Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Political Old Timers Used to Call This a "Boom"

In the old days of politics, one used to often hear about "booms."

These were efforts to boost one person or another into politics or into a higher office.  Sometimes, the desired candidate knew full well about the boom, other times they didn't.  Sometimes they embraced the support, other times they quashed it politely.

When effective, they brought a groundswell of popular and party support behind a figure who could run a great race and do a lot of good.

Such a boom may be forming around Holly Fisher.

Delegate Suzette Raines, due to several misfortunes piling on her almost at the same time, had to exit her race.  Today, Kanawha County Republicans learned that they could not nominate a replacement for her on the ballot.

But the people can still choose a Republican to replace a Republican via write in votes.

Write in wins are rare, but they do happen.  To win, a candidate needs high name recognition and media presence.

For the 35th delegate district, Republicans could not choose better than Holly Fisher.

Last spring, Fisher's gun photos brought national media attention.  The mother and military wife represented herself and her ideas well during her appearances on television and radio.

Fisher has been active in Republican circles for a long time and, as a wife and mother, gets the concerns of many West Virginia voters.

No one else could quickly mobilize as much name recognition and potential financial support as Fisher.

Is she even interested?  Who knows at this point. There is, however, a lot of interest in convincing her to make the run.

But she would be perfect.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Police In Military Style Attire Confront Rioters In St. Louis Area

Set aside for a second what caused the St. Louis riots this week.  Also set aside the fact that there is no connection between anger directed at social injustice and looting a shoe store.

The Atlantic ran a story today with a picture of three officers dressed in fatigues, military style rifles raised at a small young man with arms up.  One can understand the weapons, at least in a riot situation. Police should be able to protect themselves in dangerous situations.

But what about the combat fatigues?

The militarization of American police continues unabated.  Reports of small town and even campus police obtaining armored personnel carriers strike most people as absurd.  SWAT style raids have hit farms who sell raw milk to willing customers as well.

Add to this the outpouring of stories where police needlessly shoot dogs.  In Mason County, police shot a dog on its owner's property where no crime had taken place.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 expressly forbids the US military from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the country.  It passed before the rise of city and state police departments, as well as much of the federal law enforcement apparatus.  Police departments need equipment and weapons in case they must confront the most dangerous elements.

They, however, should not be outfitted in military style apparel unless a specific situation calls for it.

And we cannot allow police departments to grow into alternative military units.  The US Army in 1898 had about 28,000 officers and men.  The New York City Police Department now has around 40,000 officers.

Traditionally, city police wear blue uniforms.  Some say that this goes back to the London Metropolitan Police Department who supposedly chose the color to distinguish police from the army.  State Police, however, wear uniforms similar to those worn by the US Army during the First World War.  Many states formed their police after the war and used surplus uniforms.  As military uniforms quickly evolved, most state police kept the old style.

Beyond the uniforms, the tactics and equipment of the police have grown to more and more resemble the military.  Rarely, this may be necessary, but not for routine use.

Appearances matter, though.  Police in fatigues inspire more fear and less confidence in those they are sworn to protect.

American police cannot go around like Sheriff Andy Taylor with a broad smile and no gun.  But likewise, they cannot approach every situation like Samuel L. Jackson in SWAT.  Police safety must be upheld, but the public is losing confidence in police to do their jobs with discipline and restraint.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Autocross Fight Leads to Maryland "Losing" An Airport, Criticism of Violations of Meetings Laws

Once upon a time the National Road Autocross was routinely held without incident at the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport in Wiley Ford.  It brought substantial crowds and pumped $3 million into the economies of Allegany and Mineral counties.  The race also helped to justify the existence of a federally approved airport with no regular airline service.

Correction: The original article referred to the event as "motorcross."  It is actually an "autocross."

Then the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority decided to get involved.

Local newspapers have covered the unfolding of the issue.  When the PHAA first announced the discontinuation of the race, enthusiasts and local businesses protested and demanded reasons why. The Maryland dominated PHAA responded by taking the meetings into closed session.  Delegate Gary Howell and other West Virginia officials pointed out that this violated the West Virginia open meetings laws.

Despite the fact that the airport is physically in Wiley Ford, West Virginia, the board leadership claimed that it followed Maryland state meetings laws which allows for a wider scope of closed meetings.

The State of West Virginia fired back.  Susan Chernenko, Director of the West Virginia Aeronautics Commission, wrote in a letter that it "is (and always has been) a West Virginia airport."  She cites Federal Aviation Administration sources that also assign the airport to West Virginia.  Maryland only participates because Cumberland is considered by the FAA as "an associated city."

Maryland officials had always before acted under the assumption that the airport "belonged" to their state.

Besides open violations of West Virginia state laws, the PHAA leadership, which includes Allegany County commissioner Creade Brodie and William Smith IV, used misleading statements to the public explaining why it cancelled the race.  PHAA leadership claims that allowing the race to continue would jeopardize federal funding of the airport.

They are wrong again.

Eduardo Angeles, associate administrator of the FAA, says differently in a letter.  If the airport has FAA permission, "the Airport Authority would not necessarily be in jeopardy of FAA withholding future airport funding."  Since the autocross had been held there regularly in the past, the FAA would not have suddenly yanked funding for the airport unless there had been a major shift in policy.  Angeles' letter conforms there was not.

The Greater Cumberland Regional Airport belongs to the taxpayers who deserve to derive the greatest benefit possible from its use.  Residents, elected officials, and the State of West Virginia rightly question why PHAA leadership seeks to shut off one of the airport's most important economic benefits to taxpayers on both sides of the Potomac River.