Archive for May, 2017

Secret Meeting

Thursday, May 25th, 2017

(Editor’s note: Served as a Member of the WV Racing Commission from February, 2013 until January 31, 2017 when Governor Justice replaced me after taking office.)

A visit to the website of the WV Racing Commission revealed they are ending the ability for interested parties including the press and commission staff to “call in to the meeting”. Those not based in Charleston will need to travel & spend money to know what is taking place.  This is a disturbing development.

Those investing in the racing industries are struggling in the changing industry. They need a cost effective way to know what decision makers are considering and the commission discussion before taking action.

Some of those employed by the commission are remotely located in distance places from the state capitol will need to spend (ever dwindling) commission funds to be present for meetings that may only last an hour. Often this staff needs to provide input on agenda matters as well as being informed.

This appears to be a step to keep the public & press in the dark. Whether it is required by law or regulation state government commission meetings should be made easy for parties to listen and participate.

When I was named as a Commissioner I urged regular standing meetings, more information to be provided on the agenda (outside of personnel matters) and a robust website that was easier for everyone to use. Persons should have an opportunity to listen and learn as well as speak – under public comments – without making an eight hour trip.

What are they trying to hide?

After Thought

Friday, May 12th, 2017

 [Editor’s Note: During the Reagan Administration I was responsible for rural development policy based at the U. S. Department of Agriculture.]

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue went to an urban city (Cincinnati) to tell rural citizens and communities he was upgrading the department’s rural development agency. His spin was the program would report directly to him.  Who is he kidding?

Best guess is Perdue will create a “special assistant” position of which there are hundreds in Washington to oversee the programs of rural business, housing & utilities. Prior to Perdue’s action there was an Undersecretary for Rural Development to promote the cause of non-farm Rural America inside the department and on Capitol Hill.  He eliminated the Undersecretary position yesterday.

Even with an Undersecretary for Rural Development it was hard to get a few minutes of the Secretary’s time. Rural Development has always been the “red headed step child” at USDA.  Now what?

Why is it important to have an Undersecretary for Rural Development? First, it requires Senate confirmation and without it there is far less accountability to Congress.  Also, the position of an Undersecretary has much more clout to make the case for non-farm Rural America inside the department and on Capitol Hill.  Besides the title Undersecretary commands much more media and attention.

By the way. Congress passed the Rural Development Act of 1972.  Basically this legislation gave the responsibility to Department of Agriculture to coordinate rural development throughout the Federal government.  Now what?

Rural community leaders, economic development organizers, national state & local organizations and advocates of rural lifestyle need to get involved. The only hope to turn back this effort is for Congress to say no.

Social media gives us as rural advocates an opportunity to organize. Tweet your concern using the hashtag #saveruraldevelopment .  Post on Facebook your story about how your community has benefited from the rural development programs.  Email or write your Member of Congress to #saveruraldevelopment.