Archive for January, 2008

What economic gains?

January 30, 2008

Phil Cline, general manager of the Pullman Plaza Hotel in Huntington, filed to run for the Senate as a Republican. He’ll go against Jay Wolfe before the winner tries to unseat Rockefeller.

“The 74-year-old Cline says his campaign will focus on continuing the economic gains the nation has made under President Bush by making his tax cuts permanent.”

He picked the wrong state for that line!

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Backpedaling

January 30, 2008

RRS and Kay Goodwin took a group from the Legislature on a tour of the Cultural Center yesterday, showing them around the Archives library and storage areas. Lots of phrases were tossed around like “Many folks think this is an absolute done process, but we’re at the beginning” (Goodwin) and “proposal to relocate the archives library and install a café/gift shop in its space…is merely one possibility” (paraphrase from RRS) and “consultants who helped design…recommended adding the amenities for visitors” (paraphrase RRS).

Look, let’s get things straight. There has always been a plan for a gift shop for the museum, they want to be able to sell junk to kids. That’s a good idea, all museums do it, and all kids want to take home a reasonably-priced souvenir. (Ask the Clay Center what turns over fastest in its gift shop.) The craft shop that used to be in that space was never intended to supplement the museum, it was part of Norman Fagan’s efforts to assist WV artists. It lost a lot of money. Sadly, a gift shop would probably mean no more art exhibited at the Cultural Center, since that’s the only place left to show it.

The food idea is a recent one. Adding a food facility is not a bad idea, as long as it fits the clientele. But sticking it inside the building where they want is stupid. I’ve heard from more than one source that the building developed a rodent problem when Bill Drennen made the craft shop store and cook popcorn for his movie series, and that was on Saturdays. Imagine what would happen if there was real food being brought in seven days a week.

The library is adjacent to offices in the Center. Think about the odors drifting back through the building and out into the lobby. Do they plan to stick an exhaust vent out the side of the building?

As for “done deal” and “merely one possibility,” that’s how this has been presented to the public since it first leaked out. No one would talk about it, but plans were drawn and estimates worked out, and apparently one supervisor fired over it. No alternatives were suggested until this month.

One final quote: “This will be so thoroughly vetted that people will be sick of it.” (Goodwin) They’ve been working on it for two years and it’s just now coming into the light. It should be interesting on History Day.

Easy Money

January 29, 2008

If Danny Jones needs to raise money for the city of Charleston, instead of jacking everyone around with a user fee (taxation without representation), he should just send a policeman down to the intersection of Greenbrier and Washington to catch people running the stop lights. (that is, making right turns on red without stopping and against the walk signals) I’m sure the city would earn enough to pave the streets.

Speaking of which, when are they going to do some street and sidewalk work in the East End? The sidewalks are a hazard near the Capitol, and there’s holes where they dug in the street and haven’t finished paving it back over. But I digress.

The problem, of course, with sending a policeman out to catch drivers doing real illegal and dangerous acts, is that it’s harder than sitting a police cruiser along the interstate with a radar gun. (I noticed this weekend that South Charleston police were making use of the hillside at the Montrose exit to hide their radar cars.) It seems the cities believe the state (and federal government) built the nice big highway through town to serve as a personal cash cow for the city coffer. Should it really be the city’s job to enforce the speed limit on a highway they don’t control, especially when they take user fees from citizens to pave the streets they’re NOT patrolling?

I forgot, Danny wants to install cameras to spy on everyone so the police don’t have to patrol the streets.

More on spare a teacher a dime

January 28, 2008

A couple of nice letters in the Sunday Gazette-Mail remark on Debra Wolf’s commentary that I blogged on previously. Both opine that Ms. Wolf should have known what her starting salary was going to be in Hampshire County. August Beyer points out (as I did) that Ms. Wolf chose Hampshire because it was close to her Maryland home, not because of the great salary (which is based on tax collections that Ms. Wolf does not contribute to). “In a county with 16 percent of the residents living below the poverty level and with an average wage per job (in 2003) of $22,791, $28,000 seems to be in line with the economy.”

Nice point!

Library maintenance

January 27, 2008

Interested in the difference between how the Archives Library and the Library Commission maintain their materials? I just stumbled across this blog that shows some comparison photos. (scan down through the December posts) Who do you think does a better job?

Obey the law, get fired

January 27, 2008

It’s nice to see the Fred Armstrong-Randall Reid-Smith squabble back in the news, as Armstrong’s amended grievance becomes public. Armstrong cites three events he thinks led to his dismissal:

His objection to merging the two libraries; not assisting with putting in historical markers in Wayne County, which the Archives and History Commission had twice voted down;  and his objection in 2006 to sending the WV History publication to WVU. Armstrong points out that state law both requires the state to maintain an archive and requires Archives and History to publish an annual history. Does this mean Kay Goodwin broke the law when she sent the publication to Morgantown?

The business about the historical markers is most interesting, though. RRS has become known for his efforts to make Culture and History the pet of state legislators, especially powerful ones. In addition to their obligations toward legislators, such as researching and responding to constituent issues, he has the staff decorating legislative (and minions’) offices with state-owned art, spending agency money on personal decor for said offices, moving furniture around, and doing a lot of work that should be considered “personal.” Reid-Smith’s attitude is that everything gets done and no one gets slighted, in spite of the work load.

One can easily believe that Reid-Smith assured the speaker’s office that things “would get done” in spite of the legality. It would fit in with Kay Goodwin’s reprimand for trying to comply with state law.

“Deteriorating” relationships

January 24, 2008

I really don’t give a damn about football, but watching the Rich Rodriguez-WVU fiasco is like watching a train wreck in slow motion, as the event evolves with something new every day.

The latest is the AP report about the deteriorating relationship between Rod and the WVU administration, as revealed by emails all last fall. Two points:

If Rod wanted “total control” of the football program, he obviously forgot who he was dealing with his. Joe Manchin is the reincarnation of Arch “all power emanates from me” Moore; he will be personally involved in anything he wants to be. Witness his takeover of the various boards in state government, like the Parkways Authority and the EBA. He only uses the chain of command Caperton developed to shield himself from problems.

As a taxpayer, it’s kind of insulting that so much of the negotiating was being done between the WVU administration and Rod’s agent Mike Brown, and his financial adviser Mike Wilcox. It’s bad enough that Garrison excluded the athletic department from the discussions, using only his Chief of Staff to talk to Rod’s side, but why are state employees discussing state money issues at a state-funded institution with some dude’s personal money people? Rod worked for the state; he should have been doing the talking.

Which just goes to show how colleges (especially athletics) have become big businesses and lost their way when it comes to educating young people.

Raises, everybody needs raises

January 23, 2008

The news today is that the legislature is looking at giving its staffers, and possibly themselves, a raise.

By my math, giving a staffer a $5/day raise  comes out to a $300 across-the-board increase for a 60 day session. A state worker making $20,000 a year (about 260 work days) would only get a $600 annual raise if Manchin’s 3% hike is passed.

“As proposed, Senate secretaries could make as little as $60 a day during the session, while minimum pay for legislative analysts would be $55 a day. Proposed pay for assistant doorkeepers is as low as $50 a day.” I don’t know what these people do, but $50 a day for someone to watch the door sounds pretty hefty compared to what so many state workers are getting each day for jobs that require a college degree and experience.

They’d also like to increase legislators’ salaries from $15000 to $20000 a year (again, that’s for 60 days’ work; they get paid extra for extended sessions), and increase the per diem expense to $131/day. If they get that increase, will they stop eating at lobbyists’ expense?

WV Teachers want even more

January 22, 2008

teachers.jpg

The teachers held a rally yesterday at the Capitol, what with the MLK celebration it was a good day to get on the news. Apparently it was too cold and the thousands they expected turned into hundreds, even though they held their rally indoors.

The Gazette article quotes the usual sob story about a teacher that has to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, including holding a sign on a summer construction job. I know plenty of state workers who moonlight, and teachers should be happy they have the summer off to find temporary full time employment. In fact, maybe the teachers should feel guilty for taking summer jobs away from students who also need the money!

Those teachers should also be happy they had Monday off to rally; in fact, it was a four-day weekend for Kanawha County teachers. Kanawha teachers are also getting a bonus for not taking sick days, which seems to have cut absenteeism considerably. So much for the devotion of teachers to their students.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting more money; what’s bad is to set yourself up as special and more deserving than others in the same boat.

Heathergate goes national

January 22, 2008

Heathergate made the New York Times today, and they did a good job of describing the incestuous nature of West Virginia business and politics. Quote of the day: “It’s a tiny state…so there ends up being just one degree of separation between people involved in business and politics and whatever else.” – Conni Gratop Lewis, a retired lobbyist for nonprofit groups

The next question: if CBS News shows up to investigate this, will the West Virginia Film Office offer support?