Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Malik Shabazz is in da' hizzouse!

It's always great when a World Class troublemaker makes an appearance in our fair city. Because of the horrific Megan Williams kidnapping and torture case in Logan County, Malik Shabazz has decided to come and bring his bad news brethren to Charleston for a protest march this weekend. The Daily Mail has an informative article in today's edition about his exploits.

The really sad thing about the way Shabazz is going about his hate-mongering is that he has decided to defame members of the Black Ministerial Alliance by accusing them of accepting bribes from Danny Jones to stay out of Shabazz's circus event this weekend. Anyone who knows the leaders of the BMA knows what an absurdity this claim is. A few facts to help the uninitiated understand just how absurd it is :

The Black Ministerial Alliance is the only ministerial association currently active in Charleston (the Charleston Ministerial Association disbanded during the 1972 textbook controversy and never got started again). Over the years it has been a strong and progressive voice in human rights issues and has been at the forefront of neighborhood issues on the East End and the West Side. They have never been on the right side of the fence, politically, with City government - seemingly preferring the role of the prophetic voice of opposition to a myriad of City initiatives that they saw as oppressive.

The current president of the BMA, Rev. Lloyd Alan Hill, has been constantly in the face of the last two administrations over several East End issues. He is no friend of Danny Jones and would never accept anything from him that would somehow obligate himself or his organization. Knowing Rev. Hill as I do, I would expect if such an offer was made that he would immediately organize a press conference to expose the Mayor. He is a man of honor and principle. He has a checkered past, to be sure, but anyone who knows him now understands who he is.

Other members of the BMA like Rev. James Ealy, Rev. Robert Davis and Ron Thaxton (who, by the way, is Caucasian and for some folks is the reason that the BMA is suspect in this case) are also strong leaders who would never abide with political shenanigans such as the ones Shabazz alleges.

Late today, the NAACP announced that they would also not be participating or supporting the march.

It's a shame that some folks will be seduced by the fame of Shabazz and Sharpton and participate in this march that has more potential to hurt than to heal. Megan Williams will be no better off at the end of this march. The cause of racism will surely be advanced by the negative feelings that result from the press coverage. It's a lose/lose for our city.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

How Big is MTR Mining?

I've been on several recent flights out of Charleston's Yeager Airport to various points south. Most of these depart early in the morning while it's still pretty dark, but on one return flight a few weeks ago I was able to get a good look at one of the largest Mountain Top Removal mine site I've seen. People who know tell me it's the Hobet mine near Danville. Here's what it looks like on Google Earth:
Now, here is the same view but with an outline added to define the extremities of the site:
While you can tell it's big, this view lacks any reference points from which you can draw a sense of scale. So let me take the outline off the picture, rotate it a little and plop it down on a picture shot in the same scale of something more recognizable to most of us.

That's the city of Charleston. This MTR sight covers an area that would stretch from the Yeager Bridge on the W.Va. Turnpike to the Patrick Street Bridge, and is wide enough to encompass the whole valley floor, the West Side Hill, and most of South Hills.

You can make up your own mind about how this makes you feel. Please post your comments.

Friday, October 19, 2007

From the "I Can See It Coming From A Mile Away" Department...

I wondered what the excavation equipment was doing in front of the Clay Center when I passed by yesterday. This article in the Gazette solved the mystery. They are moving ahead with the first phase of the landscaping plan that will provide a softer look to the large sterile front lawn, and part of that plan is for a bunch of low granite seatwalls that will "give schoolchildren that extra place to sit and eat their lunch."

I don't it takes a rocket scientist to see what is going to happen soon after the project is completed.

Remember Slack Plaza? Remember how Mayor Jones, tired of the rabble sitting around on the low seatwalls there had "loafer rails" installed to make it less comfortable for people to sit on them? Then he had the shade-providing trees cut down to make it less hospitable. Have we forgotten? It was only last year.

I would like to remind us all that the Clay Center is located less than two blocks from three homeless facilities, soon to be four with the addition of the new veteran's shelter. Once the landscaping plan is finished there will be dozens of homeless folks who will want to use the nice shady area as their daytime gathering area. I don't blame them; it looks like it will be a nice place to sit and relax.

But how long will it be before people will complain about the large gathering of homeless people on the corner that will serve as the primary gateway entrance to the city? How long will it be before those school children are denied the use of the seating because of the homeless patrons who claimed it first?

How long will it be before the Clay Center calls up the Mayor to ask him where they can buy loafer rails and chainsaws?

Why are Clay Center leaders so oblivious to issues in our city and out-of-phase with City government? Are they really that "pie-in-the-sky" in their planning processes?

Years ago in the "B.C." cartoon series, B.C. was often shown leaning on a rock that had the word "Answers" scrawled on the front. Other characters would come and ask questions and he would provide a snappy answer. In one cartoon Peter asks B.C "What makes you think you're so smart?", to which B.C. replied, "Your questions." That's kind of how I feel about this blog - "why do I think I am qualified to make criticisms of the Clay Center's and City government decisions?" Well, it's simply because they keep making me feel smart.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Not in HIS Backyard!

According to the story in the Gazette, a lawsuit was filed on Tuesday by Mark A. Toor and Allyn Turner against the Rae of Hope Fellowship, an East End women's shelter. The suit claims that residents of the shelter have created a nuisance and the plaintiffs are seeking to have it shut down.

There is more to this story than meets the eye. Much more.

If you have casually followed the story in the paper, you might know that Mr. Toor was the subject of a court order to stay off of the shelter's property. He also failed to appear in court in the matter and was fined $500.

So now Mr. Toor and his wife, both lawyers, have decided to escalate the fight and use their their legal expertise and contacts to try to force the shelter from its home.

Mr. Toor is a legal manager at Legal Aid, which makes it sound like he's one of the good guys. After all, Legal Aid is all about helping the poor, powerless and needy with legal assitance. It would follow that the people who work there are kind, compassionate souls who are altruistic in all their endeavors, right?
But a quick Google search reveals that Mr. Toor spent time laboring as a corporate attorney for coal industry interests. Turner works for the WV Coal Association. Not that makes them bad people, but in the culture of Left vs. Right we find ourselves living in where every person's actions are judged on where they stand ideologically and politically, it is interesting that the industry that is most often seen as the villian by West Virginian liberals is where these two lawyers made a lot of money. And now it seems they are showing their true Snidely Whiplash colors and foreclosing on the family farm because it has inconvenienced them.

If I were in charge of public relations or the Coal Association, I would not want these two employees pursuing this suit.

But this is really nothing new. All over the country there are examples of people, quite often lawyers, doing their dead-level best to get shelters, housing projects and social service agencies thrown out of their homes because they make neighborhoods less perfect. We can't have all of THOSE people milling about outside our Victorian fixer-upper when we have our wine and cheese receptions, can we? The concept is called NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard. Every housing agency and social service agency deals with it every day.

A few years ago, a friend shared with me this little parable he wrote. He intended to send it to the Charleston Gazette as an op-ed piece but decided against it because he knew it would ruffle too many feathers on City Council and he sometimes has to deal with them. So it has sat on my computer hard drive all these years waiting on a blog where it could be posted in anonymity. I thought about it as I read this story, and thought it's high time it was published:


Driving through Charleston's East End recently, I suddenly had an epiphany: There truly are too many social service agencies located in that area. Driving past Sojourner's I realized what a horrible shame it is that we have taken a perfectly good old building and have turned it into the eyesore that it is. Just think, if we had left it alone the 1500 block of Washington be a much more historical-looking neighborhood - just like the 1600 and 1700 blocks.

Yes! History! That's what we should strive for! As the buildings
begin to rot away we should rebuild them to original standards, using as much lead-based paint and asbestos as we can lay our hands on! We should make any new residential buildings in the area three or four thousand square feet with 10 foot tall ceilings. Of course, all of this cubic feet would require more energy, but it's a small price to pay. After all, we're talking history.

But I digress…

In the past few years I have noticed that City Council Persons from the West Side, from the East End, from North Charleston and South Hills, not to mention Kanawha City and the Elk River area (did I miss any?), have all expressed their resistance to having Social Service Agencies located in their wards. In so many community meetings I have attended I have heard these council representatives go to bat for their constituencies to keep "shelters", "soup kitchens" and other such pesky
organizations out of their neighborhoods. I have heard time and time again that social service agencies and their activities drive down real estate prices and drive up crime rates.

Social service agencies have their place, and surprisingly it's the only thing that everyone seems to agree on. The name of this place is "Somewherelse." I can't seem to find this place on any map, but
I know it exists because so many people agree that's where the social service agencies should be located. It sounds perfect, because from what people say about it no matter what you do there, property values will not be affected. Obviously inhabited by a very compassionate people, no one who lives in Somewherelse is bothered by the idea of poor people being visible in their neighborhood. The land must be very flat and the soil conditions must be ideal for construction, because according to the people who seem to know, anything can be built cheaper Somewherelse.

Affordable housing (which everyone knows is code for "low income housing projects") could be built very effectively in Somewherelse because that's where poor people want to live since it's close to all the social service agencies. Small, simple houses built with maintenance free exteriors like vinyl siding are simply not compatible with the historical look we want in our neighborhood, but it will fit in perfectly with a Somewherelse neighborhood.

As I said before, I don't know where Somewherelse is, so I haven't been there. But from what people say it sounds like everyone has enough to eat, everyone receives proper medical care, and everyone who gets sleepy at night has a place to sleep. Because there is job training and inexpensive housing being built by the non-profit builders that weren't allowed to build anywhere else, people can afford to own their homes making the neighborhood more stable. Sounds to me like a nice place to live; If you like that sort of thing.

I hope the citizenry of Somewherelse doesn't get fed up with every one else sending their poor and downtrodden to their community. If that happens, they might begin to resist the influx of social service agencies. The good news is that if that happens, we can always move them to Anotherplace.

Let's see…does anyone know where that is on the map?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Enjoy Your Hair, Teddy! The Slogan is Right!

This sign makes me crack up every time I see it.

Monday, October 01, 2007

I Don't Mean to Harp on Andy, but....

OK, I listen for maybe 10 minutes a day every day. This happens on my morning commute. Some days when I have other places to be or have to run out for an errand I'll listen a bit longer. Once in a while - a very rare while unfortunately - some caller or guest will be talking about something interesting when I get out of my car and I'll turn on the radio when I get in the office. So having properly qualified myself as a minimal listener, I will now begin my rant:

Andy, you are not Rush Limbaugh. You can't carry the show with a long-winded tirade about how evil Democrats and Liberals are. No one listening to local talk radio wants to hear you do 10 - 15 minutes every morning on Hillary or John Edwards. PLEASE! GET ON TO SOMETHING INTERESTING! To US!

Here's an idea: Talk about a local issue without trying to reduce it to partisan politics. Maybe Dave Hardy has a good idea or has done something good, even though he is a Democrat. Maybe there are things that happen every day that are really worthy of discussion even though by discussing them it might make a liberal sound like a human being. Just maybe there are things that happen in our community that have absolutely no partisan meaning. Open the newspaper, for Pete's sake!

I know you are challenged when it comes to speaking to our local audience because you are not from around here, but maybe you can get someone (other than Kent Carper) that is local to call in and talk about something, anything of interest!

Why do I listen if I don't like it? Because I like talk radio, God forgive me, and Andy is the closest thing to local talk we have left.

I'm begging. Really.