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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Area Blogger Makes Regional Headlines

As most of you know, one of Virginia's premier weblogs is hosted by a fella by the name of Chad Dotson. Besides being a gifted writer, Chad, come to find out, has a day job! And America's drug kingpins are the worse for it this morning:

Operation Street Sweeper nets 49 drug arrests in Wise
Wednesday, April 19, 2006 By Stephen Igo, Kingsport Times-News

WISE - A two-year investigation revolving around a drug subculture in Big Stone Gap has provided investigators in other states - including Tennessee - with leads on illicit drug suppliers to the tiny Wise County town, particularly significant amounts of cocaine.

On Tuesday, Wise County Commonwealth's Attorney Chad Dotson announced more than 100 felony indictments against 49 individuals in what the Southwest Virginia Drug Task Force dubbed "Operation Street Sweeper." As of 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, 30 of the 49 individuals indicted by a special grand jury had been taken into custody during a daylong roundup.

"Most of this is a cocaine ring," Dotson said, describing "loose-knit networks" of distributors and users mostly in Big Stone Gap, Appalachia and Norton. (link)

There have been occasions when readers have openly speculated as to why Chad wasn't devoting more time to his weblog. Now we know. He's been focused on eliminating the area's crime problem. Chad, you're going to have to get your priorities straight, man.

In all seriousness, Wise County should be very proud. Your prosecutor's making your streets and back roads a whole lot safer.

Why Am I Suddenly All Aglow?

Here's some exciting news out of Bland County. We're about to electrocute ... er, electrify ourselves:

APCO eyes June date to energize 765kV line
By Charles Owens, Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLAND, Va. — Todd Burns is hoping Appalachian Power Company can officially “energize” the region’s new 765kV transmission line by early June.

It was 16 years ago when the company first proposed the high-voltage power line across the rugged mountains of southern West Virginia and Southwest Virginia with the hope of reinforcing the region’s power grid for the first time since the early 1970s. (link)

It was kind of cool to watch the helicopters go back and forth (in the mountains around here you're not going to use flatbed trucks) with girders and poles and the like dangling beneath them as they worked the construction site. Paula and I were able to watch the operation from our living room window.

So now we've got us a scenic high-voltage transmission line running through the heart of Bland County. We're all kinda excited about it. We're even expecting our congressman to show up in June and declare it to be a tourist attraction and the means by which we will achieve economic nirvava. He has a reputation for such silliness.

Good. Make a Park Out Of Chesterfield.

Another day, another call for economic stagnation. This time a forward-thinking Virginian wants us to set aside land so that developers (we call them employers down here) don't get it. And he asks that we increase taxes to do it. Jesus.

The latest comes from the Free Lance-Star:
Virginia's rural landscape needs a healthy dose of public funding
By Charles G. McDaniel

The footprint of development across Virginia will double in the next 25 years, so maintaining our quality of life will require us to balance this growth by establishing more protected lands. (link)
He goes on to write about our heritage and how it is tied to fishing and hunting and the like, an opinion with which I agree. But I'm prompted to ask Mr. McDaniel the same question I ask of those who demand ever-larger annual tax increases: How much is enough? To his request, I ask: How many more millions of acres of national and state park land should we set aside?

Down this way, we have a growing problem with land being abandoned because jobs are being lost and citizens are moving north. We only wish we had a developer problem. But it's always the more isolated and least economically developed areas that these people have in mind for preserving.

So, do us a favor. You want to set aside some land for posterity? I suggest you start in Deerfield Estates over in Chesterfield where the developer problem actually exists. Not down here in Southwest Virginia where we wait each day with open arms for one of those developers that we've heard so much about to show up.

When Can We Expect Those Tourists?

I woke up this morning to the news (in the Martinsville Bulletin) that the the area has another walking trail. This makes 83. And counting. But this one's different. This one's going to bring in the tourist trade ... finally.
Boucher, Goode walk trail path

The area's two congressmen on Saturday walked the rails where a hiking trail is envisioned as a tourism and economic development attraction.

Ninth District U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Abingdon, and 5th District U.S. Rep. Virgil H. Goode Jr., R-Rocky Mount, ignored the rain to walk 1.5 miles of the 7.5-mile Danville & Western Line railroad tracks, also known as the "Dick & Willie."

"I think it will add to tourism and economic development," Goode said of the walking trail that is proposed for the rail bed.

Boucher, who successfully spearheaded an effort to earmark $400,000 in federal funds to pay for converting the rail bed to a walking trail, also said he feels the project is important. (link)
I envision a feature article in Condé Nast.

I liked that part about the two congressmen expecting the trail to become a "tourism and economic development attraction." A former railroad track. A walking trail. That's chutzpah.

Do you get the feeling that these guys have run out of ideas as to how to turn the economy here in Southwest and Southside Virginia around?