The Value of a Forest

These folks know the value of a forest: “America’s tree sitters risk lives on the front line.”

Support for Haymaker Forest

You didn’t see this much reported in the news: On June 5, the morning of the 6-1 City Council vote in favor of purchasing Haymaker Forest for $5.2 million, the right-wing, big business morning talk show on WAJR conducted a poll about whether or not the 40 acres of Haymaker Forest should be purchased for $5.2 million dollars. The two hosts sounded totally depressed and defeated by the end of the show when their own poll of their right-wing, don’t-tax-me audience showed that nearly 40 percent supported buying the Haymaker Forest for $5.2 million.

The forest actually spans about 42 acres rather than the 40 noted in the poll, making the buy an even better deal.

Then, after two weeks of WAJR demonizing the forest buy, and after a politically motivated and politically orchestrated turnout effort, an extremely misleading public presence showed up at City Council on June 19 that opposed the forest buy.

However, one week later, at City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting, the public presence at Council was flipped back to being overwhelmingly in favor of support to buy the forest: many more people spoke in favor of buying the forest than the very few who spoke against it.

Morgantown City Council needs to realize that as far as anyone knows, as far as anyone can tell, and as far as seems likely, the Council retains the overwhelming popular and public support for the issues that they campaigned on and won on, to get elected to Council, including the idea of preserving Haymaker Forest for all time. Therefore, the City Council would be both foolish and irresponsible if it were to decide not to vote to buy Haymaker Forest, even at the $5.2 million price, let alone at a lower price, should it be brought back up for a vote.

Yes, the city hired an appraiser who appraised the property at $2.5 million, far under the seller’s asking price of $5.2 million. However, sellers are far more likely to sell their property at or near their own price, rather than at or near the price offered by the buyer, whether appraised or not.

The Haymaker Forest should be brought back to a revote as soon as possible, with the price lowered as much as possible. However, even at $5.2 million, Haymaker Forest is a steal. What if another interested buyer comes in at any moment, a developer, for example, and causes the price to go up? By its delay, the City is risking losing the forest forever.

The forest could have been owned by the City by now. It’s worth it. There is little to no reason to think that buying Haymaker Forest even now at $5.2 million would not be a popular vote. Saving the forest for the communities is a very popular and a very valuable thing. The price is worth it. The City must act before it is too late.

Making Morgantown Poor

Today on WAJR, the morning show hosts expressed if anything a surprised reaction (“hmm”) to a caller telling them that the hockey team helped build and pay for the BOPARC ice rink, and that WVU contributed to a room in it, and that donations came from Jack Roberts’ sister, and that Jack Roberts donated the park to BOPARC and the public in 1st ward neighborhood. Surely the hosts did not miss that all such funding now is flooding out of the neighborhoods and out of the city park system into Mylan Park where no one lives.

Another caller stated that WVU originally said its rec center would be open to the public but then had to disallow that when it feared losing its non-profit status.

This is how to make Morgantown poor. This is how Mylan Park makes Morgantown poor. Major private donations and WVU funding and grants that previously went to the area’s major city park system, spread widely through all of Morgantown’s neighborhoods and near densely populated urban county developments, all those millions and tens of millions of dollars now go primarily to Mylan Park where virtually no one lives, far from the many neighborhoods.

This is a recipe for further city blight of infrastructure, lack of green space and wellness activities, increased social and community decay, and the collapse of urban livability.

Where is a YMCA or other rec and wellness center for any of the city neighborhoods? Fairplay, Colorado, a crossroads town of 760 people, using two bonds, built a remarkable multi-million dollar year-round indoor water facility, community and wellness center on a scant few acres. Where is a similar center for the Woodburn schoolgrounds?

No, you can’t have it. Not the neighborhoods, not the communities. But Mylan Park can have it, a private entity, funded by wealthy donors. The city where tens of thousands of people live is instead gutted, made poor.

Monongalia County doesn’t even have a park system, not one single facility, for its tens of thousands of urban county residents around the fringes of Morgantown, Star City, and Westover. It has three parks for its many rural residents but nothing nearby for its urban residents in the many crowded housing developments of greater Morgantown. And the county pays virtually nothing ($50,000 this year) of the several million dollar budget of Morgantown’s city park system, BOPARC, even though half of BOPARC users are from outside the city. (Yes, there is a $2.5 million county levy to repair the BOPARC ice rink, but city residents are taxed for that levy too, just like any non-city resident).

This is how the city of Morgantown is made poor. Mylan Park makes BOPARC poor. Private, state, and county dollars that formerly would go to the many BOPARC green spaces and facilities and trails throughout the city neighborhoods, including near densely populated county areas, now go into the no-man’s-land of Mylan Park.

Monongalia County has committed $150,000 to Mylan Park – a private entity – while supporting BOPARC to the tune of a mere $50,000 – a public entity. All the while, Monongalia County has no urban county resident park system, at all.

This is how Morgantown and the greater Morgantown area is made poor.

And then there is annexation and the longstanding record of wealthy entities and the County Commission’s open hostility to the City of Morgantown expanding to encompass all the urban residences and urban commerce surrounding its borders. These people and business benefit from city-based consumption and from city structures and planning and services while not paying any of the taxes (B&O and property taxes) to the city that actually sustain the conditions off of which the businesses profit and the urban county residents use and enjoy.

This is how Morgantown is made poor. This is how the city Park System, BOPARC, is made poor. And urban county residents suffer too. The whole region suffers.

WVU has its own rec center for its students and faculty, and some shared public green space and facilities, if you can afford them, but this does not remotely compensate for what Morgantown’s BOPARC system and rail trails and neighborhood parks offer – largely free – to virtually all WVU employees, families, and also students, often right in the communities where they live. How much does WVU support BOPARC compared to the use of the system by its employees and students and its value to them? How much does Westover and Star City support BOPARC compared to the use of the system by its residents? How much does the county support BOPARC compared to the extremely heavy use of the system by the non-city residents, especially its urban county residents who have no neighborhood park system of their own?

The park systems of Star City and Granville and even Westover and the Brookhaven and Cheat Lake urban populations (let alone the non-existent park system of the other urban county residents flooding all around Morgantown’s borders), these systems or facilities do not remotely compare to the amenities offered by Morgantown’s BOPARC system with its pools, skate park, rail trails, tennis courts, ice rink, and so on, even in their currently impoverished state. And what do these population bases pay into the BOPARC system that they use heavily? The County should correct this inequity. $50,000 doesn’t cut it. Chump change.

It’s scandalous. This is how Morgantown is made poor.

This is why a county BOPARC levy is needed immediately this November, and not at the next opportunity two years from now during the next election.

Otherwise, we’ve all been cheated of our chance to decide for ourselves, yet again. And the County – which should provide a dedicated funding stream for BOPARC independent of any levy – would be derelict again. Does the County want to see that the City gets what it needs? Even has a chance, via a referendum for a levy, to get what it needs?

Or not. You can almost see the Commissioners thinking, if we can just wait the Council out, then we won’t have to allow a levy for another two years, if at all! How inspiring.

The WAJR morning show hosts, under the orders of their One Percent bosses, can whine and moan all they want about Morgantown City Council rushing – valiantly – to do what should have been done decades ago, making up for lost time. City Council is only elected on two year terms. Five of the members are new and more forward-thinking than in years past, in general. They’ve had a lot to take in and a lot to learn, and they are beginning to see, some of them, how the city has been shafted for years. And they are beginning to see, some of them, the need for urgency in the moment.

The hosts of the WAJR morning show don’t live in the city. Do they even live in the county? The state? Doesn’t one live in Pennsylvania? A former host lived in Preston County, let alone in the city of Morgantown. Does the other host even live in Monongalia County? And yet they sit there and blather as the One Percent’s judge and jury on the city of Morgantown because they don’t want the wealthy business community that they sing the praises of day in and day out to pay city property taxes or the levy taxes to support city infrastructure and services and planning that those businesses draw wealth off of in the first place. They don’t want their One Percent heroes’ property taxes to go toward making the many urban neighborhoods more livable than they would be otherwise. Let WVU and the wealthy businesses give their money now to Mylan Park! Let them be free to build their paradise apart! And let the people be free to wander the dilapidated parks. To hell with BOPARC and the urban neighborhoods! Where the people actually live. To hell with them.

Hey, don’t move to fund BOPARC! Let Mylan Park thrive! Let WVU glisten! To hell with Morgantown. Who cares about those tens of thousands of people, and the many more all around the perimeter?

Let the outrage and the scandal and the city and social decay continue. Let all the crowded people in their crowded conditions rot to the ground.

Let the people pilgrimage to Mylan Park! To pay their respects. And their dues. That’s what the County Commissioners do. Everyone follow!

And let them eat cake along the way. Let the people eat cake in their neighborhoods too. Give them cake, a few crumbs here and there. Because there is no bread. Not nearly enough bread for their communities. It went to Mylan Park. The loaves pass from one deep pocket to another. If you’re lucky, you can drive to Mylan’s Park, the One Percent Park, or pay a bus pass for the tedious ride there, and then you can pay to get in.

That’s how you make Morgantown poor.

What is a “fiscal conservative”?

“Fiscal conservatism is a political-economic philosophy regarding fiscal policy and fiscal responsibility advocating low taxes, reduced government spending and minimal government debt. Free trade, deregulation of the economy, lower taxes, and privatization are the defining qualities of fiscal conservatism.” -Wikipedia

A “fiscal conservative” is an apologist for the profiteering One Percent. Anyone on City Council who calls themselves a “fiscal conservative” should be voted off, because they are not working on behalf of the people, the public, they are working on behalf of the profiteers, the One Percent, against the public.

Local talk and news host Hoppy Kercheval is a fiscal conservative, a cheerleader for profiteering. He is basically a lobbyist for the One Percent, which employs him to propagandize for the interests of the big owners and big business against everyone else, against the public.

Fiscal conservatives are WAJR and WV Metro News. Fiscal conservatives oppose government generation of revenue to meet public needs as much as possible. Why? Because fiscal conservatives don’t want the wealthy owners of land and businesses to be taxed by levies, property taxes (or by income taxes).

Fiscal conservatives like Hoppy Kercheval function as the enemies of strong cities and strong public governments that try to generate the badly needed revenue to meet public needs, like revenue for the building and repair of public structures and services like roads and sidewalks and parks and libraries. Fiscal conservatives, the profiteering One Percent, are fighting the city’s acquisition of Haymaker Forest tooth and nail. Fiscal conservatives are battling the neighborhoods, the communities, the people.

That’s why any Councilor who calls him or herself a fiscal conservative should be voted out at the first opportunity. Which side are you on? If you are not on the side of the people, the 99 percent, then you should not represent them, because you don’t.

Save Lives: Light the Trails

Why isn’t Deckers Creek Trail lit up like a string of Christmas lights around a Christmas tree from Sabraton to downtown Morgantown? Did Divante Coles die because Deckers Creek Trail is not a well lit, active night trail, welcoming to bicyclists? Wouldn’t bicyclists choose a well lit park trail over the extremely dangerous route 7 which the wide, paved rail trail parallels all the way from Sabraton to downtown Morgantown? Reportedly, Divonte Coles was fatally struck on route 7 near the Dominion Post offices, going toward Morgantown after getting off work in Sabraton. Why not make this rail trail readily usable 24/7, if for no other reason than to keep bicyclists safe from route 7? Possibly even simply installed solar panels would create sufficient and safe lighting.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Police are still sorting through surveillance footage in an effort to find the person responsible in the death of a bicyclist in…

This Land Is Your Land

As the battle for Haymaker Forest rolls on, Woody Guthrie’s great song seems more than appropriate: This Land is Your Land.

You Can See It From The Moon

The City of Morgantown park system, BOPARC, needs additional funding that a direct democracy referendum levy should bring.

You can see it from the moon.

Neighborhood infrastructure needs more funding.

You can see it from the moon.

Neighborhood services need more funding.

You can see it from the moon.

The Woodburn schoolgrounds community center needs more funding.

You can see it from the moon.

A Morgantown green space acquisition agency needs to be founded and funded in an area booming in population and haphazard development: unzoned, unchecked, largely unregulated near-county lands.

You can see it from the moon.

The Morgantown fire department has been calling for more money.

You can hear it from the moon.

The Morgantown library system needs more funding, bigger and better services and resources.

These needs can be seen from the moon.

This covers a lot of longstanding, neglected public needs. Money in all these areas could be well spent immediately, well tracked, and well accounted for.

You could see it from the moon.

The public has a profound right to directly consider and to vote for taxes that would meet their public needs. The Morgantown City Council should cease blocking that right of the people to vote directly on their funding solutions.

You can see it from the moon.

Even Monongalia County – the County! – the supposedly “Don’t tax me!” county passed 4 of 6 levied taxes by popular referendum in 2016, two years ago. Even the 2 levies that failed received more than 50 percent of the vote, barely missing the 60 percent needed to pass. These direct vote taxes passed for parks and rec, mass transit, fire protection, and the library system, and narrowly missed passing for the fairs, and youth baseball combined with the botanic garden.

Even if Morgantown puts up a raft of levies that all miss the 60 percent mark needed to pass, the city would at least benefit from seeing a tangible guage of popular concern and interest, and thus be more informed in how to proceed. And a failed levy in the November election doesn’t mean a revote wouldn’t pass in the April city election.

The City of Morgantown has pretended for too long, to not be able to see what most anyone can see from the moon.

The inadequate public funding for the city has been visible from the moon for decades.

And the solutions to inadequate funding have also been visible from the moon for decades.

And the city has not acted. The city needs to act now. Things have changed. Shall we recount the ways?

In elections: a sweep of Council.

Things have changed.

In urgency: badly degraded conditions, especially compared to other cities.

Things have changed. 

In public involvement: on the sharp rise, in large part due to social media.

Things have changed.

In public awareness: also on the sharp rise, due to the information and resources provided by broadband internet access (and social media).

Things have changed.

In public maturity (yes) and consciousness: on the significant upswing, due largely to social media and broadband internet access.

Things have changed. 

In the public ability to act and influence officials and each other: see the public teachers strike here in West Virginia and nationwide, and, again, this is due to a more knowing and active public.

Things have changed. You can see it from the moon.

You don’t do a study on how to proceed, when the ways forward can be seen clear and bright from the moon, and beyond. You act based on what is clear now, and you study the effects of what you are doing as you go.

That’s the way forward. 

It can be seen from the moon.

For a brief moment, 2 months, say, we can even set aside the long-strangled need of the City of Morgantown to extend its borders, and to the grossly delayed process of submitting simultaneous annexation petitions.

The gaping need for annexation is no small thing. That can be seen from the moon too. In fact, this problem of the public can be seen from Jupiter.

Those who cannot see before them in the City of Morgantown what can be seen from the moon have no business sitting in Council chambers. They may as well take their dysfunctional eyes and go sit somewhere else. Three Councilors definitively received that message in the previous city election. Maybe more should receive it definitively in the next one. It’s time to do something of size. Things have changed. Look back, if you want, but you shouldn’t bother, and better not to ask why. Looking forward and moving forward, as elected to do, as badly needed to do, and now, is the only way to progress. You study as you go, and you correct course as need be.

That can be seen from the moon.

It is certainly easy to criticize City Council, or the County Commission, or the state or federal government or any governing body. So it should be recognized that a criticism of an elected governing body is also criticism of everyone, of the public at large. Though individual people and individual officials bear responsibility to varying degrees for the conditions of the public, the fact is that governing bodies like a city council are an extension of the public at large. And so the Morgantown City Council’s failure to move forward is everyone’s failure, to one degree or another.

That too can be seen from the moon.

Any efforts and success of City Council in moving forward can only be the public’s efforts and success. And in that vein, there is zero indication that City Council has lost any of its popularity from the previous election. As far as anyone knows, or can know, the Council remains as popular now as then. So there’s no reason to not act decisively, by now.

That can be seen from the moon. 

Let’s pick it up, let’s not revert to old ways, to the old slow-down to nowhere, to the conscious and unconscious screech of the brakes at the first little bump in the road. There’s nothing for the public in that. There never was, and there never will be.

You can see it from the moon.

There’s one more thing that should be mentioned:

Buying Haymaker Forest for $5.2 million is a steal.

You can see it from the moon.

A mature forest virtually the size of Marilla Park, connecting multiple neighborhoods, parks, and trail systems for little more than the price of an area elementary school’s vacant lot? You take that deal. Vacant lots are a dime a dozen. A mature forest, a park and trail system, a refuge for the wild, a green buffer for multiple neighborhoods and the south side of the city, for the near county and beyond? You take that deal. The Haymaker Forest, at price, was, is, and remains a steal. You would be adding another entire Marilla park to the community, of far greater ecological and environmental value. It would be both a travesty and a tragedy not to secure the forest, for all time.

You can see it from the moon.

This City Council has proven that it can be wonderfully responsive to public needs, to a point. What a ridiculous and outrageous missed opportunity a lost forest would be. The opportunity to establish an eternal legacy and a permanent public good the size and value of a vibrant wilderness does not come around to the City every day. If we continue to treat Earth as a garbage can, then we might as well shoot ourselves to the moon to try to live on that barren, lifeless, and noxious rock. In that case, the City Council might as well preside on the moon.

Slow gear is no gear, at this point, long since.

You can see it from the moon.