Sullivan County Tri-Cities Alternate News and Opinion Without Political Correctness

Bristol Virginia Energy Research Center

Bristol Virginia-Tennessee Culture of Corruption 2016

by Lewis Loflin
  
  

Tri-Cities, Bristol Virginia-Tennessee will not only have among the lowest growth in the nation, but the lowest in Tennessee and Virginia. The region already suffers a 20 percent plus real poverty-unemployment rate. Where do I begin?

Above is the $8 million Bristol Virginia Energy Research Center another empty building producing nothing. See Green Energy Boondoggle in Bristol Virginia.

Just published Bristol Herald Courier Sunday July 17, 2016. See Support the new BVU board? Absolutely not!

In 2011 Bristol-Tri-Cities was ranked number 5 in the 10 poorest cities in America by www.DailyFinance.com.

Another $350,000 Wasted on Passenger Rail Study

The Bristol Train Station was a worthless project costing taxpayers $6 million and ten years to renovate. Finished in 2008 it has produced nothing of value in either jobs or economic development. They have been lobbying for years to get AMTRAK to come to Bristol, itself a massive waste of tax dollars.

In 2016 the Appalachian Regional (pork and waste) Commission has awarded another $100,000 to be combined with $250,000 from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission the gold standard in government waste for a "viability" study to bring trains to Bristol. To quote the local press April 17, 2016:

A new $100,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission nearly completes the funding needed for the city’s passenger rail viability study. The grant was one of 13 totaling $3.3 million that Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Monday. It will be combined with a $250,000 grant received last year from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission to help fund a study about bringing Amtrak rail service from Roanoke to Bristol and possibly linking to cities in Tennessee, Georgia and Kentucky, according to Assistant City Manager Andrew Trivette.

You mean they never did a viability study BEFORE they spent $6 million on the old train station? They did this study before and it went nowhere. This is why Bristol and Southwest Virginia have the lowest incomes and ranks at the bottom of nearly economic statistic in Virginia and Tennessee. Nearly a billion dollars in various infrastructure and economic development projects has seen the region hemorrhage population with government transfer payments forming over 50% of the region's economy.

Blast from the past:

Governor McAuliffe Fraud and Hypocrite

Here is just the most recent nonsense that in the past hasn't produced stable jobs paying a living wage or no jobs at all to the general public - just those in the government grant money stream.

Often these dubious projects get multiple grants funding using one grant to leverage another grant. In this way a select few can funnel millions into their pet projects and keep the public out of the process.

Government is most of the economy in this region which is riddled with corruption, graft, and class warfare. A legion of consultants, non-profits, and contractors rake in millions delivering little to the average citizen. They have their economy, others work fast food or receive SSI.

And what of the $3.3 million in ARC grants pilfered by Governor Terry McAuliffe and associates? A press release by the good Gov. April 18, 2016 noted these valuable efforts at diversifying the failed Appalachian economy:

Big Stone Gap Visitors Center $85,931 - like the Trail of the Lonesome Pine outdoor drama and the Coal Museum this has been here in one form or another for years and has produced nothing.

Blue Ridge Center for Chinese Medicine - Appalachian Medicinal Herb Growers Consortium – Phase II: Processing herbs and adding more farmers $125,930. You have to be kidding me - Chinese herbs?? This is complete nonsense like the $650,000 farmers market in Abingdon that's open one day a week. Total waste.

Henry County Bassett Historic Train Depot Restoration Project $500,000. Another useless train station that needs to be torn down and will like Bristol produce nothing. Been around for years and has produced nothing. But that is just beginning of this massive level of waste in Henry County:

Future phases will include more streetscape and façade improvements, trail links and the creation of venues to attract tourists in Bassett and Fieldale and signs in Stanleytown and Koehler.

In addition to the $700,000 Community Development Block Grant, additional funding for the first phase will be sought from other state and federal sources, community partners and area businesses.

The preliminary cost estimates for the entire $12.9 million revitalization improvements are: $7.6 million for Bassett, $4.9 million for Fieldale, $300,000 for Stanleytown and $15,000 for Koehler.

Hell this is costing even more than Bristol did.

Mountain Empire Community College Healthcare Simulation Access $100,000. Pork and a lucrative contract for the right people. This is in addition to a $72,309 grant from the Tobacco Commission - zero jobs for the general public again.

Town of Damascus Downtown Waterfront Asset Development $499,908. Total waste and pork. This is the same town the pilfered transportation and economic development grants to pay for a new library - where's the jobs? It's "transportation" due to a brochure rack near the door.

The Barter Foundation Inc. Expanding the Production Capacity of Barter Theater – Phase II $500,000. High class entertainment for the local wealthy and elite. This non-profit has been bailed out for years with economic development grants while those that were supposed to get a job can't afford to go there.

The Crooked (Money) Road Expanding the Crooked (Money) Road Brand $250,000. They've wasted millions on this worthless project already and can't produce a shred of proof of any job creation, etc. I asked for proof and they refuse to supply it. They won't even produce their IRS paperwork as required by law. This is more consulting and marketing income for a select few and has gone on for years. When do the working poor get a job?

Scott County, Advanced Manufacturing Center of Excellence – Duffield Satellite $142,937. This again is a few professional jobs for the selected few. We've had an identical center in Abingdon for several years wasting $4 million with nothing to show for it. The idea was to train people for non-existent jobs as a way to hopefully lure in jobs. Does that make sense?

New River Valley Regional Commission Old School Food Center at Prices Fork $500,000. They also got another $2.5 million for this insanity:

...converts the former classrooms of the old Prices Fork Elementary School into 16 two bedroom apartments, with 10 affordable and six market-rate units for people 55 and older. Phase I is funded in part with state and local HOME funds.

The second phase, which includes VCI funding as well as $500,000 in Appalachian Regional Commission funding, includes two components: (1) the Old School Food Center, which will provide innovative economic development opportunities for new or expanding local food-based entrepreneurs through the creation of a commercial incubator kitchen, farm-to-table restaurant, retail market, craft brewery and business competition with support services, and, (2) 16 new apartments with a mix of affordable and market rate units.

Would any serious private sector firm dare invest in such nonsense? They threw in the restaurant nonsense to qualify for economic development grants. And I thought Chinese herb farming was complete nonsense now I've heard it all.

Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development Planning Grants $122,625 - more consulting fees for the same select few.

This weekend (July 23) former Gov. Tim Kaine did years ago at Remote Area Medical in Wise, Virginia bitching about government healthcare - as he oversees millions in this kind of pork and waste that could have gone to help citizens that are not getting jobs and are in great need of dental care, etc. Medicaid and Medicare doesn't cover dental and most of the people at RAM are there for dental care because they lack the income to afford insurance. But I'm sure Chinese herbs will fix that problem right up.

Sprint Stabs Bristol Workers in the Back - Again

Update May 2016: they lied again. The promised 600 new jobs never materialized and by February 2016 the 444 people that were mainly transferred from Bristol Virginia are fired. Millions in corporate welfare to pay for the relocation went down the toilet and millions more will bring in another call center to rehire the same workers. Read more...

Update May 20, 2016 - 12 workers fired at Emory & Henry College due to "restructuring". This comes after weeks of hysterical hell raising by 200 poor little cupcakes (students) over "safe spaces" and demands for more "diversity" racism. This was over some bogus and unproven claims of widespread racism. Some vague claims about "racist graffiti spotted at a brick seating area...the incidents prove that while E&H is a diverse campus it lacks inclusivity, leaving minority students to feel marginalized."

Reports are unspecific as to what the incidents are and I believe overblown. Mere criticism of Islamic violence or a Donald Trump yard sign have been cited as racist on many college campuses. in a region with massive white working class poverty the only concern these little brats show is how coal mining leads to climate change and the industry needs to be shutdown - ditto concern for jobs losses and poverty.

Many nonsense liberal art degrees offered by this college are worthless in the real world. Many are left buried in debt. See College Job Unemployment Chart. In particular over half of humanities majors which is the mainstay of E&H are unemployed or flipping burgers.

That brings outright jobs losses in Bristol-Washington County 362 for May 2016 in the community, but not the slightest show of concern at Emory & Henry College.

Update July 2016: Here we go again another 180 layoffs May-July 2016. See the following:



Social Justice Marxism

Printed Bristol Herald Courier June 27, 2016

This is related to illegal transfer of assets from Bristol Virginia Utilities electric customers to underwrite the OptiNet telecom division. This was illegal. So far 9 people have been convicted on scores of charges and most are serving prison time.

By Lewis Loflin | Bristol, Virginia

As an early critic, I warned in 2005 about BVU being used to cross-subsidize Optinet. There was no way they could spend thousands per household, even with massive amounts of government grants, on what they were charging. Additionally, these grants were received under a false pretense of economic development.

The reason they can't figure out "Who OK'd $23.4M transfer" is closed sessions, when no records are kept. Both I and the Herald Courier tried to sit in on the BVU board meetings, only to be kicked out as they called closed session. For more than two years, I tried through the FOIA to get the minutes, ending up with pages of "closed session," meeting adjourned.

This extends to the Bristol City Council and the Washington County Board of Supervisors. Local politicians constantly appoint each other and their associates to multiple boards, all operating in secret under "closed session," making the FOIA and public accountability impossible.

What I'm shocked about is the nonsense they are being sent to jail over, when tens of millions of public dollars were squandered and wasted across this vast array of pseudo-government agencies and nonprofits.

Public dollars have no business underwriting private capitalism or shopping centers. OptiNet was built with public dollars and should remain public property. It's time to end the culture of corruption surrounding economic development projects and government grants.

Let's put citizens on these boards who are not connected to chambers of commerce or government bodies. Sever business from the government. End secrecy. Finally, force agencies, nonprofits, etc. on the government dole to do proper record keeping, including recording all meetings and making everything, including the IRS paperwork, easily available to the public. Put an end to closed sessions and force politicians to conduct public business in public.

On Saturday, May 28, 2016, officers of the Johnson City Police Department arrested William H. Austin, 30 years of age, 800 Swadley Rd Apt 200, Johnson City, TN, on a charge of aggravated robbery and possession of a controlled substance. The arrest was a result of an investigation of a reported robbery at 705 East Fairview Avenue where cash was stolen from a female victim and Austin displayed a cutting instrument. Austin was arrested and transported to the Washington County Detention Center and placed under a $51,000.00 bond. Arraignment is set for Tuesday, May 31, 2016, in Washington County General Sessions Court at 1:30 pm.
On 05/24/16, the Johnson City Police Department arrested Frederick V. Canonizado (43 yrs old, 1908 Old State Route 34 Telford) and charged him with Stolen Property (Receiving or Concealing) over $10,000. A 2015 Nissan Altima was stolen from Carmike Cinemas, 1805 N Roan St, on 05/15/16. The vehicle was involved in a crash in the early morning hours of 05/24/16. Frederick Canonizado was found to be involved in the crash. The subsequent investigation showed that Mr. Canonizado was driving the vehicle when it crashed. Mr. Canonizado is being held in the Washington County Detention Center in lieu of a $10,000 bond. He is scheduled for Arraignment in General Sessions Court on 05/25/16 at 1:30 pm.
Wendy Langston (1209 Division St. 35 years old) and charged her with arson.

The arrest comes as a result of an investigation into a fire that occurred to an out building, at a home, in the 1300 block of Spring St. in the early morning hours of 5/17/16; wherein, it is believed Langston started the fire that heavily damaged the property.

Langston was served with this warrant at the Washington County Detention Center, where she is currently being held on separate charges. In regards to the arson, Langston is being held in lieu of a $10,000 bond. Arraignment is set for 1:30 p.m. on 5/19/16 in Washington County General Sessions Court.
On 05-20-16, at 1:44 a.m., officers of the Johnson City Police Department responded to the RoadRunner Market, 900 Sunset Dr., in reference to a robbery. The clerk of the market reported to 911 that a white female, later identified as 37 yr old Jennifer Ledford, 1901 Knob Creek Rd, Apt 18, had just robbed the store and was still in the lot in a black 4 door coupe. In addition, the clerk later reported that Ms. Ledford had pumped gas then stole several items from the store, to include an undisclosed amount of cash from the register. Ms. Ledford was reported to be very threatening in her manner, placing the clerk in fear, as she went behind the counter in order to steal the money from the register.

Upon arrival at the scene, an officer observed the suspect vehicle in the parking lot of the RoadRunner Market, occupied by a lone female. As the officer attempted to make contact with the female, she sped away, traveling on Sunset toward N. Roan St. After a brief pursuit, the vehicle was found crashed on E. Lakeview Dr., after a resident reported to 911 that a black car was in his yard. Officers then responded to this location and found that Ms. Ledford had pushed the homeowner, breaking his phone, then ran on foot.

She was found and arrested a short distance away. Medical personnel were called to the scene to check the condition of Ms. Ledford. Ms. Ledford then spat on a member of the Johnson City Fire Department, who was attempting to care for her. She was then taken to the Johnson City Medical Center for medical clearance before being transported to the Washington County Detention Center. The Tennessee Highway Patrol was called to E. Lakeview Dr. to work the crash and will be placing additional driving charges on Ms. Ledford at a later time.

Jennifer Ledford was charged with Robbery, Felony Evading Arrest, Aggravated Assault, Simple Assault, and Vandalism under $500. She is currently being held in the Washington County Detention Center under bonds totaling $62,000. An arraignment is scheduled in Washington County General Sessions Court for 05-20-16, 10:30 a.m.

Crime, vagrancy, homelessness dominate Bristol safety meeting

This was a recent headline with the Bristol Herald Courier Nov. 24, 2014 - the very thing I've warned about for years and the Cities of Bristol Virginia-Tennessee are being forced to address. Let me summarize where our tax dollars in Bristol have went to just in the last two years:

  • $100 million plus to underwrite a shopping complex for Cabela's
  • $30 million to underwrite a Bass Pro Shop
  • $2-$3 million to underwrite a new hotel called the Sessions still not built.
  • $12 million for a country music museum still receiving government grants to stay afloat.
  • $500,000 for a failed computer store.
  • $25,000 for an ice cream stand.

The other results of all of this great central planning and more like this across the region? People are being robbed in parking lots for their prescriptions and an explosion of break ins and armed robberies. And pharmacies are on alert for more potential robberies as drug addicts are tearing the place apart - there's no drug treatment available.

Local jails are bursting. In fact a television series Southern Justice features Bristol and Sullivan County.

But what is the official explanation for these problems in downtown and I kid you not, to quote,

The region's giving spirit and abundance of programs to aid the indigent 'draw' many vagrants here...The (police) chiefs urged those in attendance to be vigilant and willing to call the police if they see or suspect a problem.

Then they complained,

"The police can't be everywhere all the time. But if there is a problem, call us. We will be here as quickly as we can and, even if we don't catch the person, we've created a record that helps us allocate resources...It's not been a huge problem, but more of a nuisance. It's the way they [vagrants] approach people and it's got people concerned."

Getting robbed is a "nuisance"? They are claiming the lack of funds prevents proper policing of downtown and advocate cheap solutions such as surveillance cameras. Bristol Virginia recently raised property taxes to pay for Cabela's but has nothing left for schools or police.


Terry Kilgore and the Tobacco Commission.

Jobs-Retail Reports Nothing to Celebrate

Finally got some job growth in Tri-Cities! According the Steb Hipple at ETSU 4th Quarter 2015 a great!

Regional employment grew 2.6% during the October to December period - metro employment growth at 1.5% on a year-to-year basis. The last three quarters simply represent the best regional labor market performance since the Great Recession of 2008-09.

But: Job growth was led by retail trade, leisure & hospitality, and professional & business services. Smaller job gains were reported by government, wholesale trade, transport & utilities, and education & health services. Job declines occurred in manufacturing, information services, and other services.. Employment was unchanged in financial services, and construction.

In other words the lowest paid unstable occupations. Retail sales were up 19.4% "Lower energy prices continued to keep the overall price level barely above 2014 levels." Overall, 2015 was the best year in local retailing since the Great Recession of 2008-09.

In May 2016 some are claiming we are sliding into another recession even with low energy prices and absurdly low interest rates.

Quoting futurist Ed Barlow before the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce:

"Seniors create low-wage service jobs. They tend to withdraw from working, and they generally don't create new wealth. A retirement community strategy has long-term negative economic consequences unless there is a diverse economic base of other employees around it...A significant component of your economic future in Sullivan County is recruiting Hispanics, making sure they get highly educated and integrated into the community."

Back Taxes Sought

Bristol Virginia is so broke and hungry for public dollars to feed its corporate welfare hogs they plan to go after those that owe back taxes. $1.47 million - $850,000 in real estate taxes and $600,000 in personal property taxes. Why such a panic? To quote,

"For more than a decade, the City has regularly borrowed millions against its anticipated tax collections..."

With such massive debts and irresponsible borrowing it's easy to understand why there's such a panic.

Posted April 16, 2015:

See Growing Poverty and Job Losses in Tri-Cities VA-TN

Bristol Virginia Tri-Cities Crime 2014

Former Bristol Employer Gets $188 Million in Tennessee Corporate Welfare

The antics of Electrolux Corporation is an example of the rampant corruption of Republican Corporatism I've ever seen. They are literally paying companies to fire and downsize American workers with our tax dollars.

One critic put this deal in perspective when it closed just its Canadian operation:

So Electrolux was able to get rid of 60 workers, cut the wages of the jobs they kept by more than $4 per hour, get a more central distribution location, and a free factory courtesy of state and local governments in Tennessee.

The state also agreed NOT to sue to get the money back if Electrolux closed or failed to deliver!

Read the whole sorry story: Obscene Electrolux-Tennessee Incentive Deal Puts State at Risk by Lewis Loflin

Opportunities are available through workforce training

Ref. http://www.tricities.com/news/opinion_columns/article_424bf468-c37b-11e3-9fca-001a4bcf6878.html

Posted: Monday, April 14, 2014

This is a follow up to my letter of last month, when I talked about the need to offer job training in our area, something we should be doing with tax dollars rather than wasting it on unsuccessful projects and grants that duplicate services.

The Virginia Highlands Community College workforce training program is offering a welding class for only $289! For the $8,000 the Washington County Board of Supervisors wasted on the "Center of Excellence," 27 students could have taken a welding class.

By the way, I have been an instructor in electricity/electronics and have been involved in training displaced workers.

To get more information on the welding class, visit the college website: www.vhcc.edu. The program is titled MIG and Flux Arc Welding, and is offered in partnership with the Washington County Career and Technical Education Center. The non-credit class runs through May 1 on Wednesdays and Thursday.

March 2014 Bristol Herald Courier:

Update - nothing came out of this as usual - Democrats were getting in on the backroom deals.

I'm praising Gov. McAuliffe's administration for investigating the Tobacco Commission. (BHC 2/26) It's about time. I strongly condemn the Washington County BOS for approving $8000 for the so-called "Center of Excellence." They've now wasted $363,000 that will produce nothing.

(Update - they spent the money and the consultants suggested more corporate welfare and free buildings.)

An almost identical program a few years ago wasted $2 million also produced nothing. Its former director stated, "business here doesn't care about your education, skills, or experience..." One HR manager stated "we don't hire people with college."

Tobacco Commission's 9-28-2011 minutes noted of 200 deals in the previous five years over 100 were in default. They don't even have a direct way to measure if any jobs were created!

Their 2011 Blue Ribbon audit revealed 89 percent of their grants have never been accounted for. Millions wasted on a wholesale plant nursery in Gretna VA to make bio-fuels and a horse camp in Scott County are typical examples.

Abingdon's Small Business incubator is a failure. Their $8 an hour call center jumped the state line for Tennessee corporate welfare.

Don't waste another $1 million duplicating existing services. We can already train welders, etc. if we can end the resistance to properly educating vocational workers. Stop pretending blue-collar workers don't need English, science, or math.

As a vocational instructor myself I know students with a proper educational background are easy to train or retrain. Technology training is more than putting the black wire under the brass-colored screw. Studies show industrial workers need a far higher level of education. Our social apartheid culture must deal with that.

I'm encouraging my fellow citizens to contact their supervisors to halt this useless project. Deal with our dysfunctional political and education system. No more corporate welfare for businesses that "don't hire people with college" and "don't care."

Lewis Loflin

Notes: the small business incubator was paid for by ARC and Tobacco grants and often serves as discount office space for non-profit s seeking more government grants.

The dismal future of the working poor in this community is tied directly to a job structure hostile to working people. The shocking loss of retail sales in Bristol is proof that many have little disposable income.

J.C. Penney Slams the Doors in Bristol

Another retailer pulls out while we waste $100 million underwriting shopping malls.

J.C. Penney plans to close its Bristol Mall store as part of a nationwide effort to shutter "under-performing" stores, the company ... plans to close 33 stores in 20 states, including its 86,000-square-foot local store...This marks the second major Bristol Mall anchor store to announce plans to leave. Last May, officials with Belk announced plans to replace its mall locations in 2015 with a new store in The Pinnacle retail center being developed near Interstate 81's Exit 74 in Bristol, Tenn.

Mayor Odum said losing J.C. Penney and the 50 jobs it represents makes it "vitally important" to complete (the $65 million taxpayer funded) The Falls retail center currently being developed near Interstate 81's Exit 5.

The closings are expected to idle a total of about 2,000 employees and generate a savings of about $65 million.

January 15, 2014 Ref. www.tricities.com

To quote the late Bill Deel, a retired English teacher from Clintwood, Virginia, "We're becoming more and more Third World here...The best and the brightest leave."

Healthcare Meltdown

Business in the region is also on the government gravy train planning on maximizing profits at public expense - nowhere is this more true than healthcare. Now it seems to have backfired.