Monday, July 23, 2007

The Gambling Debate Makes Strange Bedfellows

The upcoming "Table Games" election in Kanawha County is creating some interesting alliances and dividing some former allies, irrespective of party lines and ideological labels. Instead of being a Conservative vs. Liberal issue, or a Democrat vs. Republican issue, this election has created a whole new voting block from the extremities of the political spectrum. Ultra right-wing, bible-thumping evangelical preachers are on the same side as left-wing, cradle-to-grave social liberals. What's interesting is that virtually everyone between the two extremes is on the same side of the issue, too.

But while it is true that extreme liberals and extreme conservatives find themselves in agreement, they come to the same position for completely different reasons.

Most extreme conservatives are morally against gambling for religious reasons. Some fundamentalist Christians are of the opinion that gambling is sinful because the Bible tells them that the Roman guards cast lots for Jesus' clothing after his crucifixion (I've always found it interesting that these same people conveniently overlook the passage where the Apostles also cast lots to decide who would replace Judas). "Casting Lots" equals gambling and therefore is sinful behavior in their eyes. Interestingly enough, most non-religious conservatives are not against gambling, except in symbolic "solidarity" with their parties majority position.

Extreme liberals are against gambling because of the social costs. We should not be providing state-sponsored gambling any more than we should be providing heroin to schoolchildren. Gambling is a drug and there are powerless people who should be protected from that drug.

Now the wild card, the unknown, in all of this is the question of how big the middle group is. There is some serious courting going on from both sides, but the heavily-funded gambling industry has too much firepower. They are on TV and radio constantly bombarding the undecided with promises of jobs and economic prosperity if only the issue passes. The other side has only the argument that gambling is wrong.

Morals vs. Money - History predicts the outcome - Money usually wins.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Charleston Round-Up

A few things happening under the radar in Charleston recently:

- Mayor Danny Jones got a pretty good spanking by some old-money Charlestonians for trashing up Mountain View Cemetery with the Fourth of July Fireworks. Although in his public statements he made it sound like no big deal, the fact is that he was read the riot act by several City "Mothers." Rod Blackstone took the blame. If it had been a big hit he wouldn't have been credited.

- Keep your ears open for at least one City Councilman to announce his resignation soon - or at least announce his intention to not seek office again. Butting heads with Mayor Jones can make one lose one's taste for local politics. There are two councilmen who are at odds with the mayor presently and rumor has it that at least one of them is talking about making a big stink when he leaves office. It should be interesting.

- "Friday Night at the Levee" attendance is dismal. You gotta wonder how long the city can spend the money on street crews and police for a party for 100 people or less every Friday night. But since this was Tom Lane's idea, you can be sure that it will get every consideration before it's axed.

- I wrote about the boondoggle park on the East End, but another proposed park for the West Side is nearly as stupid. The next time you are down West Washington Street look at the steep, grassy hillside at the Barton Street intersection and try to figure out what the hell they are thinking.

- In a bizarre, almost reality show type of behavior, former radio talk show host Jerry Waters can now be found sitting on the sidewalk outside Taylor Books almost every day. He sits and snidely comments about passers-by the same way he did about virtually everything in his talk show days.

That's all for now, I think my FiberNet service might be coming back online soon and I have a few hundred phone calls to make!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Free Wi-Fi for the East End

In an announcement heralded by state and city elected officials and the Charleston Area Alliance, it was made known today that the East End Main Street folks have secured a grant to provide free Wi-Fi internet for the entire East End of Charleston.

On the surface this sounds like a great idea. I am totally psyched about being able to sit down and blog or answer email anywhere on the East End where I live. I can get rid of my $39.95 per month Suddenlink internet bill!

But I'll bet if I worked for Suddenlink, FiberNet or Verizon and was looking at losing thousands of DSL or cable internet customers I would be singing a different tune!

How can the Charleston Area Alliance be happy about the government getting into competition with business? What's next, city-run coffee shops?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Far Werks!

Mayor Jones decided to move the City's 4th of July fireworks show from its traditional river front location to Spring Hill Cemetery on the North Side of the valley. Ostensibly this move was to save a bunch of bucks by combining the show with those that The Power were going to be shooting off that evening.

Some people around town are upset that the fireworks would be launched from a sacred place like a cemetery, and a lot of boaters are mad because one of the main reason people have boats in Charleston is to get up close to the two or three fireworks displays that are launched from either barges on the river or on trucks on the banks.

This is another one of those Jones Administration decisions that is curious in its apparent lack of thought. Here are the problems I see with the new location:

1. For more than thirty years, the fireworks have been at the riverfront. People have traditional places they meet to watch them. People always line the riverbank from the Clendenin Street nearly to the Capitol, and hundreds of people watch from boats. For thousands of people this is their family 4th of July tradition. There will be a lot of scrambling this year to find new places to watch from, but;

2. There are less places to watch from. Although the idea of using the elevation of the hilltop sounds good, the angles will make it difficult to see the fireworks from traditional places like Fort Hill, the West Side hill. The river will be a terrible vantage point and boaters will have to get out of the water to see the show. Outside of Appy Park, I can't think of a single vantage point that will be a decent place to watch from.

3. As dry as the foliage and grass is right now, putting the show on the hillside is a recipe for a brush fire. One of the great things about the riverfront show is that the ashes and embers fall harmlessly into the Kanawha.

4. Cars on the interstate will be right under the show. I would not be surprised if we have fender-benders or worse during the display.

I could write a dozen more reasons this is a bad idea, but what's the point?