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2018-6-11

Letter to the Editor: Wasting Taxpayer Money

I was so pleased to go onto your website as I do regularly and see some genuine “hard” news in the form of your report of the happenings at the recent Emporia City Council meeting.

Public notices and such perform a service of sorts, depending upon their source and content; sometimes, though, particularly with regard to meetings of local governing bodies, it is even more of a public service to report to local residents and taxpayers the actions and inactions of those they elect to serve and represent them.

The best example of that was the report of the discussion about the under-performance of the Greensville County public transportation system, which city council was duped into joining in and contributing to when provided with low-ball estimates as to how much it would cost city taxpayers. So now it turns out that the cost to the city is close to 10 times what it was estimated to be. Wisely, city council voted to serve notice that it would be withdrawing from the agreement as soon as contractually possible.

I recall so well having told my wife—and she recalls it—that the city council and the county board of supervisors were both being taken for a ride of their own when they embarked upon this venture.  As is the case so often these days, consultants are too often hired to do what elected officials are paid to do and decide whether a project supposedly for the benefit of those they serve is worthwhile or not. This one was not, which I knew from the outset. Both governing bodies should have known better. Consultants should have, too. Your report did not mention it, but I would be curious to know if the board of supervisors had gone back and questioned the wisdom of their recommendation. Also, if it cost city taxpayers that much more than expected, how much are their counterparts in the county having to shell out?

Of course, it could be argued that the reason the venture has failed is primarily the result of less-than-expected ridership. But shouldn’t the folks who recommended the system have taken into account the prevailing factors at the time that contributed to that?

If I were still a county taxpayer, I would be disturbed by this waste of my tax dollars. But to take that a step further, if I had been elected to the county governing body when I ran, and if  I had voted to go ahead with this project in the first place, I would be irate!

It is one thing to waste your own money; it is even worse to waste someone else’s.

Keith W. Mitchell
Charlotte, NC

(Editor's Note: Your letters may not always reflect the views of Emporia News. Letters to the Editor may be sent to news@emporianews.com and must include your name. Letters that may be considered inflamitory in nature will not be published. Do not include profanity, racial ephitets, lewd, demeaning or disparaging comments. Letters may be edited for space, clarity and/or grammar.)

Library Board Recognizes Dunn

At the May 9th Meherrin Regional Library Board of Trustees meeting, Trustee Marva Dunn was recognized for her dedicated service with a certificate of appreciation. Ms. Dunn has served on the Library Board representing the City of Emporia for two full four year terms plus a partial term. Her tenure as Trustee ends on June 30, 2018. Pictured (left to right): Library Director Becky Walker, with Trustees John Zubrod, Kathie Little, Sherri Bagley, Marva Dunn, Rebecca Akers, and Brenda Parsons.

Southside Regional Medical Center Professional Schools Is Now Southside College of Health Sciences

Colonial Heights, VA – Effective June 1, 2018, Southside Regional Medical Center Professional Schools will change its name to Southside College of Health Sciences. This name change is in keeping with our mission to offer individuals the opportunity to acquire knowledge, skills and competencies necessary for entry into practice in their chosen health discipline. In addition, this change will position us for future growth and expansion of our current programs, and develop additional program offerings while continuing to foster student success and life-long learning within their program of choice.

We will continue to function in our current structure and there will be no difference in the day-to-day operations within the school. Contact numbers, emails and our website will remain the same. However, we do anticipate a change in our website in the near future. You will be notified of this change prior to implementation.

Transcripts and diplomas will reflect the new name after June 1, 2018. Your financial aid, scholarship and/or loan information and processing will not be affected.

With more than 120 years spent educating individuals for entry into a healthcare profession, and graduating thousands of highly-qualified professionals who have served our community and beyond, we look forward to continued service and growth under this new name.

Should you have any questions regarding this name change, please feel free to contact:

Ms. Erica Jackson
Director of Enrollment Management
(804) 765-5214
Erica_jackson@srmcps.edu

State and Local Leaders Convene in Farmville for Virginia Rural Housing Roundtable

FARMVILLE, Va., June 8, 2018 – State, local and federal officials convened in Farmville on June 5 for a Virginia Rural Housing Roundtable luncheon designed to spark dialog around affordability, availability and other issues affecting rural housing across the Commonwealth.

More than 70 people participated in the event, which was hosted by the Virginia Rural Center and held on the campus of Longwood University.

“Like any complex policy issue, rural housing touches on all sorts of other complex policy issues,” said Longwood University President W. Taylor Reveley IV in his opening remarks.

Reveley pointed to transportation as an example, noting the challenges that were presented when Greyhound Bus Lines discontinued service in Farmville.

“The great opportunity that Virginia has is to show the country how our rural communities really can thrive, and I think the Commonwealth has a chance to do that,” Reveley said. “And the great minds that can make it all happen are gathered right here.”

Senator Frank Ruff, Chairman of the Virginia Rural Caucus, explained that housing is precisely the kind of issue that led to the formation the Caucus and a dedicated Virginia Rural Center organization 18 years ago.

“When you talk about housing, everyone thinks of urban issues,” said Ruff. “They do not look at us and they do not see us, and that’s a problem.”

Even at the federal level, “cities get designated money, whereas in rural parts of the country, we have to compete against each other to try to get any money at all,” Ruff said.

During the roundtable discussion, Matt King, CEO of Walk2Campus Holdings, praised state and federal programs that offer tax credits to developers of historic building rehabilitation projects as a victory for his firm, which has renovated houses and larger buildings in Farmville since 2004.

“Without that program, these projects were not viable,” said King, who also pointed to the cost of construction as a challenge in rural towns.

“It is as expensive if not more expensive to build in some of these smaller areas,” said King. “It takes a lot more creativity and a lot more hard work to get larger, commercial grade subcontractors – especially in this economy – to come to these places and do work in an affordable way.”

William Park, President of Pinnacle Construction & Development Corporation, who worked to revitalize a portion of Main Street in Farmville, echoed King’s remarks.

“Is it easier for me to build 250 units in Richmond, or to build 50 units in Farmville?” Park asked, comparing the economics of building in an urban area versus a small town.

Park said that his company often looks for the presence of a college, a hospital and a Super Wal-Mart in potential development sites.

“If it’s got those three things, then there’s a good chance that we can do market-rate housing. If not, more than likely it’s going to have to be affordable housing,” said Park, which typically requires pooling together low-income housing tax credits and a variety of other sources of funding.

“There’s always going to be a need in these rural areas,” said Park. “The challenge is just going to be finding the money to put it together to make it work.” 

Other panelists noted that the demographic need for affordable housing is surprisingly large, extending well above the poverty level.

“The people that we build homes for, they work in the hospital, they work for the college, they work in the public schools,” said Jayne Johnson, Executive Director of Farmville Area Habitat for Humanity. “Sometimes there is a perception that they always are on public assistance, and that’s just not true.”

“The top area right now that we see that really needs an answer is starter home affordability,” said Andrew P. McCoy, Ph.D., Director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research (VCHR) at Virginia Tech, describing challenges in the housing supply chain.

McCoy shared a story around an interesting dynamic playing out in the current real estate market. Older adults who want to downsize end up having to compete against younger buyers with rising incomes – and the starter homes they are bidding on are owned by middle-aged couples who are increasingly holding them for rental income.

“So that’s the complexity of what we’re seeing,” said McCoy. “But it also serves as a good time in the market to figure out how we can inject some innovation, and push along a process of getting the housing market to drive our economy.”

Other panelists suggested that it was time take a fresh look at manufactured housing – which has advanced significantly in recent years – as a way to help ease rural housing challenges.

“The manufactured housing of today is not the manufactured housing of the 1970’s or the 1980’s or the 1990’s,” said Erica Sims, Senior Associate of Development and Programs at Housing Virginia, a statewide partnership of public and private organizations and individuals focused on affordable housing.

Sims suggested it was time to “re-imagine manufactured housing” as a part of the solution to rural housing affordability, while also driving economic development.

“Manufactured housing has the additional benefit of being related to economic development because its factory-built housing that can provide new industry for areas,” said Sims.

Following the luncheon, attendees toured the Hotel Weyanoke, an iconic Farmville hotel built in the 1920s that was recently renovated and reopened by AOSS Ventures, a firm also noted for its multi-family housing development projects in Central and Southwest Virginia.

“Our goal today wasn’t to solve the rural housing problem, but to really start the conversation,” Ruff said at the conclusion of the luncheon. “I encourage you all to continue this dialog.”

For more information, visit www.cfrv.org.

About the Center for Rural Virginia: The Virginia Rural Center is a collaborative partnership of the Center for Rural Virginia and the Council for Rural Virginia. Together, these two organizations work with federal, state and local policymakers as well as business leaders to grow economic opportunities and preserve the quality of life throughout rural Virginia. To learn more visit www.cfrv.org.

ATTORNEY GENERAL HERRING STEPPING IN TO DEFEND THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT AND VIRGINIANS’ HEALTHCARE

~Since the President and Attorney General have abandoned defense of the ACA, Herring and his colleagues are stepping in to protect accessible, affordable healthcare and Virginians with preexisting conditions~

RICHMOND (June 8, 2018) – Attorney General Mark R. Herring and a coalition of 16 state attorneys general will be defending the Affordable Care Act and the American healthcare system now that President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have announced they will abandon defense of the ACA in the pending lawsuit Texas v. United States.  The Texas-led lawsuit, which now has the support of the U.S. Department of Justice, would end the ACA, threatening healthcare coverage for 20 million Americans, stripping protections from those with preexisting conditions, and ending billions of dollars in funding for critical healthcare programs and services nationwide. Attorney General Herring has joined this lawsuit to protect Virginians who benefit from the ACA, including Virginians with preexisting conditions and those who would suffer reduced access and increased premiums should this lawsuit succeed.

“It cannot be overstated how reckless, cruel, and dangerous this politically motivated lawsuit is,” said Attorney General Herring. “In seeking to strike down the entire ACA, these plaintiffs are playing games with the lives and financial well-being of millions of Americans and Virginians. Unfortunately, they now have powerful allies in President Trump and Attorney General Sessions. I will do everything I can to protect the progress we have made under the Affordable Care Act, including the life-changing Medicaid expansion that Governor Northam signed into law just yesterday. I will continue to fight to make sure that politics do not stand in the way of Virginians receiving high-quality, affordable healthcare.”

As part of their defense of the ACA, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues filed a brief yesterday in opposition to the Texas lawsuit, which seeks to end the ACA based on a far-fetched legal theory that the recently passed Republican tax bill rendered the ACA unconstitutional. Instead, Attorney General Herring and his colleagues argue that the Court should reject the request to strike down the ACA because it remains lawful, constitutional, and of vital importance to the health and well-being of Americans.

Since the ACA was implemented in 2009, Virginia’s uninsured rate has dropped from 16.4% to 12.4%, and the recently enacted Medicaid expansion is expected to drive it down even further.

If successful, Texas’ lawsuit would harm Virginia by:

  • Halting Medicaid expansion, which was signed into law in Virginia just yesterday with the goal of covering an additional 400,000 Virginians;

  • Allowing insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions or charge them more;

  • Allowing insurance companies to discriminate against women by charging them higher premiums;

  • Taking away seniors’ prescription drug discounts;

  • Ending $1.15 billion in tax credits that helped 335,000 Virginians afford insurance in 2017 alone;

  • Ending the healthcare exchange where more than 410,000 Virginians purchased their healthcare in 2017;

  • Stripping funding from our nation’s public health system, including work to combat the opioid epidemic; and

  • Ending billions in federal aid for healthcare, including $458 million in FY 2019 and $1.9 billion in FY 2020.

 In total, Americans living in the states that successfully intervened could lose half a trillion dollars in healthcare funding.

Attorney General Herring and his colleagues were allowed to join this case as defendants on May 16, 2018, meaning that the states can defend the ACA in place of President Trump and Attorney General Sessions, and can appeal any adverse ruling that threatens Virginians’ access to healthcare.

Joining Attorney General Herring in defending the ACA and filing the motion opposing Texas lawsuit are the Attorneys General of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawai’i, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota by and through its Department of Commerce, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia.

Attorney General Herring previously defended the healthcare rights of Virginians by leading a multistate coalition in the Fourth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States in the cases of King v. Sebelius. He intervened to defend "cost sharing reduction payments" that more than 220,000 Virginians rely on to afford healthcare, and successfully sued to block President Trump’s attempts to end the no-cost contraception benefit created by the ACA.

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