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

Sunday, August 09, 2009

SW Virginia's Newest White Elephant

Well, they're going through with it anyway:
Ground broken for SW Virginia arts center
By the Associated Press

Abingdon, Va. - Ground has been broken for a $16 million arts center in Abingdon showcasing southwest Virginia's cultural, musical and artisan heritage.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine says the center, called Heartwood, will be a portal to the region's cultural and heritage attractions, including the Crooked Road and the Artisans Trail of Southwest Virginia.

The 28,000-square-foot facility will include artisan galleries, a food court and an area for musical performances. It's expected to draw 270,000 visitors annually.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday morning. [link]
Swell. Something else the taxpayer is going to have to prop up in perpetuity.

But wait, you say. Heartwood is supposed to bring much-needed income to the area. Isn't that a good thing?

Yes.

If it were true.

And yes, it's promoters say it's true. From Heartwood's website:

The $16 million, 28,000 square foot facility, designed by Spectrum Design in Roanoke, Va., will feature the region’s hand made crafts and displays for artisan trails, cultural tourism initiatives such as the Wilderness Road, and music venues found along The Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail.

Large format displays, videos, and interactive maps will showcase the region’s artisans and provide detailed information on travel to the areas various points of interest (including food and lodging). In three years it is expected to bring in at least 270,000 visitors, generate $2.2 million in revenue, and result in a total economic impact of about $28 million to the region. The project has a number of financial sponsors and broad regional support.

I can tell you right now, that $28 million figure is absolute horse shit*, probably dreamt up by the Virginia Tourism Corporation, an organization that has proven in the past to make up wildly exaggerated numbers to suit its constituency. For more on that, go here. And here.

But what of that $2.2 million in revenue? Isn't that a good thing?

It depends.

First, I woudn't be surprised to find that number to be grossly inflated as well when this white elephant gets off the ground. Such estimates always are. But there's a bigger factor:

Revenue = Cash Flow In.

Cash Flow Out = ?

What's this thing going to cost to keep in operation?

Those who have been promoting Heartwood ask us to look at Tamarack up in Raleigh County, West Virginia as a model for what to expect from Heartwood. Tamarack is, without argument, a popular tourist attraction, drawing an estimated 500,000 visitors a year. Sweet.

But what does Tamarack cost to operate?

Don Surber:

W.Va.’s white elephant

AP ignores the $2 million-a-year losses

April Vitello of AP wrote a travel piece about Tamarack, a state-run arts-and-crafts showroom along the West Virginia Turnpike near Beckley. USA Today ran it under the headline: “Tamarack: Unique W.Va. showcase is Appalachian art mecca.”

She wrote: “For 11 years, Tamarack, the state’s one-of-a-kind artisan showcase, has lured travelers ... off Interstates 64 and 77, enticing them with its vaguely crown-like architecture — circular, with red points jutting from the roof. From the air, it resembles a traditional quilting star.

“Thanks in part to location and being open every day but Christmas, Tamarack is one of the most-visited places in West Virginia, averaging 500,000 guests a year.”

She failed to report that Tamarack lost $1,795,374 in 2002; $2,059,303 in 2003; $2,358,361 in 2004; $2,852,646 in 2005 and $2,570,239 in 2006. This year’s estimated losses are just under $2.8 million.

Double-check my math, but I’m pretty sure that at 500,000 visitors a year, that works out to a loss of $5.60 per visitor this year.

The state would be better off posting a guard and paying people $2 a head to just move along, nothing to see here. [link]

Tamarack operates at a loss.

And always will.

West Virginia - through 2007 - pays $5.60 a head for each tourist that stops by.

And Tamarack is touted as the model for Southwest Virginia's Heartwood.

Sigh. Get out your wallets. Another fine mess our government is getting us into.

- - -

* The Virginia Tourism Corporation, in order to come up with the numbers it does, includes revenue at the local McDonald's and employment at the Seven Eleven up the street as "total economic impact to the region." You stay at the Days Inn in Abingdon for a night on your way to Dollywood? Your sixty bucks is considered part of that $28 million, even though you didn't set foot in Heartwood. I've done the research. You run over to Lowe's in Bristol for some sixteen penny nails and stop for gas? Yup, tourism dollars.

Again, see links above.

It's a scam.

** As any of the locals will tell you, Tamarack is not a major tourist destination. It is a nice stopover for travelers on their way north and south along I-77. People stop, eat, and move on. The gift shops do well. The eateries do well. But Beckley sees no significant residual draw from that crowd going to Tamarack.

Perriello On ObamaCare

Let me translate Representative Tom Perriello's (D-VA 5) views on the health care bill that is working its way through Congress, as reported by today's Roanoke Times (see "Perriello town hall meeting heats up"):

As things stand right now, he's "leaning toward voting against it but there still are aspects that can be changed or eliminated."

"I'd like to get to a plan that I can support."

"I will consult my constituents, my conscience and do what's best."

Translation:

I'm voting for ObamaCare, no matter what shape it takes. Don't like it? Pound salt.

Leaning toward voting against it, my ass.

Dese Days Draw Desperate Deeds Deeds

Creigh Deeds is sinking faster than a boat full of holes. And he knows it. Thus:
Deeds to Wage Risky Attack On Opponent's Abortion Views
By Rosalind S. Helderman and Sandhya Somashekhar, Washington Post Staff Writers

Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate R. Creigh Deeds will launch a campaign this week to portray his opponent's longtime efforts to restrict abortion as out of the mainstream, a potentially risky strategy for a Democrat in the once solidly conservative state.

Deeds (Bath), a state senator who supports abortion rights, said he will join female supporters in Annandale on Monday for the first of three events across the state where he will argue that Republican Robert F. McDonnell devoted too much of his 17 years in public office working to limit access to abortions. McDonnell has said he is against abortion in every instance, including rape and incest, except when the life of the mother is in danger.

McDonnell said Saturday that Deeds's approach is the desperate act of a flailing campaign, noting that both men said at their first debate two weeks ago that they would not focus on social issues in the race.

"While I'm spending all my time talking about jobs and the economy and education reform and transportation, he is now beginning a run to the left to try to motivate his base," McDonnell said. "He talked about not engaging in the politics of division, but, of course, that's exactly what he's doing."

Deeds's strategy is a departure from the approach that worked for the state's past two Democratic governors, who generally played down touchy social issues and focused instead on the issues they said voters cared about more: traffic, schools and other quality-of-life issues. [link]
It'll be fun to watch all those fuzz-for-brains bloggers out there who declared Jerry Kilgore's run for governor destroyed in 2005 by his injection of the abortion issue into the campaign now argue in favor of the abortion issue being injected into Deeds' campaign.

It's an interesting gambit on his part, by the way. According to Marist Institute, 86% of America would place significant restrictions on abortion, which puts the voters much closer to the position of McDonnell than to "A Planned Parenthood Clinic On Every Street Corner" Deeds. That 86%, by the way, is a percentage that has been on the rise in recent decades, not decline.

But it might work in liberal la la land, where a woman's right to kill her child is held sacrosanct. Somehow, I guess, Deeds feels that if he can win grossly liberal Arlington County by enough margin, he can carry the state. An odd strategy, if you ask me, but he's the smart politician. Right? Right?

Well, They Get It Half Right

I chuckle:

Woodstock: A Moment of Muddy Grace

Grace. Woodstock. Funny.

Uh, Dude

This article in the New York Times (which should be in the op/ed section but appears in "Environment") would be so profound if its basic premise were true:

Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Security

It's about global warming.

It's about "violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics."

It's about "food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding."

It's about "rising temperatures, surging seas and melting glaciers."

It's about topped governments, terrorist movements, and regional destabilization.

Unfortunately none of it is true. None of it is happening.

The planet hasn't warmed at all this century.

So there'll be no violent storms (outside those the Earth has been throwing at us since the beginning of time), drought (ditto), mass migration, pandemics ...

Well written article though.

It's All About 'Global Warming'

All I have to say is this: These 10 congresspersons should be imprisoned:
Lawmakers' Global-Warming Trip Hit Tourist Hot Spots
By Brody Mullins and T.W. Farnam, Wall Street Journal

Washington -- When 10 members of Congress wanted to study climate change, they did more than just dip their toes into the subject: They went diving and snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef. They also rode a cable car through the Australian rain forest, visited a penguin rookery and flew to the South Pole.

The 11-day trip -- with six spouses traveling along as well -- took place over New Year's 2008. Details are only now coming to light as part of a Wall Street Journal analysis piecing together the specifics of the excursion.

The South Pole trip, led by Rep. Brian Baird (D., Wash.), ranks among the priciest. The lawmakers reported a cost to taxpayers of $103,000.

That figure, however, doesn't include the actual flying, because the trip used the Air Force planes, not commercial carriers. Flight costs would lift the total tab to more than $500,000, based on Defense Department figures for aircraft per-hour operating costs.

Lawmakers say the trip offered them a valuable chance to learn about global warming and to monitor how federal funds are spent. "The trip we made was more valuable than 100 hearings," said Rep. Baird, its leader. "Are there members of Congress who take trips somewhat recreationally? Perhaps. Is this what this trip was about? Absolutely not." [link]
The saddest part of all this is the fact that this Baird character believes what he's saying.

Is it any wonder that the American people are erupting when their Congressional representatives show up at local town hall meetings?

Republican & Democrat Alike

The Democrats in Washington and the media establishment are trying to paint the tea party protests that have carried over into town hall meetings as being some kind of organized effort on the part of Republicans to "bring Obama down."

Nice ploy.

But totally off the mark.

Because Republicans are catching hell from their constituents at these events just as Democrats are. Just ask Gresham Barrett. And Bob Inglis. And Mike Castle.

Why are Republicans getting the same medicine that is being dosed out to Democrats at these gatherings? Because they are part of the problem. Starting at the top:
Congress Gets an Upgrade
By Brody Mullins, Wall Street Journal

A Wall Street Journal analysis of congressional records found that foreign travel by members of Congress and aides was increasing. Last year, House members spent about 3,000 days overseas on taxpayer-funded trips, up from about 550 in 1995, according to the Journal's analysis.

Lawmakers disclosed they spent about $13 million traveling the world last year, a tenfold increase since 1995, when travel records first were made available electronically. The travel costs are covered by an unlimited fund created by a three-decade-old law.

This month, for example, 11 separate congressional delegations will swing through Germany. House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio is leading five other lawmakers on a trip around the world. Sen. Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) is taking a group of senators and their spouses to Europe for three weeks. [link]
In case you missed that, Boehner and Shelby are Republicans. Who ought to know better.

Boehner and Shelby deserve to be booed at their next town hall meetings, just as every Democrat in Washington does.

This ...
... has to stop.

Graph courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.