Saturday, June 26, 2004

Sabato: The most corrupt region is Southwest Virginia

Among the "Big Coon Dog" coverage in today's Bristol paper is this article ("Former special prosecutor, analyst cite past corruption," 6/26/04) with comments from U.Va. government professor Larry Sabato and from lawyer Gerald Gray about political corruption in Southwest Virginia.

In the article, Professor Sabato is quoted as saying: "I have family in Southwest Virginia and I love Southwest Virginia, and it’s painful to accept one reality. . . . The most corrupt region is Southwest Virginia. Over the years, more indictments for political and public office corruption have happened in this region than all other parts of the state combined."

I think Professor Sabato is great, but this sounds like hyperbole from the most quotable of all Virginians. The examples he cited are spread pretty wide in time and space - Sheriff Honaker in Bristol, Sid Clower in Henry County, William Harris and others in Buchanan County in the 1990s, and some matter in Wise County. I would think that the City of Richmond has had more local government officials prosecuted per square mile, at least since 1980.

More painful were these words. "Sabato, the UVa professor, said he often encourages his students from Southwest Virginia to go back home to improve the quality of life. Incidents like Thursday's arrests don’t help make the case that they should, he said."

"What does this say to them? It says, 'Get the heck out of there.'"

These words also suggest to me the question - what are the former Sabato students who did come back to Southwest Virginia doing?

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