Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Told You So

According to this report in the Gazette and my personal experiences yesterday, the Patrick Street trash bag distribution point is working out just like I thought it would. I told you this was a bad idea.

The article didn't even mention the truck that took out a fire hydrant while trying to turn around to avoid the traffic congestion (the aftermath of which is shown in this Gazette photo). The water flowed freely down Patrick Street for an hour or so and made an even bigger mess of the proceedings.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Halloween Hooliganism

The Kanawha County sheriff's department is on high alert, beginning tonight, for vandals who want to get an early start on Halloween hijinx. According to a deputy speaking on morning radio news shows they will be paying special attention to places known to have problems in the past, namely Cabin Creek, Campbell's Creek and Witcher Creek.

My wife grew up in an eastern Kanawha County "creek" community (holler) and when we were dating I got my first taste of this culture of silliness. Every year in mid-October the first tell-tale signs of the impending terror would appear as tree limbs were collected from the hillsides and placed strategically beside the road. These limbs would be the instruments of mischief and every night they would systematically be placed across the road to block traffic while the mischief makers hid in the woods and sneered or snickered as grumbling motorists had to get out or their cars to remove the blockade. As soon as the cars passed, the hooligans would run down and block the road for the next car. And so it would go from mid-October until All Hallows Eve when the ante was upped considerably when a full size tree would be cut down and dropped across the road, taking down the power and phone lines as it fell. Every year this all played out exactly the same way.

Residents of the hollow knew they had to get home before dark on Halloween night or they wouldn't get home at all. Once the tree fell there would be not traffic moving up or down the creek until late in night or early the next morning when the power company would come and remove the tree and repair their lines.

Being an outsider I could never understand why the people of the community allowed this to happen year after year. It seemed to me that an ad-hoc neighborhood watch could be posted at the site of the tree-felling (it was in the exact same spot every year) and prevent this from happening. But after several years I found out why the responsible adults didn't intervene: They were part of the hooligan squad. Yes, I found out that it was a family affair, that the reason this had been going on so many years was that it was a tradition that had been passed down from father to son and from mother to daughter. On Halloween there were young and old alike who went to this spot to cut down this tree to block themselves in for the night. Family values, I guess.

I was, and remain to this day, incredulous about the way these people endanger their friends and neighbors by blocking the road and cutting off power to the entire community. If a house where to catch fire or someone in the community would experience a medical emergency it would be impossible for emergency vehicles to reach them. It amazes me further that parents would train their children in the art of road blocking and encourage them to do it.

Go figure.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Country Coming to Town

One of the neatest things about Charleston is how country and city live in close proximity. It's the only city of its size I have seen where you can drive five minutes from downtown and feel like you are deep in the woods.

Consider this peaceful shot of the Elk River. You could imagine that it is shot from some secluded spot miles from civilization, but it is actually about four or five blocks from the center of town.

Here is a shot taken from a vantage point one block away from the above scene:

How cool is that?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Leaves Changed

Seemingly overnight the leaves around Charleston changed. Here is a picture I took today of a hillside that I have passed virtually every day for the last 20 years. It is without a doubt the most colorful little patch of woods I know of, but it's difficult to photograph due to its location and the powerlines that are in the way. This is just a part of it but there's just no way to get a wider angle without a helicopter.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Secret Shows at The Clay Center

I consider myself to be a fairly heavy consumer of news media. I watch two or three TV news broadcasts every day, read both newspapers (albeit online), listen to the radio when driving and sometimes at the office. With this consumption of airwaves and printers ink comes, necessarily, a lot of exposure to advertising. I feel that I am definitely above average when it comes to knowing what’s going on in my town.

But I am consistently surprised by reviews of Clay Center events in the morning paper. These events happen and are over before I ever hear of them. This morning is a good example. Writes Bob Schwarz in the Gazette:

“Camelot” stopped at the Clay Center on Tuesday, giving the audience a wonderful reminder of how splendid were the songs and how clever the language when the American musical was at its height.
I have a daughter that lives for musicals. Had I had any inkling whatsoever that Camelot was showing last night I would have been there. This has happened perhaps five or six times this year as production after production has quietly stolen in and out of town without fanfare. I am sure that there was some sort of advertising, but it certainly hasn’t made it to my ears or eyes.I can only conclude that the shows are only advertised through South Hills media outlets or to the Clay Center or WV Symphony mailing lists, none of which would come to my attention.

The Clay Center is leaking money like a sieve and claims to be trying to lose its “elitist” identity. Perhaps a solution to both problems is a better advertising strategy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Impropriety on Display

According to Jim Balow's story in this morning's Gazette :

The Charleston City Council overwhelmingly approved a controversial ward-redistricting plan Monday night, despite objections from two Kanawha City council members.

They did so in front of an audience that included a class from George Washington High School that was studying gerrymandering under teacher Jane Claymore, Ward 19 Councilwoman Ditty Markham said.

This is just the latest example of how our City's top elected official continually ignores the old public service maxim "avoid the appearance of impropriety." It seems that Mayor Jones thrives on just the opposite; he seems to really enjoy showing off his political hardball tactics right out in the open. Even in front of a high school class that wanted to witness a case of gerrymandering case up close and personal.

Mayor Jones has been feuding with two city council members, Ditty Markham and Mark Sadd, since day one in office and he doesn't care who knows it. In Mark Sadd's case he took to the airwaves and print media to loudly shout down Sadd's nomination to the federal bench. Now, according to Markham, Jones has apparently succeeded in hamstringing Markham by essentially eliminating her from eligibility to serve as her now former ward's representative. Whether he in fact had a hand in it or not, he certainly didn't seem interested in slowing down the process to allow time for more discussion or study.

An accusation of gerrymandering used to be a serious matter, but it seems Mayor Jones doesn't care; it just pads his resume.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Economic Development for the West Side

“I think the mayor has been trying to find ways to help the West Side.”
That was Deputy Mayor Rod Blackstone's reasoning for moving the trash bag pickup from the ultra convenient Pennsylvania Avenue site where it has been held for years to the curious location of Patrick Street beside Charleston Department Store. In an article in this morning's Gazette, Blackstone reveals the staggering amount of work that has gone into the administration's strategic decision to infuse the West Side with new economic energy:

Blackstone said. “We’re working with police to close that section of the
street [Patrick Street].” Motorists can approach the block from Washington Street or from the south, he said.

Good grief. Inconvenience 90% of the residents of the city so they will drive down the most depressing street in all of Charleston, all in the name of economic develoment?

The Pennsylvania Avenue location was ideal because it was under the interstate and therefore immune to precipitation, it was geographically in the dead-center of town, it had outstanding access from every direction, it has adequate traffic lanes so there was never a tie-up. It had worked flawlessly for many years.

If it ain't broke...

Blackstone also explains why the city's trash bag distribution is late this fall.

Blackstone blamed the delay on efforts to market city assets, including trash bags, as a way of generating extra income for the city.

Bobbie Reishman, chairman of council’s Finance Committee, has suggested selling advertising space on trash bags for several years Blackstone said. “But it wasn’t coming together quickly enough, so we decided to go ahead and distribute the bags.”

Gee, I wonder why companies wouldn't jump at the prospect of buying advertising space on trash bags? Maybe because they're bags for trash? Maybe because they sit in a box until they are placed inside a can before they are put inside a truck before they are buried in a landfill? Not much exposure time for an ad.

This whole episode is embarrassing and frustrating.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What is a door to do?

I found interesting this juxtaposition of signs on a door at the Kanawha County courthouse.

A closer look below.

No entry, no exit. Why have a door at all? Isn't that what a wall does?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Extreme Bumper Stickers

Charles West's Law of Bumperstickers: The more bumper stickers on a vehicle, the more politically liberal the driver is.

Well then, what can we say about this?

Pardon the image quality - it was shot through a dirty windshield with one hand while driving 70 MPH.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Drop Your Drawers at Church?

This sign hangs from St. Marks United Methodist Church across from the main post office.

Isn't that special?!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hyperbolic Hyperbole

Protest groups of all flavors do it. They get caught up in fervor of their rally and every word they say is greeted with a roar of approval from the partisans in attendance. This causes them to make more and more outrageous statements. Sometimes they say the darndest things.

At this rally at the Capitol yesterday, a national environmental group and folks from Coal River Mountain Watch fanned each other's flames until the rhetoric became an exercise in non-sequitors. Trying to bolster her assertion that coal mining exploits people in poor communities one woman said, to great applause, "You'll never find a coal mine sludge pond built above an elementary school in Connecticut!" (source: video from WCHSTV)


W. Va. Bloggers Board

Here is my obligatory post about the new-ish W.Va. Bloggers Message Board. If you're a blogger in West Virginia you probably already know about it. If not you probably don't care.