Monday, February 05, 2007

What should we do for the Gambler

I think table games will be good for the area, good for the economy and creator of real jobs.

Of course, I know that there IS a real problem for some people who can't control their addiction. I have seen the problems it can create and its effect on families. But I don't think it's the State's fault. I ....don't...think......

But I'm not sure.

Phil Kabler has some stats inside this column in the Gazette. They just reaffirm what we all know, but they remind me that as a Christian and as a concerned human being, we have to recognize the problem that is spun off from this economic success called gaming.

I have no idea what we do.

But I think we need to so something.....more......

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sad For My Friend

I am terribly saddened over the fate of my friend Bob Ney. I know the proper position is supposed to be outrage over his "shaking down the system" and being part of the "culture of corruption", but I see a man who tried to do good and got run over by a system way out of control.

Bob is going to spend 30 months in a federal prison in Morgantown, WV (and yes, before some sarcastic caller asks, I do plan to visit him when I can). He will also get treatment for his alcohol addiction. You may have heard some of the comments from close friends who tell of his heavy drinking. I must say I was aware of the same problem.

Bob was a man who always had the interests of his district at heart. But he was also a man of small means, who became a major player on the national stage. A stage that runs off 2 things--cash and connections. For "the Congressman" to maintain his stature, he needed to be at the best restaurants, attend the sky box games, and play at the best courses. Bob Ney's family is a fine one (I know them) but not a wealthy one); and Bob's only career was that of a public servant which meant there wasn't much money after the bills were paid.

Bob Ney played the game he saw being played every day in DC. He took the steps he felt he had to take to stay in a position to help his district.

It was a mistake. It was wrong. And he is paying the price.

I had a note from Bob this week. His house has been sold. His family scattered. He has filtered his life to a box of memories. He has lost all he had. For those who say he made himself rich, you should know he has nothing at all.

But he has family and friends.

And a box full of memories.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, the leadership crows about changes in ethics.

And there is a young Congressman somewhere who is just starting to serve his citizens wondering how he can manage to keep up with the high-fliers who seem to run the town.

And a guy in a suit nearby is smiling.

The Race Is On

It's official. Hillary Clinton is going to test the Presidential waters. You will note her web site now is bannered "Hillary for President" and the home page announcement is "I'm in".

Frankly, I thought she might not run. I thought she may come to the conclusion that she has 20 years to be a Senator of substance as opposed to a potential 8 years in the White House.

Her first obstacle is Oback Barama. He also announced his intent to test the Presidential waters. I think Obama is a real rising star on the Democrat horizon. Articulate, attractive, controlled and with some interesting ides. Consultant Susan Estrich has written a piece pointing out he is no younger than Bill Clinton was when he ran, and Obama actually has more years in elected office than Hillary does. But to me he lacks the national "gravitas".

She's clearly an early favorite. I'm not sure either is the best choice. New Mexico's Bill Richardson has always intrigued me, although I don't know if he's the guy. This should be the Democrat's year and we need the right man or woman to be in front. We don't need a repeat of Kerry.

The race is on.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It's Time To Come Home

There was no surprise. President Bush announced plans for "The Surge"--an additional 20,000 American troops to Iraq.

When you hear or read the word "surge", remember to interpret that as "escalation".

I was pleased to see the President acknowledge--years too late--that the Iraq war plan isn't working. I just wish he had actually proposed a new one. The latest administration proposal is simply "give us more men and some more time and we'll keep doing door-to-door and see if we can figure something out".

Enough, is enough, Mr. President. We never should have been in the war to begin with. But now it's time to get out. All of the reasons you told us we needed to go are gone:

*There are no Weapons of Mass Destruction
*Salaam is out of power, and dead
*The Iraqi people now have control over their own destiny with a democratically elected government
*There is no imminent threat to America from any terrorist activity in Iraq

We gave the Iraqi's a new country. Now it's their job to manage it. We have a real war on terror to battle elsewhere, Mr. President, and our own people have a lot of problems that could use your attention.

Pay For Play??

When you watched the OSU-Florida championship game Monday you saw a packed stadium of folks who paid big bucks for tickets, dozens of ads that made FOX millions, and plenty of promotional banners and signs around the stadium. Lots of people made lots of money--including the 2 schools. But not a penny to people who were on the field. The young athletes, we are told, received a commemorative watch and a satellite radio.

Personally, I think we need to recognize that at the major football schools, the programs are big money-makers, revenue-generators. They are part of the "business" side of the school. Why shouldn't the "employees" (players) who make it possible to raise the big bucks get a "taste". Perhaps, as Powerful Pierre today suggested, it could take the form of some sort of "seed" money for their pension or some sort of "trust fund".

I would only apply the pay-for-play opportunity to the major schools where the football program is actually big business. And I might even agree that it should only apply for special occassions (undefeated seasons, bowl games) because the athletes DO get a free education out of it.

But when big bucks are being made for the schools, networks, coaches, and others, the players should get more than a watch.

Know The Goal

The role of government is NOT to make money. Nor to save money. It is do DO THINGS.

I have said this over and over, and I need to remind you of it again.

In West Virginia, a legislative audit report says the artisan center Tamarack is not making money. There is talk about changing the way it's run or even closing it.

What a pail of hog wash!

Tamarack was created to give West Virginia artists a place to sell their wares. A way to preserve the cultural heritage of our Mountain art. And a way to present that to the world. Tamarack does just that. A hundred artisans congregated in Charleston to make that point this week. Tamarack admirably does what it was created to do--it supports West Virginia arts and artisans. If that means the state needs to subsidize it, so be it.

Government is supposed to DO THINGS for the common good.

And success or failure is almost never measured in dollars and cents.

Keep Your Promises--no matter how small

It is, as a practical matter, no big deal.

But as a symbolic gesture, it is important.

And it has me steamed.

The Democrats have promised a "new day" in Congress. They have said it is time to stop the junkets and jockeying for cash contributions. Time to buckle down to work. And one "symbol" of the change was a return to a 5 day work week.

Now, let me be clear, I understand that Members of Congress do a lot of work off the floor. Time in the office or with constituents is vital. I know that just because they aren't standing behind those historic desks in the Rotunda, they are not goofing off.

But the Democrats said when they took over it would be a 5 day work week.

And it didn't last a week. Not one single week.

Monday, the House was not in session. And the reason was football. OSU-Florida in the national championship game. Big game, indeed. But the SYMBOLISM is disgusting. Members of Congress couldn't keep their pledge to work a full week for a single week--so they could watch football.

Symbols and image are important. It may indeed be true that there is no practical difference in starting a 100-hour clock Monday or Tuesday. But it is already a broken promise.

Is it any wonder the public is disgusted?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Christmas Checklist

The blue skies and warm temps last week were nice, but now that the winds are blowing and a chill is in the air, there’s no question what time of year it is.


Here are some things I plan to do to make the season mean what it should. You can borrow it if you like.

Attend one of our area’s many Holiday musical events. Symphony on Ice, Stefano’s Home for the Holidays, BE Taylor’s Christmas concert. No music reflects the season and settles you into a perfect mood better than holiday songs and Christmas carols.

Give a toy to the Marine’s Toys for Tots. Then write a check to the House of the Carpenter and take a tag or two from one of the Valley’s various Giving Trees. Making someone else’s Christmas brighter is a highlight of the holiday. Doing it for more than one is an extra mitzva.

Get your decorations up early. It relieves the worry about getting them done and gives you more time to enjoy them.

Take the family to dinner. Eat slowly and talk to each other. Drive through the Festival of Lights when you're done.

Go to church. If you attend regularly, add an extra service and if you’re not a churchgoer, give it a try. It will end your year with a different perspective.

On a clear night, stand outside and stare at the sky. Try to imagine what the Wise Men thought when they saw their star.

Say “Merry Christmas” to someone you don’t know and who doesn’t care. Sometimes the offering is as important as the receiving.

Watch a Hallmark Holiday movie. They are sappy, simplistic, moralistic, and predictable. What fun!

Make a list of gifts for your family and friends. Make sure the gifts are very personal and really reflect the person who will get it. If you actually GIVE the gifts, so much the better. But making the list will remind you of your good friends and what makes them special.

On Christmas Eve, read The Night Before Christmas and one of the Christmas gospels. They both sound special on that bright and holy night. Read them out loud.

On Christmas morning, sip your coffee slowly and take all the time you need to open your gifts. These mornings will live in your memory a long time. Make them slowly. But if the kids want to hoop and holler and hurry up, that’s OK, too. They’re making memories as well.

I love this time of year.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

What's next?

In just a few days, the American public will likely see a major shift in the national power structure. Democrats almost certainly take control of Congress and have a strong shot at the Senate as well.

Republicans have no one to blame but themselves. The GOP leadership abdicated any attempt at oversight of President Bush. They were happy to bask in the reflected glow of his success and thus were complicit in all his errors. When Republicans took control in the Republican Revolution of 1994, they were going to "change the way things are done". They were going to end "business as usual." They were going to term limit themselves, be more cooperative with the minority than the Dems were when they were in control, and in general return respect to the role of politician. Over a decade later, they clearly were swept up in the pull of power and have become more controlling, more power hungry, more derisive of their ideological opposites than the Democrats ever dreamed of during their years in control. And they did everything but give a crown to the Imperial Presidency of George Bush.

Now the table turns.

The question is what will my party do with this opportunity? Will we punish the GOP for its ham handed and dictatorial control? Will we refuse them access to committee rooms, deny their right to amend bills, refuse their attempts at oversight hearings? Or will we say "enough"? Will we come out of this dark tunnel of single party control and decide to attempt bi-partisanship and true governance again?

Sunday, October 29, 2006


The power of the informed voter to transform society is inherent in our democratic process. But the continuing influence of big money has distorted that concept out of all recognition. In a recent interview with an official of the National Republican Campaign Committee, I asked why the GOP believed that they would retain majority control of the House and Senate in the wake of virtually EVERY poll that said otherwise.

And the answer I was given was a single word: MONEY. With enough cash in the coffer, you can change the momentum of a campaign.

That wouldn't be so bad if candidates were getting cash the old fashioned way. If individuals who believed in a candidate gave their contributions to help get them elected so the incumbent could continue to do what is seen as a good job--or give a challenger who shows promise a chance.

But the big bucks today come elsewhere. In West Virginia's First Congressional District we have seen the effects of ONE MAN bankrolling the campaign against Alan Mollohan. In fact, the Charleston Gazette tells us that Robert Perry is the single biggest campaign contributor in America this election. We all know the efforts by coal baron Don Blankenship to dictate his policies to West Virginia out of his own checkbook. And in what is perhaps the most frightening of all, the LA Times today tells us that Karl Rove is using taxpayer dollars to win the election!

In just a week, the midterms will be over. And the next Presidential election cycle will be in full swing. The issue of the impact of big money in these races cannot be ignored. Whether the Elephants or Donkeys win, the American public will lose if we don't address these issues. Blankenship, Perry and Rove should not dictate with their dollars to the American voter.

And like it or not, the dollar dictates in the contemporary election system.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Moving Money Around

When I take a dollar from my left pocket and put it in my right, I am no richer.

When business moves from one Ohio Valley town to another the Valley has not grown.

When the government ponies up cash for "economic development", it should raise all boats. It should IMPROVE the area, not just move money around.

I am thinking these thoughts as Belmont County looks at a big loss of sales tax dollars and Commissioner Mark Thomas lays the blame at the feet of the Highlands--Ohio County's new retail development surrounding Cabella's, which Thomas says has simply taken dollars away from the areas around the Ohio Valley Mall and Plaza.

When businesses choose to move for their own reasons, that's

But when multi-millions of tax dollars are spent to create a development area---as was done in the case of Cabella's and the Highlands---some sort of greater good should be achieved. Tax revenue should grow, opportunities for good jobs should be expanded, or the possibility of future growth should be enhanced.

Cabella's itself, I think, DID create the possibility of future growth. There will be a big announcement next week about a major new attraction at the Highlands, and it, too will be a big boost.

But many of the stores already in development at the Highlands are just more of the same. And there will be a second big announcement next week that will be a big addition to the Highlands---but will be a huge loss to the City of Wheeling.

And I think there's something wrong with that.

I hate to sound like a Republican, but government should stay out of the economic development arena UNLESS in the end there is growth.

Moving money from one pocket to the other is a waste of our taxpayers dollars and is a fraud on the public when it's called "development".

Death of Democracy?

He's done it before and he's at it again. Massey Energy boss Don Blankenship want to remold the Mountain State in his own image. He wants to make changes in the way we run government, wants government to make changes in the way we run our lives.

Mind you, he doesn't want to put himself up as a candidate so the residents can vote on whether we like him or his ideas....he just wants to spend his own millions to defeat candidates he doesn't like and set the State agenda on some of the social issues he thinks are important.

There is one absolute fact in contemporary elections; MONEY TALKS. No matter how many spaghetti dinners and street fairs a candidate attends. No matter how often he takes to talkradio. The defining factor in our elections today is who can buy the most ad time. It's TV (and to a lesser extent radio) that makes or breaks the campaign.

When a millionaire like Blankenship puts his money into the mix--WITHOUT putting himself up for consideration--the playing field is no longer level. American democracy is based on the premise that "Everyman" has a chance to be elected. But if Blankenship targets "Everyman" , it's tough to fight back. Most candidates can't match him dollar-for-dollar. And if a candidate wants to meet Blankenship's money in a fair fight, "Everyman" has to spend a lot of his time and energy raising money instead of campaigning.

I truly do NOT have the answer. The Supreme Court has ruled that spending money on campaigns is "free speech". Although I can't imagine that the Founders intended for bags full of cash to be as protected by the First Amendment as a "pamphleteer", it nonetheless IS.

But at least we need to see what Blankenship is up to. To understand the arrogance of a man who thinks his money allows him to push us around.

Maybe the Mountain State will remember it's motto "Montani Semper Liberi". And NOT "He who has the gold rules"

She will be missed

When I feel stressed and overworked, I often take a minute to think of Kathy Fortunato. There is no one I know who was able to juggle more balls, manage more matters, and do it all with a smile, than Kathy. Her family always came first, but community, church, and charity were never far behind.

Kathy Fortunato passed away this week. A friend and former colleague, Kathy suffered a sudden stroke over the weekend and died Tuesday morning at the all-too-young age of 46.

Our tremendous sympathy, support, and prayers go to her family--Dr. Mike and the kids--as well as her extended family in the community.

From medical matters--(Health Right, The Medical Society)-and politics (Ohio County GOP Chair, a personal mention from the President)--
to The Chamber of Commerce (executive committee) community events (Chair of the Sternwheeler Festival)
and her church,
Kathy was deeply involved in every aspect of our community.

She will be missed.

Sleep softly, sweet lady. You done good.