Two friends and I, excited by tales of "tea party" disruptions at local government meetings, felt propelled to attend the Livability Initiative "kick-off" meeting at Claytor Lake yesterday. As it turned out, I apparently hit the jack pot: table four with 5 supporters of property rights and no federal government intervention in local affairs. There was the moderator (pregnant from Philadelphia with no knowledge of the New River Valley), a retired man from Pearisburg and myself completing the eight. Before the cacophony in the room roared into discussion, a former boss of mine came over to whisper in my ear, "You got the perfect table!" I sensed that he was being sarcastic. I looked again at my table mates: a corpulent retired man from Draper with a "Promise Keeper" golf shirt, a young Floyd-hippy mother, an angular couple also from Floyd already upset that their paper work wasn't like everyone else's, and a late arrival woman who joked, "i was looking for a wedding but couldn't find one" (also from Pulaski). At short introductions, I was surprised to find that I was the old timer having lived on the Little River for 48 years - even the combined years by the others didn't come to half! This fact did not however earn me any respect. Not even with my quickly revised view of the future: Passenger rail service returns to Pulaski, Radford and Cambria providing job opportunities! Of course, the unwavering 5 dismissed my future of a ban on all artificial fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides! I threw that one in just to be ornery. As the only representative from Montgomery County, albeit from the outback and largely Republican section of the county, I mentioned that I had worked in both Floyd and Pulaski. All of us did agree that the natural beauty of this area was its greatest strength; they wanted to add "God made not man made."
As we moved further into the discussion, it became them and us. The no government five vetoed all but their own suggestions: they wanted a future which insured property rights, with no gov't intervention, a self-reliant self-sustainable valley. They wanted jobs, but they failed to offer any ideas for attracting them. The Pulaski duo were convinced that gov't grants had done nothing for the county; I agreed with them that Pulaski was a very different place than Montgomery county as far as opportunities went. But when I suggest a clean up of Peak Creek which runs thru the town and a return of the passenger train, they poo-pooed the idea. The "wedding" crasher said that the "gov't" had stopped the rail service because of low use. The Pearisburg man offered that at that time gas was 25 cents a gallon! The angular couple from Floyd complained bitterly of the town council in Floyd. It was so noisy in the room and the technology crashed at one point - I began to sit back and to just observe the property rights folks. They were beginning to get angry that my suggestion for more trails connecting the counties, along with rail service was being considered as one of our three top views for the future. ah! I was way in the minority; but I had faith that the majority of the room was from Montgomery county!
My next table was totally different. At a "natural resource" table we all agreed on the need for clean water and air. We were unanimously pro-regulation; we wanted all the help we could get to clean up the New River' Valleys air and water.