Books, Travel, Entertainment and More

Archive for the ‘West Virginia’ Category

Western Greenbrier County residents are outraged over the potential closure of the magistrates’ office in Rupert.

Posted by kinchendavid on February 7, 2007

Stephanie Ferrell Stover, APRP
Stover P.R. & Publishing
TEL 304-646-3065


Rupert resident Drema Shires and other local residents are circulating a petition that will be presented to the Greenbrier County Commission (GCC) at its regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday, February 8, at 7 PM in the upstairs courtroom at the Greenbrier County Courthouse in Lewisburg. Those wishing to speak out against the move are encouraged to sign up to speak at the meeting.


“We, the undersigned, are concerned citizens of Greenbrier County who oppose the removal of the Greenbrier County Magistrates’ Office in Rupert,” the petition states. “We are opposed to the removal of an office of the court, not only because it has been in Rupert since the Magistrate System began in 1976, but because Greenbrier County citizens who elected our commissioners and magistrates were given no consideration regarding the closing of the Rupert office or relocation of this office to a Lewisburg location which would house all three Greenbrier County magistrates.”


There are three magistrates, Doug Beard, Brenda Smith and Brenda Campbell in Greenbrier County. Only Beard is housed in the Rupert facility. Speculation is that the hush-hush relocation is due to Beard residing on the eastern end of the county and complaining about the travel back and forth to the western end of the county.


Local advocates for the economic development of Western Greenbrier County feel that this is just another ploy to take away much needed agencies and facilities from the western end of the county, cheating citizens of things and means necessary to maintain a positive way of life.


Anyone interested in signing the petition to stop the removal can do so at several locations in the western end of the county.  In Rainelle, petitions can be found at Wallace & Wallace Funeral Home, Peking Buffet Chinese Restaurant, Subway, the gas station at Rt 20 & Rt 60, McDonald’s, Hardees, Pizza Hut, J&S Restaurant and K&G Tire. In Rupert, petitions can be found at Lance’s Video Rental, City National Bank, Summit Bank, Dairy Delite, Anita’s Hair Circuit, Value Max, Handy Place, A&A Service Center and Western Greenbrier Senior Housing Senior Center. In Charmco, a petition is located at the Hillbilly Market. In Quinwood, petitions can be found at the B&M Grocery Store and the gas station across the street.


The prospective move to a building across the street from the county courthouse is expected to cost more than $3,000 per month in rent. The county magistrates currently rent space from the Rupert Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) for about $300-$650 per month. Residents are worried that removal of the Greenbrier County Sheriff’s Department, also housed in the Rupert VFD building, is next on the hit list.


Shires spoke to each commissioner of the GCC, President Lowell Rose, Betty Crookshanks and Brad Tuckwiller. Tuckwiller told Shires that the magistrates did not feel safe at the location in Rupert and that the move was their way of “making the department more efficient.” Rose reiterated Tuckwiller’s position, Shires said “but was much nicer about it.” Crookshanks, who is also a Rupert area resident, is totally against the move but with the other two commissioners voting against her, she doesn’t have much of a stand.



Western Greenbrier County residents are outraged over the potential closure of the magistrates’ office in Rupert (cont’d).


“The magistrates’ office has been operating efficiently at the Rupert location since 1976,” Shires said, “and I see no reason to move it. It’s not right that they are sneaking around doing this kind of thing without caring about what the people who elected them have to say about it.”


It has not been confirmed yet, but Judge James J. Rowe, who is the facilitator of the county courthouse, is expected to have to write to the U.S. Supreme Court to get the move approved.


Businesses wishing to allow the petitions to be displayed can do so by calling Shires at 392-6341.


Those concerned citizens not able to attend the county commission meeting Thursday can call or e-mail the county commissioners at the following telephone numbers and e-mail addresses:


Brad Tuckwiller, 646-8095, brad@jacobsandcompany.com

Lowell Rose, 646-8899, lynnbrook@hughes.net

Betty Crookshanks, 661-5232, bdcrookshanks@frontiernet.net

Greenbrier County Commission Hqs, 647-6699, jajacks@assessor.state.wv.us


For those wishing to express their concerns about economic development and other opportunities in Western Greenbrier County contact Stover Enterprises LLC at 304-646-3065 or via e-mail at SFerrellStover@aol.com.





Posted in News, West Virginia | 3 Comments »

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Del. Thompson, Where Are You? Having Lunch with Judge Crater?

Posted by kinchendavid on January 19, 2007

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Ron Thompson

Hinton, WV  – The Ron Thompson watch continues in Charleston, as well as in the 27th House of Delegates District of Raleigh and Summers Counties. As a person who voted for the Phantom of the Capitol (cue to overture of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera”), I want to know where the Beckley resident is.

Along with virtually every journalist in the state, I’ve tried contacting Thompson and got no response. Fellow delegates Linda Sumner, Mel Kessler and Virginia Mahan say they haven’t seen the missing delegate. He didn’t show up to take his oath of office. His personal belongings are packed up and reside in the office he shares with Kessler.

For those who haven’t been following this story, Thompson, a member of the House of Delegates since 1994, hasn’t been seen in the Capitol since last March. He missed the interims and special sessions and didn’t show up during the campaign that culminated in his placing third in the voting and being re-elected. He wasn’t at last fall’s candidate forum in Hinton, which I covered.

House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne – no relation to the missing delegate – has promised a “course of action” to deal with his AWOL fellow Democrat, according to Mannix Porterfield, writing in the Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 Register-Herald. Porterfield’s stories about Thompson would – if collected – make a fair sized book.

Joseph F. Crater

I suggested to several people that he’s the West Virginia equivalent of Judge Crater – and got blank looks from non-trivia fans. For more about New York Supreme Court Judge Joseph F. Crater, who disappeared on Aug. 6, 1930, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Crater

Judge Crater’s disappearance, when he was last seen leaving a restaurant and entering a taxi on his way to a Broadway show, became part of Americana. Comedians for years used the line “Judge Crater, call your office” and got plenty of laughs. Not so much anymore, because later disappearances took precedence.

Born in 1889 and appointed to the bench by Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Crater was presumed dead in 1939, allowing his widow to collect on his insurance policy. His disappearance, similar to that of Jimmy Hoffa later in the 20th Century, may have been a mob hit. There was, as readers of the Wikipedia entry will quickly discover, a mysterious trip to Atlantic City, N.J. with a showgirl about a month before the judge vanished. Maybe his wife found out about the showgirl and called for a hit on her wayward hubby.

Thompson’s absent status has prompted a threat of a lawsuit from the Affliliated Construction Trades Foundation in an effort to keep Thompson from collecting his annual $15,000 salary for not taking the oath.

Foundation Director Steve White is concerned about the lack of representation in the five-member 27th District, where the candidate who placed sixth — Kevin Maynus — is interested in Thompson’s seat should the missing delegate not claim it. Maynus, a Democratic candidate, says he has contacted party officials in both Raleigh and Summers counties to let them know he wants the seat if Thompson vacates it, according to Porterfield.

There have been sightings of Thompson, brief though they may be. One source, who requested total anonymity, told me Thompson’s appearance has changed radically. I’m guessing that he looks like the Jack Bauer character when he was first seen on the 6th season premiere of the TV show “24,” with a long scraggly beard. Maybe we could add a rodeo clown red fright wig.

I hesitate to make light of Thompson’s lack of visibility, but he did run for re-election and – as I said above — I did vote for him, so I have a stake in his re-appearance.

Ron Thompson, call your office! Or, better yet, call me: I’m in the book.

Posted in News, Parallel Universe, West Virginia | Leave a Comment »

COMMENTARY: Trader Joe’s: Still a Perfect Piece in the Downtown Huntington Puzzle

Posted by kinchendavid on December 20, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Huntington, WV  – Back on Sept. 27, 2005, I did a commentary suggesting that what downtown Huntington needed – in Pullman Square and the area around it – was a specialty grocery store catering to the people shopping in Pullman Square and places like Shawn Bresnahan’s Le Cook Store.

The ideal store would carry the kind of items people living and shopping in downtown Huntington desire – and there will be plenty of those in coming months and years – Organic foods, foods that require little or no preparation beyond a good microwave oven, good, inexpensive wines and other beverages, a wide variety of cheese, high quality bread, prepared deli food for parties, etc.

Tony Rutherford’s latest upbeat story on downtown Huntington reminded me that Tony was part of a group seeking a restaurant when the idea of a Trader Joe’s in Huntington hit me like the proverbial bolt of lightning.

Quoting from my earlier story:

A Trader WHAT?, you ask. If you’ve lived in California, as I did for 16 years, you don’t have to explain Trader Joe’s. They’re specialty food emporiums geared to those seeking what I call affordable gourmet food of all kinds. Typically occupying only 10,000 square feet, TJs – everybody in the Trader Joe’s cult calls them that – have the most loyal customers of any retailer I’ve seen. TJ shoppers really are members of a cult.

Trader Joe’s carries an extensive array of domestic and imported foods and beverages including fresh artisan breads, Arabica bean coffees, international frozen entrées, 100% juices, fresh crop nuts, deli items, and vitamins and supplements, as well as the basics, like milk and eggs – all at prices that rival discount grocery stores. At the stores I’ve been to, someone is offering samples of foods for sale in the store, often several demonstrators with their colorful shirts.

Founded by Californian Joe Coulombe almost 40 years ago – the first Trader Joe’s opened in Pasadena, Calif. in 1967 — Trader Joe’s has been owned since 1979 by the giant Aldi group of Germany. Yes, the very same Aldi group that runs the warehouse-type supermarket in the west end of Huntington and thousands of similar ones in Europe, Australia and the U.S.

That’s where the similarity ends. Trader Joe’s stores feature employees garbed in Hawaiian shirts and khaki shorts. Even the store manager – called the “Captain” in TJ-speak – dons a colorful Hawaiian shirt when he or she takes the helm. The Aldi people kept Coulombe’s policy of extensive local autonomy for each store’s “captain,” allowing him or her to tailor the merchandise to the local market. Aldi didn’t mess with a formula that was working very well indeed.

After saturating the California market by the late 1980s with more than 100 stores, the front-office types of Trader Joe’s started opening stores in Boston and other East Coast markets. They also expanded to Chicago, Detroit, Cincinnati, Columbus and similar Midwest locations – always in upscale neighborhoods or suburbs. There are now more than 200 stores in 19 states, with about 25 new ones opening every year.

TJ customers are highly educated, which prompted that light bulb to go off. My old shorthand was “Volvo-driving, professor types.” Huntington is really a city of 320,000 people spanning several counties and three states – West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio.

The Tri-State has many people who would flock to a Trader Joe’s for their daily bread, soup – the stores have marvelous private-label canned soups that make the nationally advertised preservative-laden brands taste very ordinary by comparison – and just about anything an educated consumer could want. TJ stores usually have 2,000 different items, compared to 7,000 or so at a conventional (boring, in my opinion) supermarket.

The Marshall University community alone could support a TJ’s in Pullman Square. There’s one not far from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the two on the North Side of Chicago draw heavily from university students at De Paul, the Northwestern University Medical Center complex and the many upwardly mobile residents of Lincoln Park, Lakeview, Wicker Park, Bucktown, Old Town, etc.

(Update, just back from an early December trip to Chicago, I stopped in at the newest Trader Joe’s, on Ontario Street, near Rush Street, in Chicago. This River North store serves one of the most upscale demographics in the country. Not all of TJ customers are rich, by any means, but they’re the kind of customers retailers would kill for!)

In Chicago recently, my shopping selection in the Lakeview store on Lincoln Avenue included pastrami, chili, corn chowder – something I love that’s difficult to find in many supermarkets – green olives in a foil pouch, dark rye bread and other items to make a delicious, healthful meal. I’m a soup/salad/sandwich kinda guy!

Virtually all the canned goods and other items are private-label brands, manufactured to TJ’s rigid specification minus preservatives and additives. Vegetarians will find the store a paradise, as will those who prefer Kosher food for religious or health reasons. Do I sound enthusiastic??!! Blame it on my addiction to TJ stores in Sherman Oaks, Granada Hills and Encino, as well as the two Chicago ones.

Lest I forget, there’s the Trader Joe’s “Fearless Flyer,” which appears periodically on no set schedule and has cleverly written and illustrated copy on new products at the stores. It’s fun to read, it’s irreverent and it has been called a cross between Consumer Reports and Mad magazine! Each edition highlights a selection of Trader Joe’s products that the company buyers believe are worthy of customer interest, including heat-and-eat meals and items that are reduced in fat and calories or have other special attributes.

Perhaps without even knowing about the saying from master showman Roxy (S.L. Rothafel), the man behind New York City’s Roxy Theatre and Radio City Music Hall, Joe Coulombe and his successors – including octogenarians Theo and Karl Albrecht of Aldi – have consistently followed the maxim “Don’t give the people what they want—give ‘em something better.”

You don’t need an MBA to succeed in business following that advice!

Web site: for more information about Monrovia, Calif.-based Trader Joe’s: http://www.traderjoes.com

Posted in Guest Commentaries, West Virginia | Leave a Comment »

MANN TALK: The Return of the Sun

Posted by kinchendavid on December 18, 2006

By Perry Mann

Hinton, WV  – Whatever made the universe knew its geometry. It knew that if it tilted the earth’s axis 23.5 degrees from the perpendicular of the plane of the earth’s orbit around the sun, there would be seasons on that tilted planet, a blessing whose worth it reckoned would be beyond calculation.

In the northern climes, at this time of the year of the earth’s orbit, all life on earth, whether or not it has knowledge of geometry, rejoices in the return of the sun and the start—but also the beginning of the end—of winter. For all life instinctively, if not consciously, is aware that without the sun, not even shriven Hope would know salvation.

In cities and suburbs where lights hold back darkness and obscure the heavens and where thermostats activate central heating when temperature drops below a degree that maintains cozy comfort, the sun is taken for granted and is given little notice. That the sun is the source of life for everything, that it grows the food for all life, warms the earth, gives inspiration by its dawn and twilights and its rising and settings to the eyes and souls of peasants and patricians, the dumb and the smart, the illiterate and the artist—is little noticed by cosmopolites relative to how the sun was noted by primitive peoples.

One can imagine how it was once man had gained consciousness of a past, present and future and yet knew nothing of the heavens and their workings. One can imagine that in the north, he was getting uneasy by the end of October, for he noticed that day after day the sun was with him a shorter time and its rays when it was with him were not so warming. Suppose, he worried, its presence continues slowly to decrease and its warmth to attenuate. Suppose sometime it sets and never appears in the east again. Such a thought would have put anyone in a panic and a frantic search for a remedy and a salvation.

One would imagine that there would be much to do in the way of sacrifices, rituals, prayers, and promises officiated and offered by the elders and seers designed to mollify and propitiate the power behind the scene so that it would change the course of the sun and bring back its light and heat and the full glory of its dawns and twilights. Then the always hopeful, in spite of the bleakness of the leafless forest, of a dearth of life, of a coffin of ice, would deck whatever abode they had with green and red and spread upon the tables some of their surplus as they waited for the outcome of their appeasements of their gods.

And one can imagine that on or about four days after what one today knows as the winter solstice, a chilled citizen of that northern clime would by some crude clock discover and report to the watchful that the sun had not only not retreated farther to the south but in fact inched perceptibly to the north. Such a report would have indicated that the gods had heard their prayers and had decided to return the sun to thaw their land and to assure them of the light of life and of its comfort and warmth and would have thereby initiated within the community a celebration of the event in which goodwill, brotherhood, gladness, cheer, and charity reigned during a festival of feasts.

I have seen scenes in history books of serfs flailing grain in the 15th century, of serfs cultivating a field with a harrow in the 13th century, of laborer generations ago scything hay, cradling wheat, shocking wheat and hay, just as I did under the mentorship of my grandfather on a farm in Summers County in the Twenties and Thirties. And I have known the sincere and joyous embrace of the winter solstice with its promise that the pinch and chill, the snow and ice, the mud and muck of winter were on the way out and that spring was on the way in.

I remember the depth of winter particularly when dinnertime came. The meal was served in the kitchen, the only room with heat except the living room where the fireplace with backlog and forelog and logs in between radiated heat and light and attracted after supper outstretched palms and chilled backsides of everyone in residence. The kitchen was lighted by a kerosene lamp that gave not much more illumination than a bottle of lightning bugs. But ‘twas enough to reveal the dishes of the meat, vegetables, fruits and grains harvested and preserved to sustain the family until spring. From a hilltop one viewing the farm house could detect only that faint light from fireplace and lamp, a speck of lame light in a vast ocean of darkness. Like all life, we hunkered down, drew close to the fireplace, and awaited the drama and the eventual demise of winter and reprise of spring.

I never read of the newborn Jesus having to spend his first night in a manger that I do not remember those dark evenings when I went to the barn with lantern to feed the stock that were waiting patiently for hay and corn. I would climb to the loft and fork down hay and open the grain box, select a number of ears of corn and distribute the hay to the cows and fill the horses’ mangers with corn. The box with the corn in it was the sort of box that Mary’s baby was laid for the night.

It was politically wise for the church fathers to select the winter solstice as the birthdate of Christ, just as it was politically wise and necessary for the bishops at Nicaea to vote to accept the belief that Jesus was God; for without that divinity attributed to him, Christianity would probably have long since been a footnote of history.

Christ’s birthday is occasion enough for celebration but even more basic is the return of the sun—for without the sun all life would freeze and resolve itself into mere ice.

* * * *

Perry Mann is a former teacher, a lawyer, a former prosecuting attorney of Summers County and a regular columnist for the Nicholas Chronicle in Summersville and Huntington News Network.

Posted in Guest Commentaries, West Virginia | Leave a Comment »

TRAC Founders Entertain, Educate Audience with Raptor Show

Posted by kinchendavid on November 5, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Sandstone, WV – A capacity audience in the auditorium of the National Park Services Sandstone Visitor Center met six West Virginia raptor birds in an entertaining and educational program by the Three Rivers Avian Center (TRAC) here Saturday, Nov. 4, 2006.

TRAC’s Wendy and Ron Perrone showed two species of owls, an eagle, a falcon, a kestrel and a hawk to a family audience in the facility about 10 miles north of Hinton on I-64.

Photo Photo Photo Photo
View Photos

The Perrones, who founded the Brooks, WV-based rehabilitative and veterinary care facility for wild non-game birds 16 years ago, alternated showing Perry the peregrine falcon, Spirit the golden eagle, Twister the barn owl, Hoolie the great horned owl, Apex the American kestrel and Nick the red-tailed hawk to an appreciative audience.

Many in the audience asked questions after each bird was displayed and plenty of photographs were taken. The six raptors displayed were rescued by a wide variety of people. Wendy Perrone, displaying Spirit, said the golden eagle – who has a seven-foot wingspan – was spotted alongside a Greenbrier County road by a five-year-old boy, who asked his father to stop the car. The young eagle’s life was spared and he’s now four years old; he’ll live another 46 years.

Thanks to facilities like TRAC, endangered species of wild raptors are returning to West Virginia and the nation. Many of the thousands of birds rescued by the facility have been returned to the wild; others serve as mothers and fathers for recuperating birds. Ron Perrone, answering a question about the red-tailed hawk, said the much publicized “pale male” hawk living in New York City is indeed the same species as Nick, a female who was found in Nicholas County, WV.

For more information about the 102-acre Summers County-based wildlife center, check out the TRAC web site: http://www.tracwv.org.

Posted in News, West Virginia | Leave a Comment »

West Virginia Raptors Featured at Summers County Program on Nov. 4

Posted by kinchendavid on November 1, 2006

By Staff
Photos by Brian Marrs

Sandstone, WV  – Here’s a chance to meet some West Virginia raptor birds – at least six of them — up close and personal from the world-renowned Three Rivers Avian Center (TRAC) in Brooks (Summers County) WV in a Raptor Rendezvous.

TRAC’s Wendy and Ron Perrone will be showing the birds beginning at 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 4, 2006 in the auditorium of the National Park Service’s Sandstone Visitors Center at Exit 139 (Hinton-Sandstone) of I-64.

Featured will be Perry the peregrine falcon, Spirit the golden eagle, Twister the barn owl, Hoolie the great horned owl, Apex the American kestrel and Nick the red-tailed hawk.

The NPS says: “Bring your camera. Bring your family and friends. Come and meet these special birds up close in a fun-filled and instructive program…free and open to the public.” For more information call the visitor zcenter at (304) 466-0417.

TRAC web site: http://www.tracwv.org/index.htm

Posted in News, West Virginia | Leave a Comment »

Ballard’s Recalls Egg Salad Products in 17 States

Posted by kinchendavid on October 23, 2006

By Staff  from Ballard’s News Release

Wayne, WV –  Ballard’s Farm Sausage Inc. is recalling the following egg salad products: Ballard’s 12 oz. egg salad, Food City 12 oz. egg salad and Valu Time 11 oz. egg salad — because of contamination with Listeria monocytogenes. This organism can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people and others with weakened immune systems. Although healthy individuals may suffer only short-term symptoms such as high fever, severe headache, stiffness, nausea, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Listeria infection can cause miscarriages and stillbirths among pregnant women.

The recalled egg salads were distributed in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana, Alabama, Delaware, Illinois and Florida.

The contamination was noted after routine testing by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. This test revealed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in egg product.

The production of the product has been temporarily suspended while the company continues to investigate the source of the problem. The products being recalled are sold in a clear plastic cup with the description cleared displayed on the side of the cup. All of the egg salad items being recalled, the Ballard’s 12 oz. egg salad, Food City 12 oz. egg salad and the Valu Time 11 oz. egg salad, will have on the side of the cup a “Best if used by 11/7/06” description.

At this time no illnesses have been reported in connection with this contamination.

Consumers are urged to return the egg salad items with the identification of “Best if used by 11/7/06” to their location of purchase for a full refund.

Consumers with any questions may contact the Wayne, WV-based company at 800-346-7675.

Posted in News, West Virginia | Leave a Comment »

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Echoing Line from ‘Body Heat’, Blankenship Vows to Do ‘Whatever It Takes’ to Make WV GOP

Posted by kinchendavid on October 23, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV – In Larry Kasdan’s classic 1981 noir film “Body Heat”, the character played by the late Richard Crenna tells his wife’s lover, sleazy lawyer Ned Racine, played by William Hurt, that he’s a success in business because he does “whatever it takes” to accomplish his goals.

Successful Florida businessman Edmund Walker (the Crenna character), meet Don L. Blankenship, Marshall University accounting graduate and multimillionaire and the 56-year-old CEO of Massey Energy that the New York Times reported on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006 has vowed to spend “’whatever it takes’ to help win a majority in the State Legislature for the long-beleaguered Republican Party in a state that is a Democratic and labor stronghold.”

Times reporter Ian Urbina may be exaggerating the power of Democrats in West Virginia – a state that went for Bush-Cheney in 2000 and 2004 and certainly provided his margin of victory in 2000 – but his excellent story (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/22/us/22blankenship.html?th&emc=th) reflects my experience with Blankenship’s mailings to registered voters urging them to vote for Republicans and retire Democrats. Earlier this month I wrote two stories about the most recent mailings of Blankenship urging the defeat of candidates for the state’s House of Delegates.

(http://www.huntingtonnews.net/state/061016-kinchen-mailings.html and http://www.huntingtonnews.net/state/061013-kinchen-blakenship.html). Urbina quotes 30-year-incumbent congressman Nick J. Rahall, D-WV, who’s aware of the power of the Mingo County native: “Don Blankenship would actually be less powerful if he were in elected office. He would be twice as accountable and half as feared.”

Blankenship, who has described himself as a “poor man with a lot of money,” reportedly has no political ambitions like fellow multimillionaires New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine or Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City, Urbina says. Instead he prefers to exert “his financial clout in the mold of Warren Buffett and George Soros, choosing issues and candidates in line with his partisan philosophy.”

Urbina: “Union leaders say Mr. Blankenship… is the main reason that less than a quarter of the state’s coal miners are now organized, down from about 95 percent just three decades ago. And environmentalists describe him as the biggest force behind a highly destructive form of mining called mountaintop removal that involves using explosives to blow off the tops of mountains to reach coal seams.”

While he’s an ogre to Democrats, union leaders and environmentalists, Urbina writes, “Local Republicans admiringly say that Mr. Blankenship combines the strategic savvy of Karl Rove, the White House adviser, and the fund-raising skill of Richard Mellon Scaife, the conservative financier. Mr. Blankenship personally oversees his media campaigns; he writes advertisements and designs polls, and speaks on talk radio more than the chairman of the state Republican Party.”

Urbina quotes the state’s GOP chairman, Doug McKinney: “This has never been an easy state for Republicans…But finally this state is at a tipping point, and Don is a big reason for that.”

Money talks and you know what walks…In a state where “candidates who win typically spend less than $20,000,” Urbina wirtes, “Mr Blankenship has spent at least $700,000 in his current effort to oust Democrats, and the state is awash with lawn signs, highway billboards, radio advertisements and field organizers paid for by him.”

Urbina notes that “In 2002, Republicans picked up 11 seats in the House of Delegates (but are still in the minority), and local political analysts say it is possible, though a long shot, that the Republicans will pick up the additional 18 House seats they need to control the Legislature in November. The Democrats retain a strong majority in the Senate.”

The New York Times reporter says that Blankenship declined to be interviewed for his story. He quoted political consultant Gary Abernathy: “Don is really the linchpin of it all.”

Considering his success with his Marshall degree – he received about $34 million in compensation in 2005 – roughly four times the industry standard, Urbina notes – the state’s second largest university should consider naming its business school after him. Just joking…that’ll never happen.

For more about Blankenship and his influence, consult my Sept. 16, 2006, review of Jeff Goodell’s “Big Coal”


There’s a lot of Blankenship in the Goodell book.

Posted in Parallel Universe, West Virginia | Leave a Comment »

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Baby Boomer Study Shows Changing Housing Needs, Uncertain Retirement – If Any

Posted by kinchendavid on October 19, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV   – I don’t know about you, but I’m sick and tired of reading about the “Baby Boomer” generation – those born between 1946 and 1964 – and their whining about how tough things will be for them. But the generation was the biggest in the U.S. – 78 million – far more than the one immediately preceding them to which I belong, so I’d better get used to the Time magazine covers, etc., etc.

I may be tired of reading – and writing – about Boomers, but my attitudes on many things mirror the generation. Many of my “Sandwich Generation” – those born from about 1935 to 1945 – are more into jazz and early rock music. We often emulated the Beatniks rather than the Hippies, but we created the zeitgeist for the Boomer Generation.

The latest on Baby Boomers comes from the National Association of Realtors, a trade group that’s vitally interested in the housing wants and needs of all generations. I’m guessing that most of the recent presidents of NAR are Boomers and certainly most of the staffers in Chicago and Washington, DC are Boomers or the post-Boomer generation.

Here’s what the NAR says about Boomers:

“Baby boomers have a wide variety of housing needs in the future, depending on their retirement plans – or lack thereof – according to a study by the National Association of Realtors®.

“Most of the 78 million baby boomers are far from retirement, with diverse plans and timelines, resulting in different housing requirements and significant shifts from patterns established by earlier generations. The comprehensive study is based on a survey of nearly 2,000 American baby boomers born between 1946 and 1964 – the largest generation in U.S. history; the survey was conducted for NAR by Harris Interactive®.

“David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said baby boomers are living longer and are different from previous generations because they have no set path for retirement and have more varied circumstances in life. ‘The differences from past generations – and between baby boomers themselves – will have a significant impact on housing needs over the next 10 to 20 years that is very different from the World War II generation, and many boomers simply don’t know how they’ll retire,’ he said.

More from Lereah, a Boomer himself and a really smart guy: “A significant portion of baby boomers married later in life and had children at a later age, which means many will continue to work beyond the traditional retirement age. Older boomers are thinking about retirement, but one-third expect to go back and forth between periods of work and periods of leisure, and another 35 percent want to work at least part-time or start a business – all of this will have an impact on the kind of homes they buy as well as where they buy them.” The median age at which baby boomers expect to stop working is 70, but 27 percent say they never intend to stop working.

Lereah adds that most baby boomers are currently in the workforce, a good portion of them have children living at home, and boomers remain a driving force in the housing market. “Just over a quarter of the boomer generation is aged 55 to 60, which is when many people traditionally begin to focus on their retirement plans, but analysis of the survey suggests they are more likely to stay in the workforce longer and will be less likely to downsize than previous generations – the leading edge of the boomer generation is the key to future housing impact,” he says.

“Because they will be in the workforce longer, boomers will postpone purchase of retirement property and won’t be making those moves as early as assumed,” Lereah says.

Forty-two percent of survey respondents would like to retire in the South, 32 percent in the West, 15 percent in the Midwest and 12 percent in the Northeast. “This tells us that the Sunbelt will remain a traditional draw for retirees,” Lereah said.

Most boomers live in two-income households, with a median income in 2005 of $64,700, which is 31 percent higher than the median for all households.

This generation makes up 37.5 percent of U.S. households, but receives nearly half of all aggregate household income. “This translates into a lot of purchasing power, and helps to explain why 8 out of 10 boomers are homeowners,” Lereah said.

For baby boomers earning $100,000 or more, the study shows that more than 9 in 10 are homeowners. Among middle-income boomer homeowners, home equity accounts for fully half of their net worth. Even so, 19 percent of respondents are renters, 37 percent say they have just enough to make ends meet and 17 percent say they are having financial difficulty.

A quarter of baby boomers own one or more other kinds of real estate in addition to a primary residence: 13 percent own land, 8 percent own rental property, 7 percent a vacation home or seasonally occupied property, 2 percent commercial real estate and 3 percent some other kind of real estate.

Four out of 10 respondents intend to convert their vacation home into a primary residence in retirement. Analysis by NAR shows baby boomers are proportionately more active in the second home market, owning 57 percent of all vacation/seasonal homes and 58 percent of rental property.

Ten percent of boomers indicate they plan to buy some form of real estate within the next year, which corresponds with U.S. Census Bureau data that shows 3.5 million boomer households moved during the last year. Two-thirds are considering a primary residence, but the rest are thinking about land, second homes or commercial property.

Now, here’s something I can identify with, having “officially” retired in 2001, when I started drawing Social Security benefits, but continuing to work a variety of part-time jobs, including editing and writing for Huntington News Network:

“Most survey respondents were unsure of their financial future, with three-quarters saying they are not financially prepared for retirement and many expressing anxiety about their ability to retire. Some boomers said they might withdraw retirement funds for housing or real estate expenses.

Peter Francese, an independent demographic trends analyst and founder of American Demographics magazine, consulted on the findings. “For the vast majority of baby boomers, retirement is somewhere off in the future,” he said. “Considering that boomers are healthier than their predecessors, and are more likely to work in an office setting, many of them may work five or 10 years beyond the traditional retirement age of 65,” he said.

Half of boomers who live in an urban area would like to retire in a small town or rural area. Their ideal retirement location characteristics include a lower cost of living, being near family, quality health care, better climate and being near a body of water.

More than a third of all baby boomers want to retire in an urban or suburban setting, motivated by quality health care and cultural activities. Half of boomers said they would consider living in an age-restricted community. Given a longer tenure in the work force baby boomers may choose a larger home than earlier generations, speculates Francese. “Boomers may want or need a somewhat larger dwelling that includes one or two home offices, and a low-maintenance home on a single level would have broad appeal to this group,” Francese said.

From the study: Almost one in four boomer households have a high net worth of $500,000 or more, and this ratio is expected to increase in the future as the generation ages. Virtually all high-net-worth households are homeowners (97 percent), and 47 percent are likely to also own other real estate in addition to their primary residence. More than a third expect to help children or grandchildren with a down payment on a home. Wealthier boomers want amenities where they retire, including cultural activities such as museums and art galleries. As a result, they are more likely to retire in an urban area or city.

Although most boomers are married couples and 27 percent have children under the age of 18, nearly two out of five baby boom households are nontraditional households, most of which are headed by women.

Non-traditional households may have different needs and desires about where they want to live. For boomers with children, neighborhood schools are of obvious concern, but for those without children, security may be a bigger issue.

Twenty percent of boomer households are headed by women, but because women aged 60 to 69 account for a quarter of homeowners in that age group, the number of women boomer homeowners is likely to increase much faster than average as they age.

Francese said there’s little doubt that the vast majority of baby boomers will delay retirement. “Some will put off retirement because they have to, but many because they want to,” he said. “Many will have a larger income stream to purchase possibly two homes, which they may use to move back and forth between their retirement life and their working life.”

“However, some caution should be exercised here regarding retirement preferences,” Francese said. “Surveys of future intentions often include a dose of wishful thinking, and attitudes can be influenced by the media and other outside pressures. For example, many are probably not going to be able to, or even want to, retire in a small rural town far from their current home, even if they may dream about it currently.”

Preliminary study results were released May 18 at NAR’s Midyear Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo, with a focus on the real estate and second-home appetite of boomers. The more extensive analysis released today is also supplemented with context and data from the Census Bureau’s mid-2006 estimates of population characteristics; it offers an abundance of information helpful for planning to Realtors®, builders, mortgage lenders and others connected to the housing industry.

The survey for the 2006 National Association of Realtors® study, BABY BOOMERS AND REAL ESTATE: Today and Tomorrow, was conducted online by Harris Interactive® between March 31 and April 6, 2006, among a nationwide cross section of 1,969 U.S. adults born between 1946 and 1964. Figures for age, sex, race, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. With 95 percent certainty, overall results have a sampling error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points; the sampling error for various sub-sample results is higher and varies.

The study can be ordered by calling 800/874-6500, or online at: http://www.realtor.org/babyboomerstudy. The cost is $50 for NAR members and $125 for non-members.

A final note from somebody who moved from Los Angeles to a small town – Hinton, WV – in 1992. The Wall Street Journal recently spotlighted small towns as retirement destinations, including actor Andy Griffith’s hometown of Mount Airy, NC – the model for Mayberry. I’ve been to Mount Airy a number of times and like it. It’s a not near any body of water, unlike Hinton with its rivers and Bluestone Reservoir, but it seems to be a good place to live. Boomers – and others – seeking a “retirement” home could benefit from looking at places like Hinton, Bluefield (both the WV and VA ones), Princeton, WV – and small towns in West Virginia and elsewhere not far from cities.

Happy hunting!

Posted in Parallel Universe, Real Estate, West Virginia | 1 Comment »

Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours Begin This Weekend

Posted by kinchendavid on September 25, 2006

By Staff

Parkersburg, WV — The Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours are haunted and historical walking tours of downtown Parkersburg, West Virginia led by real ghost hunters, psychic mediums and paranormal authors.

The tour covers local folklore as well as actual cases of real hauntings which occur up until to the current day. In its tenth season, the tour is broken up in a Friday night “Haunted City” tour covering the downtown section which includes stories of Blennerhassett Island, Indrid Cold, and a haunted bookstore and also a Saturday night “Haunted Houses” tour which passes by a haunted graveyard and haunted houses in the beautiful upper historical district of early Parkersburg.

These are the dates for the 2006 Ghost Tours.

Friday & Saturday September 29th & 30th

Friday & Saturday October 6th & 7th

Friday & Saturday October 13th & 14th

Friday & Saturday October 20th & 21st

Friday & Saturday October 27th & 28th

Sunday & Monday October 29th & 30th

Tuesday October 31st — Special Halloween Tour

Last Tours! November 3rd & 4th, 2006

All Tours Begin at 7:30 p.m in the lobby of the Blennerhassett Hotel in downtown Parkersburg – at 4th & Market Streets. For more information on the ghost tour, call (304) 428-7978. For directions to the Blennerhassett Hotel call (304) 422-3131.

Posted in Travel, West Virginia | Leave a Comment »