Blue Ridge MuseNews Archive » Blue Ridge Muse News, views and musings from Southwestern Virginia Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:55:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Another natural gas pipeline proposal Wed, 09 Jul 2014 13:23:04 +0000 What happens if a natural gas pipeline blows out

What happens if a natural gas pipeline blows out

Looks like another pipeline fight is in Floyd County’s future.

County residents sidetracked plans for a natural gas pipeline through the county several years ago but two national energy companies have new plans to build another such pipeline from Northwestern West Virginia to Piittsylvania County  and that pipeline would run through Giles, Pulaski, Montgomery, Floyd and Franklin counties.

As with last time, the proposal has locals riled up and ready for a fight.  Such a pipeline can not only affect scenic views, it can also pose health, safety and environmental problems.

A recent post on Facebook in the Floyd Group section brought dozens of comments and a report by WDBJ, Channel 7, in Roanoke sparked another discussion today.  Blowouts can — and have — killed people.

Posted Bill Kovarik:

Its official – Floyd now has a pipeline fight on its hands. There are good reasons to oppose these kinds of projects — safety, water pollution, noise, disruptions. First step: Get informed. Second step: Get organized. Possibly the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) can help.

Calling itself The Mountain Valley Pipeline, the proposal calls for construction over the next four years and connected to a compressor station in Chatham owned by Williams Transco Company.

The projects would affect at least 1,500 property owners in the affected counties.

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The Civil War is over. The South lost. Let’s move on Wed, 09 Jul 2014 09:58:51 +0000 The war is over. Time to put this flag out of our misery.

The war is over. Time to put this flag out of our misery.

Washington and Lee University said Tuesday they are removing Confederate Battle Flags from Lee Chapel while the school continues to study its historical involvement with slavery.

A victory for some W&L students and others who want to put the Civil War behind us and move on?


W&L President Kenneth Ruscio also said in his statement that while the Battle Flag reproductions will disappear from the Chapel, the school will replace them with real flags from the American Civil War Museum in Richmond.  The real flags will be in the Lee Chapel Museum, not on display in the main hall.

W&L will also continue to allow racists to use the Chapel to celebrate Lee-Jackson Day on the weekend before Martin Luther King Day.

A story about this decision in the Roanoke Times brought about 50 comments as of this morning, most of them decrying the decision, calling it a “disgrace” that dishonors “one of the greatest generals in American history.”

Lee was many things but one of the greatest generals in this country’s history? There are well-regarded historians who will disagree with such a sweeping endorsement.  He was, after all, the general who lost the Civil War.

Such is the hysteria that still follows that despicable war more than 150 years after its sordid existence in American history.

Memo to the fanatics who still wave the Confederate flag and claim the war was not about preserving one of the most disgraceful parts of American history:  The war is over. The South lost. Forget it and move on.

As a Southerner, I have never understood the region’s fascination with the Civil War. I also can’t understand the fear, bigotry and stupidity that led to it.  I have this belief — unpopular in too many circles around here — that people of all races, ethnic backgrounds, sexual preference, religion belief (or non-belief) and philosophical persuasion should be treated with respect and allowed to co-exist among us in peace.

This, course, goes against the grain of racism, bigotry, homophobia and discrimination that still dominates too much of our society today.  Too often, we hear homophobia preached as “the word of God” from pulpits along with pathetic attempts to explain away racism as “just part of past times.”

America should be better than that.  The sad fact that it isn’t is a cause for concern and regret.

When I returned to Virginia in 1981 with my Illinois-born wife, she looked around at all the monuments to the Civil War and said: “My God, how many of these would you have if the South had actually won that war?”

Thankfully, the South did lose and America moved on.

Actually, only parts of America moved on.

Lynn Ellen McCutchen Thompson (no relation thankfully) of Roanoke summed up the feelings of too many area residents when she posted this comment in The Roanoke Times:  “Sorry to hear W&L is giving in to a few students. Shame of you.  Did you forget what Lee and the Confederacy stand for?”

No, Lynn, they didn’t what Robert E. Lee and the Confederacy stand for.  Unfortunately, it appears you did.

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The rush for a new state budget Thu, 12 Jun 2014 11:54:53 +0000 Delegate Nick Rush speaks to Supervisors

Delegate Nick Rush speaks to Supervisors

Delegate Nick Rush came before the Floyd County Board of Supervisors this week expecting to talk about the budget impasse in Richmond and the possibility of a government shutdown.

But the resignation of a Democratic Senator from Southwestern Virginia over the weekend shifted the balance of power over to Republicans and he told the board that a new budget agreement is already in place and he expected quick passage when the General Assembly returns Thursday to pass a revised budget that includes nothing of the Medicaid expansion that Gov. Terry McAuliffe wanted.

Republican leaders originally told McAuliffe he might get a special session to consider Medicaid expansion under Obamacare if he doesn’t try to derail the new budget with a veto but the final budget deal passed Thursday night effectively put any serious consideration of such expansion off for at least two years.

The Senate passed the new budget Thursday night and the House followed suit shortly before midnight.  Because of the last-minute nature of the budget, McAuliffe is expected to grumble about it but sign anyway.

The revised budget includes $213.7 million in cuts in higher education, $181.7 million for health and human services and $106.4 million for public elementary and high schools.

Once a state budget is in place, Floyd County’s school board can vote on a final budget and submit it to the Supervisors for approval.  Preliminary information suggests the school system might get about $280,000 in new money from over last year — an amount school officials say is way short of the $2.2 million needed.

The new fiscal year begins July 1.

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Cantor goes down in self-induced flames Wed, 11 Jun 2014 08:00:48 +0000 Defeated GOP incumbent Eric Cantor (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Defeated GOP incumbent Eric Cantor
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The standard political spin out of House Minority Leader Eric Cantor’s loss in Tuesday’s Virginia GOP primary declares the election’s stunning result a tea party win.

In reality, neither the tea party or primary winner Dave Brat beat the number two Republican in the House of Representatives.  Cantor beat himself.  The arrogant, ego-driven Congressman from Virginia ignored warnings and thought of himself as too good to lose.

So, of course, he lost to a political novice who got 56 percent of the primary vote.

Those close to Cantor admit the ambitious Congressman is driven by an ego that far outstrips any abilities he may or may not have as an elected representative and they say he was so busy being “a Republican leader” that he forget the number one job of an elected official:  Take care of the folks back home.

“I didn’t feel like Congressman Cantor cared about my problems or the problems of those of us in the district,” said voter Sandra Leeson.  “So I voted for Brat.”

Leeson, however, says she is not sure she will vote for Brat in the general election.  She may go with the Democrat who, like Brat, is a Randolph Macon professor with very little political experience.

“I did not necessarily vote for Mr. Brat,” she said.  “I voted against Congressman Cantor.”

Brat’s odds-beating upset caught many political pundits by surprise.

“I’m as stunned as anybody,” says University of Virginia political prognosticator Larry Sabato.  “This is one of the most stunning upsets in modern American political history.”

A longtime Republican strategist who is willing to talk as long as no one uses his same says Cantor’s loss is an example of “what happens when you don’t tend to the political weeds back home.”

Cantor’s loss is also an example of how easily one can fall out of favor with the volatile tea party — a faux “grassroots” movement that is actually a carefully-orchestrated political action group funded by the Koch brothers — two energy billionaires with a tightly-controlled agenda to further their own lusts for power.

He once was a poster child for the tea party but his support of immigration reform didn’t serve the desires of the Kochs so they back-channeled money and support to Brat. Under current vague campaign disclosure laws, the level of that support can — and will — be concealed.

In a primary campaign that even Cantor supporters admit was “disjointed and disappointing,” the Congressman tried to paint Brat as “just another liberal college professor.”  Brat, however, is a right-wing activist who uses his teaching position to push conservative economic ideas.  His opponent in the fall, Jack Trammell, is more in the mold of a liberal college prof.

“In that Virginia district, voters will have a choice of two political unknowns,” says GOP consultant Arnold Block.  “Two pigs in a poke.”

“Obviously, we came up short,” Cantor said in his concession speech Tuesday night.

For Eric Cantor, that brief moment of political reflection may have been the first expression of reality and honesty in a hyperbolic career that came crashing down at the polls Tuesday.

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New Summer music season in Floyd’s park Tue, 10 Jun 2014 10:49:41 +0000 A couple enjoying the weather and the music at one of the Floyd Town Jubilee events last summer.

A couple enjoying the weather and the music at one of the Floyd Town Jubilee events last summer.

With the Floyd Town Jubilee kicking off its 2014 season this Father’s Day weekend with a Sunday Concert in the Park it is a good time to remember that the sights and sounds of warm weather are upon us as the official start of Summer arrives next week.

Summer is, by its very nature, a time for those of us who try to capture memorable still and moving images that exemplify the season.

Floyd’s new town park provides an excellent time to capture visual representations of the season along with the beauty that surrounds us at a pleasant time of the year.

Sunday’s concert this year features The Grascals, Kenny & Amanda Smith and the Tune Town Old Time Band.

The fun starts at 3:15 p.m. and it’s all free.

See you this weekend.

Gravel Road, up-and-coming musicians, performing at one of the Town Jubilee events in 2013.

Gravel Road, up-and-coming musicians, performing at one of the Town Jubilee events in 2013.

There might have been a legitimate news reason I snapped this show of a spectator at last year's Jubilee.  Maybe.

There might have been a legitimate news reason I snapped this shot of a spectator at last year’s Jubilee. Maybe.

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McAuliffe: Major disappointment to Dems? Mon, 09 Jun 2014 10:02:13 +0000 Virginia Gov. Terry McAulifee (left) campaigning in Floyd last year.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAulifee (left) campaigning in Floyd last year.

Ask a Virginia Democrat for a public comment about Governor Terry McAuliffe and you get the standard political rhetoric about what “a great job he is doing,”

Talk to them privately and a different picture emerges.  The celebration over McAuliffe’s victory last November is over and an increasing number of Democrats admit, off the record, that they have “had it” with the missteps by the former party fundraiser in his first elected political office.

As Virginia heads for a possible government shutdown at the end of June, more and more Democrats say they are worried about the lack of political acumen of their novice governor and his outright arrogance of insisting that “my way is the only way” when it comes to managing the government of the Commonwealth.

“Virginia took a chance on an untested and unproven commodity,” says a Democratic insider I’ve known since our common days working in politics in Washington.  “Some now regret taking that chance.”

McAuliffe won the governorship mostly because his tea party-embraced opponent, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, was so far out in right field that even that he even scarred conservatives.  And it didn’t help the party of the elephant that the incumbent governor was ending his term mired in scandal.

McAuliffe talked bipartisanship but then took a hard-line partisan stance on insisted that Medicaid expansion under Obamacare be part of the new state budget or else.

Of course, anything aligned with Obamacare sends Republicans into seizures and the battle has brought Washington-style gridlock to Virginia government and the very real possibility of a government shutdown when the current fiscal year expires at the end of June.

Southwestern Virginia State Sen. Phil Puckett added to the mess over the weekend by resigning — eliminating the one-vote majority that Democrats hold in the Senate and giving Republicans an opportunity to seize absolute control of the General Assembly.

Puckett’s move, some say, was an “in your face” gesture that highlights the growing dissatisfaction that Democrats have with their governor.

“It’s a mess, there’s no doubt about that,” grumbles one Democrat.  “It could have been avoided if Terry McAuliffe had turned out to be more of a Democrat and less of an autocrat.”

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Movie time in Floyd Sun, 08 Jun 2014 10:35:46 +0000

For the second year in a row, a movie shot primarily in Floyd premiered to public audiences in a free night-time screening at Chantilly Farms on Franklin Pike.

“Geographically Desirable,” a romantic comedy set in Washington, DC, and Floyd, tells the story of a career-driven young woman who must make a choice between a work-driven environment in the Nation’s Capital and a potentially more-satisfying, relationship-oriented life in Floyd.

The story unfolds in a series of contrasts driven by the death of a cherished uncle and the circumstances which unfold.

Writer-director Mike Kravinsky, a retired editor at ABC news, draws from his own background for the story and several of the points hit close to home for me as well as I saw contrasts from my own 23 years in Washington before Amy and I made the decision to move to the hometown of my youth in 2004.

A rousing round of applause greeted the film as the credits rolled late Saturday night.  A cheer also erupted from the crowd when the Floyd town limits sign also appeared for the first time in the film.

Afterwards the cast and crew signed movie posters and photos and talked with several attendees to the event.

Kravinsky is lavish with his praise of Floyd for both the scene charm for a location and the friendliness and help from locals in the production during shooting last fall.

He plans to start showing the film at festivals and hopes to secure a distribution deal to put it in theaters.

We currently are editing video shot at the screening and hope to have something up later Sunday or early Monday.

The cast of "Geographically Desirable" signs autographs following the screening at Chantilly Farms Saturday night.

The cast of “Geographically Desirable” signs autographs following the screening at Chantilly Farms Saturday night.

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Powerless in Southwestern Virginia Thu, 05 Jun 2014 08:30:21 +0000 051710lightning2Some 15,000 power outages throughout Southwestern Virginia Wednesday night as thunderstorms swept through the area.

Appalachian Power Company, which tends to downplay the actual number of power outages, admitted to at least 15,000 customers in the dark in Virginia, with 4,700 out in the Roanoke Valley, including 1,400 in Franklin County and an unspecified number in Floyd County.

At 4 a.m. Thursday, some 800 customers in Franklin County remained powerless along with smaller numbers in other areas.

APCO spokesman Theresa Hamilton Hall blamed the bulk of outages on the standard “transformer outage” excuse.

Ironically, the wave of outages came on the same day the electric company issued a news release saying it has taken “significant steps to prepare for severe thunderstorms.”

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Turn out the lights. The tea party is over Wed, 21 May 2014 10:52:57 +0000 Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin wonders whapt happened (AP)

Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Beth Martin wonders whapt happened (AP)

Voters Tuesday sent a strong message to the once-formidable tea party:  We don’t like you and we don’t want you representing us in Congress.

Tea party candidates lost big in Senate primaries in Kentucky and Georgia as GOP voters rallied behind “establishment” party candidates who  stand a better chance of running strong against Democratic candidates in the fall and, possibly, giving the party of the elephant control of the Senate.

In Kentucky, where the tea party hoped to knock off long-time nemesis and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, their candidate Matt Bevin didn’t even come close as McConnell racked up 60 percent of the vote.

Georgia faces a runoff between two candidates who led voting in a crowded primary — neither representing or endorsed by the tea party.

Voters turned off the political extremism. The tea party pot turned cold.

Tea party officials, of course, attempted the spin the losses Tuesday night, claiming candidates who won — including McConnell — now embrace their rigid right-wing positions.

“Everybody runs like a tea party candidate now,” Freedom Works president Matt Kibbe told The Washington Post.

Others disagree.

“The establishment is ponying up resources and Republicans are generally starting to get behind some people who would like to see their government work,” says former GOP congressman Steven C. LaTourette, now head of the centrist Main Street Partnership.  “Tuesday should be a wake-up call.”

The trend in Kentucky and Georgia played out in other states Tuesday.  Right-wing candidates in Oregon fell to pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby, a centrist who talked about consensus and building coalitions.  In Idaho, Congressman Mike Simpson beat tea party-backed Bryan Smith.

Turn out the lights.  The tea party appears to be over.





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Dex departing Floyd County Thu, 15 May 2014 06:56:44 +0000 For Sale or Lease:  A sign that will return at Floyd's Commerce Park.

For Sale or Lease: A sign that will return at Floyd’s Commerce Park.

Dex, the truck recycling subsidiary of Volvo that has occupied the shell building in Floyd County’s Commerce Park since 2006, is leaving and relocating to North Carolina — a double-whammy that comes on the heels of loss of the anchor tenant for the new Innovation Center scheduled to open this fall.

Dex company officials announced Wednesday they will be leaving by July or August of this year — a loss of 31 jobs at the Commerce Park facility and idling a building that the county bought after it went into bankruptcy following the death of the original owner.

Earlier this year, BC Genesis, the bio-tech start up slated to anchor the new Innovation Center that is nearing completion in the Commerce Park, moved out of its temporary offices at The Jacksonville Center after hours after going through the major part of a $900,000 tobacco commission grant.

The move comes as a cash-strapped county government is poised to approve a tight budget with now room for problems in the coming fiscal year that begins on July 1.

Darin Redmon, the Dex manager in Floyd, said the county’s lack of convenient access to a major highway was one of the overriding reasons for the decision to relocate.

The company opened its Floyd operation in 2006 with lots of fanfare, sparing the county from the need to purchase the shell building that has set vacant for years after Virginia Beach developer Robert Smithwick built it in 2002 with a provision that the county would buy it if it wasn’t leased.

The Dex lease saved Floyd County from having to purchase the building in 2006 but the agreement included a provision that if the company did not remain in Floyd, the county would still have to purchase the structure.  Smithwick died and his company went into foreclosure and The Bank of Floyd ended up owning the property until the county purchased it in an effort to convince Dex to renew its lease late last year.

But Dex stalled until the announcement Wednesday that it was packing up and leaving at the end of the summer.

Floyd County Economic Director Lydeanna Martin has said in the past that we are at a “resume disadvantage” here because of a lack of things like close access to a major highway system.  With Interstate 81 more than 20 miles away on a winding Virginia Route 8 and Interstate 77 even further in Carroll County on two-lane U.S. 221, Floyd County faces transportation issues.

Other factors that companies looking for a business location consider is closeness to medical facilities and the availability of natural gas.  Floyd County lacks both.

Floyd County will look for a new tenant to either lease or buy the building but that challenge comes at a time when new tenants are so sought for the new innovation center.

Dex came to Floyd County with a package of tax concessions.  When those concessions ran out, the company had little reason to remain, even though the county bought the building and tried to accommodate the company’s demands.

So they are leaving.


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