Bristol Virginia-Tennessee News Opinion 2015

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?

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

Posted Nov. 2015

Posted August 20, 2015:

Posted August 5, 2015:

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."

Illegal Immigration

Sessions Hotel Massive Taxpayer Ripoff

Helpless state, local, and federal taxpayers are going to be on the hook for $10 million to pay for a Bristol Virginia hotel development scam. Known as the Sessions the $21 million project that will occupy or tear down several buildings in downtown Bristol Virginia is another gross example of rampant crony capitalism.

The almost $10 million that will be forked out by taxpayers will include $2.4 million in local cash, $1.8 million in tourism grants, $3.1 million Virginia state tax credits, and a $2.5 million federal tax credits. For Bristol Virginia that's $1.2 million in kickbacks from a local meals and lodging tax plus an additional $850,000 from other funds.

This is another risky speculative venture where we privatize profits and socialize most of the cost. This was done by unanimous vote from the city's IDA in closed session with no public input and the public barred from attending.

Local press reports claim this thing will have a bar, a spa, two restaurants, etc. and might create 60 or so jobs. These are more of the usual part-time low wage poverty employment that so plagues this community. This thing is projected to be profitable if its 70 rooms stay 60% occupied at $150 night. What this will really do is compete for high end tourist traffic by drawing customers away from existing establishments.

Bristol Virginia is already in severe financial trouble as Moodys has downgraded the city's credit twice in 2015 due to excessive borrowing and debt surrounding the Cabela's retail development at exit 5. The store (projected 150 jobs) and the associated shopping complex will setback state and local taxpayers approximately $100 million. The City is projected to not even see a return on its previous borrowing binge until 2030.

I attended the Cabela's grand opening on October 1 and was floored by sticker shock. The place is hideously expensive for a community where the median family income is around $34,000. This new hotel is also quite expensive for the average citizen in this high poverty low-wage community. But at a taxpayer cost of $10 million for 60 jobs is a bargain at $100 million 150 jobs at Cabela's.

A Moody's Sept. 21 report titled, "Investment-grade local governments stumble with outside ventures" blasted and downgraded Bristol "after investing heavily in expensive enterprise or economic development projects."

"Based on current projections, the city is not expected to benefit financially from phase one of The Falls development until fiscal 2030 as all sales and other local tax revenues are allocated for debt service... Therefore, the city is dependent on tax base growth in phases two and three of the project to support increasing debt service costs.

The decision to back the project and assume the additional debt burden resulted in significant reduction in financial flexibility... The decision to support the project, known as The Falls, raised the city's debt burden from 5.2 percent in fiscal 2012 to a very high 9.8 percent in 2014."

The Bristol credit rating went from A1 in 2014 to Baa today. Many of those including an ex-city manager were behind this insanity has left public office. To quote the Bristol Herald Courier on this issue:

"Since 2012, the city effectively doubled its general obligation bond indebtedness to purchase 140 acres along Lee Highway and pay for development and infrastructure costs of The Falls. About $46 million of the city's current $95 million in general obligation bond indebtedness paid for The Falls. The city's limit is slightly more than $100 million, or 10 percent of the city's total appraised property values..."

Besides Cabela's the project is slated to get two new restaurants and lured Lowe's to relocate from 1.5 miles down the road from Washington County. BHC also noted,

"The Pinnacle, a large, mixed use commercial center just a few miles down Interstate 81 in Bristol, Tennessee, opened its second phase earlier this year and work is underway on the next phase. Anchor tenant Belk opened a new, larger store in that center after closing its store on the Virginia side of town."

Belk used to be at the Bristol Mall in Bristol Virginia but jumped the state line for taxpayer goodies. The loss here of retailers is also killing Bristol Virginia. The Bristol Mall was sold for $2 million in 2015 after being bought for $18.3 million Veritas Reality of Indianapolis in 2006.

As Bristol Virginia stumbles along with credit downgrades and cost overruns from its various pork barrel and corporate welfare initiatives the Bristol Herald Courier is reporting that site preparation is underway for a new 153 unit upscale apartment complex near The Pinnacle. Bristol Virginia in the meantime is buried under 11 public housing projects.

Unfortunately the new apartments will be unaffordable to those working in these retail establishments. In reality there is a lot of construction all over the Tri-Cities area including retail and housing. While this is to be applauded what about the 30% plus real poverty rate that exists in this community?

Already the signs of tension and breakdown are becoming more prevalent. In Johnson City for example suffered four pharmacy robberies in less than a month. Most of the crime here while not violent is steadily picking up and often involves drugs including a prescription drug epidemic that rips the region. The big question is how bad does this have to get before the affluent class takes notice?

Another report from the Bristol Herald Courier concerns the latest armed robbery this time in Big Stone gap Virginia. This took place on a Friday night as the assailant fired a gun and demanded money. Employees told officers that two men who were wearing mask had entered the restaurant then went into the kitchen in at least one of the man brandished a weapon.

Fortunately no one was injured and police seem to be flabbergasted. The town police chief claim there hasn't been any armed robberies since he's been in office. There's no real description of the assailants but they're asking people to call the town police anyway.

Finally Some Job Growth

Tri-Cities after years of a contracting labor force seems to have gained some jobs in the 2nd quarter of 2015. To quote economist Steb Hipple of ETSU:

"The second quarter labor market performance in the Tri-Cities was the best in several years, based on both the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Current Employment Survey (CES). According to the CPS household data, regional employment grew 2.7% in the spring period. The CES payroll data puts employment growth at 1.9%. This is the first time in three years that both indicators are telling the same story.

According to the Current Population Survey, employment levels jumped 2.7% to 218,921 - reversing three years of decline. Unemployment fell 9.1% to 13,593 and the jobless rate for the metro area was 5.9% (compared to 6.6% in 2014 and 7.8% in 2013). Responding to higher employment levels, the labor force expanded by 1.9% to 232,514. Taken together, these CPS data show labor market strength."

But does that mean wage growth? More low-end retail and hospitality jobs which is what is leading this are often seasonal and unstable. While the news seems good let's see what coming quarters will reveal.

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

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:

Direct results as documented below:

The other results of all of this great central planning and more like 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.

Full article at

Happy Face Assault on our Individual Liberties

Liberalism's Double Standard on Bigotry and Intolerance

Letter to the Editor

Opportunities are available through workforce training


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: 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.

Terry Kilgore and the Tobacco Commission.

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.

Virginia Wastes $900,000 to Underwrite Movie

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.

See Illegal Immigration-Crime

We all live here together

Update July 30 2014: Washington County BOS has cleared the way for gas drilling with no restrictions. My hope for political reform though has fallen flat.

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.

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.

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