Net tax increases on the city have no chance of working here.


Martinsville is strongly liberal. In Martinsville, 62.6% of the people voted Democrat in the last presidential election, 36.0% voted Republican, and the remaining 1.4% voted Independent.

Henry County is strongly conservative. In Henry County, 35.0% of the people voted Democratic in the last presidential election, 64.1% voted Republican Party, and the remaining 1.0% voted Independent.

So, Democrats are turning over the wreckage of Martinsville after decades of Democratic control to a poor Republican county.

Dick is philosophical. The people of Henry County not so much.

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60 responses to “Martinsville and the Reversion – Part 2”

  1. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
    Ronnie Chappell

    Like Dick Hall-Sizemore, I too am from Halifax County. Given that the state made annexation impossible, the reversion of South Boston to town status was inevitable and appears to have been accomplished without significant change to the cost of local government which is always constrained by the willingness and ability of citizens to pay taxes. A comparison between Halifax County and the City of South Boston would have looked much the same as Martinsville and Henry County.

    I have been enjoying Bacon’s Rebellion. Particularly enjoyed your recent piece on the poor performance of Richmond Public Schools and the dismal SOL scores of Richmond students. It appears that Martinsville and Henry Country are doing a much better job. You seem to enjoy sifting through all sorts of data. Is Martinsville doing more with less? How do the scores of Black kids in each district compare? Teacher salaries? Class size? Title 1 expenditures?

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Black students in Richmond scored a 50% pass rate on both math and reading SOLs in 2018-19. Cost per student to educate them was over $16,000. That is an apples-to-apples comparison to the Martinsville and Henry County data above. Richmond is truly in a class by itself.

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Ronnie! So good to hear from you!

      1. Ronnie Chappell Avatar
        Ronnie Chappell

        Yep, it’s another “Star” journalist spending too much of his retirement reading and sharing his opinions. Go Tribe.

    3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Ronnie! So good to hear from you!

    4. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      This is in major part a drug story. Martinsville was the opioid dispensing capitol of America for awhile. I wrote about it in my first article. See additional information at bottom of comments for more.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        So Martinsville and Henry are the worst for opioids but they are better on black SOL scores?

        what the…………

        better schools? better parents? Less leftists?

  2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Comparing the costs of government per person is misleading because Henry County has the advantage of economies of scale. Each jurisdiction has to have a manager, school superintendent, sheriff, treasurer, commissioner of the revenue, planner, building department, etc. Henry County has four times more people to spread those costs over. In fact, Henry County has four times more people to spread all the costs of government over.

    With reversion, those constitutional officer positions will go away.

    I thought conservatives believed in efficiency in government, eliminating duplication.

    Please define “wreckage” that you have identified in Martinsville governmnt.

    If the good folks of Henry County do not want reversion, how about sharing the revenues from some of those private ventures that are located in Henry County but are very close to the Martinsville city limits, such as Martinsville Speedway, Georgia Pacific Corrugated, WestRock, and Virginia Glass Products?

    Your description of the political leanings of the two jurisdictions is telling. That is likely a large factor in the opposition of the Board of Supervisors. They don’t want to have a member representing Martinsville on the county governing body. Somebody might lose a seat.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      The Auditor of Public accounts has a fiscal report on it’s site – 2017 I think. But it can give an idea of the revenues that Martinsville is currently collecting.

      The other aspect still unclear to me is the difference in services, taxation and revenues between City status and town status.

      The schools could stay separate , no? I think some towns in Va maintain separate schools from the county.

      Then we have the police force and issues like water/sewer, sidewalks, parks, etc and I assume that Martinsville town would still be collecting taxes and fees for those services so what would Henry County be funding and providing?

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Dick, new information was just published in the Martinsville Bulletin
      – A county-funded study estimated a county property tax increase of nearly 20% to fund the costs of the reversion.
      – A city-funded study estimated county property taxes would have to rise 10%.

      The city, of course, would save money but would be subject to county taxes.

      But my take is that Martinsville’s recent history as a drug capitol and the political differences have as much to do with the opposition as taxes.

  3. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    Like it or not here it comes. I would be upset about it too if I lived in Henry County. No voice in the matter thanks to the Code of Virginia. This will cause resentment between town and county residents for years to come. Martinsville will lose an essential social institution that belonged to them, the schools. I consider that an important cornerstone to community identity.

    In 1791 Henry County separated from Patrick County. For 14 years they were joined together as Patrick Henry County. Prior to that both counties belonged to Pittsylvania County as well as the city of Danville.

    Why not consider reversion on a grand scale? Revert Patrick, Henry, Martinsville, and Danville back to Pittsylvania County. Merging government, economies, and social institutions could benefit a region in need of hope.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      They could achieve a good bit of that with some regional cooperation… no? I’m not sure there is a way for two counties to become one…. maybe?

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Under Virginia law, any adjoining jurisdictions can consolidate. There have been city-city consolidations and county-city consolidations, but I don’t think there have been any county-county mergers/consolidations.

    2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Geographically, that would probably be too large a region. But, merging Patrick, Henry,and Martinsville together and Danville and Pittsylvania together would make some sense. While we are it, we should also merge Bath and Highland Counties.

      There is not doubt that one of the hardest part of the reversion will be Martinsville’s loss of its own school system, including its high school. This was not the situation in the case of the other three reversions. Halifax County and South Boston had operated a joint high school since the mid-1950’s. In the case of Clifton Forge and Bedford cities, their adjoining counties had provided educational services for which the cities reimbursed the counties.

      1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        All of those divisions from Pittsylvania County were indeed based on geography and distance. Why in 1770 you would where out a set of horse shoes traveling from Stuart to Callands for a day in court.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Well, if you go back and see what process was used to create those counties in the first place….

      2. DJRippert Avatar

        Little Virginia has the third most independent jurisdictions of any state in the US, after Texas and Georgia.

        Combining Patrick, Henry, Pittsylvania Counties along with the independent cities would create a new jurisdiction under 2,000 sq mi. While this would be large by Virginia standards it would not be particularly large by American standards. In fact, it would not even come close to being in the 100 largest counties in the US (excluding Alaska).

        2,200 people live in Highland County, Va while 4,200 live in Bath County, Va. Both have lost population since 2010. How can it possibly be economically effective to have counties with that few inhabitants?

  4. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    It would be great to have some consolidation around here. The only thing the 6 cities have done together is the regional jail, and that failed.

  5. This is turning into an interesting debate between Jim and Dick. I have a special interest because I spent 2 1/2 years living in Martinsville some 40 years ago, back when the city and county had an intact economy and a modicum of wealth. Once upon a time, Martinsville/Henry County was reputed to have more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in Virginia. I don’t know if that was true, but there was a germ of truth to it. There was a lot of industrial-era wealth in that community from the knitting mills and furniture companies. Sadly, the economy has been ruthlessly hollowed out since then.

    I lean toward Dick’s interpretation of the impact of consolidating the city and county, but not so much so that I cannot change my mind.

    First point, if Henry County takes over Martinsville schools, Jim’s analysis implies that it will have to take up Martinsville’s costs. But will it? How do we know that the county won’t reduce Martinsville school spending to county levels?

    Second point, it’s true that poverty is concentrated in the city. But who bears the cost of social spending? Most welfare program spending is born by the state and the feds. If Martinsville has more poverty-related crime, it spends more on police than the county does. But the same will remain it it reverts to a town. I don’t see what changes.

    Third point: There will be considerable savings from the elimination of duplicate government offices– treasurer, commissioner of revenue, commonwealth attorney, sheriff, and clerk, departmental heads. The only people who lose from that are the officials who lose their jobs.

    I have long argued that rural Virginia localities with declining populations will have to learn to shrink gracefully. It strikes me that one strategy for doing this is to consolidate city/county government services and cutting overhead.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Jim, I just described the wreckage. I did not imply anything about how Henry County will handle the mess that has been forced upon it.

      But is hard for all of us that are way more well positioned in life, that means you, me, Dick and virtually all of our readers, to comprehend the trials ahead for a very poor city joining a very poor county.

      The citizens of those two jurisdictions have very different concepts and expectations of government, and a lot of people on both sides are going to be unhappy for years.

      Managing decline is not likely to bring the best and brightest into government.

      Bottom line, few of us on this blog have any frame of reference for what they face. I called Dick’s big picture, process-based view bloodless. I haven’t changed my mind.

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      It is not true that “poverty is concentrated in the city”. The people in both are dirt poor.

      Another point. The work done by the constitutional officers in the city doesn’t go away, just the titles. The work hours and expenses are inherited by the county.

    3. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Wreckage of Martinsville

      Some additional background from the Martinsville Bulletin in February 2017. It demonstrates another major issue that the people of Henry County have with their neighbors in Martinsville. Martinsville drug dealers selling to their kids, especially opioids.

      Martinsville sold more opioids per capita than any other jurisdiction in America except for another Virginia “city”, Norton.

      MARTINSVILLE–The opioid drug problem is getting worse in Martinsville and Henry County.

      Statistics from the Virginia Department of Health show that in January, 2017 the area had the highest rate in Virginia per 1000,000 residents for emergency department trips involving unintentional opioid, heroin or “unknown substance” related overdoses.

      The average in Virginia was 9.2 visits per 100,000 people. In January, this area saw a rate of 32 emergency visits per 100,000, up from 25.9 in December and 19.8 in November. It’s not a new issue either. Looking at the monthly figures from August through December, this area was among the highest overdose rates among Virginia localities for four of those five months, according to Virginia Department of Health statistics.

      (Piedmont Community Services Director Greg Preston) added that drug indictments handed down over the last two weeks in Martinsville “could not have come at a better time for us. As we were witnessing an increase in opiod-related overdoses, we were also making undercover drug cases on opiod dealers, directly addressing those we felt were contributing to the issue,” Dunn said.

      He’s referring to the 115 indictments handed down by a grand jury on Feb. 13 in the city. Out of those, 30 were drug-related, with the majority involving accusations of dealing cocaine, heroin or marijuana. The word opioids refers to some of the ingredients in the drug. Heroin and similar drugs all contain some type of chemical or compound created from opium, which impact the body’s nervous system.

      It’s not just a problem for Martinsville and Henry County, Hershey said. He pointed to the fact that not only was Martinsville and Henry County number one for opioid-related overdoses in the state for January, the entire West Piedmont Health District ranked first among the 35 Virginia health districts for the same issue. The district consists of Henry, Patrick and Franklin counties, as well as the city of Martinsville.”

      He’s referring to the 115 indictments handed down by a grand jury on Feb. 13, 2017 in the city. Out of those, 30 were drug-related, with the majority involving accusations of dealing cocaine, heroin or marijuana.

  6. Acbar Avatar

    Virginia’s distinction between a county and an “independent city” arose in the latter 19th century from the notion that a city has distinctly different needs, provides distinctly different services, and needs the flexibility and tax base to run its own show to provide for those distinct needs and services. Those services included better health, education and welfare benefits for those who were willing to leave the farm and take up manufacturing or some other urban business; those businesses provided the tax base to pay for the better services.

    How much of that makes sense today? First, the suburbs eroded the bright-line concept (whatever truth it ever contained) of “leave the farm, work and live in the city.” The old urban centers with obsolete housing stock and declining aesthetics became slums, concentrating the most needy in their midst, while those with the earnings to pay for the needy moved just outside the city boundary. Second, as Dick acknowledges, the lack of diversity in the suburbs as compared with the urban centers led to strong opposition to cross-boundary school consolidation on racial grounds. Third, the collapse of employment, especially manufacturing, in small towns across Virginia has destroyed the implicit bargain of “higher tax base, better services”; Virginia’s small cities have no economic advantage, no tax base, to offset the higher load of services that remain from their commercial past; moreover the services they offer are not distinctly different from those offered in the surrounding county. Now add to that the GA’s freeze on annexations (which after 4 decades we may as well view as permanent). This effectively prevents the rational growth of cities from either an economic or racial diversity perspective.

    Yes, there probably is some slight savings to be achieved through the elimination of redundant constitutional positions. But I rather suspect the real savings possible here is from efficiencies of scale, through the consolidation of every government service countywide, including education. A separate “independent city” no longer makes economic sense.

    So, why not encourage reversion? Here, I think JS puts his finger on it: politics. He says, “So, Democrats are turning over the wreckage of Martinsville after decades of Democratic control to a poor Republican county.” Implication: It’s all those tax-and-spend Democrats’ fault. Let cities stew in the mess they’ve made of themselves and wall counties off from the consequences.

    City and suburbs and exurbs are one. The urban poor are everyone’s problem. The local economy is everyone’s problem. And it’s pretty clear, race remains an obstacle to dealing with this through consolidation of schools.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      There are actually THREE (or possibly more) TIERS –

      Town unincorporated
      Town incorporated

      On top of that there can be “Charters”

      it’s an assortment of powers and authorities, all controlled and limited by Dillions rule.

      I’m trying to understand exactly what services Martinsville will no longer provide (nor tax for) and that Henry Co will pick up responsibility for (and be able to tax for).

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        There is no such thing as an “unincorporated town”. By definition, a town is incorporated. There are, however, unincorporated communities. Each town and city has a charter. Counties have the option to seek a charter. (To my knowledge, only Chesterfield and Roanoke counties have charters.) If you really want to get down into the weeds and complexity, there are “special forms of county government” that are applicable to Henrico, Arlington, Fairfax, Albemarle, and Prince William Counties!

        The town would be responsible for police costs (if it elected to operate a police department) and for street and traffic costs, as well as such things as recreational facilities and trash collection.

        In its review, the Commission on Local Government will sort out the relative costs and benefits to each jurisdiction, absent the rhetoric of Henry County.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar


          Sorry to keep asking.

          When the Commission on Local Government “sorts” , will they opine on how much services SHOULD cost?

          One of the reports that APA generates is this:

          Local Government Comparative Reports

          which allows comparisons of costs for major functions across jurisdictions and by dividing by population, one can derive the comparative per capita cost.

          Someone good with spread sheets could do a little histogram for , say per capita police costs across jurisdictions.

          1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
            Dick Hall-Sizemore

            The Commission on Local Government is not likely to opine on what expenditures should be. In its past analyses of city reversions, it has focused on the effect of the reversion on the revenues of the two localities.

            I am familiar with that APA report and have used it a lot in the past. It has a lot of good data.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      We have several regional authorities in the Fredericcksburg Area.

      One is the MPO which is Federally-mandated and a requirement in receiving transportation money but the 3 players only participate so they can get “their” share. Actually working together for a regional transportation plan is …ahem… a struggle.

      Then we have a water/sewer authority and a Library authorities and the counties are forever in an agitated state over costs and their inabilities to dictate staffing and services policies.

      Then we have a regional transit authority – and again -the counties insist on routes that serve locations that do not have the density to make the transit cost-effective so we run routes that end up with one or two people riding at a horrendous cost.

      So I’m a fan of regional cooperation because it promises most cost-effective operations but the elected see it as a big-boy pissing contest so it’s a fail unless they end up with having no choice but to participate. With that kind of leadership, it’s a tortured operation.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I have long thought local government was the most interesting and fun arena of politics.

      2. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I have long thought local government was the most interesting and fun arena of politics.

    3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Very good summary, Acbar. No, the system of independent cities currently does not make sense. Politically, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to jettison the system and move to one that is more rational. Part of it, of course, is race. The rural areas in Tidewater saw it coming in the 1960’s and moved to set up bulwarks against Norfolk and Portsmouth. Large Princess Anne County merged with tiny Virginia Beach to form the large, rural (at the time) city of Virginia Beach. Suffolk City and Nansemond County merged to form Suffolk. Norfolk County and the city of South Norfolk merged to form the city of Chesapeake. All the resulting entities were cities that could not be annexed by the cities of Norfolk or Portsmouth.

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        Inconvenient facts: Suffolk is a majority minority city. Chesapeake reasonably close. Norfolk more whites than blacks.

        1. DJRippert Avatar

          True today but the motivation for counties pretending to be cities goes back to the early 60s as I recall.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            As Ed Risse used to opine – “core confusing words”.

            Why be a “city” to start with – and perhaps also – compare Va independent” cities to Va Towns to other states non-independent cities.

            What is the distinction between them?

            Why wouldn’t (for instance), Martinsville just revent to no city NOR town status and just become a non-specific part of Henry?

            Why does it revert from City to Town and not go all the way?

            yes… sort of a mess of questions.

          2. Ted McCormack Avatar
            Ted McCormack

            There is a process by which a town may surrender its charter and become unicorporated upon agreement with the affected county. I recall that two towns, one of which was Clover in Pittsylvania County, went through the process successfully. I think Columbia in Albemarle County is another.

          3. LarrytheG Avatar

            Tbank you! And so it can and does happen! And I presume is an option to Martinsville and any city/town that wants to just revert to unincorporated status.

            In the current world economy, there’s a real question as to whether any place that no longer has anything more than a purely local economy – should be anything more than an unincorporated community.

            The premise about “density” might need to be re-thought.

          4. Paul Sweet Avatar
            Paul Sweet

            I grew up in the NYC suburbs of northern NJ. Towns (or boroughs) and cities there all provided the same services as Virginia’s independent cities – schools, police, fire public works, libraries, etc. The county ran a vocational school and community college, and maintained some main roads.

            From what I understand, cities in all other states are part of the county they are in, and people pay taxes to both. Some jurisdictions might have county taxes billed through the town or city so residents only see one tax bill for both levels of government.

            I think that each of the 5 boroughs in New York City is actually a separate county, so I’m not sure how that works out.

            City folk are used to more services than most counties provide. A local police or fire department has a much smaller area to cover and can provide quicker response than a county sheriff who is spread thin. I’d rather pay a couple hundred dollars more in taxes and get trash & debris pickup than have to fool with a disposal service for trash and rent a U-Haul pickup truck to take larger items out to the county landfill.

    4. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Isn’t it interesting, then, that the city is the one weeping about the distinct possibility that the county will close Martinsville High School and transfer the kids to the two county high schools that have room for them.

      That simply does not fit the broad narrative in the comments of racist county, does it? So any comments?

    5. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      “wreckage of Martinsville” is a statement of fact. That it has been run by Democrats is a fact.

      I have said here before that we on this blog are the product of our experience and cannot imagine a majority white county the is virtually as poor as a 50/50 white/black city. But that is what we have here.

      The city government overspent to a negative ROI. The county, just as poor, did not. Don’t give us the smaller tax base argument. The first job of any government in Virginia is to live within its means.

      The cost of Martinsville government is what they made it. It was not handed down on tablets. Thousands of decisions made and not made over decades produced the wreckage of that city. Take the destructive real estate tax. Twice that of the county. Brain dead. The city wound up owning property rather than taxing it.

      We can’t go back and unravel the past. But we don’t mind asking Henry County to ‘deal with it.’

      Perhaps a good use of some of the flood of federal money about to descend on Richmond. But send it no strings attached. I’m taking bets on whether that happens,

      The best thing the state government could do would be to ban the Department of Education and Health from offering any advice.

      Enough of that and Henry County will secede and join North Carolina. It would be hard to blame them.

    6. DJRippert Avatar

      “This effectively prevents the rational growth of cities from either an economic or racial diversity perspective.”

      Absolutely right. Philosophical remnants from the Byrd Machine. Keep the localities small and relatively powerless so the Richmond elite can run the state. Choke off the effective growth of cities lest they become sufficiently powerful to threaten Richmond.

      Of course, cities are where the vast majority of America’s wealth has been created over the past 100 years so Virginia’s anti-city bias has harmed the state economically.

      I strongly believe that residents of McLean and Great Falls would be much better served by becoming the City of McLean Falls than continuing to remain part of the circus known as Fairfax County. But there is a ban on new city incorporations.

      The plantation elite in Virginia keep clinging to power regardless of the economic or racial diversity consequences of their actions.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Is this dynamic REALLY specific only to Virginia?

        What exactly would a place like McLean GAIN if it could get a city charter?

        What would McClean be in another state like Maryland?

      2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
        James Wyatt Whitehead

        “The philosphical remnants from the Byrd Machine…”

        In many ways Mr. DJ the gears and grease of the old Byrd Machine have been repurposed to serve their new masters, the New Progressive Dominion.

      3. LarrytheG Avatar

        Well… unlike most states, the Byrd machine built county roads and maintained them. In Texas, they call those roads Farm-to-market and they also provide a public right-of-way for electricity and telephone so those are all things that will incentivize development not inhibit it.

        Other states, it’s on the county to open up the county to roads and subsequent development.

        Sometimes, I think DJ gets so wound-up on his anti-Va stuff, he trips over it!

  7. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Martinsville: Trash cans emptied curbside ~4,000×52
    Henry County: 0

    Density has its cost, and its replicated everywhere whether it’s a mixed city in Virginia or a similar sized city in the heartland where the local industry is OBE.

    Interesting tidbit on Martinsville is that their vision to rebranding was created and dashed by California Representative Cunningham (R). So, the innocent dupes.

    Who is Virgil Goode, Richard Berglund, Mitchell Wade, MZM, Inc., and what did they have to do with Martinsville’s attempts to revitalize? What is bribery? And isn’t this what Agnew used to do?

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      How did a California congressman get a say on Martinsville “rebranding”?

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Virgil Goode was part of that scandal and he’s a former Va Rep, (R5th).

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      The wreckage of Martinsville is more of a drug story Nancy. Opioid capitol of America at one point. I wrote about it in my first story on this. See below for more.

      1. Nancy Naive Avatar
        Nancy Naive

        Which is why I want to see Sacklers do jail time.

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    In terms of context and history, Martinsville was once a vibrant economy and successful place.

    And it’s decline was not the result of “bad” government doing wong things.

    It’s emblematic of a LOT of places that got left behind by a changing economy.

    Not sure what leaders could have done to evolve.

    The Opioid thing is, IMHO, part and parcel of loss of jobs and loss of hope.

    It’s not specific to Martinsville. It’s endemic in much of rural VA and USA – varying mostly by degree rather than present or not present.

    So the reversion is in some respects inevitable – and again – we see this terrible degradation of rural urban centers in many places and it seems, it takes some really visionary leaders to escape the fate that most see.

    So a question.

    Would Martinsville decline into a 3rd-world type status if Henry could refuse to take it? What forces Henry to take it? Why can’t Henry refuse?

    1. energyNOW_Fan Avatar

      “What forces Henry to take it?
      Why can’t Henry refuse?”

      Virginia State law.
      Per the recent BR articles on this topic, Virginia state law allows a small city (<50k population) "localities" to revert to towns (towns are not "localities"). So if a small city reverts to a town, apparently the County automatically becomes the "locality" in charge of the town (taxes/services/etc).

      Therefore if Henry wanted to refuse, they would have to pay the (very high) legal cost of taking the state law issue to the Supreme Court(s). Henry has decided the legal cost of fighting State law would probably exceed the cost of complying.

      EDIT: "locality" (defined) is a special Virginia terminology for, a place where you live, a local government tax structure, that can either be a County or a City. Per WikiPedia "The Commonwealth of Virginia is divided into 95 counties, along with 38 independent cities that are considered county-equivalents for census purposes. " Make that 38-1=37 independent cities, it sounds like we are saying.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        So what would keep Martinsville from reverting to even less than town status, just all the way to an unincorporated community?

        Yes… apparently….

        And apparently others are considering.

  9. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    From a lawsuit filed by Martinsville and Henry County against Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers:

    “The harmful impact of opioids in Martinsville and Henry County cannot be overstated. As recently as 2015, there were more opioid doses prescribed per person in Martinsville than in any other locality in the United States. The rate of reported Hepatitis C cases in Martinsville spiked from 51.3 cases per 100,000 adults in 2013 to 255.8 cases per 100,000 adults the following year. By 2017, the rate had climbed to 367.3 cases per 100,000 adults – a rate that is more than two-and-a-half times greater than the statewide rate. In Henry County, the rate of neonatal abstinence syndrome has been consistently higher than the statewide rate in Virginia since at least 2011. The rate peaked at more than four times the statewide rate in 2014, when more than 2% of the babies born in Henry County suffered from neonatal abstinence syndrome. The rate of emergency department visits for opioid overdoses in Martinsville and its surrounding area was the third highest in Virginia over a five-month period beginning in September 2017, with more than 100 people being treated in Martinsville emergency rooms for opioid overdoses during that short period. Martinsville and Henry County have lost numerous citizens to opioid overdoses in recent years.

    The financial cost of the opioid epidemic has been tremendous for Martinsville and Henry County. For example, the influx of opioids into Martinsville has led to a startling rise in the need for foster care and other child placement services in the City. Between 2014 and 2017, the City’s spending on foster care and related child-placement services increased 147%. Similarly, in Henry County, the number of children in DSS custody jumped 50% between 2013 and 2018. This increase was driven at least in part by an increase in opioid abuse in the County. The lawsuits aim to recover costs of this nature.”

  10. Ted McCormack Avatar
    Ted McCormack

    For come background on the Martinsville-Henry County situation, read Beth Macy’s book, Factory Man. I have not read her most recent book, Dope Sick, but it may share some light on the opioid crisis that affects that area.

  11. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    Federal Government will review.

    From the Martinsville Bulletin May 30:

    “Even now, the federal government has a say in whether a proposed annexation may occur.”

    “All annexation proposals in Southern states with a history of racial discrimination, including Virginia, must prove to the federal government that capturing property will not drastically reduce the voting power of Blacks.”

    I doubt the feds will stop the reversion, but they will likely make sure there is an additional county magisterial district (Board of Supervisors) that is majority Black.

    1. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      Was that provision just, uh like, overturned within the last regime? That’s part of the VRA, no?

  12. Eric the half a troll Avatar
    Eric the half a troll

    “You can perhaps now get some idea of the reticence of Henry County to absorb Martinsville.”

    Yep… it’s pretty clear…

    “Dick is philosophical. The people of Henry County not so much.”

    Yes, “philosophical” is not what I would call them..,

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      One might offer that this is an opportunity for Henry County to demonstrate the superiority of Conservative leadership in delivering cost-effective services that perform well.

      Also the opportunity to demonstrate there is no need for nanny-state “govt” healthcare – like the Medicaid Expansion.

      Also, the opportunity to demonstrate how correct govt policies for zoning and land use and low taxes will attract business fleeing from Democratically controlled high tax, high regulation cities…

      all kinds of opportunities to clearly show that Conservative leadership when given the opportunity can excel and show that proper govt is way better than the Dems approach to govt.

      1. Eric the half a troll Avatar
        Eric the half a troll

        Yes! It is almost like there is something fundamental to their ideology that they can’t seem to get past…

  13. […] comments concerning the reversion of the city of Martinsville to town status (see here, here, and here) provide a good opportunity to discuss the complexity of local government finance and the […]

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