Why the Poor are a Goldmine for Politicians
by Lewis Loflin
In the words of Thomas Sowell, "the poor are a gold-mine" for the predominantly middle-income bureaucracy." Again, to quote Bill Deel, a retired English teacher in Clintwood, Virginia, "We're becoming more and more Third World here...The best and the brightest leave."
Here is how it works: Under Virginia law we have what is known as "closed session" politicians evoke any time they want to hide their activities. The public and press are barred from recording or attending a meeting involving any deal that involves the transfer of public assets to private interests, often their friends and business associates. There's no records kept of what went on, we seldom find out about it until the City Council or local county board of supervisors votes in it.
In Washington County the public is even barred from addressing the board of supervisors on any issue without an invitation or advanced approval. Note: the public in 2009 can again address the Board of Supervisors. Congratulations to them for reinstating the public comment section.
In Abingdon the taxpayer funded industrial development board meets at the Chamber of Commerce, in addition to all the "closed session" backroom deals. In Bristol the highest paid public official in Bristol, Virginia (and still on the payroll) now heads the Bristol VA/TN Chamber of Commerce. At the City utility a college scholarship program for local high school graduates created controversy when the Bristol Herald Courier (2008) suggested the scholarships went to the kids of City officials and employees, and in reality disqualifies everyday people. All ratepayers including Washington County residents had to pay for this.
The reaction form City officials more or less was they aimed the program towards those they wanted to stay here. (Meaning their kids.) The local press also accused the City of nepotism (2008) when the kids of City Council members were getting lucrative City jobs. In addition they included students at a private Christian school where the kids of certain public employees attend and where they are on its board. Let me emphasize this is all legal.
In many cases public officials it seems assist their friends in setting up a non-profit for the express purpose of them approving state and local grants for them, and sometimes to evade property taxes. For example, Bristol Virginia and Tennessee have approved about $5 million in highway funds and City tax dollars to renovate the Old Train Station that after five years is still empty.
Millions in economic and Tobacco grants have gone to nonsense such as the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, to provide entertainment to the local elite. What does an existing theater have to do with training and providing jobs for displaced tobacco workers is beyond me. Tourism development has become nothing but massive taxpayer fraud. Here they don't define economic development as either being a profitable, self-sustaining business or job creation. Government money is the development.
The Bristol VA Trainstation Finally Opens Costing $6 Million Tax Dollars
Published: December 19, 2008 BHC
Early this week Congressman Rick Boucher was shown on a local TV station extolling the merits of his latest vote buying bid to build another museum in Southwest Virginia, using transportation department funds. At least $1.5 million of transportation funds were used to renovate the Bristol Train Station. Here again Boucher, Senator Warner and Tennessee politicians were involved in this misuse of transportation funds.
One of the more egregious examples of misuse is the $750,000 secured by Boucher to build horse trails in a national forest. In Virginia, adequate funds aren't available to maintain existing highways, much less build new ones. Yet we continue to allow our elected officials to buy our votes and defend their actions by stating the mantra that state/federal laws mandate spending transportation funds for non-transportation projects.
Who is to blame? We, the voters, who act like pigs at the trough when it comes to taking this "free money." The only way to change this is to send a clear message to both parties that this misuse of funds must cease. Jerry C. Bristol.
Update November 2009: The Bristol Train opened in 2009. From Congressman Rick Boucher's 2009 Transportation funding request for Bristol gets my Pork of the Year award:
Project Name: Bristol Multimodal Transportation Terminal and Trolley System Amount: $900,000
Explanation of the Request: This funding is for the City of Bristol's Multimodal Transportation Terminal and Trolley System. The City of Bristol will institute a trolley system in its downtown area to enable people to traverse downtown in an environmentally sound way and enhance economic growth and activity in the downtown area.
The project consists of the paving of a city owned tract of land, construction of a covered passenger waiting area furnished with seating and restrooms, and the purchase of three 18-43 passenger trolleys. Two trolleys will be in service with the third available as a backup. The funding provides infrastructure on the Virginia side of the City of Bristol, as the infrastructure on the Tennessee side is already in place.
Perhaps they could ride by our $6 million empty Trainstation the taxpayers recently paid to fixed up. Or our $10-12 million (under construction) country music museum the "stars" refused to pay for. See Virginia Politicians and Highway Pork. He is in the process of diverting another $18,359,891 in highway funds that will not fill a single pothole nor create a single long-term job.
Updated November 2009
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