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


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?


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!


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


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


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 »

Skyview Elementary Evacuated, One to the Hospital


Fire departments, police departments, the Department of Environmental Protection, and other agencies are currently checking and testing the grounds of Skyview Elementary trying to figure out what made people dizzy and nauseous this morning, sending one teacher to the hospital and forcing the evacuation and closure of the school for the day at least. Currently suspected are pollutants – gases, toxins? – coming in the from the outside. From where would such pollutants originate? From incompetent school siting decisions.

[Update: Problem found inside the school. This time. WAJR reports:  “faulty heat exchanger…”

Monongalia County Schools is in the process of siting another new elementary school. The parents of Suncrest Primary and North Elementary students would be well advised to oversee and direct the process themselves. Otherwise they might end up with another lousy school siting like Skyview Elementary, University High School, Eastwood Elementary, and Mylan Park Elementary. The Mon Schools administration and school board has proven to be neither trustworthy nor competent in matters of school siting, at the least, as we have documented here in great detail.

The Skyview Elementary siting uphill from an ever-growing industrial park is an ongoing travesty, as we have regular occasion to note. See our archives for much additional information. For example:

Skyview Elementary To Be Hit By Gas Well Air Pollution?

May 25, 2011


Remember what we wrote about the asinine location of Skyview Elementary in 2010?:

Opened in 2006, Skyview (consolidated) Elementary sits far from residential areas and uphill from Morgantown Industrial Park. Think about that for a moment. What a brilliant location for the lungs of young children! Now, with an impending new road and upgraded water and sewer lines, the Industrial Park is set to expand.

First, such school siting is flat wrong in more ways than one as we have documented in detail at this site. Schools and schoolchildren benefit from being located in neighborhoods. And vice versa.

Second, in 2009, Skyview Elementary had to be closed in the midst of the school day (along with next-door Westwood Middle) due to Industrial Park “smoke [that] got into the schools’ ventilation systems and filled the buildings with smoke.”

During such an incident the previous year apparently, the students were not evacuated and “had to deal with it.” One wonders (and the School District should test for) what difficult-to-detect toxins on a more regular basis pass into the school ventilation systems there above the soon to expand Industrial Park.

Well now it only gets worse with the gas wells in place in the industrial park. Bring on the additional air pollution, which is extremely hazardous for young children – Daily Mail:

Duane Nichols, spokesman for the Mon Valley Clean Air Coalition, said the two well sites are too close to the Skyview Elementary and Westwood Middle schools, just off River Road, as well as to the area’s water supply and the other facilities in the Morgantown Industrial Park.

“And this is just the first of more wells to come,” he said. “We’re all going to be in a state of emotional distress.”

Bartolo said he understands there’s concern for the public welfare and what sort of impact Marcellus shale drilling could have on water and air.

“It makes sense to me with that kind of impact looming over us that somebody puts the brakes on this and further investigates it,” he said.

And now “a fixed frac water recycling facility in the Morgantown Industrial Park” is moving in on Skyview Elementary. What’s next, a nuclear waste dump? That’s what happens when Mon Schools sites schools with great negligence: the unknowable and the uncontrollable. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotts Run Pillaged – Part Four


Ben Conley’s Scotts Run article (see below) in the Dominion Post today reveals some of the wrongs of the Scotts Run Public Service District (SRPSD) takeover by the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB). What a stench the article helps lift the lid on. Surely Conley owes much of that article to the public justice efforts by Jill Ware and by the active concerned citizens of Scotts Run. Conley’s article shows that the Morgantown/Monongalia County “good ol’ boy” network sneaked around behind the public’s back and then unlawfully rammed through the SRPSD takeover by MUB, under the guard of the Monongalia County Sheriff.

It will take ongoing public pressure to see that the needed constructive result comes about, a reversal of the SRPSD takeover by MUB. Especially failing continued public pressure and exposure of the intransigence, more likely are a few hand-slapping admonishments of officials by officials. The SRPSD Board, and the County Commission, and MUB now appear ever more negligent and wrong, sneaking around out of public sight, and then backed by the County Sheriff’s office, shoving the Scotts Run takeover down the public’s throat. The Morgantown City Council looks similarly negligent and wrong in rubber stamping the highly dubious takeover, opposed by the public, an unlawful takeover.

As for the state Public Service Commission (PSC), the jury is still out. At least the PSC referred the MUB takeover of Scotts Run to an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), who reportedly has until December 19, 2013 to rule.

There certainly is enough evidence, law, and public need for the ALJ and PSC to reverse the takeover. And, who knows, the ALJ could properly or best rule to do so. It’s likely that the pressure from the SRPSD activists ensured that the PSC did refer the matter to the ALJ.

There is zero evidence that the SRPSD takeover by MUB is in the public’s interest. Hopefully the PSC is not tightly connected to the local good ol’ boy, buddy/buddy network and did not refer the case to a good ol’ boy “friendly” ALJ.

It’s far from cynicism to understand that such “good ol’ boy” or buddy/buddy political connections exist and are used to mutually back scratch. What else explains former County Commissioner Asel Kennedy’s stocking the SRPSD board with his think-alike buddies? It appears that Larry Taylor got it right in his letter to the Domion Post Editor: the SRPSD destruction was the revenge of Joe Tennant and others enabled by his network of buddies that apparently includes Asel Kennedy, whose political network obviously included Bill Bartolo and Eldon Callen on the County Commission.

Everybody is helping a buddy out. That there was a real need to destroy the SRPSD is absurd. But buddy/buddy political connections exist at the local level and at every other level, and across levels, not pervasively, but commonly. Meanwhile, 2 boards, 1 commission, and 1 council have all already approved the SRPSD/MUB takeover, with another commission making friendly noises, so the ALJ might almost have to be a stranger from a strange land to go against the tide of official approval, even if there is no buddy/buddy back scratching going on. How many strangers in a strange land exist in West Virginia officialdom?

That said, it would be good for the public to catch a break with the ALJ, to stay the hand, at least for a moment, of all the buddy/buddy back scratching and rubber stamping. That would be something. Though maybe not enough. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotts Run Pillaged – Part Three






About fifteen years ago, Scotts Run Public Service District (SRPSD) was created by concerned residents of the Scotts Run watershed to provide municipal sewerage services to the people of Scotts Run, who had long resorted to costly and unreliable individual efforts. The nearby Morgantown Utility Board (MUB) had refused to extend its municipal services to the Scotts Run area, so the SRPSD was formed to provide services where MUB would not.

When the Scotts Run Board (appointed by the Monongalia County Commission) would extend a new sewer or water line to a particular area of Scotts Run, all the residences near the line were required to hook up to it, presumably for economic and health reasons. Some individuals, a minority, opposed hooking up – presumably because they could afford individualized services, such as cesspools, that they preferred. For the majority of residents, and for the area in general, the municipal line was both preferred and needed. However, some residents remained opposed to these community building efforts of the Scotts Run PSD.

How To Destroy A Public Entity In Five Easy Steps

  1. During the past year or so, shortly before his retirement from the Monongalia County Commission, Asel Kennedy (who lives near the Scotts Run area) led the effort of stacking the governing board of the SRPSD with individuals who opposed the PSD.
  2. The Monongalia County Commission filled three of the five SRPSD board seats with individuals opposed to the operation and continued existence of the SRPSD: Joe Tennant, John Morris, Virgil Coulter. The remaining two SRPSD board seats were left unfilled by the county commission.
  3. The new SRPSD board moved swiftly to dissolve the SRPSD by the spring of 2013, in terminating the SRPSD employees and requesting that MUB “take over” the SRPSD.
  4. MUB officials, under protection of the Monongalia County Sheriff’s department, physically took over the office and garage and infrastructure of SRPSD.
  5. The collaborating Monongalia County Commission and the rubber-stamping Morgantown City Council voted to approve the MUB “take over” of the SRPSD, pending the expected state Public Service Commission (PSC) approval. The PSC had been quietly contacted by local officials months prior to the local “take over.”

The good ol’ boy network strikes again. See related details of the Scotts Run PSD takeover below in the very informative and insightful letters to the Dominion Post editor by Larry Taylor and Jill Ware: “Protest against closure, acquisition of area PSD” and “No compelling reason to merge PSD with MUB”.

On June 30, 2013, the Dominion Post published a very revealing and very petty and ludicrous letter by SRPSD board member Joe Tennant who – in responding to Jill Ware’s June 22 letter to the editor – notes that he and the other two SRPSD board members did not sell the SRPSD. He is correct. However, the reality is much worse than a sale of the SRPSD. Joe Tennant and the rest of the SRPSD board simply gave away the millions of dollars worth of SRPSD assets, along with the entire SRPSD customer base, to MUB. And they got nothing in return for the residents of Scotts Run. They just gave away a public entity that had millions of dollars more assets than liabilities. And not only did they get nothing for the Scotts Run residents by requesting the MUB “take over,” they gave up the best opportunity for many additional residents of Scotts Run to be hooked up to municipal sewer, since PSDs are eligible for grants and funding for which city utilities like MUB do not qualify. Thus, in noting that the SRPSD was not sold, board member Tennant makes plain something much worse: that the SRPSD was given away for nothing.

Ludicrously, Tennant implies that there are secret facts known only to the SRPSD board and to the County Commission that justify the dissolving of the SRPSD and its “take over” by MUB. The good ol’ boys know more and better, you see, they know secret things not known to the public. Trust us, blindly, you can trust us, they would have the public believe. What a joke. These are public issues. These are public entities. Such public actions could and should only be made for public reasons, in public venues, with a lot of public involvement. Tennant’s swiping at Jill Ware continues petty and spiteful to its pathetic end, and is included below for public amusement.

Meanwhile, the petty, spiteful, and vindictive maneuvering against Jill Ware continues in another form. The petite mother of three has been arrested for supposedly poking SRPSD board member Virgil Coulter at an SRPSD meeting in Morgantown City Council chambers.

The scandal that is the SRPSD dissolution and take over stinks high and wide. The stench is most concentrated with the SRPSD board and the Monongalia County Commission. However the Morgantown City Council and the Morgantown Utility Board both smell bad in this as well, going so readily along and allowing the take over. Meanwhile, we in the public don’t come off so well ourselves, having been utterly asleep, allowing the good ol’ boy network to operate at will, to the public’s detriment.

Read the rest of this entry »

Scotts Run Pillaged Yet Again – Part Two


And swiftly plundered it was. Long a coal rich area forced into deep poverty by the coal industry and related powers, the Scotts Run area far more recently saw its Public Service District (PSD) about to be transformed into a gold mine, due to the impending influx of WVU “Ballpark TIF” funds. Instead, this major gold vein has now been pre-emptively plundered by the powers of Morgantown and Monongalia County. This is history repeating itself, first as brutal tragedy and now as seeping farce.

What happened? The “ballpark TIF” plan happened. And it happened in the Scotts Run PSD, which was then immediately forcibly taken over. Those tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements now locked-in to the TIF district will no longer be going to the Scotts Run PSD, which was scandalously dissolved, its resources and organizational capacity taken over and handed to the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB). Those new millions of TIF plan dollars will now be going to MUB rather than to Scotts Run PSD, due to the legally dubious and ethically disreputable actions of the Scotts Run PSD board members appointed by the Monongalia County Commission – which will be dispensing the TIF plan infrastructure fund.

By stacking the Scotts Run PSD Board, the Monongalia County Commission instigated the Scotts Run PSD dissolution and then approved MUB’s takeover of the PSD. The either ignorant or uncaring Morgantown City Council dutifully rubber stamped MUB’s “acquisition” of the Scotts Run PSD as orchestrated by the County Commission and its PSD appointees.

The recently passed “ballpark TIF” plan legislation obligates the Monongalia County Commission to spend tens of millions of local tax dollars – for up to the next 30 years – on infrastructure improvements in the TIF district (that is, in the University Town Centre area and in most all land stretching around and west from there to Mylan Park) – the TIF district being in the province of the now former Scotts Run PSD. Some people or some entities apparently wanted that massive amount of money and control for the next 3 decades to be taken out of the hands of the people of Scotts Run, who cannot seem to ever be pillaged enough to satisfy the local powers and string pullers.

Apparently the Monongalia County Commission did not want to work with the people of Scotts Run, let alone fund the Scotts Run PSD, which would have had the responsibility for making the infrastructure upgrades that the commission intends to and must fund in the TIF district in the near future and for the next 3 decades.

Scotts Run PSD might have reasonably used the influx of TIF funds to necessarily build up its organizational and material capacity and to also negotiate with the County Commission over funding and materials for a needed expansion of Scotts Run PSD sewer services to far flung Scotts Run area residents, beyond the TIF district. Quite possibly the County Commission did not want to be beholden to the Scotts Run Public Service District which has residents with more pressing needs than can be found anywhere in the County Commission’s “ballpark TIF” district – that scandalous local taxpayer gift to WVU and private commerce.

It seems that a lot has been going on behind closed doors in Monongalia County against the public’s interest, and possibly in stark violation of open government “sunshine” laws. What a shock. On the other hand, when the good old boys meet up one on one around town while appointing each other to public boards that then dissolve public entities out of existence – thereby gutting the public, shifting millions of dollars and badly needed organizational capacity away from the people – that’s certainly another method by which governmental transparency laws can be sneaked around, keeping all sorts of private wheelings and dealings secret from the public.

The lifting of the Scotts Run PSD data on computer hard drives this past October by the County Commission-chummy Scotts Run PSD board members ostensibly for security reasons was a curious episode in this hit and run farce, to say the least. Security from whom? Securing the public’s information from the public? Why remove the Scotts Run PSD data ostensibly to “secure” it mere months before dissolving the PSD and handing it over to MUB under the cool gaze of the County Sheriff’s department? Why remove and “secure” that Scott’s Run PSD data in October 2012? To prepare a slick transfer of Scotts Run PSD operations to MUB months before the public could have any clue of what was being done to them?

These particular individuals, officials, and agencies should be held to account as much as possible. The people of Scotts Run are doing the right thing in trying to reverse the shady dissolution of the Scotts Run PSD by acting first at the local level and now at the state and possibly judicial levels. Failing at those levels, Scotts Run PSD residents would be in a much weakened position to gain expanded sewerage on their own, suddenly absent their own PSD, let alone to negotiate with either MUB or the County Commission expansion of needed sewerage services to the Scotts Run area. Virtually all the local municipalities and powers have a both long and recent history of not only failing the Scotts Run area but of plundering it.

Meanwhile, the County Commissioners are subject to election (as is of course the Morgantown City Council) and could be replaced and should be pressured to do more for Scotts Run area residents. Toward this end, no matter the near term outcome, the Scotts Run PSD dissolution and takeover scandal could be and should be held over the heads of these officials and these public bodies from now on. They need to better serve and protect the public, by far, and especially the Scotts Run area, which going back nearly a century, has been both a regional and national site and symbol of social and economic neglect and abuse.

Congratulations to Morgantown and to Monongalia County. Congratulations to us all. We’ve come a long way by dissolving the Scotts Run Public Service District, and by taking over its hard won materials and capacities, and by preparing to swallow up its impending flood of TIF gold. We’ve come a long, long way.

The failure to learn to respect the dignity, let alone the organizational capacity and the would-be wealth, of the people of Scotts Run: yet another repugnant, and historical, farce.

Read the rest of this entry »

Scotts Run Pillaged Yet Again – Part One




During the US Great Depression, the Scotts Run area stretching for a few miles just west of Morgantown gained prominence as the miserable face of Appalachian poverty. Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of US President Franklin Roosevelt, visited the collapsed coal mining communities of Scotts Run and decried the situation as the human catastrophe that it was. (See: “Scott’s Run: America’s Symbol of the Great Depression in the Coal Fields” by WVU Professor of History Ronald L. Lewis). After 10 years of violent union-breaking attacks by the coal industry, combined with the national economic collapse, the people of Scotts Run were destitute. Professor Lewis notes that “It was in this pitiful condition that Scotts Run became America’s symbol of the Depression in the coal fields and set a new standard for measuring human suffering in the country…” Professor Lewis adds:

“To what degree life was worse here than in other coal hollows is difficult to determine, but there was plenty of misery to go around. Ironically, Scotts Run received much more attention than other depressed coal communities because it was far more accessible to outside photographers, reporters, social workers, and government agencies. This begs the question of just how “isolated” Scotts Run actually was in the 1920s and 1930s, a perspective tightly linked to its public identity. It should be noted that the run was easily accessible by bus, auto, trolley, or train during this period, and it was only a few miles from the county seat of Morgantown. The commercial center of the county, Morgantown itself was linked into the national transportation network which connected the hinterland with major metropolitan centers. Even though outside observers usually portrayed Scotts Run as ‘isolated,’ its spatial relationship to the rest of the world is more accurately understood as ‘stranded,’ a term frequently employed by contemporary relief workers to describe the condition of people trapped on economic desert islands and powerless to alter their condition. Most of the people were trapped not by geography, but by the lack of resources, employment options, and by their culture…”

When Eleanor Roosevelt visited the not so isolated but stranded, impoverished Scotts Run area for a firsthand examination, Lewis writes that she too “was appalled by conditions on Scotts Run” and notes that Roosevelt would go on to write that “The Run in Jere, like all the others that ran down the gullies to the larger, main stream was the only sewage disposal system that existed.”

Still today, 8 decades later, some Scotts Run area homes lack for quality sewage disposal. These residents had put their hopes in the Scotts Run Public Service District (SRPSD) which had been, until recently, working toward connecting the outlying residents to the municipal sewer. However, that hope, even expectation, died this past month when the SRPSD was abruptly disbanded by its 3 member board and taken over by the Morgantown Utility Board (MUB). Thereupon soon followed the after-the-fact takeover approval of the Morgantown City Council and the Monongalia County Commission. To say the least, both the ethics and the legality of these moves, which are being actively opposed by Scotts Run residents, and that still require approval by the state, are currently in dispute.

In the meantime, now in control of the Scotts Run service area, MUB Manager Tim Ball has stated to the public that MUB cannot afford to connect the outlying Scotts Run residents to the municipal sewer system despite the intentions of the now former Scotts Run PSD to do so. Apparently, Public Service Districts have access to various types of grant funding from which municipal utility boards are barred. So now that the Scotts Run PSD no longer exists, the outlying Scotts Run residents are stranded once again.

Then why did the Scotts Run PSD board terminate the Scotts Run workers and hand the PSD over to MUB, and why did the city of Morgantown and the county of Monongalia approve MUB’s immediate takeover of the Scotts Run PSD operations? Who benefits? Not the Scotts Run PSD workers who all lost their jobs. Not the Scotts Run PSD customers whose rates will remain the same under MUB. Not the outlying Scotts Run inhabitants who now will not have their homes’ sewage disposals upgraded by connecting to the municipal sewer.

Who benefits? Evidently the city of Morgantown and the county of Monongalia which both to various extents oversee the operations and reach of MUB. How do Morgantown and the county benefit but not Scotts Run? Morgantown and the County gain the valuable Scotts Run PSD which has many more financial and material assets than liabilities, or as MUB Manager Tim Ball stated in his May 23, 2013 memo to Morgantown City Council: “The acquisition [of the Scotts Run PSD] is an attractive opportunity for MUB to expand its customer base and service area… This acquisition will allow a valuable system addition to be done…”

There is nothing in this memo from MUB to the Morgantown City Council about benefiting Scotts Run, which loses jobs and loses the expectation of gaining additional connections to the municipal sewer system in the most impoverished areas of Scotts Run. But what an “attractive” and “valuable” gain for MUB is the Scotts Run PSD!

That’s not even half of the story. After all, why would the city of Morgantown and the county of Monongalia wish to pillage, that is, to “acquire,” the Scotts Run PSD now rather than, say, 5 years ago, or, say, 5 years from now? Why now? What changed, ever so recently?

Let’s think. What happens when we follow the money trail a little bit farther?

We run smack into a gigantic pot of gold that was about to fall into the lap of the Scotts Run PSD … as will be detailed in a subsequent post: Scotts Run Pillaged Yet Again – Part Two. See this subsequent post also for an examination of possible ways to right this wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Swindle – Part Five


The Phony Claims of CTMountaineer at the City Data forums:

CTMountaineer claims: “Taxpayers are not ‘giving’ WVU a ballpark.” The claim is False. In fact, $16.2 million in local taxpayer TIF district funds will be used to build the ballpark. And the Monongalia County Commission has publicly indicated its willingness to sign away, prior to construction, all ballpark operation and management to WVU as well as eventual full ownership of the ballpark.

CTMountaineer claims: “The only funding involved with this project will be created right there on site from usage.” The claim is False. Local tax increases for up to the next three decades – including such predictable tax revenue increases from, for example, the existing Sheetz and McDonalds and Target and WalMart, etc, in the TIF district and from everywhere else in the TIF district – will be used to pay off the $16.2 million construction of the ballpark. For the next 30 years all the anticipated and predictable property and sales tax increases that would have gone to the county and state will instead go toward paying off the ballpark and paying for tens of million of dollars of infrastructure payments on roadways and other upgrades serving the ballpark and the privately owned businesses and commercial enterprises currently existing and anticipated.

CTMountaineer claims: “The county will receive the same amount of property tax on the adjacent land they have in the past. The only difference is the improvements (which are not now in place) won’t be subject to property tax until they are paid for.” The claim is False. Mon-View LLC developers expect the current development plans for the TIF district to be paid for within about 10 or 15 years, but all county property taxes and state sales taxes on such development will remain locked into the TIF district (and away from the rest of the country) for up to 30 years. Moreover, benchmarking property tax for all the properties in the TIF district at the current level for general county use means that in real dollar terms, due to inflation, the county loses money every year for the next thirty years, in addition to not being allowed to spend a dime of 3 decades worth of property and sales tax increases outside of this thriving largely commercial district, and apparently not being allowed to spend the money even inside the district on anything but infrastructure support for the private developments and business operations.

CTMountaineer claims: “It is only the improvements that are not taxed, and those improvements would not have been an issue in any event without the project.” The claims are False. New tax revenue is lost to general county use for up to 30 years not only on “improvements” but also on (expected non-TIF) increased sales and increases in property value due to inflation and due to local (expected non-TIF) development. New sales and “improvements” – that is, commercial projects and businesses and their activities have been starting up and increasing in this thriving commercial district on a regular and uninterrupted basis and would continue to do so with or without any TIF legislation. It’s a lie to pretend otherwise. In fact, the “ballpark TIF” plan legislation was rushed to passage this year not only because WVU wants a ballpark pronto, but also because if the TIF legislation had been delayed a year, then at least one major new “improvement” – “The Domain” housing complex, which has just been built but is not quite yet on the tax rolls, all of those tax dollars instead of going to the TIF district for the next 30 years would have gone toward general county spending for the next 30 years had the TIF plan legislation been delayed by a year. The TIF district gets the local taxes on the “improvement” that is “The Domain,” 3 decades worth of tax revenue, even though the TIF legislation had nothing to do with building “The Domain.” The same is true of many other planned and predictable future developments in this thriving and constantly developing commercial area now and for the next three decades. Those revenues could have gone toward replacing the crumbling Hartman Run Bridge that the County may instead need to close due to lack of funds to repair or replace it. Instead, thanks to the recklessness and the haste of the TIF plan legislation passage, all the tax revenue generated by the already built “improvement” that is “The Domain” and other impending and future “improvements” is now locked into the TIF district and locked out from use in any of the rest of the county, for the next 30 years. Many new businesses and commercial “improvements” would have been inevitably developed in this thriving commercial area over the next 30 years without any TIF district creation. (It’s important to note what everyone has been silent about: the County Commissioners can vote to cancel the TIF plan at any point after any bonds it has approved are paid off. (See the WV TIF Handbook.) The Commission does not have to allow the TIF plan to run for a full 30 years, however the Commission has expressed zero inclination of ending the plan prior to year 30 in 2043. The general county would lose out on any increase in revenue from the TIF district until then, year 2043, and instead would receive for general county use only year 2012 tax revenue, which it would have to make do with until year 2043, by which time that sum would look incredibly paltry.)

CTMountaineer claims: “The county is out nothing, and 30 years down the road they get the benefit of the improvements for tax purposes. In the meantime, the people of the county get all the considerable benefits of the improvements for nothing.” These something for “nothing” claims are False. For 30 years, the TIF district legislation locks in these massive local taxpayer funds to this thriving largely commercial and uninhabited TIF district area, and away from all the rest of the county – that’s what the “county is out” – including away from many populous and impoverished areas that are starved for badly needed public services and infrastructure. $16.2 million of these public funds will be used to build the baseball ballpark that County Commissioners indicate WVU will manage, operate, and then own for the taking. $16.2 million-plus is not “nothing” – very far from the county getting something for nothing. Rather, WVU is getting something for nothing, or virtually nothing – and so are the TIF district businesses, when one considers the $28 million TIF highway interstate interchange, to be built entirely with local taxpayer funds, which TIF district commerce will benefit by. $28 million is not nothing either, let alone the additional tens of millions of dollars that the TIF legislation locks into that commercial and uninhabited district. The general county loses 30 years worth of taxes on “improvements” (that is, property tax increases) much of which would occur without or without the TIF legislation.

CTMountaineer claims, and this is the basic, biggest lie: “Mon County, and the state for that matter, will see this entire project take place without having to part with any significant amount of money at all from their budgets.” The claim is false. This claim pretends that the future – somehow, magically – does not exist, that predictable revenue increases do not exist, that expected inflation and growth are figments of the imagination. Try this analogy: A husband returns home after work one day pulling a boat on a trailer worth tens of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile his car and house and land are falling apart and in disrepair.

His wife says, “What did you do?!”

And he says, and he’s not drunk out of his mind, “This cost us nothing! The bank lent us the money to buy this great boat in exchange for the next 30 years of salary increases we would have received due to inflation and to the ever increasing value of our labors. But we lose nothing from our budget today! Never mind what we would have gained tomorrow. And look!” the husband exalts, “not only can we have fun on the boat, we can use the trailer for hauling other stuff around! Plus…we are helping to employ people who build boats and who supply gas and boating gear!”

“You’re either crazy, drunk, a liar, or all three,” the wife says, as another shingle falls off the house roof, the bumper falls off the car, and part of the yard collapses into a ravine.

“But that’s not all,” the husband beams, “after 30 years instead of bothering to own this boat ourselves and then renting it out to pay for its upkeep, or to earn money, I’ve already signed over ownership of the boat to our rich neighbor who so loves boats and who may give us a ride on it every once in awhile. Isn’t it great? Aren’t I great? What a swell deal. It costs us nothing! Think of the benefits!”

At which point the wife strikes down the lunatic with a frying pan.

Or, in the case of the TIF, the boat boys pat one another on the back and say what a wonderful thing they are doing for the families of the area.

That’s the big lie. That’s the “ballpark TIF” plan. Read the rest of this entry »

Big Energy Rip-Off


See Jim Kotcon’s excellent explanation of Mon Power’s attempted cash grab: “Mon Power’s Billion Dollar Boondoggle.”

It’s time to get rid of Mon Power, altogether. Municipalities can purchase energy companies’ infrastructure and supply energy direct to municipal residents. And there are other options, including bidding or contracting for energy in the market, or leasing infrastructure. [Further, in some states municipalities can by law condemn energy companies, if need be, to purchase for fair value. Such a law should be passed in West Virginia. See the “Survey of State Municipalization Laws.”]

When a municipality owns a power plant, then consumers pay their power bills to the municipality and thereby gain direct control over who they pay their power bills to, given that municipalities are run by elected officials. Power plants owned by municipalities cut out the profit skimming middle men (business entities, which as we have seen are too often swindlers), who are not accountable to election nor recall, nor to many forms of transparency that government officials are legally bound to.

It’s long since time to get rid of Mon Power – especially now that their dirty dealing is so blatant in this Harrison Power Plant cash grab. Read the rest of this entry »

Name That Stadium!


Let’s call it what it is. The “Ballpark TIF” stadium being built for WVU with at least $16.2 million of local taxpayer funds should be called what it is. It’s the Gift-Theft Center. (To be kind. One could think of more colorful names.) The GTC.

Monongalia County is building a baseball stadium for WVU, for free! Yes, the Gift-Theft Center. Hey, give those County Commissioners, who voted for the thing, box seats at the 50 yard line, at half court, behind home plate. The Commissioners are now actual WVU celebrities! It’s not every day that WVU Sports receives a gift (tax free!) worth tens of millions of dollars from the local taxpayers. Wow, give us all box seats at the 50 yard line. Looks like we’ve earned it. Does anyone suppose if we all showed up at once on the 50 yard line, at half court, behind home plate they could turn us away? Wave copies of the “Ballpark TIF” bill and point out the facts: we bought these seats.

Really looking forward to the $20 million revenue generating community exercise and recycling and health food center that WVU builds and gives free to the taxpayers of Monongalia County in the next few years, plus tens of million WVU dollars more for physical and social infrastructure support like street paving and homeless services and parks development and power line burial. The WVU Foundation has assets currently worth $1.2 billion – above and beyond the $1 billion annual WVU budget – so a modest $20 million multi-use actual needs center built by WVU for county taxpayers will be no problem. Thanks WVU! And thank you Monongalia County Commission and West Virginia State legislature, and WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck, and Mon-View LLC for making the $20 million Actual Needs Center for Monongalia County such an unbelievable prospect. Read the rest of this entry »

Own It And Operate It Expansively – The TIF Ballpark And Other Parts Of The TIF District




As long as the monies are now locked in, Monongalia County badly needs major public facilities and services created and located in the new “Ballpark TIF” district. Tens of millions or hundreds of millions of local tax dollars are now by law obligated to be spent in that district over the next 30 years, so there had better be a lot that is firmly under public control by the end of the three decades. There had better be a whole network of county facilities and operations providing services and infrastructure for the district, for the surrounding areas, and for the general public in ways that serve and can be used by the entire county population, who come and go from the TIF district or live near it (which essentially everyone in the county and region does). No sector functions in isolation. What happens in this large designated TIF district will have a huge effect on the rest of the county and the region, even state. Thus broad county (and state) needs should be funded in this district, as well as the micro area TIF district needs.

The county should outright own the ballpark site and the stadium and use the whole ballpark site for multiple uses that benefit the entire county, as well as the TIF district.

The sweeping parking lots of the ball stadium could be used on a regular basis – year round – for a recycling center and regular recycling dropoff events. There will be no ball games in the winter at the ballpark, so it had better be well used during the cold months for county needs, since it will be all county and local taxpayer funds that are used to build and landscape the entire stadium facility and site. Quality outbuildings and other infrastructure should be built on the ballpark acreage to help provide such services. The “ballpark facility” should be named something like: The West Virginia Monongalia County Center (The WVMC Center).

A county medial clinic could be built somewhere in the TIF district, including counseling services and drug and alcohol rehabilitation opportunities to serve the TIF district and county.

A low-cost but healthy county grocery (and essentials) store and county eateries should go in. Hey, why should only wealthy private businesses generate revenue from the flood of local tax funds that have been committed to the district? That would be special interest business theft of public funds.

A high quality public exercise and recreation and community center should be built and geared especially toward wintertime use, to help alleviate area depression and a whole range of mental and physical ailments and diseases too common to Appalachia. Such a center could readily be financially self-sustaining once built – not unlike a ballpark.

Many other TIF fund uses and public needs could be paired. The county should put out a call to all regional social welfare services, planning groups, and community organizations to gather ideas, and to plan to get together to make a reality as many good ideas as possible that well serve the public. Otherwise, the TIF district is likely to transform over the next three decades into lowest common denominator sprawl.

The County Commission should work very hard to make sure that the three decades of local taxes collected as part of this Tax Increment Financing plan will generate a lasting public impact and generate sustainable and renewable public revenues directly to the county too, and not only to the businesses who are licking their chops at the banquet of local public funds soon to be rolling their way. Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Swindle – Part Four


The Monongalia County “Ballpark TIF” is not supposed to be a charity for WVU. The public is funding the baseball stadium. WVU is not. So the public should own the baseball stadium. WVU should not.

The public is funding the multi-use baseball stadium with local tax dollars to the tune of $16.2 million, plus building an adjacent interstate highway interchange with local tax dollars costing $28 million, plus providing additional millions in near vicinity infrastructure.

WVU is purchasing a 7 acre site for the ballpark from private developers for $2.1 million. Compare WVU’s $2.1 million to the local taxpayers’ $16.2 million plus $28 million plus untold other TIF plan millions. Yet WVU claims ownership of the stadium via WVU associate general counsel Rossi Wiles:

“By law, whoever owns the ground, pretty much [the baseball stadium] would go…to that entity, which, we do believe to protect the university’s interest and to play our baseball games, it really should come to the university.”

Wealthy entities, like WVU athletics, can afford to buy and build their own ball fields and stadiums. The public’s tax dollars should not be used buy a new baseball stadium for WVU athletics, nor for anyone else. After all, the owners are going to make the bulk of the money off the stadium facilities, and the owners will get the highest priority use of the stadium facilities, so they should pay for it. If WVU would like to set up a payment plan to repay Monongalia County (and the state), then I’m sure the Commissioners would be glad to help make such arrangements.

We should’ve seen it coming – WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck pushing tens of millions of public dollars into the pockets of the wealthy through ballfields in Texas and West Virginia.

Since June 2010, Oliver Luck has been the Athletic Director at West Virginia University. A former WVU quarterback, NFL quarterback for the Houston Oilers, and a West Virginia Republican (failed) congressional candidate, Luck returned to WVU after working as head of the Houston Dynamo soccer team and head of the City of Houston and Harris County Sports Authorities, where he helped to secure public financing for the new Houston Dynamo soccer stadium.

The City of Houston and Harris County were convinced by Oliver Luck and his colleagues – it took five years – to put $35 million dollars (the public’s tax dollars) into buying the site for a new Dynamo soccer stadium and for making infrastructure improvements. The Dynamo put $60 million into the stadium – much of which was then immediately covered by stadium naming rights (sold to a bank) and other multi-million dollar deals made by the Dynamo, while the city of Houston and Harris County were completely iced out of most or any such deals. In other words, the Dynamo owners could swiftly make back their investment in the stadium facility, whereas the city/county taxpayers’ investment was not necessarily recoverable. Similarly here in Monongalia County – why should WVU get away with not paying back to the local taxpayers the millions it plans to take from them to build a stadium to be owned, controlled, and used by WVU? Recall, WVU is backed by its own massive income, including by its $1 billion annual budget and additionally by the WVU Foundation, Inc, which currently holds $1.2 billion in assets.

It’s a sick and abusive relationship for local taxpayers in Monongalia County, where nearly 22 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, to be subsidizing a ballfield costing tens of millions of dollars for the gold stockpilers behind the WVU athletic department, which – oh by the way – pays the football coach Holgorsen $2.5 million per year, and basketball coach Huggins $3 million per year, and athletic direct Luck $.7 million per year, for a combined $6.2 million paid each and every year to a mere three employees at WVU athletics. WVU should get out of the public’s pockets and pay for the damned ballfield itself. Read the rest of this entry »

No Bus, No Test


Below is the automated message that parents receive from the Monongalia County Board of Education when the BOE fails to supply a school bus on regular school days. Never an apology with the notice, of course. The message below arrived, unlike the bus, this morning. The bus carries Eastwood Elementary, South Middle, and Morgantown High students. Of course this week is state testing, Westest week at Eastwood Elementary and other schools, but these students have no bus available to get to school for the tests. These transportation failings are becoming a regular occurrence in Monongalia County Schools.

And then, shortly before the actual start of the school day today, Eastwood Elementary parents received an apologetic automated phone call from Eastwood Principal Hartshorn. She apologized twice for lack of a bus. She said if students had no way to school they could make up the Westest tomorrow. Apart from this apology today from Eastwood Principal Hartshorn has anyone ever heard an apology for this basic failing, lack of public bus service, from anyone else in the BOE?

The Monongalia County Schools administration cannot even provide buses for students during the state testing days. What grows ever more evident with every failing is that they don’t care. They don’t care enough to fix the mess they’ve made.

The Great Swindle – Part Three


And that’s how it’s done. You connive.

When a massive wealthy institution such as WVU wants to get someone else, i.e, the taxpayers of Monongalia County, to build for WVU’s use and control and ownership a multi-million dollar baseball stadium (“$16.2 million”), the WVU administration does what comes natural to the unscrupulous: it connives.

First, WVU sports took what it could get merely by asking, and since the Monongalia County Commission and West Virginia state legislature were evidently eager to give away the public’s money to the WVU athletic department and the WVU Foundation, essentially, WVU merely asked and a ton of taxpayer money was simply handed over. Surely a period of private conniving preceded the public handout, and then the public conniving began in earnest, so that WVU sports might maximize the already locked-in handout from the public.

That irrepressible conniver himself, WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck, slickly abetted by WVU associate general counsel, Rossi Wiles, put on quite a performance (reported on April 23 in the Dominion Post) in a recent work session with the Monongalia County Commission. All that WVU pushed for was everything, while speciously defining terms and law. WVU pretended that it will have locked-in legal ownership of the baseball stadium, as yet to be built with county and state funds. At that point, the County Commission should have halted discussions and hired a legal firm (to be paid for via TIF revenue), but recall this is a county commission that loves giving away public funds to rich entities so, instead, Commissioner Callen more than happily went along, saying it all sounded good to him! and that WVU was probably even doing the county a favor! because the ballpark was such a worthless multi-million dollar piece of crap that it would be a costly burden for the County to own. Thank you, WVU, for taking our multi-million dollar facility away from us. Director Luck must look at Commissioner Callen and then go laughing to the bank thinking, Where has that kind of official been all my life? It’s like stealing candy from babies. Thing is, it’s not the County Commission’s candy to let be stolen.

Talk of the Commissioner being in over his head is beside the point when the Commissioner sounds like he doesn’t have a head. If the county insists upon using its money to build a ballpark facility, it should build a facility that can generate money for the county, or at the very least the county should build a facility that can return its investment of public funds by being sold on taxpayers’ behalf. Presumably the last time anyone checked, Monongalia County was not a subordinate arm of the WVU athletic department and the WVU Foundation, a wealthy private entity that gives millions to WVU sports. Someone should remind the County Commission of that actual fact. It’s also a legal fact. That is, maybe someone should remind the County Commission with a lawsuit.

Under proposed terms of the collaboration agreement, between WVU and the Monongalia County Commission, necessary to build and operate the ballpark, WVU would buy the 7 acre land plot for the ballpark (for $2.1 million from Mon-View Development LLC) while the County Commission would approve the TIF District county property taxes and state sales taxes to be used to build the multi-million dollar ballpark. WVU would then manage the ballpark, have first priority of use of the ballpark, and evidently take any revenue generated by the ballpark, and after 30 years of the County providing additional TIF monies in infrastructure support for the ballpark, WVU would own the ballpark outright. Got it? WVU buys a plot of land from private developers, then gets a brand new baseball stadium complete with three decades worth of infrastructure support for free, from county and state taxpayers. The ballpark facility, built entirely by county and state funds will simply be given to WVU to control and use – and even apparently to profit from – for 30 years, after which time WVU owns the ballpark complex outright, and could then keep using it or sell it for its own gain.

And hey! maybe by then, in 30 years, the Monongalia County Commission, or the state, will be crooked enough or stupid enough – and who could be surprised – to then buy back the ballpark from WVU for county or state use – even though it was county and state tax funds that built the ballpark in the first place!

If at all possible, the scam that is the “Ballpark TIF” should be revoked. Want a TIF plan to build an interstate highway interchange in the area (for “about $28 million“), fine, pass a TIF to provide that public benefit. Interstates are public roads after all. What you don’t do – that is, if you are not a crook – is pass or administer a TIF plan to build and give away a multi-million dollar ballpark for wealthy and/or private entities like the WVU Foundation and the WVU athletic department to use and profit from and then even sell for additional profit – all at public expense.

Failing revocation of the “Ballpark TIF”, the proposed collaboration agreement that WVU brought to the County Commission should be torn up. The Monongalia County Commission – which approved the TIF in the first place – should write the collaboration agreement itself, on terms that benefit the taxpaying public, and if WVU doesn’t like those terms, then WVU can go build its own stadium with its own dollars. WVU can even go build its stadium in another county – if it dares face the wrath of public opinion and public action for such retaliation against the people of Morgantown and Monongalia County.

If the ballpark must be built by the TIF plan, the County Commission should do something sensible, or at least something not crooked, something that would even benefit WVU. The County Commission should allocate $2.1 million of TIF monies to buy the 7 acre plot of land, so that the county or the state or some entity controlled by the county and/or state controls the land, thus guaranteeing WVU cannot legally (or speciously) expropriate the entire ballpark facility by way of owning the land beneath it.

WVU associate general counsel Rossi Wiles:

“By law, whoever owns the ground, pretty much [the baseball stadium] would go…to that entity, which, we do believe to protect the university’s interest and to play our baseball games, it really should come to the university.”

It really should not. The stadium really should go to the entities (state and county) that will pay for the stadium to be built. For that to happen, if that, by law, requires owning the land beneath the stadium, fine, the county and state will have plenty of TIF funds at their disposal to easily pay for the 7 acres. Therefore, the stadium goes to the county and/or state to own and to profit from, by operation and/or by sale. Everyone wins. WVU saves $2.1 million upfront by not having to buy the land. County TIF funds are already locked in to the TIF district and could be used, if need be, to manage the stadium, where WVU can choose to pay to play like everyone else or it can go build its own multi-million dollar stadium as it wishes, rather than swindling the public out of millions.

If the Monongalia County Commissioners cannot build a multi-million dollar ballfield facility that is monetarily and otherwise worthwhile for public use and worth multi-millions upon any sale, then the Commissioners have no business being in charge of the public’s money in the first place, and the two commissioners who voted for the “Ballpark TIF” might as well be removed from office at the next election.

Unless of course the election options are worse than no better. In that case, the happy picking of the public’s pocket will continue.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Ill Mice And The Fat Cats


That is, with keeping the public impoverished. Take a look around.

Who needs bridges? Take a look at the Hartman Run bridge, literally falling apart.

Take a look at Morgantown and Monongalia County. It’s as if these places are in love with being poor. Both Morgantown City Council and Monongalia County Commission have ample powers to vastly improve the public conditions and qualities of life, but they seem to prefer to keep the public impoverished instead. Oftentimes, these officials even sound proud of keeping the local public poor. It’s sick. The Morgantown City Council and the Monongalia County Commission too often act like ill mice slaving in the service of monied fat cats. It’s pathetic, grotesque, and wrong.

County Commissioner Eldon Callen and Bill Bartolo both emphasize not increasing revenues, keeping a lid on how much money the Commission provides the county. They act proud of dispensing paltry sums to the parks, to counseling services, to transportation, to the needs of the homeless. Hey, if they can spend fewer dollars on the public, for the public’s welfare, they are proud to tell you, they surely will. In Commissioner Bartolo’s words: “Look at how you are spending [money for]…public services…not on how you can get more.”

What a sick joke. Commissioners Bartolo and Callen recently voted via the “ballpark TIF” to give away millions of taxpayer dollars to the extremely high revenue WVU athletic department. And they recently voted, via this “ballpark TIF” to give away tens of millions of taxpayer dollars more, for the next three decades, to support commercial development – thereby locking a lot of tax money into that largely commercial district and locking it away from largely residential areas of the county. Meanwhile, these commissioners vote to give a mere $70,000 per year to the local public parks system, and they refuse to repair or replace the heavily traveled Hartman Run bridge (wholly owned by the county), and they vote for virtually nothing more for the local homeless problem, and there exists a dire lack of centers (such as may be found, for example, in Garrett County Maryland) for recycling common hazardous or toxic materials, and in the case of Commissioner Callen, at least, he refuses to vote to let Westover properly expand its tax base over city-adjacent commercial properly. Unless Commissioners Callen and Bartolo get far more on the forward and healthy side of history, they should be thanked for whatever service they may have contributed and then be quickly dismissed by the voting public in favor of Commissioners who are not so intent upon keeping the public poor.

WVU President Jim Clements not uncommonly makes wrongful decisions, unfortunately – in fostering secret dealings from the public, in siting childcare facilities at dangerous and polluted intersections, in constantly allowing tuition raises – but at least he knows what his main job is: raising money for his constituency, WVU, constantly bringing in tens of millions of additional dollars. Contrast Clements’ clarity of purpose with that of Commissioners Bartolo and Callen who not only constantly talk against raising funds for the public but who then turn around and essentially give away public funds to wealthy entities like the WVU athletic department, which itself is supplemented by the even more wealthy WVU Foundation ($1.2 billion in assets). With County Commissioners like that, any fear of public waste and public theft is superfluous. Monongalia County poverty, that is, the active impoverishment of the public, in many ways starts with these commissioners and their woeful, backwards rhetoric. They cling to a kind of rhetorical insanity that flounders along the following broken line: the more the commissioners deny the public, the more the commissioners benefit the county. Who exactly is the county, again, if not the public? Insanity of speech? Or willful idiocy? Regardless, this kind of grotesque ideology is typically pushed down on public officials and then upon the public itself primarily by the few but the powerful, wealthy entities and individuals. It takes a strong and active public well-organized to overcome these impoverishing forces.

What is exceptionally not helpful is when this idiocy of the County is rubber-stamped by the Morgantown City Council, for example, in its unanimous resolution supporting the “ballpark TIF.” This odious resolution was soon followed by high comedy when the City Council and the County Commission found themselves haggling over their remaining tight funds – dollars which are badly needed for bridges, and parks, and counseling, and homelessness, and street repair, and hazardous waste disposal…and a million other things.

So let this be one of those rare learning moments when that great cheerleader of a WVU President, Jim Clements, has something to teach the Monongalia County Commission and the Morgantown City Council: your foremost job…IS TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE PUBLIC…so that you can stop denying services to the public, and so that you can provide additional badly needed services to the public, and so that you can stop impoverishing and marginalizing the public.

West Virginia has one of the lowest property tax rates in the USA. That might be a significant reason why West Virginia is dead last in well being in the USA. Morgantown has one of the most chewed up and hollowed out city boundaries imaginable, allowing a tremendous amount of B&O taxes to go uncollected. That might be a significant reason for much of the rough and rugged, that is slummy and crummy – crumbled – conditions of the city and county, with too many pitiful and non-existent public services.

No surprise either that Monongalia County Board of Education continues to find especially unsavory ways to impoverish the public by threatening funding for the Morgantown Area Youth Services Project, in what appears to be retaliation against Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom. 

It’s long since time for Morgantown and Monongalia County (not to mention the entire state) to move forward, with or without the existing elected officials. It’s long since time to stop the impoverishing of the public.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Swindle – Part Two


The so-called “Ballpark TIF” is a great scam. Via the Tax Increment Financing plan approved by the Monongalia County Commission and by the West Virginia state legislature, the county – the county? no joke – and the state are funding an artificial turf multimillion dollar baseball stadium for West Virginia University, an academic and service institution that, oh by the way, has its own multimillion dollar sports foundation, in essence, given that the WVU Foundation, a private nonprofit corporation with $1.2 billion in assets, gives millions of dollars to WVU sports. Does Monongalia County have a multimillion dollar sports foundation? It may as well have one now. This siphoning of county taxpayer dollars direct into the pockets of WVU to build WVU a ballpark is happening in the very same year that the state is otherwise cutting funding to WVU by millions of dollars – a wholly unethical swindle and juxtaposition that no one, let alone media, has yet remarked on.

Why lock in the TIF for 30 years? Even the developers say the proposed bonds will be paid off in 12-15 years.

So this is one of the great thefts going. This is how government is obliterated so that public funds are stuffed hand over fist into the wallets of wealthy and private interests. The public be damned. Meanwhile Monongalia County Commissioner Eldon Callen pleads poverty! can’t do a damn thing about repairing or replacing the Hartman Run bridge! Commissioner Callen is a huge reason for the impoverishing of the county. Can’t even upkeep a bridge. The County Commission may have to close down that bridge, say the Commissioners, without noting that the County has for decades neglected its duty to fix or replace that bridge that it owns and for which it is responsible. Pathetically, Commissioners Bartolo and Callen say the possible closing of the bridge is not their fault. It is their fault. It is entirely the fault of the County Commission which owns and is responsible for the bridge and which has failed to repair or replace it. The Commission pretends that it was jerked around by the WV Division of Highways regarding care of the bridge, but the county evidently never had any contractual commitment by the state to take over the bridge.  So the bridge remains the county’s problem. It’s the county’s bridge, in the county’s care, and it has long since been crumbling.

Funds that the county (and state) could have used to entirely replace the Hartman Run bridge will instead be directed to help fund the ballpark for WVU. The County is willing to divert money for WVU sports and for commercial profit over public development, and for a new interstate interchange, but is very unwilling to maintain or replace an existing heavily used bridge. That’s wrong any way one looks at it. First the county (also the state) should take care of its existing obligations to the public, and then if possible it should see how it may assist its primary constituents in far more publicly responsible ways.

The county and state should not be funding a baseball stadium for WVU, or, especially given the lack of meaningful public debate on the matter, for anyone else. The WVU Foundation or the WVU athletic department, and any other ballers, should build a ballpark for WVU, and any others, if they want one. The proposed baseball park is apparently such a worthless creation that Commissioner Callen fears it would be a money sinkhole – hence his push to give away the stadium, to WVU. Really, Commissioner, give it away? Is a multimillion dollar stadium built with taxpayer funds such a piece of junk that it cannot even be sold in the future for more than it was built for, or even sold for some significant portion of what it was built for? Can that even be legal – to give away a taxpayer funded facility rather than to sell it, or to auction it off? What sort of stewardship of public funds is that? Read the rest of this entry »

Dominion Post Editorials And The Brutally Stupid Boss Mentality





Today’s latest utterly repugnant editorial from the Dominion Post – “No shows have lost their voice” – concerns the Morgantown City Council Election of two days past in which a mere 12.5 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

Brutally rationalizing, the Dominion Post states that non-voters should shut up.

Those “14,542 registered voters who did not vote…in Tuesday’s election” opted to have, ostensibly, no “say” in the election, and therefore the Dominion Post concludes, “they should not have anything to say now.”

The DP’s position is repellent and destructive. And, once again, in a separate vein, it’s also stupid.

Some of the problems with the DP’s repugnant conclusion, or position:

  • it further discourages citizen involvement in democracy (accusing and berating the public is not much if at all conducive to encouraging the public’s democratic participation)
  • it seeks no understanding of causes of low citizen involvement in democracy (not voting actually “says” quite a lot that the Dominion Post pretends away and ignores)
  • it is wholly arrogant, asinine, and contemptuous toward the public (recall, the Dominion Post proclaims itself to be “the public’s advocate”)
  • it offers no remedies either for increasing voter turnout or for increasing participation in greater democratic activity (the Dominion Post disdains even to recommend the obvious partial remedy that worked well in the prior election: vote by mail, which helped nearly double the turnout, as compared to this election)

Vote by mail helps to make the small bit of democratic activity that is voting significantly more user-friendly, citizen friendly, public friendly. If the Dominion Post were not so intent upon contemptuously denouncing the vast majority of the public who did not vote, this modest suggested improvement for casting votes might have seemed front and center obvious.

Main causes of low voter turnout are well-known and understandable, including the general sense that in a typical election year, one or another selection of candidates or likely winners would probably not effect change that would greatly affect the lives of most people, or that one or another selection of candidates or likely winners would not effect change that would be much better or worse than any other selection of candidates. The DP editorial either pretends to deny or is contemptuous of these common views, and instead goes into hysterics telling people either to vote or to shut up.

If the KKK ran a slew of candidates to try to take over the city council in this day and age, then you can bet that awareness of the election would be massively heightened and turnout would be overwhelming to defeat such candidates. But the KKK is not running, nor is any progressive Sea Change Coalition. So apparently, there is not a tremendous amount to fear, and not a tremendous amount to get excited about here in this rather typical city council election. In fact, most all the candidates sound a whole lot like more of the same old same old, so to speak. Given such candidates, no one can reasonably expect that any momentous change in the conditions of life for the vast bulk of citizens of Morgantown is in the offing.

Of course there is some difference between the candidates, and in this election some difference between the two slates of candidates: “Morgantown Together” and “Victory for Morgantown”. Thus, it’s well worth voting. Nevertheless, it was to be expected that many would not vote, because the electoral possibilities were so minor. There was not a major voice or major vision or major organizational capacity associated with any one slate of candidates, or even with any one individual candidate. These were both and all relatively status quo slates and candidates. Why, again, bother to vote to basically reaffirm one version of the status quo or another? Once again, the status quo was basically running unopposed, while the KKK sat on the sidelines, fortunately, and the Sea Change Coalition was nowhere to be found, unfortunately. Read the rest of this entry »

The City of Morgantown Elections: Absurdity In Defeat


But what more in victory?

The political action committee Morgantown Together won 5 races and 5 seats on the Morgantown City Council yesterday and lost none, an undefeated election season.

Of the 4 council members who voted these past couple years as a Backwards Bloc, two were defeated, including Mayor Jim Manilla, also Linda Herbst, while the other two stood for re-election unopposed: Ron Bane and Wes Nugent. It seems apparent that Morgantown Together could have run Mickey Mouse again against Bane and defeated him handily, while Nugent, who is the most personable and youngest Backwards Bloc voter, would also have been seriously challenged and quite possibly defeated by virtually any Morgantown Together candidate.

The absurd and petty hypocrisy of the two defeated Backwards Bloc candidates was striking in the run-up to the election. Both Manilla and Herbst ran inane and vapid ads denouncing the Morgantown Together candidates for running as a group, and yet these Backwards Blockers had no compunction against their own continual voting as a group throughout the past years.

Even more striking, some excellent investigation and reporting work by Sam Wilkinson at his blog shows the unmistakable signs that the Backwards Bloc councilors and BB-aligned candidates themselves operated as a group under the designation “Victory for Morgantown”. They lost every contested race. For the politics behind the politics see Wilkinson’s findings:

The Backwards Bloc comedy continued post election, with an ironic claim by Mayor Manilla reported by WAJR:

“The very, very low number of voter turn out.” contributed to his defeat says Jim Manilla.  “We expected a lot more, we were hoping that people really followed the issues.” he says.

The irony is that Mayor Manilla largely led the charge to do away with Vote By Mail (VBM), which had helped raise voter turnout last election to a relatively high 25 percent. With no VBM this election, voter turnout was cut nearly in half. The further irony is that the VBM election had swept 3 of the 4 Backwards Bloc councilors into office, only to be swept out in both contested races after voting in bloc, 4-3, to get rid of Vote by Mail. By all appearances, most of the registered voters who turned out did pay attention to the issues, and voted accordingly.

WAJR has been pronouncing repeatedly on this the day after the election that the low turnout shows that city residents were “not interested” in the election. In reality, the city council dominated by the Backwards Bloc were the ones “not interested” in making democracy and governmental decisions as accessible as they should be, as they need to be.

WAJR morning host Kay Murray, evidently demoralized by the election results, showed virtually no interest in discussing the elections and was astonished at how long she thought it seemed to take to get the final count (after the ultimate results had been made plain by the early returns). She was swiftly informed by the city manager that it took far longer to tabulate the results in the previous election, 3:30 a.m., when the Backwards Bloc swept into power, as compared to 11:30 p.m., this time, when the Backwards Bloc was utterly broken up.

The need for independent media in Morgantown remains painfully obvious.

The configuration of the Morgantown City Council was significantly improved by these elections, but is it very promising? Not really, not apparently. Without a strong and serious, let alone any, city council push for comprehensive annexation, the city can do little to banish or remediate much of its current woes. And therein lies probably the great part of the reason for low voter turnout: even the new city council, which could do so much, seems so bound and determined to do so little – and it shows – it shows badly – not least to would-be voters. Read the rest of this entry »

The Great Swindle – Part One


It has come to this in West Virginia. In the same year that the state has cut more than $13 million in funding to WVU, the state has approved and signed away multi-millions of state sales tax dollars to build a baseball stadium for WVU.

That’s right. The university gets cut financially by the state, while WVU sports, which are said to be paid for by the ostensibly “self-sustaining” WVU athletic department, gets millions of dollars from the state, via the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) swindle signed into law yesterday.

Why does no one, let alone any media outlet, comment on that scandalous juxtaposition: state financial cut to the university, state financial boon to WVU sports. That’s wrong. That’s backwards. That is what one would expect in a state that ranks dead last in well-being among the fifty states.

No WVU department or programs, office or services should allow the WVU administration to cut a dime from their budgets. No student tuition should be raised. No Cost Of Living Adjustment (COLA) should be disallowed by the administration. After all, WVU is currently loaning the ostensibly “self-sustaining” athletic department “about $12 million” and is awaiting the approximately $14 million gift baseball stadium from the state (and Monongalia County) TIF scam. So WVU has the money to offset this year’s state cuts to the university. Or, that is, it had the money, before diverting it to the athletic department. The university could readily raise the money by selling some of its investments and assets. Or even by tapping one of its bank accounts or fundraising arms. The university had millions of dollars on hand to lend to the athletic department and is throwing tens of millions of dollars into new construction projects left and right, and WVU recently reported that it saved $17.5 million by bond refinancing and had another $4.9 million freed up when new construction bids came in lower than expected. That alone is $22.4 million – far more than enough to offset this year’s $13.3 million cut from the state. Any cut to the university that WVU administrators blame on the state funding cut would be phony, another lie, and another swindle, not unlike the “ballpark” TIF. (More on that hijacking of public funds in forthcoming posts.)

What’s wrong with this picture?:

proposed TIF district

Read the rest of this entry »

Crash And Smash On The Mileground


Mileground Road (US 119) at the intersection with WV 705 regularly gridlocks due to traffic backed up from the entrance/exit to Eastwood Elementary, in the midst of construction. There is no preventing the gridlock. The school creates it. Prior to the opening of the school and prior to construction, delays were commonplace but not gridlock. Now gridlock happens every morning and afternoon. The major commuter and commercial intersection is forced into gridlock to allow traffic into and out of Eastwood Elementary just up the road (WV 705). And all the traffic is frequently stopped by or forced to dodge giant backhoes and dump trucks and dirt movers and bulldozers, which regularly cross and work around the school drive and WV 705. Screeching ambulances going to and from the nearby hospitals also often freeze all vehicles.

And this morning: crash smash! a vehicle rear ended in the long queue of cars on the Mileground. Pop! Crunch! followed shortly by curses and obscenities. Just another pleasant scene by Eastwood Elementary: a school site that is totally illicit per regulations, state student safety Rules. The local Monongalia County Board of Education could not care less. Nor could the state Board of Education. Before all: it’s their wreck.

Three years ago to the day, one of our efforts in trying to stop the monster on the Mileground:

Congestion Elementary

Read the rest of this entry »

Comedy Central Time, Again, At The Dominion Post


Ahahahahahaha!!! Somewhere, not too very far away, comedian Lewis Black is laughing gleefully. “This stuff writes itself!” he cheers.

The latest DP would-be pontification against Commissioner Bloom does not even sound as if written as drunken spiel this time. It’s sober, very sober in tone. The April 22nd editorial is quite seriously (however ungrammatically) titled, “When and what you say no to”. And why not be serious and sober? After all, in this latest bit of lunacy, the DP self-proclaims itself to be “the public’s advocate.”


Now that’s serious comedy.

Too often, clearly, the Dominion Post is the public’s devout bane. Not to belabor the obvious.

This Dominion Post editorial is, no surprise, full of ridiculous and false statements.

The DP pretends that Tom Bloom – a longtime high school counselor and a newly elected County Commissioner – should have “reassured himself [prior to the election] that he was eligible for flex time.” First, Bloom is eligible for flex time, just as are other school employees, a number of whom in fact receive it. However, in Bloom’s case, for no good reason, and for allegedly unscrupulous and unlawful reasons, Superintendent Devono has chosen to deny Bloom flex time. Thus, Bloom is suing. Second, for Bloom to sue prior to his election would have been a ludicrous and outrageous burden. Superintendent Devono has chosen to act in a highly suspect manner – actually, again, like a scoundrel – in denying newly elected Commissioner Bloom flex time. This base act by Superintendent Devono is neither Bloom’s fault nor his responsibility.

Lawsuit or no lawsuit, denying Bloom a meager bit of flex time is baseless, scoundrelous, and detrimental to everyone involved, to the general public not least. It stinks wildly. The Dominion Post has chosen to lie with the shit and garbage of that decision, a position in which the DP seems very comfortable, and from where it cheers and pontificates.

Lewis Black could only marvel. We all can.

The Dominion Post decrees: “Policies, laws and meeting times don’t conform to your availability or whim, you comply with them.”


We’ll leave it as an exercise to the class (or, say, to the community) to pick apart the multiple canards and falsehoods embedded in that bogus claim. Simpleton decrees are readily shredded. Anyone who wants to take the time could proceed at length in eviscerating detail.

The Dominion Post editorials against County Commissioner Tom Bloom are willfully stupid. The Dominion Post never seems and sounds more in its innate element than when it is siding with thunking, thudding tyranny, with being the boss, the master – such as the way that is so often pounded forth – or is it paddled forth? – by the Superintendent of Schools of Monongalia County. And the Dominion Post never seems more in its innate element than when it is siding against an unusually genuine and courageous popular voice.

One final laugh – the DP’s claim that County Commissioner Tom Bloom is hurting “the public’s interest” given Mon Schools’ expenditure of “taxpayers dollars as the school board defends itself against [Bloom’s] legal action.”

Lewis Black time again. If Superintendent Devono and the school board had not denied Bloom an hour or so of flex time every other week to attend County Commission meetings, then there would be no legal action. Thus, the egregious, not to mention unprincipled, wasters of taxpayers’ dollars here are the Superintendent and the Board of Education. They would rather waste taxpayers’ dollars than give up their position in the sewer, a repugnant position from which they may or may not be forced by the courts. The Dominion Post is willfully stupid and working against the public interest in cheerleading and defending this excrement, unprincipled power. No surprise. That’s in its very nature.


Read the rest of this entry »

Annex, Annex, Annex


map of morgantown wv

The map of the city of Morgantown, West Virginia looks like a block of swiss cheese half-eaten by a pack of rats.

So too the city’s budget, the city’s services, and the city’s infrastructure. It’s as if half the city has been clawed and gouged by varmints. Look at it. Look at the map. Look at the streets. Look at the neighborhoods. Look at the public spaces. Not all, of course, but a lot.

Then look again at the map. See those light spaces around 705 and Mileground Road and Cheat Road and Greenbag Road (between First Ward and Earl Core Road)? All those spaces are loaded with business and commerce that pay no B&O (Business & Occupation) tax to the city – unlike every other city business (those located within the darker colored sectors, the city itself). So this is how the city is gutted – in fact the whole area – fiscally, and socially, and physically. Businesses in the city pay B&O taxes to help support the city that helps to support them. But businesses technically located “outside” the city pay no B&O taxes even though those businesses would not exist if not for the city. It’s wrong. It causes the city to suffer. It hurts the city residents and the city workers. And thus the people of the county suffer, and the students and employees of WVU.

While much of the city of Morgantown is nice enough, providing a good place to live for many, the lousy roads, the crumbling or non-existent sidewalks, the pollution and traffic menace (not least by heavy trucks), the lack of high quality public schools, the badly underdeveloped parks system and public spaces, the dire lack of housing and services for the homeless, the endless rows of slum housing for WVU students, the trash, the fights, the fires – the perennial lack of funds for pressing social needs, employment needs, and quality of life – is outrageous.

How pathetic is the city of Morgantown? So pathetic it had to beg Monongalia County for half a million dollars in a loan to build an access road to the forthcoming light industrial park by the airport.

How pathetic is the city of Morgantown? So pathetic it could barely agree to buy the great public space that is the old Woodburn schoolgrounds, having to scramble to find less than half a million dollars to be paid out at a mere $70,000 annually over seven years to the county school system. And so pathetic that is lacks funds to even marginally let alone fully develop that great public space and many others.

How pathetic is the city of Morgantown? So pathetic that it has stated is has no money this summer for paving the crumbled city roads.

How pathetic is the city of Morgantown? So pathetic that is has virtually nothing new to offer this year toward the city’s perennial problem of homelessness.

How pathetic is the city of Morgantown? So pathetic in regard to power lines, like the state, that is has no money or leadership to bury the power lines that make the city streets look so ghastly, no money or leadership to get rid of the telephone poles that narrow sidewalks, menace pedestrians, especially those with disabilities, no money or leadership to bury these lines and get rid of these poles that are constantly subject to storm damages and power outages because they are not buried.

Pathetically, we the people of Morgantown have failed to take the one most obvious and most effective step to remediate these problems and more. The obvious necessary, and proper, step is annexation. Morgantown must annex the pockets of land and commerce that miraculously fall outside the city’s current boundaries. These are business-heavy areas that ought to be paying B&O taxes to the city. These businesses benefit mightily by their proximity to the city. Virtually surrounded as county islands within the city, these swaths of business enjoy high visibility and direct access to the many city residents and city workers and city amenities and consequent continuous flow of city money and city support. Yet none of these businesses reciprocate with any B&O taxes to the city, being technically located, in county pockets and islands, beyond the city boundaries though virtually wrapped within the city boundaries. See the map. See the commercial sectors along WV 705, and Greenbag Road, and Hartman Run Road, and the Mileground, and US 119 out to Glenmark Center and to Pierpont Landing. The businesses in these areas make their money directly and indirectly off of Morgantown city residents and Morgantown city workers and Morgantown city infrastructure and Morgantown city services, which are supported by city funds. The city funds consist largely of B&O taxes. Thus these non-city businesses, which also create additional traffic and pollution and other problems for the city, and which operate in such close proximity to the city, should pay B&O taxes, which will only occur if they are incorporated into the city. These many businesses are essentially an indivisible part of the city, yet they have not formally been made part of the city, and thus do not pay their fair share. They do not pay what current city businesses pay, and they will never contribute as they should until the city of Morgantown properly fleshes out its boundaries by annexation – to both interstates, and beyond.

Annexation, by providing the additional B&O taxes, would solve a lot of city problems and quality of life issues, and many other problems could be remediated. This annexation should have happened decades ago. The Morgantown City Council continues to offer no leadership on this most pressing of issues, and the people of Morgantown have not remotely sufficiently pressured the Council to get it done. The city deserves better. The county would benefit as well. So would WVU. The need is very great. The rewards would be great. The city must increase its pathetic revenue stream by long delayed annexation to address its long neglected needs.

The City of Westover is far ahead of the City of Morgantown in properly pressing for the long overdue and badly needed annexation of the mall and other commercial operations in immediate proximity to that city.

Further Reading:

A Bad Situation Getting Worse


Day 1 of the new school, Eastwood, on the Mileground was met with a “wreck” on the Mileground between a car and school bus, a wreck that was responded to by multiple fire trucks. Fortunately no one was injured, reportedly.

Day 2 of the new school on the Mileground brings a news report in which Eastwood Principal Hartshorn assures the public that the state police “have agreed to provide [an] officer there every day,” said Hartshorn. “He will be there [at the Eastwood campus entrance and exit on WV 705] to help with traffic and congestion in and out of the school.” Oh really, Principal Hartshorn? No police officer of any sort was stationed anywhere – let alone along WV 705 – at either the opening or the closing of school on Day 2.

By contract with the DOH the contractor is required to have a police officer handling traffic at the school. And the Eastwood Principal promised an officer would be there. On Day 1 he was. On Day 2 he wasn’t. Day 3?

Day 2 also brought an in-school announced warning to the students that they might feel something or hear something apparently from the adjacent blasting [of bedrock] for the highway roundabout construction. Why is the contractor blasting by the school during school hours?

Why is there no safety fence between the school and the massive construction site?

Is heavy equipment still being allowed on the school campus? [Update: Yes. Heavy machinery, giant backhoes, etc, are being operated and driven on school grounds and school drives, daily. Even at the height of school dropoff and pickup hours. Cars and buses form lines on campus behind and beside active backhoes, dump trucks, bulldozers…]

What happened to the “DANGER! BLASTING! KEEP OUT” sign sitting on school grounds by the campus traffic circle at the school’s front doors on Day 1? The “DANGER! BLASTING!” sign sat out on the afternoon of Day 1 but was nowhere to be found on Day 2 when apparently the actual blasting occurred. And there is no fence between the school and the adjacent construction pit. Not even a tape barrier.

Everyone should read Donald Barthelme’s penetrating story “The School” immediately.

On Day 1, school afternoon pickup traffic backed up so far across the Eastwood Elementary campus that it would have stretched into the future state highways roundabout – during early afternoon rush hour – EVEN THOUGH traffic monitors guided cars into parallel pickup lines throughout the parking lot, for hundreds of feet. Of course, this meant children were dodging between the two lines of cars at pickup, while teachers guided them as best they could.

On Day 2, school morning dropoff traffic stretched all the way onto WV 705, backing up traffic into THE EXISTING intersection of WV 705 and US 119 (Mileground Road). School traffic cars on WV 705 blocked the highway because school traffic filled the entire campus. And no police officer or any personnel whatsoever were at that WV 705 intersection with the campus to direct traffic one way or another. Not that any traffic could move during the gridlock. Thank negligent leadership and disastrous planning. Cars needing to turn onto the school campus simply sat on WV 705, blocking all traffic – during morning rush hour – until the gridlock on campus eased a bit.

On Day 2, during morning dropoff, children dodged between two lines of cars to get into the school. “Look there goes Johnny! Go, Johnny!” A relief that the first graders dashing out of the cars actually reached the sidewalk in one piece.

On Day 1, for “recess,” lacking play space, the children walked along the school building off sidewalk. (There aren’t enough sidewalks.) What sights to behold. Hey, look! Heavy construction! Diesel fumes! Heavy traffic! And the DANGER! BLASTING! sign. Such an exercise walk is the least of any concerns. It was likely the safest thing that could happen around that school.

On Day 1, there was no 15 MPH School Zone warning sign on WV 705. Well guess what. On Day 2, the day after the Day 1 crash of a car and a school bus on the schoolside Mileground Road, there magically appeared a 15 MPH School Zone warning sign on the schoolside state highway (WV 705) that parents had long asked for and that had never been promised. Yes, the school district had never guaranteed such a sign, and the WV Division of Highways had recently publicly stated that such signs would be determined after the fact by an engineering study. Apparently the Day 1 congestion and crash was study enough.

So who says the officials can’t learn? If only too late. And as for the Monongalia County Schools top officials? They appear incorrigible.

So take care out there as you fend for yourselves, parents and students.

Mon Schools’ promises are to be taken with a grain of salt.

Eastwood Elementary opened over its reported student capacity – as parents sensed years ago and then demonstrated that it would, also years ago. And no promised police officer showed up to direct traffic on Day 2. Someone sold Principal Hartshorn a line of bull. Let’s hope that she stops passing along that line of bull to the parents and to the larger public. Read the rest of this entry »

Whither Monongalia County Schools?


It’s worth repeating:

There is a crying need for a large community push for better conditions in the schools for the students, and for the teachers: i.e., smaller class sizes, bigger and better classrooms and facilities, and more and better resources…and more teacher and community control of those resources, which means a never ending school board election campaign for what should amount to an essentially parent/teacher & service worker/community run school board, as opposed to the current administrator/superintendent run school board that has proven to be so contemptuous, so incapable, and so wrong.

American Federation of Teachers President Sam Brunnet comments in his letter to the DP earlier this month:

statewide teacher cuts Read the rest of this entry »

Asinine: The Monongalia County Board Of Education


The Monongalia County Board of Education (BOE) has demonstrated time and again that it is doing everything possible to prevent one of its employees, high school counselor Tom Bloom, from readily serving as an elected public official, county commissioner.

The BOE has blocked Bloom from taking “unpaid half days” leave to miss a mere 90 minutes of work per week – 60 minutes per week if Bloom works through lunch, which he has said he is willing to do. This is the scummy and indefensible level at which the BOE operates in its rotten and destructive attempt to prevent Tom Bloom from attending the weekly County Commission meeting, where Bloom serves as one of three elected County Commissioners. Those 60 minutes per week away from the high school could easily be made up by flex time, but the BOE has disallowed Bloom’s use of flex time too.

The Monongalia County Board of Education is that asinine. And long has been.

That the Monongalia County BOE is a repugnant joke is to put things too lightly.

The BOE either doesn’t realize or doesn’t care that this obstinate opposition to Commissioner Bloom is a public relations disaster for them. They are acting like vengeful bullies, and these bullies are being unmasked very publicly by their own iron-gloved hands.

The absolute contempt by the BOE that is being shown to the public, and to one of the public’s important election decisions, is impressive, though customary.

Anyone with a brain, and with some semblance of sanity, can understand the unusual and great benefit to high school students of having a school counselor (or teacher or other mentor) who is also an elected official. An elected official daily on the schoolgrounds in continuous contact with students brings a lot of extra experience and knowledge and even eventual networking opportunities to thousands of young people who are growing into their various roles in the community and country.

In relentlessly acting against Tom Bloom, the BOE is acting against the County Commission, against the public, and against its own students. The BOE is cutting off the students’ noses to spite its popular employee who has the great merit of being elected to public office. Such BOE bullying shows absolute disregard, callousness, and ignorance toward the public and toward the high school students’ well-being, though the BOE constantly cries the opposite.

When did the BOE ever raise a public objection to candidate Tom Bloom as he ran for office, with the expressed intention of working as high school counselor and serving as public official if elected? Commissioner Bloom did not sneak up on the BOE. Instead, the two-faced BOE is constantly sneaking around on the public, not least in still refusing to podcast or televise its regular public meetings.

And what has happened to even the pretense of the BOE’s willingness both to work well with various public bodies and to bring the larger community into the schools for the benefit of its students? The BOE has repeatedly shown that it cannot be taken at its word. Its actions speak much louder. Pretty BOE words matched by odious BOE deeds. The BOE sneaks around as much as possible, and when sneaking around out of sight is not possible, the BOE swiftly jumps to bullying to push around Tom Bloom and many others.

Though hugely unfortunate, all of this BOE bullying against Tom Bloom is good to see so prominently displayed, because it shows the manner in which the BOE typically bullies its employees and other constituents and interests, otherwise often far more removed from the public eye. This is why the BOE regular meetings should be publicly podcast online or broadcast on TV. So many more of these BOE bullying maneuvers and actions would be made visible, the airing of which can help give rise to change to stop the ignorant, wrong, and destructive BOE behavior. Read the rest of this entry »

Nuts! The Dominion Post Editorial


Today, the Dominion Post goes again into hysterics over County Commissioner Tom Bloom, in its editorial, “Maybe, he’s just a late Bloomer.” The DP editorialists detach from their five senses, which surely most people can see, the line of attack is so bonkers. It’s self critiquing that way. A lot of DP editorials are ridiculous or petty or petulant or wrong but these editorials against County Commissioner Tom Bloom take that dreck and ineptitude to another level. The editorials go from pathetic and comical to paranoid and unhinged. It’s pitiful and malignant, sick and sad, and amazingly ridiculous. The Dominion Post. Go figure.

Commissioner Tom Bloom must be doing something right, if the DP is constantly losing its marbles over his slightest acts. We may expect to see in a future editorial something along these lines:

“Commissioner Bloom coughed and sneezed after the Pledge of Allegiance. Holy Moly! It’s an outrage! How dare he! We would never do such a thing. Far be it from us to sneeze after the Pledge of Allegiance! The county taxpayers deserve better! No sneezing!”

In actual news, yesterday, the County Sheriff answered in the affirmative to the question posed by County Commissioner Tom Bloom: “Do you believe there was any intent to mislead the Office of School Finance or the West Virginia Department of Education by any Commissioner or representative of the Monongalia County School system”?

“Yes,” the Sheriff answered, in his fact-finding report, a governmental “intent to deceive.” But the Dominion Post has no editorial about the Sheriff’s report or about any official “intent to deceive.” Quite the opposite. Instead, the Dominion Post finds the very next day to be a good time to go nuts in attacking County Commissioner Tom Bloom as an official who is “wilt[ing]” early in his tenure as a County Commissioner, an attack against the county official who asked the question and who is primarily responsible for getting any light shed at all via law enforcement fact-finding on an official “intent to deceive.”

Stupidly, the Dominion Post editorial states:

“No one is ready to call on Bloom to admit he is unable to fulfill his duties as commissioner, yet.”

It appears that Commissioner Tom Bloom is fulfilling his duties only too well. Much too well for the comfort of the Dominion Post.

Commissioner Tom Bloom dared to inquire about possible official improprieties. The Sheriff’s report answers Commissioner Bloom’s question in the affirmative. The Dominion Post goes nuts attacking Commissioner Bloom.

We should have to pay good money for the kind of comedy writing that Bloom compels out of the Dominion Post. The Dominion Post editorialists appear sick with a lot of sociopathic ideas, but the resultant writing froths and churns, borderline maniacally, in a farce heightened by its own cluelessness. The editorial is inadvertently self-damning, self-critiquing. So we may as well let it rot in peace. Read the rest of this entry »

Coal Is West Virginia!


The report on the well-being of West Virginians is terrible again this year. The state ranks dead last.

The coal and power generation industry (most recently Longview / GenPower and others) have been exploiting and impoverishing West Virginians for many decades. Many billions of potential coal and energy tax dollars simply walk away. And all the while, the coal industry sings ad nauseum: “Coal is West Virginia!” and adds: “Be Proud.”

What else can the coal industry sing? “Coal is killing you!” “Go ahead and despair.” “Your losses are our profits!” Coal and power generation and poverty and deadly pollution go hand-in-hand. Coal and poverty are practically synonymous – thus the need for the constant coal propaganda: “Coal is West Virginia!” Do they realize what they are singing? Coal proclaims itself king of the dead last – in well-being – the state of West Virginia. Be proud, Coal. No one knows how to better strip down a state than you.

Meanwhile the Longview / GenPower plant is ripping off Monongalia County of about half the tax dollars it would have to pay, if it had not been exempted from those payments by the Monongalia County Commission, and presumably the Board of Education, a few years ago. That’s multi-millions in county funds every few years.

It’s not as if West Virginia can afford the coal and power generation industries to not pay their fair share – not that these industries have ever remotely come close to paying their fair share. These parasitic and lethal industries are a big part of the reason that West Virginia is as dirt poor and desperate as it is compared to the rest of the country, and for that matter compared to the rest of the industrialized world:

As reported by 24/7 Wall Street, again this year West Virginia is dead last in well-being: Read the rest of this entry »

Stuff ‘Em In The Rooms Until They Scream


Last month on WAJR, Superintendent Devono claimed that he had no idea what “innuendo” WV American Federation of Teachers President Judy Hale was inferring by pointing out that Monongalia County has the second worst student-teacher ratio of all the counties in West Virginia. Of course, Superintendent Devono is being dishonest. He knows what the innuendo is in President Hale’s remarks. Everyone with even a minimal knowledge of issues in education knows what to infer by Hale’s remarks, which is why she did not need to elaborate. It is obvious and widely known that high student-teacher ratios are odious and anti-educational, creating difficult conditions for teachers and students, for teaching and learning.

It is also obvious that in WVU’s home county, Monongalia, which is easily one of the counties in West Virginia with the most advantages, economic, social, and cultural, it is pathetic and disgraceful that the county school system run by Superintendent Devono has the second worst student-teacher ratio in the state – making everyone’s learning and working conditions that much harder. And Mon Schools administrators and board members pretend to wonder why the teachers organizations constantly object to the lousy job the administration and board is doing.

It is Monongalia County Schools’ callous and evidently uncaring administration that is also responsible for the new windowless, closet-sized spaces in the brand spanking new Eastwood Elementary that will serve as specialist teaching rooms. The unfortunate children and teachers will be put away there in these new “green” school bunkers, schooled without daylight and working all day long in windowless closets. Great job, Superintendent and Board of Education. You really win the prize. Read the rest of this entry »

News Flash


This morning, WAJR broadcast incorrect information about the distance between the forthcoming Mileground roundabout and the location of the new Eastwood Elementary. The roundabout will not be “a few hundred yards from Eastwood Elementary.” See the WV Division of Highways (DOH) map section below.

The outside lane of the roundabout  – which is the sensible measure, widely used in these matters – will be a few hundred FEET from the FRONT DOORS of the school, that is, less than 500 feet, about 160 yards, which is a far cry from “several hundred yards” that WAJR broadcast. And this outside lane will be a mere 450 feet or less from the pre-k & kindergarten wing of the school building – about 150 yards, at least half as far as WAJR broadcast, and did not subsequently correct, using the wrong unit of measure. This distance from the outer traffic lane of the roundabout to the school is a few hundred feet, not yards, and this information has been known and has been made readily available by government agencies (and this website, etc) for about 3 years now. In fact, even the very center of the roundabout is to be less than 550 feet from the school building, about 180 yards, again a far cry from “several hundred yards” wrongly broadcast.

Eastwood Principal DeAnn Hartshorn recently announced on behalf of Mon Schools that the first day of class for students at Eastwood Elementary is scheduled to be April 3rd – a mere seven weeks before the last day of school this year. This is a very risky and stupid plan in the teeth of the ongoing major highways construction. (Meanwhile, Mon Schools is planning to begin moving in school materials in March.) Read the rest of this entry »

No Buses, No Apologies


Yet again, Mon Schools’ central office administration fails to provide regular bus service to bring students to school. Two buses not running again today. Bus service is not an optional feature of public school life. It is very reasonably mandated by the state. Yet the Mon Schools administration not only cannot get the buses to run on time, it cannot get some of them to run at all. School parents were greeted by this obnoxious announcement this morning:

Monongalia County Schools: General announcement:

Bus 245 will NOT be running today 3-1-13 Blacksville area

Bus 229 will NOT be running today 3-1-13 Morgantown area

Has Bedrock Roundabout Blasting Damaged The Structural Integrity of Eastwood Elementary?


Today on WAJR, a West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) representative noted that DOH contractors recently blasted the bedrock in front of Eastwood Elementary to dig to grade the impending multi-lane, state highways roundabout.

  • Recall: this large roundabout is a mere few hundred feet in front of Eastwood’s main entrance.
  • Recall: most or all of this area is undermined.
  • Recall: the BOE reportedly pumped more than a million dollars of mine-fill grout into the mine voids beneath the Eastwood school building and beneath the playground into the school heating/cooling geothermal well in an effort to “reduce” the chance that the ground would subside and destabilize the school. 

The above factors amount to plenty of risk and a lot of uncertainty. That risk and uncertainty was intensified by the recent roundabout blasting by the DOH contractors, mentioned today on WAJR.

Consequently, the BOE and DOH should hire an independent Professional Engineer, or three, to newly inspect the structural integrity of the school building and the stability of the schoolgrounds before a single student steps foot on that school campus or in that school building.

Over two and a half years ago, we reported on these threats to the students, as did the Charleston Daily Mail, based upon Triad Engineering’s analysis:

According to a recent TRIAD geotechnical report based on bore samples, subsidence (“troughing” cracking of the sandstone) is likely on the proposed school grounds as the School District only will grout under the proposed buildings. Even grouting apparently cannot guarantee no subsidence.

See what elementary schools collapsing due to undermining looks like: here and here.

Ry Rivard at the Charleston Daily Mail reports:

Morgantown-based Triad Engineering found there is “very high subsidence potential” at the [proposed Mileground] site. Subsidence is the settling or downward motion of earth. … The report found that, “subsidence events, should they occur at this location, will be created by the abrupt, catastrophic cracking and failure of the overlying sandstone. … Such a failure in close proximity to any proposed structure would cause sudden, severe damages,” the report found. … “The introduction of the heavy equipment necessary for site grading will likely precipitate cracking in the sandstone overlying the mine voids and increase the likelihood of a subsidence event in the future, as will the loading imposed by the new structure(s),” Triad engineers said.

Today, we should ask:

Is the DOH building the WV 705 / US 119 (Mileground) roundabout in front of the school on top of mine voids?

Did the DOH compromise, that is, blowup, the base of Eastwood Elementary while blasting for the Mileground roundabout?

And so today we insist:

The BOE and the DOH must hire independent Professional Engineers to newly examine the stability of the Eastwood Elementary schoolgrounds and the structural integrity of the Eastwood Elementary school building. Read the rest of this entry »

Wait. What? BOE Propaganda And Misinformation


The Kay Murray and Jim Stallings news and chit chat show on WAJR at its best brings news and levity to listeners during the morning in the greater Monongalia County area. When not at its best, the show serves as an obsequious propaganda hour for the Monongalia County Board of Education, often rife with misinformation, if not outright disinformation.

For example, this past Monday, February 4, the show facilitated the spread of misinformation and propaganda by the BOE, especially in regard to statements by WV AFT (American Federation of Teachers), and then on Tuesday, host Kay Murray turned right around and piled on. Let’s look at some of the details. Read the rest of this entry »

The 705/Mileground Roundabout & Eastwood Elementary On A Collision Course


As detailed previously:

A large multi-lane roundabout is being built by WV Division of Highways (DOH) this year adjacent to the impending Eastwood Elementary site at the intersection of WV 705 and US 119/Mileground Road. The Monongalia County BOE is entirely irresponsibly planning a March opening of Eastwood Elementary, right smack in the middle of major highway construction, at the tail end of the school year. As noted previously:

Of course, it is ridiculous, irresponsible, and especially dangerous to move into the consolidated intersection school of Eastwood in “spring” when there would be only a few weeks of school left, about 6 weeks (if few or no snow days; the second to last week of May is the scheduled last week of school in Monongalia County for 2013). The bus routes and classroom shifting and other building logistics are daunting, and area drivers would not have time to adjust to the impending roundabout if it is even built by then [update: It will not be; thus, school access would be difficult and provisional]. Plus, the adjacent highways’ congestion will not only remain but is expected to worsen dramatically for an additional year or two or more, both given the imposition of Eastwood and pending construction of the additional lanes on the Mileground. (Even with additional lanes across the Mileground, congestion is only expected to be reduced not eliminated. Meanwhile traffic crashes are expected to increase, at what is already a hot-spot for smash-ups.) As explained in previous posts, there is no reason of any sort, contractual or otherwise, why Monongalia County Schools could not, at the very least, delay any shift to the consolidated intersection school and every reason why it should. Read the rest of this entry »

The Dominion Post Rides, Again, From Outer Space


All hail the boss! Heil!

That’s the slavish, repugnant position of the Domion Post editorial (1/6/13) against County Commissioner Bloom and the other Commissioners. The DP strongly implies that a person should only work a second job with “primary boss approval” which is the mentality of an enslaved mind and of a degraded and subservient morality. In other words, it’s the mentality of tyranny, which the DP seems very comfortable with in its demented editorial against Commissioner Bloom.

The DP editorial continues in its sick way, whining in sheer ignorance:

“Has anyone’s second employer ever changed the time they operate to accommodate them?”

and then snidely, like a despised boss, and cluelessly, like an idiot, concluding

“Didn’t think so…”

This asinine imbecility by the DP refers to the decision of the County Commissioners, of whom Bloom is one of three, to move the Commission’s official meeting time from morning to afternoon, presumably so that Bloom can attend Commission meetings after leaving work at Morgantown High School. News flash to the DP: many second employers (if the County Commission can even be considered secondary rather than co-primary) OFTEN change their hours to accommodate desired and valuable workers who work other jobs. No wonder the DP too often produces such a low quality product, given that its editorialists cannot conceive that even any employer, committee, or board sensibly and gladly makes such adjustments. Reality goes one way, the Dominion Post goes another. The result is bs.

Obviously the DP could desperately use some quality “second” (and primary or dual) job workers itself – especially editors and managers – not least to improve the bottom barrel mentality on display in its broken and debased editorials.

The fact is, Commissioner Bloom and his fellow Commissioners set the County Commission meeting times, not some other “employer” whoever that might be. Setting meeting times is the responsibility of Bloom and his fellow Commissioners who made a sensible and responsible change. Somehow the DP can’t see that. Or does not want to. Sight and reason obliterated by clownish base tantrums.

As if drunk, all too typically inebriated, the DP editorial, apparently intoxicated on its own insanity, becomes ever more unhinged less than halfway through:

“Bloom is unable to attend regular commission meetings due to a conflict. He has a job as a guidance counselor at Morgantown High that prevents him from attending commission meetings. Our first [sic] question, and we assume others’, is why didn’t he make arrangements or acknowledge this problem before now.”

Which is beyond laughable. The oh-so-immense problem was solved quickly and easily by merely changing the regular meeting time. A triviality. What a specious and mendacious editorial the DP published. In its transparent malignancy and lacking all sense, the editorial has no credibility, no intelligence, no character. It’s despicable, on the one hand, and remarkably ludicrous on the other. One would hesitate to clean up dog shit with this editorial out of respect for the shit, out of concern for contaminating it with the vile toxins spewing forth from the DP.

The DP editorial compounds its authoritarian-worshipping servility and its loopy idiocy by chastising Bloom for not appealing to Mon Schools’ top administrative official, Superintendent Devono, in requesting scheduling flexibility, which Bloom’s “immediate supervisor” reportedly had informed Bloom would be denied and was therefore pointless to request. Moreover, there was no reason, none, to think that the County Commission meeting time could not be and would not be reasonably and readily changed, as needed. Exactly as it was.

So now, we have have worked a bit more than halfway through the DP’s disturbed editorial. Is there any need to continue to dissect the pitiable beast? It would be like carving up a corpse when the thing is already six feet under. Read the rest of this entry »

The Dominion Post Editorializes Against County Commissioner Bloom


There are few things in life more stupid or small-minded than certain editorials by Morgantown’s Dominion Post newspaper. The Dumb Post editorial has been Morgantown’s special embarrassment for many years now. Petty, asinine, ignorant, shallow, oblivious, hypocritical, and wrong – these attributes are no stranger to Dominion Post editorials, and are on fine display in its petulant and slap-happy hissy fit thrown today – “Why not have it your way?” – against County Commissioner Tom Bloom, and the other commissioners.

“Newspaper? What newspaper?” said one of Morgantown’s better attorneys when asked if he reads the Dominion Post. And when he might read it, it’s certainly not for the standing city joke that makes up the ill-thought and pathetic tantrums too often appearing as editorials of the Dumb Post.

The bizarre spasms posing as editorial in today’s DP are especially crass, wrong, and pathetic even by the DP’s low standards. The editorial’s claims are by turns hysterical, slavish, and false, and ultimately hilarious, as the editorial buffoonishly tries to turn a molehill into a mountain with its warped silver teaspoon. Did the DP pen a mock editorial, great farce? Comically, no. Laughably, the DP is “appalled” by Commissioner Tom Bloom and his fellow commissioners because they had the temerity to change their regularly scheduled meeting time from morning to afternoon for practical reasons, and because the commissioners dared make a related request for flexibility from a non-elected public official, BOE Superintendent Frank Devono, who himself has not only made countless requests from public bodies and officials but has received countless concessions, special assistance, benefits, and mutually advantageous changes of all sorts in favor of BOE employees, officials, and studentseven sometimes at significant cost to the public entities to which Devono and the BOE regularly appeal.

Superintendent Devono would be wise to see the Dumb Post editorial for the junk that it is, and to consider to what extent Read the rest of this entry »

WVU Thieving Again

Monongalia County Commission Throwing The Store Wide Open And Then Driving The Get-Away Car

Seeming unsurprisingly defensive, County Commission President Bill Bartolo claimed at the Commission’s meeting yesterday: “We’re not just endorsing a sports complex. We’re endorsing a sports complex, a new [highway] interchange and development on the west side of the interstate.”

Glad to get the goods, WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck stated to the Dominion Post: “We still have a ways to go to get a finished project, but I want to thank the Monongalia County Commissioners for their vision. Today’s approval [on Wednesday] gets us one step closer to being able to say perhaps the three best words in the English language – Let’s Play Ball.”

The public is what is getting played, again. The public is getting ripped off.

Why are public funds (property tax and sales tax dollars) being used to build a baseball stadium for WVU?

Reportedly, WVU will own and operate the stadium built with public funds and made possible only by Monongalia County Commission and state legislature approval. Why shouldn’t the public own the stadium? It’s their money building it. What alternate uses could that money have been devoted to? Were any other possibilities even suggested? Why is the Monongalia County Commission acting as a piggy bank for WVU?

What the region needs built with its tax dollars, far more than a baseball stadium for the rich university on the hill, is a regional indoor-outdoor exercise and recreation and health foods and care center – something like WVU’s student rec center but open and affordable to the public and with a greater healthy living focus and amenities. Indoor year-round public pools for physical and mental well-being through the dark and cold half of the year. And/or what else? When was the public given a choice about how to use these tens of millions of dollars of public funds?

The choice presented was a false one: a baseball stadium or nothing. What a sham. What a theft.

WVU and Fairmont State universities and baseball teams will get the main benefit of tens of million of dollars of public funds, and the public will be offered a fat-making seat in the bleachers and no doubt unhealthy fattening foods, and come wintertime (about half the year) basically nothing from the new stadium.

And it’s worse than that. The public will get basically less than nothing for its funds during the winter, and other times, because those tens of millions of tax dollars will have been blown on WVU and the others, rather than being used to build facilities that could have been used by masses of people with far greater needs and far fewer resources than WVU and local “developers” – the owners, the one percent – the usual suspects. Read the rest of this entry »

A Mess And More


As mentioned by the WV Division of Highways (DOH) on WAJR last week, Mon Schools and the DOH recently negotiated Eastwood Elementary access/egress to WV 705 until the 705/119 mileground roundabout (and ultimate school access/egress) is completed in May, 2013, approximately. This runs contrary to the assertion made months ago by Mon Schools that DOH would not tolerate access/egress to WV 705. However, the DOH spokesman stated on WAJR last week that the construction bids for the roundabout have been delayed recently so that an Eastwood access/egress to WV 705 could be determined.

Today the Dominion Post reports that Mon Schools plans for a February 15, 2013 move-in date to Eastwood Elementary. (Welcome to “8 miles per hour.”) No word on whether or not cars and buses would be able or allowed to make a left-hand turn back toward the mileground and toward Woodburn/Jerome Park/etc from that school egress on WV 705. If not, if left-hand turns are denied or are impossible, all vehicles exiting the school would need to head down to the Stewartstown road stoplight and figure out how to get back from there. Will the DOH install a temporary traffic light at the school drive? Or will Mon Schools provide personnel to direct traffic in the midst of construction on a four lane thruway? What a mess.

All that is publicly known in this regard amounts to information dating back well over a year: Read the rest of this entry »

Morgantown Mayor Jim “Tear Gas” Manilla And WVU Team-Up To Ambush Students This Weekend


Anyone brought in needs to be fined at the max, and if it’s arson, it’s arson, and they are criminals,” Manilla told the AP. “And I think that is the sum of the ideas for the short term.

The sum of the ideas. Indeed. No post-game concert behind the Mountainlair Student Union? No “fun alternative” sensibly suggested by WVU faculty to help mellow-out the boozed-up adrenaline rush of the football game. Nothing to temper the campus.

No, the “sum of the ideas” is to cede the university and town, by lowering things to the level of a rough ballgame in getting increasingly rough and tough with students who the WVU administration label as the opposition:

When it comes to telling the public how officials will deal with future rioting following West Virginia University football games, school and Morgantown executives are adopting the same mantra. ‘It’s not a smart idea to dangle things in front of people and say, “Here’s your game plan”,’ said Corey Farris, WVU dean of students. ‘Coach Holgorsen doesn’t go out onto the field and give all the plays to the opposing team’.”

A campus-wide, town-wide violent sporting contest. What could possibly go wrong?

Morgantown Mayor Jim Manilla said he has at least one idea for future games. “We need to make sure we have double the tear gas we had over the weekend,” Manilla said.

What could possibly go wrong?

Tear Gas U. Utter mismanagement. Read the rest of this entry »

Cheerleader Clements & The Fires, Riots & Student Slum Housing At WVU In Morgantown


It explodes.

Student slum housing everywhere. Morgantown and student slum housing are more or less synonymous. As radio host Hoppy Kercheval reminds us: “Morganhole”. Want to get rid of the fires? Get rid of the mountains of fuel. Kercheval has nothing to say about that.

Slum housing. Crowded classrooms.

Tuition increases above inflation more-or-less constantly.

Pugnacious-making alcohol legal and omnipresent. Mellowing marijuana criminalized, forced underground, and hypocritically and fraudulently demonized.

WVU President Clements has been correctly criticized for being far too much of a cheerleader and far too little of a badly needed leader.

Clements never misses a chance to raise his helium-filled pom-poms for WVU accomplishments and WVU stars but is utterly silent and missing in action in addressing some of the main difficult situations facing students everyday: slum housing, packed housing, expensive housing, crowded classrooms, sky-rocketed tuition.

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

That’s Langston Hughes. That’s what he wrote. What does the WVU President say?  WVU President Clements is seen everywhere with the football and basketball star teams and he’s so happy! having the time of his life! and he talks about it all the time! and he makes $775,000 per year! and everyone knows! and the students are sitting in their crappy slum housing and rundown fraternity houses and cram-packed dorms and cheap but expensive compartment buildings, and damn it, they want to have a super exciting slamming time too, just like the ball stars and the super rich President Clements! Fire up the couches! Let it explode!

And WVU has a highly paid Athletic Director Oliver Luck and extremely highly paid ball coaches who have been essentially no help in any of this. (Luck is paid $550,000-700,00 per year, Football Coach Holgorsen is paid over $2.3 million per year, Basketball Coach Huggins will be paid $3 million this year.) The athletic events catalyze the fires and rioting. Fires were set when Osama bin Laden was killed but this seems an outgrowth of behavior cultured by ball game fire burning.

In response to the outburst of burning, and bottle, rock, and brick throwing at first responders, who used tear gas and pepper spray after the UT/WVU football game, the WVU administration had essentially nothing new to say. And they have sounded impressively stupid in saying it. The WVU administration has come out with no plans to effectively address the problems. Not the surface problems, and not the underlying problems, many of which go entirely ignored.

The most sensible public comment and suggestion for immediate action came from Associate Professor in the School of Medicine Joe Prudhomme who suggested, as reported by the Dominion Post, “opening up the stadium and having the game shown on the large screen and then having a concert afterward for the students.” Prudhomme noted the painfully obvious: “There has to be a fun alternative.”

There has to be a fun alternative for all the reasons detailed above. Or it will continue to explode.

And the underlying problems need to be acknowledged, studied, and acted upon as well. Or it will continue to explode.

The WVU administration needs to wake up. And get moving.

The WVU ball coaches should lend themselves to the efforts as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Children, You Are On Your Own


This morning, parents were met with the following notice:

Monongalia County Schools: General Announcement

10-5-12 Bus 223 is not running his AM run (Cassville area, River Rd & Hidden Valley)

Just yesterday, the Dominion Post appropriately and finally editorialized:

Time to get hands on the wheel

“…students who are bused to schools far and near for their education are being advised to first determine whether or not their bus route has been cancelled from one day to another. …these bus routes should never be subject to such circumstances. Icy roads, blizzards, flooding, traffic accidents, we understand, can cancel bus routes. But random shortages of certified drivers, no. …the Monongalia County Board of Education (BOE) [needs]…to provide a long overdue solution … salaries and benefits packages being offered to our bus drivers are not just not competitive, they are seemingly puny. …the county ended the past fiscal year on a very positive note. That would appear to be one place the BOE might be able to start weighing in with a solution.”

Bravo! a long overdue editorial – albeit soft-pedaled.

The Dominion Post editors appeared rightly alarmed by the bizarre letter sent out a week or two earlier by Mon Schools Superintendent Devono stating that students could no longer depend on the school district to provide transportation. Monongalia County School students now need to check every day to see if a bus will be available for them.

A day before its editorial, the Dominion Post reported the equally alarming words of Mon Schools Supervisor of Transportation Paul Christopher who in trying to explain a busing shortage told the newspaper that family member deaths of five bus drivers occurring over a two week span just could not be planned for. Clue-bus to Supervisor Christopher and Mon Schools: Multiple family emergencies over the span of two weeks do happen, sometimes on a fairly regular basis.

As we stated over a year ago in “Bus Driver Shortage: No Way Around It – Need To Raise The Pay, Improve Conditions” (August 22, 2011), Mon Schools transportation needs to fix its glaringly obvious fundamental problems. This of course is the responsibility and the failure of the current ridiculous and largely incompetent school board, school administration, and bus supervision:

[The busing fiascos result from] a failure of funding and [substandard] workplace conditions. Note to Mon Schools, address them both and you’ll get your drivers. Driving young children to school is an important job, it’s extremely valuable, a vital service, and here are the kickers: it’s difficult and poorly paid. The job pays like crap. That’s the main problem. The conditions are trying and the hours are awkward, split up as they are. It’s a tricky job. These aren’t half-empty Mountain Line buses carrying self-sufficient adults and navigating main roads. School buses in Monongalia County are loaded with needy children navigating narrow and steep twisting back roads. Not easy. Hugely important. So Mon Schools not only should but ever more obviously needs to pay the drivers well and needs to listen to them and act on their needs, and ought to stop making useless excuses for why these difficult positions can’t get staffed…

Mon Schools pays its Superintendents a relative awful lot of money for their doing such a – what’s the vernacular? – piss-poor job.

See a number of other posts on the busing transportation fiasco long since ongoing in Monongalia County Schools: Read the rest of this entry »

The Eastwood Elementary Mileground Roundabout Completion Date


As of August 22, 2012, the West Virginia Division of Highways has set May 1, 2013, as the target completion date for the Eastwood Mileground Roundabout. That is 3 weeks before the last scheduled day of school. DOH:

“Stage 1 Construction: This [roundabout] project has an Interim Completion Date of May 1, 2013…. Stage 1 Construction shall be complete with the roundabout and school access road open to permanent, uninterrupted traffic flow in the final plan condition.”

[Update: the roundabout stage 1 completion date has now been pushed back to July, 2013.] The DOH has reportedly denied Mon Schools any access/egress for Eastwood via highway 705. [Update: dicey and difficult temporary access/egress has now been granted by DOH via WV 705.] The 705/119 intersection roundabout now is no option until May 1. Mon Schools has no access to or from Eastwood via the Mileground, the only other possibility, unless it negotiates a right-of-way and constructs a suitable roadway. Meanwhile the school building and campus remain uncompleted.

As noted previously, Mon Schools would be foolish, at best, to try to consolidate Easton and Woodburn schools at Eastwood this school-year. Any such move continues to look less and less sensible, or even possible. Read the rest of this entry »

About 70 Signs At Eastwood Elementary Mileground Roundabout And Not A Single Sign Indicates A School



Let’s see, there are signs for Hampton Inn, and Hilton Garden Inn, and Euro-Suites Hotel.

There is a sign for Adopt A Highway Litter Control Program.

There is a 201st INF/FA Memorial Way highway sign.

There are at least 9 Yield signs.

There are at least 7 stop signs.

There are 4 signs for the Hospitals. (There are no signs for the sirens.)

There are 5 signs for Interstate 68.

There is a Begin Center Lane Only sign.

There is an End Center Lane Only sign.

There are 4 Divided Highway Signs.

There are 4 signs for the Roundabout.

There are 50 arrows on these signs.

There is a Speed Limit 50 sign.

There is a Speed Limit 40 sign.

There are 4 Speed Limit 25 signs.

There is a sign for the Stadium.

There is a Dead End sign.

There are many other signs.

But there is no sign for a school. Not one.

There is no SLOW CAUTION SCHOOL sign.

There is no SCHOOL CROSSING sign.

There is no SCHOOL SPEED LIMIT sign.

There is not even a PEDESTRIAN CROSSING sign. Nothing.

There are about 70 DOH signs and 50 arrows on those signs and there are zero signs for Eastwood Elementary there at the sole access and egress to the school.

Words fail.

And pictures are worth a thousand words?

The Eastwood Elementary Mileground roundabout is already a wreck.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mileground Racetrack Plans At Eastwood Elementary


See the WV Division of Highways signs plan, below, for the Mileground roundabout at the entrance/exit to Eastwood Elementary school. Parents and students can expect to see school-front roundabout approach speeds of 40 and 50 miles per hour, and higher.

In theory, traffic speeds in the school-front roundabout will be capped at 25 mph, far above any 15 mph school zone speed limit, as specified in WV Code. In reality – look out.

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Another Bad Omen


While the signs have been bad the past two or three years, preceding the opening of Eastwood Elementary on the Mileground, the facts and the science have been worse, as documented at this site in extensive detail.

But the many telling signs continue to be foreboding, including the most recent one: yesterday a student was struck by a car “brushing” past him and his mother on Parsons Street by Woodburn Elementary. Amazing this hasn’t happened long since, so badly has Mon Schools neglected the Woodburn Elementary campus. There are zero sidewalks there on Parsons Street where it cuts through the middle of the Woodburn Elementary campus. No sidewalks along this crumbling stretch daily full of students, parents, teachers, and others. Sidewalks are a basic safety feature. Mon Schools knows this, is required to know this. Why has it provided no sidewalks on this heavily walked street that runs not along but through the school campus and is ringed by parking? Mon Schools has not even painted simple crosswalks. And Parsons Street also lacks even a stop sign, and no crosswalk either, amazingly, where it bisects the campus and comes to a T at Fortney Street. Why does Mon Schools persist with a third world mentality at the expense of its students and their parents? Why no badly needed and pedestrian-friendly safety basics and improvements?

It was the city that built the sidewalk along the playground on both Fortney Street and Richwood Avenue. It is the city that pays for the Charles Avenue crossing guard. What has Mon Schools done? Mon Schools has packed the Woodburn Elementary campus with more students this year than ever before without making any badly needed safety and space improvements. The campus was already badly neglected by Mon Schools. And now this year, the small art room in the all-purpose outbuilding has been converted into a regular third grade classroom because Mon Schools loaded up the campus with more students than ever. The art teacher now “floats.” Read the rest of this entry »

West Virginia Department Of Transportation And Division Of Highways On The Spot


As noted at the end of the previous post:

It is certainly possible though unlikely that Eastwood Elementary will open before the construction of the Mileground intersection roundabout with its school access/egress spoke. While Monongalia County BOE Superintendent Devono has repeatedly told the media that Eastwood is on track to open in late January or early February, he has all the while told BOE employees (who have stated publicly at various school meetings) that Eastwood will not open until “spring” [April, being mentioned] – thus affording the WV Division of Highways what should be ample time to build the roundabout school spoke into the congested highways. [Update: A recent FOIA request of the DOH reveals that the roundabout, including the school access/egress spoke, is now scheduled for a May 1, 2013 completion date.] [Update 2: dicey and difficult temporary access/egress now to be allowed via WV 705.] [Update 3: DOH roundabout completion date now pushed back to July.] [Update 4: First day of classes for students at Eastwood is now scheduled to be April 3, 2013 – in the teeth of major highway and intersection construction, a mere 7 weeks before the last school day – school times will begin and end 45 minutes earlier than the current schedule.]

Of course, it is ridiculous, irresponsible, and especially dangerous to move into the consolidated intersection school of Eastwood in “spring” when there would be only a few weeks of school left, about 6 weeks (if few or no snow days; the second to last week of May is the scheduled last week of school in Monongalia County for 2013). The bus routes and classroom shifting and other building logistics are daunting, and area drivers would not have time to adjust to the impending roundabout if it is even built by then. Plus, the adjacent highways’ congestion will not only remain but is expected to worsen dramatically for an additional year or two or more, both given the imposition of Eastwood and pending construction of the additional lanes on the Mileground. (Even with additional lanes across the Mileground, congestion is only expected to be reduced not eliminated. Meanwhile traffic crashes are expected to increase, at what is already a hot-spot for smash-ups.) As explained in previous posts, there is no reason of any sort, contractual or otherwise, why Monongalia County Schools could not, at the very least, delay any shift to the consolidated intersection school and every reason why it should.

Furthermore, the WV Division of Highways (DOH) should feel legal and safety obligations to totally re-vision and move the WV 705/US 119 “Mileground” intersection as far away from Eastwood as possible. To public knowledge, the DOH has done nothing in this regard. The DOH basically planned and designed the highways intersection in its known current design before the DOH had any idea that a new school would be constructed at this commuter intersection. To the public’s knowledge, with the exception of adding a roundabout spoke direct to Eastwood Elementary’s front door, the DOH has not troubled to change its unwitting early design, not fundamentally. What have been even any slight student and commuter safety and health modifications? Such failings by the DOH, in addition to the failings by Mon Schools, would create fertile ground for future personal injury lawsuits (against the DOH and Mon Schools, the WV School Building Authority, and others) based on possible, probable, and expected incidents and fallout in and around that intersection, especially in relation to students’ health and school and commuter/commercial traffic. Read the rest of this entry »

Another Authority Rolls Over


Claims it cannot “infringe” on the state’s “prerogative” to decide on new school siting.

The Supreme Court ruled against the Eastwood lawsuit Petition, unanimously: Memorandum Decision.

By the time you get to the fourth page of the ruling you finally find that the decision not to enforce the Policy 6200 state Rule ban against unusually hazardous new school sites hinges on “the heavy burden a petitioner undertakes when challenging a discretionary action” and that it is “normally inappropriate” for the Court to intervene “unless the right or duty to be enforced is nondiscretionary. The importance of the term ‘nondiscretionary’ cannot be overstated – the judiciary cannot infringe on the decision-making left to the executive branch’s prerogative.

Apparently, the Court states it could have acted (“normally” would not have but could have) to enforce Policy 6200 in regard to health and safety, but for unstated reasons relating to the school site, chose not to. It’s as if the Supreme Court is “taking the 5th” against self-incrimination. After all, the major commuter intersection of the Mileground Road and WV 705 is a profoundly stupid and unhealthy and unsafe place for Eastwood Elementary, or for any new school.

There you have it: West Virginia Board of Education Policy and Rule 6200 202.06 (which is administered by the WV School Building Authority) bans new school sites at specific unusually hazardous, unsafe locations, yet for unspecified reasons regarding the multiple dangers at the Mileground site, the Court chose not to enforce the state Rule ban. Court to the state: This isn’t our mess; this is yours. You are the decider. You own it.

Unfortunately this Court decision enables potentially, even likely, dire consequences for future students of Eastwood Elementary on the Mileground.

Now across the area, it is all the rage to be angry at the Mileground intersection new school siting because of “suddenly” arrived traffic problems and worries. Read the rest of this entry »

These Are Not Feel-Good Mandates


If any basic lesson can be (re)learned from the Penn State child sexual assault and cover-up scandal, it is that moral depravity and loss of “institutional control” often assume the most mundane disguises: Official suits and ties, athletic dress, and casual wear at Penn State have gone hand-in-hand with child molestation and rape, assault, child neglect, child abuse, cover-up, and fraud by officials.

|Roundabout Crashes Continue|

So too in the Eastwood Elementary siting scandal in Monongalia County by the Monongalia County Board of Education and the Superintendent’s office and the West Virginia School Building Authority, which in collaboration with West Virginia University’s highest officials and Board have arranged for the construction and future operation of a new elementary school at a heavily traveled, commuter, arterial highway intersection, in specific and explicit violation of state student safety mandate, state government rulings, and various related legal rulings. The similarities of the scandals are striking.

|What Should You Bring To The First Meeting With An Injury Lawyer|

Monongalia County Schools Board of Education and the Monongalia County Superintendent and the West Virginia School Building Authority Director and Board, and other officials, have placed themselves (with very many schoolchildren) far out on a treacherous limb that they are determinedly sawing off.

|Eastwood on the Mileground: Fatal Elementary?|

And what lies below that long and crooked limb of negligence? Exactly what the West Virginia Division of Highways (DOH) predicts in its analysis of the impending Eastwood Elementary schoolside arterials:

Crash experience is expected to increaseand “Capacity [congestion] issues at intersections may remain” … The DOH funded Mileground Traffic Report notes on page 21 that for the impending Eastwood schoolside “Five-Lane [highway]…vehicular conflicts and resulting crashes would be expected to increase when compared to the existing three-lane section and as traffic volumes grow.”

A quick look around the country shows what crashes and calamities one may expect:

Read the rest of this entry »

Nothing To See Here Folks, Move Along


The Eastwood Elementary new school site scandal is an even more difficult case to crack than the Penn State child sex crime scandal, which at Penn State and in Pennsylvania has revealed an institutional culture of aggression, silence, and neglect, a culture of muffling and shutting up those who would speak out.

In West Virginia, with the involvement of West Virginia University officials and Monongalia County and WV state education officials, the case of the Eastwood Elementary school site scandal reveals a statewide culture of officials looking away from grave student safety violations – and other basic violations – in which they are entangled or for which they are directly responsible, a culture of ignoring their fundamental responsibilities, a culture of willful blindness to the self-evident. It’s a culture of officials who do as they please, as quietly as possible. And even when grave violations are made public, they act with impunity.

As the Penn State child sex crime scandal gets dirtier and dirtier, as seen in the recent leaks of Penn State officials’ emails following the conviction of Jerry Sandusky, the parallels and permutations to the Eastwood Elementary new school site scandal grow more clear. Just as the Penn State officials “were interested in protecting the institution and not the children,” so too all the West Virginia officials involved in dangerously siting Eastwood Elementary are apparently more interested in protecting “the school” than the children. However, in the Penn State scandal, the Pennsylvania Attorney General is suing the Penn State officials; in the WVU/SBA/Mon Schools scandal, the West Virginia Attorney General is defending the SBA and Mon Schools against an ongoing lawsuit.

A brand spanking new school, Eastwood Elementary, at the US 119/ WV 705 arterial intersection, foisted and shoved onto the public by local and state officials, will be small comfort to any and all children smashed or daily polluted by the congested, heavily-traveled traffic vortex at the new school site.

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Read the rest of this entry »