On Bullshit

“REMEMBER, KAY…” YOU AND YOUR NEIGHBORS HAVE BEEN ROBBED

So many callers phoned WAJR’s morning talk show Tuesday morning that co-host Jim Stallings said he had to stop taking calls. The callers were upset at the horrible conditions of the roads around their homes. Co-host Kay Murray, picking up on the many callers’ outrage at the “unconscionable” road conditions, finally complained and asked WV state Senator Bob Beach in studio, why the new $30 million highway interchange for the taxpayer funded WVU ballpark and adjacent businesses could be built by the WV DOT while the DOT wouldn’t even return the phone calls of people suffering from crumbled roads around their homes, let alone fix those roads. Senator Beach bullshitted instantly something along these lines: “You have to remember, Kay, that interchange is already paid for; it’s funded.” Senator Beach may even believe his own bullshit. It happens.

Kay immediately backtracked, saying that she wasn’t against the interchange. But she should have said – never did – that that was exactly her point. In other words, why has legislation been pushed and passed to fund an incredibly expensive highway interchange (let alone hugely expensive ballpark and much additional infrastructure), that is, why use local tax dollars for the benefit of wealthy entities – WVU and the adjacent businesses, already surrounded by good roads – instead of for the benefit of the endless string of local residents calling in about the “unconscionable” crumbled roads around them. After all, it is those local people’s sales tax dollars that are harvested in that WVU/business TIF district that are then siphoned away from them by the legislation spearheaded by WV state Senator Bob Beach. And it is the patronage of the local people shopping at those businesses that create the property value taxes that are being siphoned away from them by the legislation spearheaded by WV state Senator Bob Beach.

That’s right, folks. Senator Beach pushed hard for that legislation that mandates that for the next 30 years the tax dollars of the surrounding area’s people will be forcibly spent building tens of millions of dollars worth of roads and sanitation infrastructure, in addition to the approximately $30 million highway exchange and the approximately $20 million ballpark, not for the people where they live but for WVU and for the wealthy businesses who play hardball and reap crushing profit. Senator Beach could have pushed to have that money spent on the roads around people’s houses, not through TIF legislation but through other tax legislation. He punted but that is to be expected. After all, WVU and the local owners (developers) are stronger than all the rest of the area people combined, currently. But there’s no excuse to go bullshitting about the issue.

Without Bob Beach’s TIF legislation, those tax dollars would have gone to the state (sales tax) and to the county at large (property tax). Legislation could have been pushed to bring those sales tax dollars back to the residential communities and commuter corridors for fixing up the roads, especially if the County Commission agreed to use the property tax dollars as matching revenue for the roadwork. But the wealthy entities got served instead. Senator Beach pushed for those tax dollars to benefit the roads and other infrastructure around local wealthy entities for the next 30 years instead of pushing for legislation to benefit the far less wealthy residents of the county and city in general. Cut through the crap and that’s the reality.

“Ya gotta remember, Kay, that highway interchange has already been paid for.” Yes, by your TIF legislation, Senator Beach, legislation that for the next 30 years locks those tens of million of dollars away from road repair projects in the communities and areas where the vast majority of people actually live and spend most of their time and have the greatest needs. These are people who go to that TIF area to spend their money, and now for 3 decades have all the new state tax dollars and new county property tax dollars there locked away from their communities and locked into that wealthy sports and business park.

It would be further bullshit on Senator Beach’s part to claim that a lot, or even all, of the new tax dollars at issue would not come into existence if not for the forthcoming highway exchange and ballpark. Commerce and construction in that district has been booming and would grow and increase greatly in value regardless of any TIF projects over the next 30 years, and WVU has to build a baseball park somewhere. That is, it would have needed to build a ballpark somewhere but now the taxpayers are building it for them! thanks to Senator Bob Beach’s legislation. Hey! it’s already paid for! Yes, it will be, by taxes from local taxpayers that in all likelihood would have been generated regardless of the TIF projects and that could and should go to much greater and more pressing needs.

Senator Beach’s TIF legislation robs the people to pay the price extracted by the power of big business and big sports.

Of course, it’s unfair to solely blame Senator Beach for this highway robbery legislation. After all, it might not even have been his idea, and the wealthy entities of big commerce and big sports are the main drivers and beneficiaries of the Ballpark TIF. Beach is merely the front man and legislative string puller doing the bidding of wealthy entities and owners (“developers”) using the tax money of the people and the tax money that should be coming back much closer to them in their communities and around their homes.

So, the people should know. The Senator Beach – WVU – Big Business – and – Large Land Owners highway interchange and ballpark and other road and sanitation infrastructure, it has all been heisted and locked down in advance – by TIF-lifted local taxes that will be going toward those deep pockets and not toward the residents who will be paying away those local taxes, by law, for the next 30 years.

To pretend that the TIF projects pay for themselves is pure bullshit. That’s the spin, that’s the PR, that’s the Newspeak. The Shinola. No one says that Senator Beach, WVU admin, big business, and rich realty don’t have skills. Too bad those skills involve fleecing the public and talking phony to cover it up.

“Remember, Kay…” you and your neighbors have been robbed.

On and on it plays on rich man’s radio, Raese radio, WAJR, another episode in that ongoing advertisers’ bonanza: Robbing The People and Pulling The Purse Strings

Is all the bullshit more commercial bonanza or more national pastime? Would there be good jobs and good products, good bridges and good baseball without all the bull? Probably better baseball and better products, along with better jobs and better bridges, and plenty else much more badly needed than the stinking pileups that are currently shat about.

So, let’s remember this for a change: It’s long since time to cut the crap.

Read the rest of this entry »

BOE In La La Land

EASTWOOD ELEMENTARY: SCHOOLING LITTLE CHILDREN AT A MAJOR HIGHWAYS INTERSECTION

After the recent Dominion Post article about traffic at Eastwood Elementary (DP summary: “School officials say…“), I received the following comment via email, which basically agreed with the opinion of Monongalia County Board of Education member Ron Lytle:

It really irritates me that I pay taxes to provide an efficient public transit system for schools (school buses), yet parents cave to their children’s demands for a separate ride.  The traffic problem is because each child is getting a separate car ride to school, instead of riding the bus.  That traffic problem is one the parents create, and the taxpayers have already provided an efficient, environmentally friendly solution.

My response:

The traffic [delay] problem is the least of the issues with the location of Eastwood Elementary. That’s the Dominion Post’s issue not mine (maybe because many of their workers go through that roundabout to get to work). It’s unhealthy and unsafe – and otherwise callous – to site a big school for small children at a major highway intersection, entirely violating state school siting safety regulations, also state school signage laws, in the process.

The Dominion Post contacted me. I didn’t contact them. I haven’t even read the article other than the online summary available free online, which was ridiculous. I imagine the article was worse.

However, it should be noted that the BOE knows that every single elementary school has many car riders, especially since pre-k classes were mandated to be made available for 3 or 4 year old children by the state. Some of the bus service is bad or otherwise too long and arguably dangerous for 3, 4, and 5 year olds to use. Parents and grandparents understandably are more protective of these young ones than they would be or need to be of middle and high school students. Regardless, the BOE knows that these car riders exist, has done nothing to try to reduce the car ridership, and has screwed up bus routes and bus delivery for years. It’s no perfect world in this regard and still the BOE insisted on this site.

Furthermore, your point is completely irrelevant when considering school events, concerts, meetings, open house, and so on. The school site and approach is complete chaos at those times due to the school’s major intersection location and cramped campus. This also really pisses off commuters to and from work too who have nothing to do with the school.

Finally, note that board member Lytle tacitly admitted the obvious that there is a problem with traffic (and blamed the parents solely, at least in the article summary), while the Superintendent insisted that there is no traffic problem. This is the kind of dissembling and solution-less, responsibility-shucking pronouncements that parents have come to expect from the BOE. No surprise then that the BOE stuck the school in a shitty location, especially for little kids, an unsafe location, and had to violate state student safety rules and laws to do so, all the while operating frequently in a deceitful and covert manner in face of deep and widespread parent and community opposition to the lousy site. I share your concerns about the overuse of cars and its environmental fallout. I can’t be held responsible for any moronic Dominion Post article, unless I suppose it was my mistake to return their call in the first place.

It should further be noted that there are additional very good reasons that parents drive their children to and from school, especially elementary school, rather then put them on the bus:

There are many cases in which driving students to school in cars is more efficient than putting them on buses and about as environmentally sound. For example, many parents drive directly past or nearby their child’s school on the way to and from work and town each day. It makes no efficiency or environmental sense not to drive the student in car. Buses are unreliable – early, late, not showing at all – and bus stops are often not located at or even near students’ houses. Thus why waste fuel and time sheltering the student in a car in rainy or freezing weather waiting for a bus that may or may not arrive on time, when one has to drive near or past the school to get to work anyway? Waiting and hoping for the school bus would be inefficient, and even potentially excessively polluting. Parents who work strict shifts often cannot be held hostage to uncertain bus pickups, and do not want to be faced with the prospect of leaving their young children alone by the side of the road, or alone at home hoping for a bus pickup, while they have to get work, or to an appointment.

Similarly after school. Because school lets out in early afternoon, often no one is home to receive the child off a bus. Parents reasonably make arrangements with grandparents, aunts, and friends’ parents, sometimes on a rotating or irregular basis, to care for their child, which often requires car pickup. Elementary school children are not adults using a city bus line who can simply use a ticket on their own to take them various places. Life is more complicated than that. Young children are more dependent than that.

So is it any wonder that about 20 percent of Eastwood Elementary students are car riders? The wonder is that more students are not car riders. We haven’t even mentioned the problem of bullying on school buses and the utter lack of bus monitors. Is school bus ridership likely to increase much? It could decrease. Should bus ridership increase very much? Given the existing realities, how? In recent years the BOE hasn’t even been able to get enough buses running to cover all the routes all the time, never mind the problems with the system when it is minimally functioning.

Sure, the schools should make efforts to understand how bus ridership might be increased. Despite the school bus related death of a student today in Monongalia County, school bus ridership – especially when well done – is safer than car ridership.

Either way, it remains wholly irresponsible of the BOE to build and operate too big schools in too tight places. BOE member Ron Lytle and the rest of the school board simply shuck their responsibility for the problems while Superintendent Devono pretends the problems don’t exist. And isn’t that why the BOE refuses to video record or even to audio record their public meetings in their tiny room? Too much to keep covered up, too much to bury out of sight of the public. That local taxpayers would vote for this type of representation…. It’s a shame.

Again, the basic issue is that when a big school for small children is sited at a major highways intersection, traffic delays are the least of the problems at and around the high risk and pathetic site. To that, Superintendent Devono and the school board say, La la la la la la la.

See one of many related earlier posts:

Superintendent “Traffic” Says: Trust Me! — DOUBLING DOWN ON DANGEROUS

Read the rest of this entry »

Traffic Chaos At Cheat Lake Elementary

THE JOYS OF PACKING BIG ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS INTO TIGHT PLACES

More than once this year, traffic has been backed up from the Eastwood Elementary campus in Morgantown into the state highways roundabout on the city’s edge. What a shock: when you build schools at the intersection of major highways over the objections of the parents and the community, you are creating built-in problems of your own making, such as unnecessary congestion and pollution and a variety of unsafe conditions, including tractor trailers carrying who-knows-what pulling into the school grounds during rush hour and getting stuck, thinking they are on state highways. Ever worsening the problem, the BOE has approved a six classroom/150 student expansion of Eastwood to bring the total on-campus enrollment to 670 students, at the least. Now ground has been broken on the expansion, further fouling up the parking lot and traffic. “It will still be a small school with 450 students,” the BOE had promised parents scant years before. No one believed them then, but the BOE could not be stopped and so parents continue to wrestle with the mess. It’s a safety hazard any way you look at it.**

Another Monongalia County elementary school campus is currently causing headaches for parents, students, and drivers. At nearby Cheat Lake Elementary, enrollment has boomed, up to 834 students last year as compared to 644 students three years prior. Now enrollment has apparently reached 850 students or more, so guess what? Morning drop-off hours are chaos. Buses can’t get in, parents can’t get in, students can’t get in and get to breakfast on time. The traffic jam is a food issue and a safety issue at the least. The doors open too late and the school continues to fail to make the badly needed accommodations. The parents are moving on the issue and should not only petition the school but jam the Principal and Superintendent’s office with phone calls until they see some some responsible action. Large schools in tights spaces are problems that create additional problems. Mon Schools should think twice before making these mistakes over and over again.

ONLINE PETITION

Cheat Lake Elementary parents are working overtime on this issue – details at their Facebook site – trying to fill the void where the BOE has failed.
Read the rest of this entry »

The Pathetic Comedy Of The WV Department of Transportation “One Voice” Mantra

PITTING LOCAL OFFICIALS AND LOCAL GROUPS AGAINST ONE ANOTHER TO TRY TO EVADE RESPONSIBILITY FOR WV DOT SCREW-UPS

Update: WAJR – aka, rich man’s radio – never ceasing with its disinformation campaigns, claims that the truck issue is “dividing the community.” In fact, it’s far more accurate to say that the issue is uniting the community. The overwhelming amount of support is in favor of truck bans, truck reductions in the Morgantown core and for truck routes around the core.

We hear it time and time again, the West Virginia Division of Highways and the West Virginia Department of Transportation castigating local officials and local groups for not speaking with “one voice” regarding traffic and transportation problems and solutions. And we hear of threats from the WV DOT about withholding funds and fixes until locals speak with “one voice.” There is no “one voice” in local areas, nor should there be. There are many voices that need to be heard, reflecting many needs that should be attended to.

The heavy truck traffic in downtown Morgantown – damaging, polluting, deafening – is obscene and has been for decades. The WV DOT has been fine with it. No need for action. It’s as if Truck Routes are an alien concept to the WV DOT. It’s as if they don’t care a whit about the conditions of life made miserable and unhealthy and frightening and all around obnoxious by the heavy streams of heavy trucks through the Morgantown core.

There are not only too many industrial trucks in downtown Morgantown there are too many cars. Once the heavy truck traffic is removed and lessened, the campus-side parts of Spruce Street and High Street – at the very least – should be converted to parking and turned into pedestrian malls. A little creative roadwork would be required, but it’s quite logistically possible, and badly needed for both the urban core of Morgantown and the grown residential needs of WVU.

The WV DOT needs to be pushed in these directions, as the Morgantown city council is currently pushing politically and appears set to continue pushing through the courts. Even if the city loses in the courts, it wins, because this urgent issue will have received an unprecedented amount of proper and badly needed attention. People and agencies and organizations are moving on this issue finally because the Morgantown City Council is taking a good, and reasonable, and urgent stand on this pressing issue. Would be welcome to see the Council do so more often on other pressing issues, some larger, some smaller.

The DOT gambit of vocally pretending that local agencies and groups need to speak with one voice or else suffer the consequences is both disingenuous and disgusting, an attempt to divert responsibility from itself.

A similar case is the WV DOT screw-up and delay with relieving traffic congestion between Morgantown and I-68 – that is, on and around the Mileground. Speak with one voice or we won’t do anything (with these pathetic and dangerous state roads), scolds the DOH out of one side of its mouth, and then out of the other: But don’t push for anything we’re not willing to get behind or you might as well not speak at all because they are Our state roads after all. Speak the way we want you to speak or shut up. In effect, this is the message from the WV DOT. The Morgantown City Council has apparently heard and understood that message and appears set to take action now in the only way it can.

“No, no! there are better ways to proceed!” cry the county and the WV DOT.

Oh, really? They had their chance to prove it. They waited far too long. They proved something else entirely.

The WV DOT sure screwed up the Route 7 intersection with Greenbag Road in Sabraton – longtime standing – and has shown little or no sign – longtime standing – that it has any more competence or interest in providing for truck routes around Morgantown. It has to be forced into action, one way or another. Pressure has to be piled up. The Morgantown City Council apparently has recognized this. The Courts would be wise and beneficial to back up the Council. The Monongalia County Commission would do well to reassess and play a far more constructive role in this effort also. The state legislature has a role or two to play as well.

Also, why should truck traffic anywhere in the area be allowed to exceed the current truck weight limits set on the interstates? How badly beat up do we want the local roads to be? Where do we think so many of the horrible potholes come from? The legislature should take a hard look at truck weight limits on non-interstate roads.

The public is pushing for a better Morgantown, a better Monongalia County, a better West Virginia. Can the officials and the responsible agencies catch up?

Public agencies that want constructive change need to push for it. Public agencies content to gather crumbs tossed from above will continue to starve. Read the rest of this entry »

Who Won The Auction For The 5 Acre Former Armory Site In Morgantown?

WHAT DEVELOPMENT DO THE AUCTION WINNERS INTEND TO PUT THERE NEXT TO EASTWOOD ELEMENTARY AND THE ROUNDABOUT? – THE PUBLIC NEEDS TO KNOW WELL BEFORE ANY CITY COUNCIL APPROVAL IS GIVEN FOR THE SALE

Strangely, nearly a week after the winning bid on the former Armory site on the Mileground in Morgantown, no media outlet appears to have reported who specifically won the auction or what will be done with this crucial site next to Eastwood Elementary and a major commuter corridor and roundabout intersection. So let it be reported here first (PDF): a FOIA request shows that the highest bid went to a West Virginia trio of two doctors and one housing contractor: Dr. Muhammad Salman and Dr. Abdulmalek Sabbagh of Bridgeport, and Daryoush Hooshyar of Morgantown. Dr. Salman is a psychiatrist, Dr. Sabbagh is a cardiologist, and Daryoush Hooshyar is a housing contractor. What do the doctors and contractor plan to do right beside Eastwood Elementary and the major roundabout intersection? What were the second and third highest bids? What price, what persons, and what intentions, and would they be more beneficial to immediate concerns of the school and traffic than the highest bidders’ intentions, whatever they may be?

The public remains absolutely in the dark and totally vulnerable as to what the 5 acres immediately adjacent to the elementary school and roundabout will become. The city ordinance to be read in a few days would seem to allow these buyers to install most anything they like, a gambling joint, gas station, mega housing complex, whatever, or to simply change their minds and immediately turn around and sell the property to…any unknown enterprise potentially threatening to the school and commuter corridor and intersection. Why shouldn’t these men or their representative appear before council and testify to their intended use of the property? Furthermore, they should be pressed for actual site and management development specifics, especially in light of the adjacent school, also roundabout. Finally, shouldn’t the ordinance be amended as far as possible to specify or mandate the particular use of the property as far into the future as possible, or at least include some specific “good faith” language, as much as possible? Lacking some significant semblance of the above, the approval of the sale should be held up indefinitely. To do otherwise would be to put negligently at risk not only the school but also the commuter corridor and major intersection. The public needs to know what they might be in for before the city council would approve its sale of the former armory site. To best serve the public, the development intentions behind the top three bids should all be considered.
*
The information included below is found in the armory site auction FOIA PDF.

amory site auction 3 winning bidders
A copy of the Ordinance that is on the May 6, 2014 agenda for the City Council meeting:

a copy of Ordinance on the May 6, 2014 agenda for the City Council meeting   The following people registered as bidders at the auction: Read the rest of this entry »

Meth Is A Go In West Virginia!

WEST VIRGINIA STATE LEGISLATURE GIVES BIG BOOST TO METH PRODUCTION

It’s a great day to be a mountaineer meth producer wherever in-state you may be! Big props to Big Pharmaceutical for pushing so hard to keep meth meds readily available in West Virginia!

Worth re-posting in toto:

The Retrograde Politics of West Virginia

by RUSSELL MOKHIBER

Democrats in the West Virginia legislature this week moved to the right of former Mississippi Governor and Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour. They moved to the right of conservative talk show host Hoppy Kercheval. And they moved to the right of the state police.

The Democrats moved this week, at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry, to deep six SB6, legislation that would have required a prescription for pseudoephedrine — a key ingredient for shake and bake meth labs.

Under a barrage of statewide radio ads from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the pharmaceutical industry lobbying group, the Democratic controlled House Judiciary Committee earlier this week decided to reject SB6, which passed the Republican controlled Senate earlier this year by an overwhelming 25 to 9 vote.

During the more than three hour debate, not one Democrat spoke to condemn the pharmaceutical industry’s attack on SB6.

Instead, the committee passed substitute legislation proposed by the Republican Attorney General, Patrick Morrisey, that would lower the amount of pseudoephedrine any individual could purchase in a year, from 48 grams to 24 grams. Similar legislation was passed in Kentucky but has done little to curb the meth lab problem in that neighboring state.

Mississippi and Oregon, on the other hand, have passed laws similar to SB6 and those states have successfully crippled the meth lab problems there. Read the rest of this entry »

Monongalia County Commission Proposes to Cannibalize The Schools

NEW LAW REQUIRED: THE SCHOOL CANNIBALIZATION ACT

Brilliant. The roads are in bad shape, so Monongalia County Commissioner Bill Bartolo proposes robbing the schools to pay for the roads. Morgantown City Council Member Mike Fike thinks this is a wonderful idea!

Thankfully Morgantown Mayor Jenny Selin and City Council Member Bill Kawecki have some reservations and put forth decent alternatives.

Does it really need to be explained? Yes, the school system’s budget is growing due to some increased prosperity in the county, but that doesn’t mean the schools have extra money. After all, school enrollment is also growing, which is costly. On top of that, the school system has always been badly underfunded. The school budget should be growing even more than it is. Capping the school budget would be criminal. Even failing to seek to grow the school budget beyond its current growth is disgraceful. The schools need more money. So do the roads. Robbing Peter to pay Paul should not even be on the table.

Again – is explanation necesssary? If so, something is really wrong with the Monongalia County Commission. But that’s no surprise.

The road problem remains however. The state road infrastructure and road maintenance are massively underfunded. The state and its roads and waters and lands have been gutted and poisoned and broken down by the rich coal and resource extraction and chemical industries. Their ruining of the roads is the least of the damage. These industries do not remotely pay the amount of taxes needed and owed. It is well known, and widely known what needs to be done: tax these damaging industries more. Otherwise, to try to patch things over, everyone else is left to tinker around the edges, or worse: cannibalize.

You get the Third World roads that you poorly build and neglect. And then you get desperate cannibalistic ideas: wild proposals to rob Peter of his lifeblood to pay Paul a pittance compared to his needs.

It’s time to resoundingly flush the crap idea that is the County Commission’s School Cannibalization Act down the toilet. And that’s putting it politely.

The City of Morgantown continues to be remiss in not expanding its boundaries to grow not only with but ahead of urban development, thereby collecting badly needed B&O taxes and extending badly needed regulations and services. The smaller the boundaries of Morgantown, the more Third World it will remain.

Until the city doubles or triples or quadruples its area, it is going to continue to get hammered – by nature and by “development” chaos – as will the county.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.