Truth versus media.

Debating Issues in Bristol VA-TN in 2010

by Lewis Loflin

"It's a little-known fact that roughly 20 percent of the children in Southwest Virginia live below the poverty line and go hungry every night." Kevin Crutchfield, President Alpha Natural Resources, January 15, 2009

Welcome to my website. Wasting tax dollars and political corruption are so widespread and tolerated in this country I'm sounding like a broken record. But I'm forced to keep speaking out because the local press won't most of time.

There are many positives in this community that do deserve recognition. Visitors often remark how friendly the locals are. That is very true and I attest to that. My wife is disabled and when she goes out somewhere people fall over themselves to be helpful.

At the same time most people here care little for those at the bottom of the economic heap taking advantage of the system or breaking the laws. Poverty is good for those with money and keeping it that way is in their interest.

Make no mistake this is a mostly conservative retirement oriented community. The locals are heavily into a country music and NASCAR culture here.

On the other end job opportunities are very limited and the cost of living can be high in some areas relative to earned income. Many jobs top out at $8-$12 an hour, a college education doesn't really improve on that, but apartment rent has dropped to as still high.

Up to 30,000 (over 15,000 at east Tennessee State University alone, King College in Bristol just announced 1833 for Spring 2011) people attend college in this area and we have lots of talent and skills, but most still flee the region looking for gainful employment. So it's a mixed bag.

Why Your College Degree is Worthless How does this region produce thousands of college graduates per year, yet employers claim they can't find qualified workers? Here I explore this disconnect and the "Wall of Separation" in education.

We do have a lot of extensive poverty and under-employment and efforts to raise the overall standard of living for the average resident has failed.

The down side to all the social programs while needed and appreciated, is they tend to destroy the traditional self-reliance of the people. But even for those that are low income, if they can stay away from crime and vice they can often make it in the past. Today inflation local and national is a big problem.

Rick Boucher

Mr. Boucher poured in tens of millions in pork for the 2010 election, but he lost by 9,000 votes anyway. Local Tea Party and other patriots worked together to defeat Mr. Boucher, along with a slew of outside ads. Mr. Boucher's extreme money advantage was nullified. This was the biggest news story for 2010.

Announcement: RAM to return to Bristol Region in 2010

Remote Area Medical will return to the Bristol region and will likely set another record in Wise Virginia. They serve many regions lacking in basic medical and dental services for those unable to afford them. They stand as proof the perhaps $1 billion spent in this region for economic development has failed and bypassed those it was supposed to help. Note that in Wise the taxpayers just spent $30 million for a music hall at Clinch Valley College and $7 million for an empty building to do "energy research."

The reason for this situation is the high poverty levels, low wages, and high under-employment that are a constant factor in the region forcing many once self-reliant onto government programs. Most people do get medical care under various government programs, but dental work isn't one of them. Typical is Wise County. Thousands lined up for services this year again because of the poor employment and low-wage scales, yet within a 20-minute drive was almost $50 million in pork-barrel government projects that will never benefit the general public.

RAM clinic has to turn away more than 1000

Posted October 09, 2010

900 showed up Friday, 300 were turned away. Many are already on public healthcare through TennCare and Medicaid, but the vast majority were there for dental and eye glasses. The press noted over half were employed, but still couldn't afford dental or glasses because those services, like the cost of living in general in the region, far outstrips the low-paying wage scales.

Besides dental and vision work, the Bristol RAM also provided hearing tests, mammograms, pulmonary tests, chest X-rays, heart screenings, etc. Organizers noted the lack of volunteers was the cause why perhaps 1000 would be turned away over the 2.5 day event. The Wise clinic back in the Summer reported "6000-7000 encounters" and treated over 2500 patients. That has been a constant in the ten years or so RAM has been in Wise.

In addition to Mountain States Health Alliance, East Tennessee State University, Wellmont Health System, Eastman Chemical Co. and Crossroads Medical Mission. The clinic ended at noon Sunday. According to officials with the clinic the final count was 1,370 patients. There were 865 volunteers from 18 states.

Local Hotels Offer to Stop Ripping Off Race Fans

Bristol has a bad reputation for "scalping" race fans and tourists. Inflated lodging prices and the rise in cost at restaurants drive local residents to either flee town or buy food and other items in advance.

Local press reports now claim hotels in and outside the Tri-Cities are promising to stop ripping off race fans to Bristol Motor speedway by lowering rates and reducing minimum stays. They will offer lower reduced per-night room rates only during the March and August race weekends.

"The new deal is BMS' latest coup in its efforts to persuade hotels in and around the Tri-Cities to offer more fan-friendly rates and packages to spectators...Those hotels have also agreed to reduce their minimum guest stays to two days, rather than the traditional three...

(Marketing) research efforts became even more intense after last March's Food City 500 failed to sell out -- the first time since August 1982 that a NASCAR race at BMS was a non-sellout..."

They are not doing this out of kindness to race fans, but the fact the tourism based industry is in freefall. They hope to fill vacant rooms and draw new visitors to fill the many new hotel/motel rooms that have been constructed in recent years.

The general manager at Comfort Inn on Lee Highway in Bristol, VA claims their hotel has yet to see a boost in reservations for the March 18-20 race weekend. (Their new rates of) $199 to $249 per day are 30 percent lower than it charged last year. What is there normal fee? There is no evidence this is working. Ref. BHC February 11, 2011.

This is part of a growing list of complaints by race fans and others over everything form smoking bans to extortion pricing on concessions at the racetrack itself.

Tri-Cities "official" poverty rates hit almost 20 percent in 2010 Posted October 12, 2010

Looking Around Bristol

Dollar General might create 6,000 new jobs by 2012 as it opens 625 new stores while remodeling and moving 550 other stores. They claimed to have created 15,000 new jobs from 2009 to 2011.

Dollar General has a number of stores in the Tri-Cities Bristol area and I often shop there myself. While their selection is limited compared to say Wal-Mart, the quality is often better and their prices are often better on very basic merchandise. It's unclear if any new stores will open in Tri-Cities Bristol because they already have a notable presence here. Posted January 04, 2011

Overall from an informal survey of local restaurants we noted how empty many of them are. This came about when a family friend came visiting from the Atlanta Georgia area. He was amazed at how much lower prices were here compared to Georgia, but was equally shocked at how empty many businesses were.

In fact the local Hardees is now offering two double cheese burgers, fries, apple pie, and drink for $5! That was a great deal, but the restaurant at Bristol Exit 5 was empty as my wife and I ate the on February 14. The employees admitted restaurant business across the City was down a lot.

The week before Raymond our friend visiting from Georgia noted that restaurants here that were nearly empty at lunch had patrons standing in line at lunch back home. In one case he wanted to go to Outback Steak House on Bristol Virginia's Exit 7 only to find the business closed at lunch time. Yet when a visitor gets off the Exit 7 off ramp there was a sign "Outback Steak House open for lunch."

$2.5 million Tax Dollars Down a Rathole I warned them in 2003 this would happen and sadly I was right. Not only is retail in trouble at Exit 7, Bristol Virginia got involved in a speculative land deal with a private friend of the City Government to front $2.5 million to development some retail property.

I was the only person present protesting the deal on a cold winter night when the then City Counsel voted to fund the deal. Regardless of the question whether a local government should even be involved in this, the end result is the City spent up to $3 million only to have the deal fail and be sold for $700.000. The property is still a rock heap.

This dose of reality is beginning to create real problems for Bristol Virginia and Tennessee. Recent census data shows that Bristol Virginia has lost 25% of its private sector employment. Bristol has become addicted to meals and lodging taxes to fill it's ever increasing budget gaps.

The state and regional governments have plowed tens of millions in grants and bailouts for tourism related industries, but recent closures and failures across the region dims prospects for this kind of pork barrel spending will bail out the region's economy. This waste I've warned about for years is now being exposed.

Perhaps Dollar General can start selling burgers.

Book review by Lewis Loflin. See Southern Silence by Paula Laureen Henderson

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