Media Truth

Bristol Virginia-Tennessee News Opinion 2014

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?

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.

We all live here together

Posted: Friday, February 14, 2014 Bristol Herald Courier.

I'm praising the Washington County Board of Supervisors for getting us out of the King Medical School fiasco. This is another multi-million dollar backroom deal we have no business in. I'm hopeful with removal of Boss Reeter and election of new members we can end two decades of "good old boy" government.

In addition, I'm voicing my support for gas drilling and asking our supervisors to support it. I've had gas drilling, pipelines and a compressor station near my home for two decades with no problems. The gas company workers do a superb job.

Those trying to stop drilling don't even live in my community. Most are from the Abingdon-Damascus-Glade Spring area.

Those opposing drilling are the same collection of recent transplants and outside-funded political activists who were behind efforts to stop Love's Truck Stop. They are driven by ideology and are typical of the social apartheid system the working poor suffer from.

They care nothing about the poverty and joblessness we suffer here, being fixated on greenism at the expense of poor people they are economically and socially isolated from. One even commented on the poor "being pushed out" but seemed to not care about it.

This is understandable as we market this silly hillbilly-hick music culture, which isn't representative of most of the people living here. They're fed this silly Appalachian culture garbage peddled in college by the clueless academics.

Those living off government jobs and transfer payments or bringing money in have no idea just how bad earning a living in the region really is. The working poor matter little to these mostly transplant liberals that are hostile to local culture anyway.

We all live here together, so let's demand open government and open public dialog on these issues.

Lewis Loflin Bristol, Va.

Fourth quarter 2013 Job Disaster in Tri-Cities VA-TN

WCYB Channel 5 3-12-2014 Retails sales Bristol dropped 12.9 percent to $260 million.

Bristol Virginia-Tennessee has pinned it's future on retail development, tourism, and retirement industries. These are among the lowest paid and least stable jobs out there. They leave a labor force largely under-employed and underpaid. It contributes to the continuing out-migration of our young people.

This comes at a time when Bristol Virginia, Bristol Tennessee, and Washington County Virginia are engaged in a bitter retail war. All sides backed by ten of millions in government funding are attempting to lure each other's retailers to cross the state-county lines. None of these local government care anything about the terrible plight of the working poor. They only want each others sales tax revenue to pay for pet projects.

Let's look at the figures. Loss of $33.54 million in Bristol for the 4th quarter is part of growing trend. From economist Steb Hipple at ETSU:

Retail performance in the three cities was very weak during the critical holiday selling season. Dollar sales increased only 0.4% in Johnson City to $531 million. Kingsport sales were unchanged at $408 million while Bristol sales plunged 12.9 percent to $260 million...In terms of dollar sales, Kingsport retailing rose 2.1 percent to $1,522 million.

Sales were also higher in Johnson City by 0.3 percent to $1,916 million, but decreased 7.9 percent in Bristol to $1,002 million. Adjusted for inflation, the annual sales volume increased 0.6 percent in Kingsport, but fell 1.2 percent in Johnson City and 9.2 percent in Bristol.

Labor Downturn Again - During the Christmas hiring season!

During the October to December period, the Tri-Cities metro area suffered the largest job losses since the recession year of 2009. Compared to the same period in 2012, regional job levels were lower by 2.6 percent to 224,023 while unemployment rose 0.4 percent to 16,742. Employment has now declined for the past seven quarters.

The jobless rate for the Tri-Cities Consolidated Statistical Area (CSA) was 7.0 percent, compared to 6.8 percent a year earlier. This marks the third quarter of higher unemployment levels.

The annual data for 2013 reflect the growing weakness in the labor market. Employment in the metro area decreased by 1.6% to 225,589, well below the figures for 2011 and 2012. However, the number of jobless workers only increased 0.5 percent to 18,157, while the unemployment rate was relatively steady at 7.5 percent.

The disparity between job losses and the small change in unemployment conditions is due to a large number of workers leaving the regional labor market, as shown in the 1.4 percent drop in the labor force to 243,746.

Among the twelve regional NAICS industry sectors, employment levels were higher in six, lower in four, and unchanged in two (compared to five, six, and one in the third quarter). Job growth was led by leisure & hospitality, professional & business services, construction, and retail trade. Other services and government saw smaller employment gains.

Job losses occurred in information services, wholesale trade, finance, and manufacturing. Employment was unchanged in transport & utilities, and education & health services.


Now let's look at the last paragraph from above. Construction is up mainly due to I believe massive government funded retail projects in Bristol. One is the Pinnacle being built in Bristol Tennessee near I81 exit 1.

At least $25 million of that project is coming from taxpayers and will feature a Bass Pro Shop. This will empty the present Bristol Mall on the Virginia side of the line. Park's Belk has already committed to jump the state line while J.C. Penney will close for good.

Yet on I81 Exit 5 Bristol Virginia has committed to spending perhaps $100 million to underwrite The Falls development. The City of Bristol Virginia is already nearly $100 million in debt and the project is running behind.

This project will be anchored on a Cabela's in direct competition with Bass Pro Shop at Exit 1. Lowe's at Exit 7 in Washington County plans to jump the County line for the new shopping center. The Pinnacle developer sent lobbyists to Richmond to fight The Falls development.

At this time the only other stores committed to the project are two restaurants and a convenience store. City leaders are hailing these as proof of economic revitalization for Bristol. Yet this has created friction with Washington County Virginia I'll get to shortly.

Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe has intervened to bailout the project with the diversion-theft of tens of millions of Virginia tax dollars. The funds are being taken from education and public services to buy off Cabela's. Who says Republicans are the kings of corporate welfare?

McAuliffe spokeswoman Rachel Thomas said the governor called Cabela's CEO Thomas Millner "to assure him of Virginia's commitment to their company and their presence."

Quoting Democrat Sen. Phil Puckett: "This is important to all of Southwest Virginia. We are trying to achieve a level playing field for the city of Bristol, Va., because of two major developments being built within miles of each other. Without this, we don't think they have it and will lose considerable development to Tennessee."

Yet these people claim on both sides of the State line each project will create thousands of new jobs. Really? Government - you just can't fix stupid.

Ref. Gov. McAuliffe helps bailout The Falls project in Bristol Bristol Herald Courier February 28, 2014

BVU Misuses $150,000 in ARC Economic Development Funds for Concert

In August 2012 during the period Bristol was losing both jobs and retail sales Mumford & Sons held a concert for more than 15,000 the press is claiming. Yet the deal was another example of privatizing profits and socializing costs:

In August 2012, both cities, the nonprofit Birthplace of Country Music and Believe in Bristol collaborated with A-C Entertainment to host Mumford & Sons and other groups in a day-long concert at the municipal parking lot near the Bristol train station. The event generated ticket sales of 17,000.

The Mumford & Sons event brought in about $1.8 million and a profit of about $500,000 for promoter A-C Entertainment...The city incurred about $25,000 in employee costs for security and cleanup but wasn't fully compensated...

Ref. Bristol Herald Courier February 24, 2014. Yet while the promoter and the non-profits made a fortune it did nothing for jobs or poverty problem. Yet Bristol Virginia is now facing a shortfall of over $500,000 in its school system in 2014 while spending tens of millions on Cabela's and music concerts.

Yet Bristol Virginia Utilities (BVU) is under a criminal investigation over employee misuse of company credit cards. It's former CEO Wes Rosenbaum left suddenly with a $275,000 parting gift from the BVU Board much to the outrage of the public.

Yet this misuse of economic development money is supported by the city's Economic Development Committee. These are the same idiots behind the Falls fiasco and the $25,000 in taxpayer loses on the 2012 concert. EDC Chairman and BVU board member Jim Clifton says,

"Here is a chance to tie in with the opening of the BCM [museum]. Here's a chance to get another 20,000 or 30,000 people back to Bristol to visit downtown, to go to the museum, to stay in local hotels.

This isn't something BVU ought to do as a regular basis but Economic Development looked at it as a possible one-time scenario to get Bristol on this guy's tour schedule - 18 No. 1 records. It's a tremendous opportunity. I think it ties in with Bristol's image and it's on the Virginia side."

The BVU Board said yes with two members Archie Hubbard and Doug Fleenor saying no. "It's not because I'm not for it. I just don't think we should be in the promotion business. It's not a utility function," Hubbard said.

Some of this requires further explanations for those lucky enough not to reside here. This Birthplace of Country Music Museum was once in the Bristol Mall and was such a failure they couldn't pay their rent as I was told by one employee. Taxpayers spent almost $12 million (ARC, Tobacco, Agriculture funds) to refurbish a wrecked garage.

They simply moved from the Bristol Mall to downtown. They are within sight of the Bristol Trainstation ($6 million wasted on that project) claiming it too will draw tens of thousands of tourists. Then what do we need the concert for? They have no business plan except more government grants and are projected to create at most eight jobs.

I also need to clarify the false claim of Bristol being the "birthplace" of country music. That is a lie to back a marketing scam to secure government grants. There were a few recording done in Bristol in the 1920s or 1930s, but as an industry country music was in Nashville not Bristol.

Letter to the editor: BVU gives donation to RAM

The Trainstation Again?

Abingdon and Bristol are working once again to get taxpayer passenger rail to locate to Bristol. Like most of their projects this makes no business sense, but is about tapping into government funding. Within sight of this failed project is our new $12 million country music museum (funded by you know who) that failed in the Bristol Mall and is expected to succeed here.

To quote one angry resident:

Lets see now. We have a train station with a passenger ticket window, and no passenger trains and no reasonable expectation of ever getting passenger trains again. Got that. We seem to have a train station with no real business plan of any sort. And the taxpayers have been forced to pay how many millions of dollars?

And for what? It looks like we the people who earn the money will continue to have our earnings taken from us by force or threat of force by our politicians to keep feeding the money sinkhole of a train station. STOP THE NON-ESSENTIAL SPENDING NOW! And no, the train station is not essential. Sell the train station to private business and either let it sink or swim on its' own with no more taxpayer subsidies!

More here...

Printed in the Bristol Herald Courier Saturday, January 18, 2014:

Re: Raising the minimum wage. I'm voicing my support of President Obama to raise the minimum wage to $10-$15 an hour.

The tens of millions of dollars are wasted on corporate welfare and crony capitalism have done nothing to raise the living standards of the working poor in this region. The same people writing multi-million checks to retail developers are the same ones that begrudge our low-wage workforce $10 in food stamps.

Bristol-Virginia-Tennessee region ranks near the bottom in nearly every social demographic in their respective states: highest child poverty rates - low-wage jobs and chronic under-employment - college degrees that are worthless forcing thousands to flee the region - jails bursting with those arrested for drugs - skyrocketing crime.

In addition working people face a hostile labor climate from business often in partnership with local governments. There's no free market here with this level of cronyism and backroom dealing. How many jobs will we create moving Belk to the Pinnacle and Lowe's to the Falls?

I'd give business a 200 percent deduction on labor costs and kill useless regulations and taxes. Those on welfare would be forced to work for living. Cutting out the government middle man and making work pay something is best for everyone.

In addition we must cut off most immigration and end this system of importing replacement workers then shifting the social costs onto taxpayers. That means enforcing the labor and immigration laws. Fat chance in this low-wage labor hostile region.

No more corporate welfare, country music museums, under-writing minimum wage hotel, tourism, and retirement industries. Let's get people off welfare and let them earn a living. Time to shut down the government money loop for the politically connected and end this system of social apartheid.

Lewis Loflin Bristol, Va.

Note as of January 18, 2014 police are searching for a man attempting to rob the pharmacy in a Food City store in Lebanon, Virginia. There's been a rash of mostly pharmacy robberies by drug addicts.

J.C. Penny 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.

More Third World Government

To quote Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Governmental Studies: "The most corrupt region is Southwest Virginia - more indictments for political and public office corruption have happened in this region than all other parts of the state combined." According to a report from the Kingsport Times-News (May 22nd, 2010), "Tennessee is named the most corrupt state in the nation; Virginia listed as second." So here we have Bristol VA/TN located at the juncture of the two most corrupt states in the Union, and for Virginia, the most corrupt region of the state.

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.

Sprint Dumps Bristol Virginia for Bristol Tennessee

Here is another example of one low-wage community trying to outbid the neighboring low-wage community at taxpayer expense for low-paying jobs. Sprint has turned down a lucrative corporate welfare package from Bristol, Virginia and will jump the State line to Sullivan County. Read more...

Here in Bristol January is once again dominated by record cold. Entire states are being declared disaster areas as arctic temperatures break record after record. But there are some of us that are saying we told you so. It's about religion and social agendas and not science.

Mass Immigration Killing the Working Poor Here Too

Immigration reform will cause even more misery for the working poor as an additional 22 million more guest workers over the next decade will further displace native born low-wage workers and already have in East Tennessee and Tri-Cities. Low-wage black workers have been driven out of the labor force across the nation by immigration and the same thing is happening to poor whites in our region as employers hunt for more cheap-exploitable labor.

In fact this has been recommended to business as a way to lower labor costs in the tourist-retirement related industries this region is promoting. Simply put they want to bring in even cheaper labor to displace the working poor that already dominates our private sector labor market. The working poor are ignored and marginalized already and so the system of social apartheid will continue to flourish.

Religion versus Science