Money wasted Ralph Stanley House

Bristol Virginia Region 2017

by Lewis Loflin

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

Taxpayer waste $8 million Bristol Virginia Energy Research Center another empty building producing nothing. See Green Energy Boondoggle in Bristol Virginia.

(Above) I don't know if ARC funds were used for Travelocity, but funds sure did to the nearby Ralph Stanley House. This is where almost $2 million to turn the empty house of country music star Ralph Stanley into a museum in the name of tourism, one the most pork ridden concepts ever invented. The actual building was worth perhaps $50,000, cost $1.5 million. It failed in no time defaulting on loans ending up in the hands of the Town of Clintwood.

Section on science, ecology, and religion

For years I've exposed dysfunctional government and high levels of poverty. Now I'll balance that with positive aspects of a community I've lived in over 30 years. I won't pull any punches or engage in political correctness. The positives I'll be expanding on:

Low levels of crime despite a drug addiction problem among the lower class. Low levels of "diversity" and illegal aliens both directly proportional to high violent crime rates. According to Virginia State Police data blacks/Hispanics account for 75% of the violent crime in the state. White population in general 90% white.

Low cost of living, good infrastructure, good roads, high speed fiber optic.

Mostly good healthcare, but doctor shortages due to high use of Medicaid, Medicare, and uninsured according to health officials I talked to - 75-80% of the population. We have one of the best Veterans Hospitals in the nation in Johnson City.

Low income levels are offset by a high home ownership rates (over 50%) and most other homes not under water. Housing prices are low relative to national averages. On the bad side too much public housing and its crime and social problems concentrated in Bristol Virginia. In 2012 Bristol Virginia had a crime rate higher than Virginia Beach and Charlottesville. This improved in 2015. Ref. 2012 & 2015 State Police Crime Statistics.

Bristol Va 8654 Pop. 17,702; 6440 in 2015
Charlottesville 7949 Pop. 45,073; 6349 in 2015
Danville 12,313 Pop. 43,400; 11,800 in 2015
Emporia 11,564 Pop. 5932; 12,512 in 2015
Franklin 11,041 Pop. 8839; 10,568 in 2015
Fredericksburg 9995 Pop. 26,024; 10,812 in 2015
Galax 9810 Pop. 7176; 9470 in 2015
Richmond 10,454 Pop. 208,834; 9600 in 2015
Roanoke 13,750 Pop. 98,641; 10,776 in 2015

Virginia Beach 5803 Pop. 447,489; 5108 in 2015

See Virginia Crime Rates 2015

In general "Red" states and Southwest Virginia and East Tennessee are very "Red" we have a high standard of living for the most even with lower earned income levels. To quote a study from the King Institute for Regional Economic Studies:

"The most troubling aspect of the Southwest Virginia economy is the decline in earned income in recent years. Real earned income fell 17 percent from 2011 to 2014. This is a direct result of declining production and employment in the coal mining sector. Due to the sharp drop in earned income, residents in Southwest Virginia received 72 cents in government transfer payments for every dollar of earned income in 2014. Comparable values for the Tri­Cities and the U.S. are 49 cents and 27 cents, respectively."

With all of this why did Trump get as much as 75% of the votes in this and other similar regions? See Red States Higher Standard of Living

See the full King Institute for Regional Economic Studies Report.

UPDATED: Hobby Lobby pulls plan for Bristol, Virginia location.

BRISTOL, Va. — Hobby Lobby has pulled plans to open a store in Bristol, Virginia, but a spokesman for Publix said Friday that the grocery chain remains committed to opening a store in the city.

There's already a Hobby Lobby 18 miles away in Kingsport.

Welcome to my website as 2017 makes this my 19th year on the web and have lived in Tri-Cities Bristol since 1984. Oddly this website was started to protest political corruption and poverty in the community, but most of the visitors prefer the religious-historical material over politics. Not that I blame them with the way things run in this country.

See Bristol Culture of Political and Media Corruption 2016
Growing Poverty Job Losses Tri-Cities VA-TN

Employment Data Hidden from Public

The Virginia Employment Commission used to hand out by request what the job numbers by type and by community, but refuses to do so today claiming it's against state law to do so. That's how I caught them peddling fraud for income levels they were claiming for job categories such as services. Nobody makes $40,000 at restaurant work more like $17,000, but they were averaged in with doctors! The information was worthless as presented today.

The Virginia Economic Bridge ( funded by grants) came to the same conclusion I did that wage scales even for college graduates in some cases are 60% below the state average. That's why we can't retain skilled people and some counties have a college graduation rate of under 10%. They used the same figures I used, but today those figures are a literal state secret and are blocked under the Freedom of Information Act. Short of hiring an attorney which I can't afford they will remain a secret.

The problem is further compounded by handing off government grants to non-profits and private LLCs. They have no obligation to disclose anything and even the non-profits I've filed IRS complaints is a waste of time because the IRS won't enforce their rules either. Millions disappear down a black hole never to be seen again.

Virginia is a very corrupt state that is right now being nailed for food stamp fraud and has to pay back almost $8 million to the Federal government. Even trying to get copies of grant applications from pseudo-government agencies such as the Virginias Tobacco Commission is expensive because they like many others don't keep proper records or keep it in a form the public can access. I can't afford $70 an hour for "research".

Now to compound the problem they don't have the information anyway. Even these government agencies can't access the employment records of companies they hand out millions to for job creation.

The job numbers and education numbers are deceptive I've exposed for years. "Retained" jobs are where a grant awarded to an existing company to pave their parking lot or relocate them to a new building hoping they don't relocate out of the region. These are not new jobs. Note the term "are expected to create or retain" is not actual jobs, but an academic study that claims there might be jobs. These are job "announcements, not actual jobs that often falls short.

Let's take Dickenson County, Virginia call centers fiasco. At least four companies cost taxpayers $10 million in a shell building, training (pay to train someone to answer a phone), a free daycare, etc. The Travelocity fiasco hit the national press when they pulled out for India screwing their employees and the community. Local economic developers claimed the "creation" of over 1500 new jobs and still insist on it today, yet no more than 200 ever existed at one time. Today a little over 100 are still there with company number 5 I think.

When I confronted them on this and demanded under Virginia FOIA they admitted those were only "announcements" and that they didn't even track job numbers or pay! How the hell did they know the grant requirements were met?

See Travelocity Fails Dickenson County

Update 2015: we now have even less telecom jobs than ever. Several more have left the area chasing corporate welfare in other states even after taxpayers spend over $125 million on high-speed fiber optic.

A look at 12 years of cable ready socialism in our region:
How CGI-AMS and Northrop Grumman Failed Russell County
How Cable Ready Socialism Failed Southwest Virginia
Sprint Jumps Virginia State Line Collects Millions
U.S. Solutions Dumps Bristol Virginia for Bristol Tennessee
Travelocity Fails Dickenson County

Adventure in corporate welfare:

To quote an internal audit of the Virginia Tobacco Commission in 2008:

Given the existing state of the Southside and Southwest economies, it is fair to ask whether the expenditure of over $400 million by the TICR since the year 2000 on "regional transformation" projects has had the desired transformative effect on the regions...Despite this spending, population in the region continues to decline, wage rates still lag behind the rest of the state, there is persistent high unemployment and poor educational attainment is still endemic.

Bristol Virginia still screwing taxpayers for The Falls

Update: Bristol Virginia will not now pay for the Fall's waterfall that will costs $100,000 a year to operate and cost taxpayers $600,000.

The infamous Falls strip mall retail development has cost Bristol residents tens of millions in corporate welfare, massive debt, plus interest, are back shaking-down more public dollars. The Falls is centered on a Cabela's store. I believe Cabela's has sold out to Bass Pro Shop whose store across the state line in Bristol, Tennessee (about five miles away) may result in a shut down. Bristol Virginia politicians are in a panic. Recently they planed to pay over $650,000 for a fake waterfall.

The Pinnacle Project centered on Bass Pro Shop has spent one quarter of the amount of Bristol Virginia scammers and has been a massive success - it has emptied the Bristol Virginia Mall and has attracted around 50 businesses, while The Falls got a Lowe's that relocated from a mile away, Cabela's, a Sheetz gas station, and a restaurant or two.

Last September these Bristol Virginia idiots borrowed another $6 million, which $3 million was going for road work. Now the City scammers are trying to pilfer $1.8 million in public transportation funds to pay for interior roads, which are private property. They are trying to make the interior roads public so developers and the Bristol City scammers won't pay the cost.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has to approve the grant and if they don't, Bristol Virginia scammers will have to pay the whole $3 million plus interest. I encourage taxpayers to contact VDOT and voice our objection to this misuse of public funds for private profit.

New Specialty Crop Grants for Virginia Ten projects will waste $394,000 in USDA funding

October 21, 2016 Here is another jobs program for affluent professionals and zero for working people. To quote,

RICHMOND – Ten agriculture-related projects in Virginia have been awarded $393,999 in grant funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)...

"As one of Virginia's largest industries, agriculture depends on quality research and data to remain competitive in the 21st century economy," said Governor Terry McAuliffe. "These USDA grants will ensure Virginia farmers continue to yield some of the best crops on the market, with 40 percent of the funding directed toward research in various aspects of food safety and quality. I congratulate these organizations and educational institutions for pursuing innovative research that will help enhance marketing opportunities and food safety for growers across the Commonwealth."

Uhh, that's what have said for numinous previous grants. Governor Terry McAuliffe when not lobbying for foreign interests and trying to restore the vote to criminals, he directs the waste and diversion of millions of state and local dollars. Here is why we have no real job creation.

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. See $350,000 Wasted on Passenger Rail Study

Bristol Virginia Energy Research Center

Fake Capitalism

Most of what passes for job creation is either graft or fake capitalism. The following extract illustrates this:

Ref. Fake Capitalism by Nicole Gelinas City Journal Nov. 2016 It's not free markets that have failed us, but government distortion of them.

2016 housing subsidies of $99 billion even at artificially lower interest rates.

These subsidies have fired the growth of the housing industry. Between 1975 and 1979, the U.S. Treasury paid out $102.6 billion in mortgage­interest breaks in today's dollars.

Between 2015 and 2019, the Treasury will pay out $419.8 billion in such tax favoritism, a more than fourfold rise, nearly ten times the population increase. Interest rates in the 1970s for a mortgage was 9 percent, twice what it is today.

Taking today's lower rates into account, Washington has increased the mortgage subsidy more than eightfold. It's no surprise that mortgage debt has soared, to $9.5 trillion, from $2.6 trillion in inflation­adjusted dollars in 1981. Back then, mortgage debt constituted 31 percent of our nation's GDP. Today, it makes up nearly 53 percent.

Here 50% of the economy is government checks, at the same time a substantial number of residents own their property with no mortgages.

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

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.

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

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.

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.