Flying High since 1998.

Bristol Virginia Tri-Cities Poverty Politics

by Lewis Loflin

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.

Gateway Pages for this website:   » General Subjects
  » Archive 1   » Archive 2   » Archive 3
  » Archive 4   » Archive 5   » Archive 6
  » Archive 7   » Archive 8   » Archive 9

There's little doubt government efforts at economic development in this region is a failure and my concern is the squandering and continuing waste of government grants. The grants are a jobs programs for the grant recipients and creates nothing for the average person. Bristol Virginia is getting ready to spend $450,000 to do another "study" to get Amtrak to come to Bristol - jobs for consultants.

Their argument is using the old Trainstation taxpayers spent $6 million to rebuild 10 years ago - it still sits empty. In both cases the money spent came from the Appalachian Regional Commission, Virginia Tobacco Commission, highway and road funds, etc. have produced nothing - that is the usual outcome of these projects. See more on that below.

In another case economic development and transportation funds were hijacked to build a library in an affluent retirement community. $18 million in grants went for the Artisan Center in Abingdon Virginia - a fancy place to hand out tourism literature and whose head person that was behind building it makes over $100,000 a year. Not bad in a community with a median income of around $34,000. I've listed dozens of these projects over the years in the links below and while they claim this is job creation they refuse to provide evidence.

I created a firestorm several years ago when I caught them in lies on this issue. They had to retracts (in the case of VCEDA) their jobs announcements were projections only then claimed they didn't track job numbers or pay rates after handing out millions in grants for job creation - corporate welfare.

Top pages April 2017

Tobacco Commission Sykes Fiasco Reveals Government Waste

To quote how the Tobacco Commission operates in 2010,

"To date we've seen about 350 Tobacco Region Opportunity Fund (TROF) transactions as it appears today in your book on page 53. Forty percent of those that have come to us and the deal never makes it.

Localities go through the dance, make applications, you approve it and send it all up and for whatever reason it never happens. Of those that do happen and are disbursed, about half of them deliver what they promise.

The other half either repaid some money because they fell short or they negotiate some relief or they flat out default on their obligations. These are not good numbers but I want you to know that this is what's happened in the TROF program but its gotten better..."


Then Gov. now Senator Warner and VCEDA in 2005 is typical:

VCEDA approved three loans and eight grants totaling more than $2.2 million. New announcements in the region, including AOL/Virtus Marketing in Norton, Blue Ridge Wood Products in Bluefield, Southwest Logistics in Wise and Midpaco in Duffield, will create nearly 500 new jobs with a $7.3 million investment.

All of these have failed in some cases in just months after opening. Nowhere near 500 new jobs ever existed and the money disappeared.

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.

Disability Big Business

Also see Disability the Hidden Unemployment Program

In low-wage job scarce communities many often turn to disability checks to earn a living. Having many members of the same household each "drawing" a check is a bonanza when other benefits such as Medicaid, etc. are thrown in. In fact drive along I-81 in Bristol Virginia one will see a billboard ad from various law firms. Gene Cochran Attorneys at Law (276-676-2722) advertise their specialty "Personal injury, Social Security Disability, and Workers' Compensation." Mr. Cochran isn't alone.

In addition to billboards on the back of most phone books in this area one finds a full page ad for the Arrington, Schelin, & Herrell P.C. Law firm (276-669-9111) that on Social Security Disability and Worker's Compensation claim they are "Confidential, Aggressive, & Experienced" in getting you that government check, for a percentage. And like Gene Cochran, no charge if no check (except for costs advanced).

In another full page ad Massengill & Caldwell P.C. (423-764-1174) even have "hospital and home appointments available." Now that's real service when doctors are hard to find in this area, but disability lawyers will come to your home!

This is in no way to suggest anything sleazy just where the money is in our community and it sure isn't from the typical restaurant job.

Not only do we have ambulance chasers, but government check chasers. And it's all legal and a big industry here. How big is disability in this area? According to census figures (2016) notes the following disability rates:

Virginia 8.7%
W. Virginia 17.2%
Tennessee 12.8%.

I looked at several counties in Southwest Virginia and the figures came as no surprise:

Russell County Pop. 28,557 disabled 7,759 - 27.1%
Scott County Pop. 22,706 disabled 5,372 - 23.7%
Smyth County Pop. 31,553 disabled 6,889 - 21.8%
Dickenson County Pop. 15,595 disabled 4,952 - 29.3%
Lee County Pop. 24,089 disabled 6,036 - 25%
Washington County Pop. 54,321 disabled 10,200 - 18.8%

I didn't get the data for Buchanan and Wise Counties but they certainly parallel neighboring Russell and Dickenson Counties. Washington County (where I reside) is the wealthiest county in far Southwest Virginia is still worse off than W. Virginia and the number of those disabled far exceeds any of the other counties. The neighboring Tennessee counties do a little worse than the Tennessee average but nowhere near Southwest Virginia.

Looking at the Southwest Virginia health outcomes at the top of the page the stats speak for themselves - near the bottom in Virginia. But note the health outcomes on the Tennessee side of Tri-Cities is far better more like Washington County Virginia in the middle while Sullivan County and Washington Counties Tennessee are in the top third for Tennessee.

I think it's fair to say disability levels can reflect poverty levels. But do they really? I'll explain that in coming days.

See Red States Higher Standard of Living. We are Red and more Red here.

A Look at the Last 15 Years

Exide to Rehire 40 Bristol Workers

Exide Corporation plans to rehire 40 workers in Bristol Tennessee. The original plant opened in 1994 and operated until 2013 once employing 500 to 600 workers. Like Bristol Compressors this company has a notorious and abusive habit of hire and fire labor abuse. To make matters worse, Exide received $35 million in stimulus money before closing the Bristol facility. As usual this government handout produced nothing.

The company has also been snarled up with environmental regulations. Press reports claim that Exide has developed a "robust" environmental, health, and safety standards. We shall see. Local residents living near the old plant are concerned once again about toxic lead and other pollutants. Ref. BHC March 21, 2017.

See: Exide Dumps Bristol Workers after Receiving $34 million in Stimulus Funds

Update: the deal has been terminated no explanation.

Bristol Virginia Loses Another Restaurant - Big Deal

As the Bristol Virginia-Tennessee retail wars rage on, Bristol Virginia loses another business to Bristol Tennessee's Pinnacle development. Outback Steakhouse will relocate from Bristol Virginia's Exit 7 to a new 6497 square-foot facility at The Pinnacle. This is the latest blow for Bristol Virginia that has gone over $100 million in debt and is nearly bankrupt underwriting retail development, in particular The Falls retail development at I81 Exit 5 centered on a Cabela's store.

Cabela's was bought out by Bass Pro Shop the anchor store at The Pinnacle. Its future is uncertain. In addition the Bristol Virginia Mall has nearly emptied out. Sears has closed and Parks Belk jumped I-81 for The Pinnacle. The Bristol Mall once sold for between $10-$15 million was sold to the recent owners for $2.6 million. They are struggling to find some way to keep it open. In addition at I-81 Exit 7 they lost a Pizza Hut and a Ruby Tuesday along with several other stores on Linden Drive. Bristol Virginia Kmart also closed its doors in 2016.

And Bristol politicians are wondering why the public is so angry as they won't fund their schools. Spending over $650,000 for a fake waterfall for Cabela's illustrates how insane they have become. Bristol Virginia has now got the proud designation of being number 130/133 of having among the worst health outcomes in Virginia. Reference Bristol Herald Courier March 21, 2017.

See Bristol Residents Paying $650,000 for Cabela's Fake Waterfall

ARC is a waste of money

Our local elite are in an uproar over President Trump's plan to defund the Appalachian Regional Commission. The first problem is most of the press in Virginia including the Richmond Times Dispatch, Bristol Herald Courier, Roanoke Times, etc. are controlled by Warren Buffett - press objectivity has been compromised. This assures no alternate views will get into print and all push the same message.

The idea is to malign Trump at every opportunity. The biased press feigns horror at "vital" services and programs so needed by residents of Appalachia, including the Bristol region. The New York Times (March 16, 2017) proclaims Trump is taking a "gamble" cutting a program his base "depends" on. The article was vague and once again no specifics, which is usual.

To quote anti-Trump Reuters (March 17, 2017) is typical:

Four hundred of the 420 counties ARC operates voted for Trump in November's election. The 52-year old agency has run more than 650 projects in Appalachia's 13 states between 2011 and 2015 costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Its programs, some launched under Democratic former President Barack Obama, are expected to create or retain more than 23,670 jobs and train and educate over 49,000 students and workers...

The entire claim is dishonest for a number of reasons. Of the 420 counties only about 100 are in actual Appalachia. Most of the funding goes to wealthy communities outside Appalachia, the designations are absurd. The "ARC-Designated Distressed Counties, Fiscal Year 2016" for Virginia only includes Lee County, but not Wise, Scott, Dickenson, Buchanan, and Tazewell that are in terrible shape. In 2017 they added Wise and Dickenson.

The Columbus Dispatch did a study in 1999 on where ARC funds really go and it turns out mostly wealthy communities outside of what people think of as Appalachia. As of that time $52 million went to Wise County where I grew up and nobody would have known because it produced nothing for the average citizen. I'll look closer at Wise County later which has been in then local news.

The Bristol Herald Courier opinion page on March 20, 2017 went into another rant titled "Trump ignored Appalachia" over cutting funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission. They claimed the number of high poverty (distressed) counties has been cut from 295 to 90. Yet the Associated Press on May 23, 2004 reported that the ARC had spent $10 billion over 40 years and "the number of counties in the region that are considered 'distressed' have been reduced from 223 to 91 since 1965." Then why if only 223 counties were "distressed" do we have 410 counties? Now we have 295 down to 90 in 2017? Which is it?

In fiscal year 2016 only one Virginia county (Lee) was designated while only nine in West Virginia - but 14 in Mississippi. In 2017 three in Virginia (Lee, Wise, Dickenson) while only 8 in West Virginia and 12 in Mississippi. Virginia clearly has at least 8 counties alone in big trouble and surely more than 8 in West Virginia. These designations seem more political than anything.

See 30 Years of Government Failure in Southwest Virginia.

Address Corporate Culture Before Handing Out Money

More jobs for politically connected consultants, zero for working people.

Another $1.3 million in ARC grants are being given to the Southwest Virginia Alliance For Manufacturing is another waste of public funds in my opinion. This has been around for years and in my opinion is a totally useless. They supposedly advise companies how to retool for manufacturing from the coal industry to something else. They have been around for at least 15 years in one form or the other and have produced nothing that anybody will share with the public.

I brought this problem up with their predecessor and was informed in no less hostile terms that their mission is to assist business and in no way address labor issues. That according to a Mr. Kravitz, "local business doesn't give a damn about your education, skills, or experience". Bristol Compressors is the typical abusive and low-wage employer we deal with everyday. This is what the so-called Southwest Virginia Alliance For Manufacturing won't address. There is no labor or skills shortage in this region, but a refusal of workers to put up with low pay and abusive labor tactics employed by local business - these non-profit consultants never address that.


According to them:

To establish and promote the regional collaborations in support of manufacturing and manufacturing careers as part of an economic development initiative.

Academic babble.

To redefine the image of manufacturing with young people and their parents, their educators, the community and policymakers in a manner that increases the number of young adults and other member of the workforce who pursue manufacturing careers.

Why don't they address the abuse, low pay, and dirty labor tactics used by local business? Read the comments below from Bristol Compressors one of their members.

To close the skills gap for regional manufacturers by aligning educational and workforce training resources with the most pressing demands of area industry.

Yet many of these programs are already available at our community colleges without another layer of consultants and grant collectors. In addition nowhere will any local employer make a commitment or hire those that go through the expense of attending already available programs.

This is a jobs programs for themselves and I've asked for a list of how many people they actually got jobs for. I'm still waiting for an answer.

Typical examples:

Charles B. · Kingsport, Tennessee Jun 28, 2015:

Bristol Compressors doesn't have the reputation or the pay grades any longer to draw BACK the skilled labor they once had. Changing a CEO does not change the history of a company.

Eugene P. Jun 28, 2015:

Worked there about 8 years ago I almost got my 5 years in until new owners took over and decided they didn't need a few hundred of us so they said that in a few weeks they would inform us of the ones that where leaving but that was a lie when we went back to our jobs our lay off envelopes were on our supervisor's desk. Hope new owners are more honest.

Lisa W. · Bristol, Virginia Jun 28, 2015:

"Gniewek said the average rate of pay is around $17 an hour with good benefits." Excuse me? I have worked at Bristol Compressors continuously for 21 years, my loyalty and hard work is worth slightly less than $15 an hour.

Stephen S. · Castlewood High Jul 1, 2015:

That is average rate. When you look that most of the employees have been there for 20 years or longer. And Lisa if you have been there 21 years and only making $15 an hour, there are other departments that make more. I worked there 15 yrs. MYSELF and started out at $4 an hr. I was making a little over $15 when I left.

Greg S. · Cypress College Jun 29, 2015:

Bristol is a 2nd tier compressor behind Copeland and LG. I won't sell air conditioning units with Bristol compressors.

Crystal R. · Works at Johnson City Medical Center Jun 29, 2015:

$17 hr average pay? My step dad worked there over 19 yrs And Hardly cleared $19 hr. Maybe if they stopped laying off so frequently laborers would apply. The benefits get worse every year. There are more "chiefs" than "Indians". This used to be a good place to work, now it's only a good place to get some sort of income in for the quarter before standing in the unemployment line.

Sheila Williams Harris Jun 30, 2015:

There are lots of good skilled labor in our area but they are not going to work for cheap wages and bad or no benefits.

Joey C. · Systems Engineer Sr. at Agc Flat Glass North America Jan 23, 2016:

Maybe the latest CEO should educate himself on the history of layoffs of skilled labor this company has made over the past decade 30 or 40 jobs thats less than a 5% of the amount of skilled labor this company has layed off over of past years. A lot of people the company knew that this would happen you cannot run a business this way skilled labor does not want to work for Bristol Compressors. Just look at the corporate welfare and other negative layoff announcements the statements made in this article are ridiculus. the link to this article gives a clearer picture of the true Bristol Compressors.

Angie C. Mar 18, 2016:

They have had many skilled workers .. As my brothers and uncles were. They CAN'T KEEP skilled workers because of their CONSTANT 2-WEEK layoffs! How do they expect people to work a month then take 2 weeks off? They have families and bills? Of course salaried staff don't suffer this routine.. Only the labor in the factory! If they want SKILLED QUALITY EMPLOYEES THEN TREAT THEM WELL. Pay them well. And work them consistently! The problem is in the company practices not the workers!

Juan Thomas arrested.

Bristol Herald Courier Prints Racist Hate

The Sunday, March 5 issue is another example of assassination journalism. Half of the so-called newspaper was this unfounded, non-sourced Russia-Trump conspiracy theory. No names or the use of unsubstantiated sources is routine. There's no proof Wikileaks worked for the Russians when they unveiled the level of collusion and fraud between the Clinton campaign and the liberal press. Unnamed "intelligence" sources that hide behind secrecy are never named, while "leaks" have become daily front-page events. Let's have some specific names or proof once in a while. The liberal press pushes rumor as news.

Yes Trump's campaign had been wire-tapped, etc. which is illegal. Ref. January 20, 2017, on Page A1 of the New York Times: Wiretapped Data Used in Inquiry of Trump Aides. Even they admitted nothing was found, but loaded the article with insinuations of malfeasance - none of this was mentioned in the Bristol Herald Courier hit job. More NYT yellow journalism!

The Herald Courier carries this even further. Once again half of the opinion page was Jewish bigot Dana Milbank* suggesting Trump supporters are Nazis and attempted to link us to Jewish cemetery vandalism and other anti-Semitic garbage. Milbank attacks Trump for calling Muslim terrorists, acting in the name of Islam, as Islamic. He bitterly attacks our rights to secure borders and vetting non-citizens as Hitlerist.

What you won't find is the Black liberal ex-journalist Juan Thomas** who was arrested for these Jewish hate crimes, not white Trump supporters Milbank and the alt-left press was hoping for. I'll bet that will never be on the front page of the Herald Courier. Also, the opinion page cartoon was another Trump slur while letters and opinions not deemed politically correct are still censored.

Nowhere in the Bristol Herald Courier has there been any renouncement of liberal racist and political violence (excuse me protests) across the nation. Another liberal college campus riot (Middlebury VT) shut down a speech by Dr. Charles Murray and landed one person in the hospital. Didn't hear about that in the Herald Courier? You never will.

Now if a white Trump supporter called someone from a specially protected victim class a name, that would be a front page hate crime story for days. Wonder how many blacks got shot in Chicago over the weekend by white racist Trump supporters? Didn't see that in the Herald Courier either? Must have been criminal Black culture, which is routinely suppressed in favor of a white racism narrative.

Since the control of the Bristol Herald Courier has fallen into the clutches of Warren Buffett they have ceased any pretense of balance and objectivity. Like the Washington Post under the control of Amazon's Jeff Bezos, the Herald Courier has become another elitist propaganda mill. Calling the press yellow is an insult to Easter flowers.

*If the press wants to bring up race and ethnicity into every conversation then I'll do it too.

**There's some claims Juan Thomas was a convert to Islam and like the Florida airport shooter is something the alt-left press would like to suppress. I have no confirmation and assume the claim is unfounded at this time. Now another man who is Jewish was arrested for these bomb threats, etc. Zero Trump voters. He has been formally charged.

The number killed by those racist white Trump supporters in Chicago as of March 5, 2017:

Year to Date
Shot & Killed: 99
Shot & Wounded: 451
Total Shot: 550
Total Homicides: 105

As another writer says on Juan Thomas,

You'll note that the mostly buried MSM headlines and articles don't mention the fact that he's black or include a photo of him and don't mention his political persuasion allowing the 6 out of 10 Americans who only read headlines and even those 4 out of 10 who actually do read the associated article to think, "Aha, they caught that Nazi bigot Trump supporter." You can be sure the headline would have read "Trump supporter caught" if the situation had been different.

The loathing of the press is unhealthy to our democracy as is the perceived lies and bias responsible for this attitude. Presstitutes be warned.

Compromised Press

2016 has proven the mainstream press completely corrupt including the Bristol Herald Courier my local newspaper - I terminated my subscription of 24 years. They are the "fake news" more interested in propaganda than supplying facts. Wikileaks has exposed the mass collusion between Democrats and the press lap dogs. Wall Street scumbags have also been in on this as well. This is why we need alternative news sites such as this and many others. Before believing anything CHECK YOUR SOURCES! Get an education!

Update after offering a huge discount I renewed my subscription but have found the same bias and hysteria as before. So I'll spend my time exposing their bias and lack of objectivity.

Many news stories may be partially correct and often incomplete or suffer political correctness censorship and outright omissions. News reports are filled with crime reports in particular with large urban areas with high crime rates. The Chicago Tribune stated outright it censors the race of criminals after complaints on this by its readers.

They claim race has nothing to do with the story, yet as of November 2016 over 760 people have died due to violence in the City most of the victims minorities. But on the other end the media claims police racism because so many minorities are arrested, while censoring vital information proving the arrests are based on mass criminal behavior by these very "victims" of racism. Thus their reporting is not news, but propaganda designed to push a political position friendly to the left wing racists in the Democrat Party looking for votes.

Immigration and climate change are two of the most distorted and propagandized subjects out there. One will have to research multiple publications and put the information together. Subjects such as climate belong under earth science - ecology is a social science not a hard science and in particular social sciences have no relation to real science and poisons it on college campuses. It's difficult for the average person to deal with that subject without a science background.

Hatred of Political Correctness

Post election Bill Maher noted two destructive trends among fellow liberals and has warned them to repeatedly on this. "Political correctness bullshit" and refusal to deal with Islam. Even David Axelrod admitted scores of counties that went for Obama in two elections went for Trump, how could this be racism?

The press and ruling elite behind it depend not on facts or allowing open debate, but the authority of approved "experts", the same kinds of people that got all of the polls and the election totally wrong.

In Why Do Democrats Look Down on Voters? November 23, 2014 By Clive Crook, a liberal, says,

This syndrome of Democratic disdain, I think, has two main parts. First, liberals have an exaggerated respect for intellectual authority and technical expertise. Second, they have an unduly narrow conception of the values that are implicated in political choices. These things come together in the conviction that if you disagree with Democrats on universal health insurance or almost anything else, it can only be because you're stupid. Voters recognize this as insufferable arrogance and, oddly enough, they resent it.

Democrats who might be asking where they went wrong in the mid-term elections - not that many of them are - ought to give this some thought. The conviction that voters are stupid, however, isn't just bad tactics. It's also substantively wrong...having conservative values doesn't make you stupid, any more than having liberal values makes you smart...

Add in both parties in 2016. Virginia politicians of both parties have similar idiot attitudes towards economic development when it fails year after year producing nothing, then come back with millions more based on dumb academic studies only to fail again.