Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

August 19, 2012

Priority highways, broccoli and tolls

— — If you think the Environmental Protection Agency has overstepped its boundaries, then you haven’t had to digest a school lunch lately. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has pages (or volumes) of regulations concerning how school lunches are to be prepared.

When I was in school, we had a good lunch program. I still enjoy many of the dishes that were served at school. I do not have any recollection of the Department of Agriculture telling the cooks what and what not to prepare. But it is likely that some of the food that was served was probably furnished by the USDA — peanut butter and cheese.

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Some experts are claiming that the USDA’s overhaul of federally subsidized lunch programs is not necessarily for the better. Limiting calories, reducing the sodium content and other curbs on food intake by our youth also has a downside. Broccoli has a naturally bitter taste. The seasoning makes broccoli palatable.

Former President George H.W. Bush said, “I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m president of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” I wonder if that quote will be included in the school history books?

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The local political races are starting to warm up a little. Several campaign signs are now rising from the ground to compete with the late summer foliage. Delegate Marty Gearheart, R-Mercer, is having a campaign kick-off cookout today for his re-election bid.

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A recent Daily Telegraph editorial stated: “When it comes to transportation it seems that the state and its elected leaders all too often turn a blind eye to the very real needs of the deep south counties.” I would add with the exception of Raleigh County.

Both the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Highways are not luxuries, they are necessities. With the blatant omission of any consideration to appoint representatives of both the King Coal Highway Authority and the Coalfields Expressway Authority to the governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission perhaps it is time to ask gubernatorial contender Bill Maloney what position he would take concerning the fate or future of these vital links and what priority he would assign to the completion of these highways?

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While down in Iaeger this past week I happened to meet Van Vance, a retired U.S. Air Force veteran who now lives in Palatka, Fla. Vance was visiting his mother. When I introduced myself he said, “I know who you are. You have a column in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.”

Mr. Vance said he has a subscription and reads the paper down in Florida. Van Vance has traveled all around the world serving his country in many places including Vietnam. He asked if I was looking for a story in the area. No, I was there for other reasons but meeting Van Vance was a treat for me. You meet nice folks everywhere. It was a good day.

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The Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce is hosting a luncheon meeting with U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va. on Thursday, Aug. 23, beginning at 11:30 a.m. at Fincastle Country Club. The luncheon is being sponsored by several local businesses. Following lunch, Warner will make some remarks and take questions.

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In his July newsletter “Under the Capitol Dome,” Sen. Truman Chafin, D-Mingo, reported some interesting observations. Chafin mentioned an excerpt taken from the Legislature’s interim highlights newsletter. The newsletter stated that, “The southern part of the state is essentially paying a ‘double tax,’ ’’ according to one lawmaker who told the committee that anyone who travels from southern West Virginia north to Charleston must pay to use the road.

And businesses are growing tired of the toll as well, according to the executive director of the Greater Bluefield Chamber of Commerce. He told the committee that Mercer County and the city of Bluefield, its citizens, and its business community has probably been the most adversely affected by the turnpike tolls over the years.

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While I’m dreaming ... the American dream is that set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward mobility achieved through hard work. It was James Truslow Adams, author of “The Epic American,” who is credited with coining the term “American Dream” in 1931. The ideal of the American dream is changing and is now seen by some as more of a mode of spiritual happiness than material wealth.

In my youth, the American dream was portrayed as a nice home in a middle class subdivision, a good job, and a station wagon in the driveway. That has certainly changed in this area. Yes, we have some nice subdivisions and some have some very elaborate homes. However for many, the American Dream has been reduced to something of a Walter Mitty state of mind and little more than a roof over your head. We should not settle for that.

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U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., recently praised a federal judge’s decision, which found that the EPA had overstepped its authority by establishing new Clean Water Act criteria for mining in Appalachia.

Rahall said, “The court clearly understood the simple fact that the EPA has been running roughshod over the states and over other federal agencies on a tear to undercut the coal industry and eliminate coal mining jobs. I welcome this decision with a sense of satisfaction that the EPA’s tortured defense of its illegal actions was thoroughly knocked down.”

If the EPA employed illegal actions then those responsible should be fired, fined and possibly imprisoned. These officials should not be able to hide in the eagle’s wings. Being accountable does not mean giving these individuals another chance to illegally stick it to somebody again.

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There you have it, a few comments on items of interest to the area. School has started in Tazewell County and will soon begin in the rest of the area. Drive safely and watch for the children. I wish you another blue sky day ... and congratulations to Judge “Chip” Hurley.

Wilson Butt, a resident of Bluefield, is a retired Department of Highways official.

 

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