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

Thursday, December 20, 2007

They're Starting To Scare Me

Paula and I got our property tax assessment in the mail the other day and found that the value of our land (somewhere around 22 acres) has doubled. For those of you who thought my reaction was "Yippee, we're rich!" well, it wasn't.

The only explanation I could come up with for this astronomical jump in appraisal has to relate to spectacular growth resulting from construction here in our very rural county, 70% of which is national forest, of that new pharmaceutical conglomerate's corporate office complex ... that new multi-faceted state-of-the-art Nissan plant ... that new seven-story federal office building ... that NASA space station research & development facility that new Pizza Inn that opened in Bastian.

In talking to the neighbors, it appears that our situation isn't an aberration. Everyone's assessments went through the roof. And now the issue makes the news:
Spike in reassessments concerns Bland residents
By Greg Jordan, Bluefield Daily Telegraph

Bland, Va, — Concerns and questions about property tax reassessments with value increases as high as 400 percent are prompting some Bland County residents to seek answers from county officials.

“This would rate people out of their homes,” said James Carver, 73, of Bent Mountain. “What they’ve done on some of us is raise the assessment 400 to 500 percent. We were told back in the summer they were going to raise taxes and expecting 40 to 50 percent increases.”

Carver said the assessment on property he owned would increase from $76,000 to $322,000. (link)
This, as you might imagine, has residents around here (the demographics of Bland County are skewed toward the elderly on fixed incomes) upset.

What troubles me even more though is the reaction that our top county official has to the blowback coming from the citizenry:
[County Administrator Jonathan] Sweet said there are misconceptions about the reassessment. The last reassessment was conducted 6 years ago, and another is not planned for another six years. The assessments had gone up 400 percent “since six years ago,” not all at once, he said.
"A 400% increase in six years ain't all that bad. So shut up."

For the sake of comparison, the annual rate of inflation is around 3%.

3% X 6 (years) compounded ... Yeah, that would be around ... 400%.

So shut up.

Oh, then there's this:
“If there’s any question about your assessment, you need to see the County Assessor’s Office."
We were notified that we could schedule a meeting with the County Assessor's Office to discuss the reassessment by dialing a number provided. Paula dialed that number yesterday to set up such an appointment for us.

It rang and rang and rang and rang and rang and rang and rang. Wisely I guess, nobody ever answered.

Then, finally there's this reminder from our county administrator, reminding us that he's neither stupid nor detached from the reality of the situation:
"The Board of Supervisors are not the ones that conduct the assessment."
"Shut up AND take it somewhere else."

So who do we string up, Jonathan?

Where's That Psychologist?

How often do we read stories about firefighters being accused of arson? Too often, as far as I'm concerned.

The latest - and closest to home - in what seems a long line of many:

Firefighters accused of setting house fire
The Richmond Times-Dispatch

Two Alleghany County firefighters are accused of setting a house on fire, and investigators say the pair might have been behind a string of local blazes.

Authorities yesterday charged Nicholas Brackenridge, 21, of Clifton Forge, and Christopher Boyd, 19, of Iron Gate, each with arson and conspiracy to commit arson, said Sgt. Dwaine Paxton of the Alleghany Sheriff's Office.

Paxton said the charges relate to the Oct. 16 burning of a vacant house just north of Clifton Forge.

Brackenridge is a member of the Clifton Forge Volunteer Fire Department. Boyd volunteers with the Iron Gate department. (link)

The Department of Homeland Security actually has done a study on this phenomenon that is generally and simply referred to as firefighter arson. You can read all about it here.

I wish we didn't have to read about it at all. This is too bizarre.

Like I Said

The Roanoke Times this morning offers up the same reaction I had to the news that some "conservation groups" have gone to court to block the desperately needed widening of heavily congested I-81. That reaction boils down to this: Get your head out of your ass.

Trains alone won't fix I-81

A coalition of conservation groups has some good ideas about dealing with the traffic that nearly overwhelms the Interstate 81 corridor. Yet rather than help craft a comprehensive solution they have chosen to pursue an inadequate solution through the courts.

The group sued in federal court this week to prevent the widening of I-81.

They want the Federal Highway Administration and the Virginia Department of Transportation to develop a rail plan instead.

The litigious conservationists are too optimistic about a solution that is too far off in the future. Rail, by itself, cannot fix the problem. As the region's population increases, the need to move goods and people increases also. Trains can only ease that; they cannot end it.

The conservationists are entitled to their day in court. It would have been better, though, if they had brought with them a workable plan for an ailing transportation system. (link)

I put the conservationists' solution to the congestion problem - the development of rail - in the "if tanker trucks could sprout wings and fly" category (along with the theory that those wasted HOV lanes around America's large cities would do the same). Nice idea. Wrong world.

Look, we need to widen I-81. Now. Lives are being lost. The longer we wait to do it, the longer we allow self-interest groups like these "conservationists" to block progress, the more stories we'll read about death and destruction on this vital thoroughfare.

So quit screwing around.

On Hillary & The 'Experience' She Brags About

When George Will says it, nothing more need be said:
Her experiences that should matter most to primary voters reveal consistently bad judgment. Her campaign's behavior radiates bad character.
"The 70's Hit Parade," The Washington Post, December 20, 2007

Uniting Against Illegal Immigration

The mainstream press will ignore the issue. Or, at best, when forced to address the good men and women behind it, the press will portray those who promote their solutions to the problem as white-robed and hooded, knuckle-dragging neanderthals. But the real world - the citizenry of the state of Virginia - knows full well that we must deal with it. That we are having to deal with it. Every day.

But whatever those in the media do or don't do, say or don't say, is not important. What's important is that some around the commonwealth are finally doing something about it:
Virginia groups unite against illegals
By Seth McLaughlin, The Washington Times

Seven grass-roots organizations across Virginia have joined together to form a statewide coalition to lobby state officials for tougher enforcement of immigration laws.

The umbrella group, called Save the Old Dominion, was started Dec. 13. A mission statement on the group's Web site, at www.savetheolddominion.org, says its members are dedicated to "preserving the commonwealth for future generations" and "pursuing legislative action in Virginia to reduce the number of illegal aliens unlawfully present in the commonwealth."

Greg Letiecq, president of the group Help Save Manassas and a co-founder of Save the Old Dominion, said yesterday that the group plans to form a political action committee. (link)
Greg's goal? Simply to end the lawlessness. And to stem the drain on the state's precious resources. And to shake those who write the laws and enforce them back into a conscious state.

Here's to Greg and his efforts. May the rule of law some day be respected once again.

As If West Virginia Doesn't Have Enough Problems

It's considered a "judicial hellhole."

From the American Tort Reform Association in its "Judicial Hellholes 2007" ranking, coming in at number 4:
West Virginia courts have earned a reputation for anti-business rulings, massive lawsuits and close relationships between the personal injury bar, state attorney general and the judiciary. It is almost unique among the states in providing civil defendants with no assurance that they will receive appellate review, and, as one of the cases highlighted in this year's report shows, this can leave a business hit with a multimillion-dollar verdict with nowhere to turn. The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, when it does act, has cast a shadow on the reputation of the state's judicial system. This year, it rejected a rule that places responsibility of warning patients of the risks of most drugs solely with their doctors, not pharmaceutical companies who do not know the patient's medical history. In addition, this year, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review of the West Virginia high court's invalidation of a law designed to stop forum shopping by plaintiffs who came from around the country to sue in Wild, Wonderful West Virginia courts. Despite its Hellholes reputation, however, it is important to note that there are many judges that adhere to the law in West Virginia, as the judiciary's handling of litigation stemming from a 2001 flood that was blamed on everyone but nature shows.
As if the state didn't have a bad reputation already.

This One Goes Out To The Ladies

We know we make your life a living hell. But we're men after all ...

Just keep reminding yourselves that we love you a whole bunch.

And get me a beer, would you?