People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Chilhowie Royale

The following article originally appeared in the Roanoke Times on Thursday, October 5, 2006

A gambling fix for a poor economy
Jerry Fuhrman

It's time we had this debate. Gaming is a cash cow. Should it be allowed to flourish in Southwest Virginia?

Now, before you get your undies in a bunch, it would serve you well to remember that one can't drive down a street in any village or town in the area and not be confronted with signs and placards heralding the current status of Virginia's favorite sport. No, not Virginia Tech football; I'm referring to our state-sanctioned lottery system. In fact, I can find out what the lottery jackpot has risen to at any given point in time by driving past the Pepsi plant in Wythe County and looking at the massive billboard nearby.

Gambling, like it or not, is already an integral part of our society, with the Virginia Lottery pulling in nearly half a billion dollars in revenue for the state education fund last year alone.

With that understood, how about we invite Donald Trump or Bally's to build a casino just off I-81 in Smyth County? Say, Chilhowie.

Let's look at the possibilities.

When you think of the No. 1 destination in America for tourists who want to play the slots or a hand of blackjack, what comes to mind? That's right, Las Vegas. Guess what the fastest growing city in America is. Right again. Did you know that Las Vegas played host to 26 million tourists last year who contributed $14 billion to the local economy? And, at the risk of being accused of disparaging Wayne Newton's talents, those millions aren't flocking to Vegas to hear him belt out "Danke Schoen."

By comparison, it makes our best efforts at developing the tourism industry in Southwest Virginia through the construction of miles and miles of bike paths and hiking trails, the results of which have brought us a handful of fast-food establishments and an outfitters shop or two, seem kind of ... what's the word? Puny?

Las Vegas is unique, you say. We could never replicate here what they have accomplished there. If you were to take a look around, you'd find fabulous growth in gaming tourism occurring across this great land, in places like Turtle Lake, Wis.; Christmas, Mich.; Joliet, Ill.; and Mashantucket, Conn.

Dollars generated by tourists visiting casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi now account for a stunning 8 percent of total state tax revenue.

Could Smyth County benefit from a casino or two being built in its midst? Take a look at what has happened to Tunica County, Miss. Famously referred to by the Rev. Jesse Jackson as "America's Ethiopia" because of its crushing poverty, Tunica was once one of the poorest counties in the country. In 1992, shortly after the gaming industry received approval from the legislature to build casinos in the area, construction began in Tunica with $3 billion of construction and related tourism investment.

There are now nine casinos operating up and down the Mississippi River in Tunica County (it was not in the path of Hurricane Katrina so it escaped relatively unscathed), employing 12,000 people (with ancillary employment, the number grows to 19,000). County per-capita income has risen from $9,900 in 1992 to an estimated $20,400 in 2000. Unemployment dropped from 13.6 percent to 5 percent. Its population has risen 13 percent in the decade between 1990 and 2000. The county, 72 percent black, prospers like never in its history.

Smyth County, by the same token, has seen its population, according to the latest census data, actually decline by 1.3 percent in the last five years and its private nonfarm employment drop 9.6 percent. Its median household income is more than $18,000 below the state average and the number of people living in poverty is 5 percent higher.

Chilhowie in particular could sure use an infusion of capital. Having suffered through plant closings and more than 1,430 layoffs (in a town of 1,784 people) in recent years, a casino prospering where once Reebok and J.C. Penney T-shirts were made might be just the thing.

Impossible, you say? It could never happen? Perhaps. But our state government got into the liquor business many years ago for similar reasons. Why not roulette tables?

I even have a slogan for Chilhowie to adopt, if it hasn't already been taken: What's spent in Chilhowie stays in Chilhowie. Let the good times roll.

Where's the Love?

Perhaps we should pass a constitutional amendment:
Bell's second try deserves support
The time is right for Virginia to ban smoking in most public places.

Roanoke Times editorial

Good luck, Sen. Brandon Bell, on your renewed quest for passage of a clean indoor air bill.

All the best in your second attempt to convince your state colleagues that smoking should be banned from restaurants, bowling alleys * and other indoor public areas in Virginia.

The tobacco lobby will pummel away from all sides. This is, after all, a state where tobacco remains king.

And as you gaze up at the ceiling of the state Capitol, decorated with tobacco leaves, be steadfast. Stand strong. The time is now. (link)

Yeah. Ban 'em! Better yet, let's kill all the sunsabitchas. Let's show 'em some o' that love I read about so frequently on the editorial page of the Times.

* Bowling alleys? Is your elitist condescension showing again?

And They Have Good Company ...

While we're on the subject of tolerance, let's see what the champion of the downtrodden and the savior of Gitmo terrorist detainees is up to. Well, it looks like he has his own enemies. Us *:
Tobacco regulation a Kennedy priority
Richmond Times-Dispatch

Washington -- Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., pledged yesterday to make federal regulation of tobacco products a priority.

"Empowering the Food and Drug Administration to regulate tobacco products is long overdue ..." (link)
Long overdue. As is bubble-butt's explanation for having turned and ran, like the coward he is, while a female passenger in the car that he drove off a bridge (while drunk) was fighting - unsuccessfully - for her life, as the car was slowly sinking beneath the waves, an act of negligent homicide that brought Kennedy zero days in jail and prominence in the Democratic party. And the right to preach right and wrong to the rest of us, he thinks.

* Though I don't smoke, when these Stalinists start singling out the least powerful among us for retribution, the Marlboro crowd, I consider myself an honorary smoker.

That Says It All

We've been trying to tell you:
District slayings usually with gun
By Matthew Cella, The Washington Times

The District [Washington DC] is among the major U.S. cities with the highest percentage of people being killed by firearms, despite having one of the strictest gun-control laws in the country. (link)
The same story, repeated over and over again.

Want to reduce the number of slayings in DC? Arm the citizenry.

Or don't. And read this same article in the same paper every year now to doomsday.

While We Carve Out More Hiking Trails ...

People are flocking to Ireland. For jobs aplenty:
Ireland sees spike in foreign workers
By Anthony Healy, The Washington Times

After several centuries of a hardscrabble life that has seen Irish men and women emigrating around the world, taking their culture and legends with them, a decade of rapid economic growth has made the land of shamrocks a primary destination for hordes of immigrants, mainly from Eastern Europe. (link)

An attractive monetary policy, tantalizingly low corporate taxes and an emphasis on the tech sector have contributed to an Irish renaissance. They've come a long way from the days of the potato famine.

Meanwhile, here in Southwest Virginia, where we've staked our economic recovery on bike paths and hiking trails, we wait ... and wait ... and wait ...

We Will Miss Him

He beat back the socialist tide and set our country on its proper course. He will be missed.
By Justin M. Norton, The New York Post

November 17, 2006 -- Milton Friedman, the Nobel Prize-winning economist who advocated an unfettered free market and had the ear of three U.S. presidents, died yesterday at age 94. Friedman died in San Francisco. A family spokesman did not know the cause of death.

"Milton's passion for freedom and liberty has influenced more lives than he ever could possibly know," said Gordon St. Angelo, president of the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation. (link)
In this era when most Americans believe, strangely, that the government (and Hillary) can solve all their problems, Friedman is ... was an undying and relentless advocate of capitalism as cure for most ills. He and his ideas will be missed.

It's Bush's Fault!

This goes out to all you conspiracy lovers in the Democratic party:
Oil Slips Under $56 to Lowest This Year
By Reuters

London (Reuters) - Oil slipped under $56 on Friday to its lowest this year, deepening a $2.50 rout in the previous session driven by fund selling and pressure from high fuel stock levels in the world's leading oil consumer the United States. (link)
George Bush is only allowing oil and gasoline prices to drop so as to get his Republican cronies elected in the upcomi ...

Uh, never mind.

On The Road

Business took me to Ocean City, Maryland yesterday. I wasn't there as a tourist but it appeared to be a beautiful town - before the storm hit. The wind was menacing coming off the Atlantic. Imagine trying to cross the Bay Bridge, which rises high into the air so that ships can pass underneath, with gale force winds buffeting your light-weight vehicle. I thought there were a few times when I was heading into the drink.

I then passed all kinds of traffic accidents on my way to Annapolis and Baltimore in a driving rain.

But I live to tell the tale. Winchester today. Then home to Paula's loving arms. Life is good.