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The Indy Issue from Friday March 12, 2021

 

 

Visions of the Development of Salem

By Kevin Zorn

An oil on canvas mural is displayed in the post office in Salem, West Virginia. It was painted by an artist named Berni Glasgow and its production was funded
through the Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture. It is titled “Visions of the Development of Salem” and depicts a group of people
receiving mail, in the background is a village and cattle.

 

Berni Glasgow was one of more than 800 artists commissioned to paint 1371 murals, the majority of which are featured in post offices.
Often mistaken as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) initiative, these Treasury funded murals were created with the intent of fostering i
nspiration in the American people who were still feeling the devastating economic and social effects of the Great Depression.

 

It is a testament to the shift in the ideological landscape today that I cannot believe the US Government, in tandem with local governments,
was capable of doing what the WPA accomplished. Yet, here are just some of the facts: from 1935 to 1943 8.5 million unemployed men and
women were hired by the government to build over 10,000 bridges, 620,000 miles of streets and roads, 40,000 new and 85,000 renovated
buildings including thousands of schools, gymnasiums, auditoriums, playgrounds, parks, libraries, college dormitories, tennis courts, and skating rinks.

 

The WPA employed artists, writers, historians, and musicians whose work directly affected the lives of millions of Americans during some of the
country’s most painful years. Musicians hired under the Federal Music Project taught free lessons to 132,000 children and adults every week.
Those hired in the Federal Writers’ Project, in addition to their popular state tourism guidebooks, recorded over 2,300 slave narratives -
an invaluable collection for scholars and historians. Under the Federal Theatre Project 1,000 plays were performed across the country every month.
Incalculable is the number of children and adults inspired by this work.

 

Through the colossal endeavors of the WPA in both its pre-war effort and its public projects America achieved full employment by 1942,
the same year “Visions” was painted in Salem.

 

It is clear that the America many of us grew up in, the structures that supported our lives, the parks we enjoyed, the schools we attended,
the infrastructure we relied upon for travel, even the art classes that inspired the next generation of creators was largely built under the
auspices of the WPA and the New Deal.

 

This is a salient reminder that capital “H” History is not simply a collection of memorized facts and figures, dates and obscure names.
No, History is alive in the communities in which we live. It not only teaches us, it haunts us as well. It haunts us with what was
possible before and what is possible tomorrow.

 

Perhaps that is the greatest battle waged in the spectacle of media and politics today - the question of what is possible.
Our expectations are managed lower and lower. We learn that the climate crisis is inevitable, that homelesness is natural,
that workers are essential until they ask for a living wage. All to say that change is impossible. Visions of better futures recede from view.

But history haunts us with an alternative. By the time Berni Glasgow painted the mural in the Salem post office, the American
government had provided millions of meaningful jobs improving, with concrete and paintbrushes, nearly every community across the nation.

 

Nick Taylor, the author of “American Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA”, writes this: 

 

“These ordinary men and women proved to be extraordinary beyond all expectation.
They were golden threads woven in the national fabric. In this, they shamed the political philosophy
that discounted their value and rewarded the one that placed its faith in them,
thus fulfilling the founding vision of a government by and for its people. All its people.” 

 

This weeks front page:

 

 

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On Wednesday October 29th we received an invitation from Doddridge County native Paul Daugherty, President & CEO of Philanthropy West Virginia, Inc. It stated “U. S. Senator Joe Manchin along with Philanthropy West Virginia and the WV Nonprofit Association are hosting over two dozen nonprofit and foundation leaders for a roundtable this Friday, October 31, 2014 from 10:15 to 11:30 AM in West Union, WV.” When a United States Senator visits, you must attend! We rearranged our schedule to accommodate the visit.

 

In attendance were representatives of various foundations, charitable organizations and individual corporations that serve the northern part of West Virginia. Seated around a large open square table formation, each person was given a name card for their organization. Th e crowd waited for Sen. Joe Manchin III who was prompt and ready to discuss the matters at hand. He poured himself a coffee, all the while discussing current political happenings. He expressed his concerns over local races.

Moving around the table, Mr. Daugherty asked the organizations to give their names for the Senator. Included were the WV Non-Profit Organization, Consumer Credit Counseling Services, Catholic Charities, The Ross Foundation, Ritchie County Community Foundation, Th e ARC of West Virginia, United Way Alliance, Our Community Foundation, AmeriCorp Vista, West Virginia Parent Training Information, The Peterman Foundation, Parkersburg Area Community Foundation, Vision West Virginia, Local Colleges, WVRX, Doddridge County FRN, The Doddridge County Historical Society, Heritage Tourism Collaborative, WVU Extension Services, The West Virginia Bar Foundation joined by the Senator’s regional coordinators for this area. The senator started by explaining his recent trip to West Virginia Junior College in Bridgeport. He was speaking with students who tried other state run colleges and ended up looking for a more personal and private approach to secondary education. These schools need to be supported so students can graduate and become tax paying citizens of our counties.

He discussed the benefits from the recent gas & oil boom. Mrs. Patty Harris from the Doddridge County Historical Society noted that he last boom from the 1890’s ended and left everyone holding the bag. “They didn’t plan ahead for the exit, and they will exit.” Sen. Manchin agreed that getting the companies to help replace roads and build infrastructure should be done while they are here. He stated “we need to get the best bang for our buck. Roads should be put back in better shape than when they started.” He asked for the names of the companies working in the area. The subject of ghost towns and the comparison to McDowell County where the coal companies left it high and dry should be a lesson to our generation. Jobs need to be offered to locals first and younger people need training to work on the rigs, pipelines and oil fields. Th e discussion turned to drug testing and the lack of employment because of fail testing. This seemed to be a hot button issue that many of the organization have to deal with this daily.

Some of the leaders noted that training is become a large part of their curriculum. Not just oil and gas, but trained individuals in healthcare, welding, and other supportive services. Sen. Manchin noted that one thing that bothers him more than any other is a statistic that came out this year is WV ranks 50th in working adults. One representative noted that it takes between 10 and 15 screenings for a job before one passes the drug testing requirements.

Th e subject moved to talking about the impact of the Affordable Care Act. Unintended circumstances of this hap-hazard legislation created higher than normal demand for public health services, while at the same time cut donations to the agencies that can and do provide those services. Increases in co-pays and rising deductibles have created a larger nightmare with these same agencies cutting services to pay for their own workers health insurances. One such incident cited raised an insurance premium from $400 a month to $900 a month. Senator Manchin said it is not possible to turn back to insurance plans previously held by individuals, but he is seeking a re-working of the Affordable Care Act to serve citizens better and a more reasonable rate.

The Senator requested that heads of these agencies write a formal letter addressed to his office that he can present showing the negative impact of the Act. He noted that he would provide as much assistance as possible to help them overcome this hurdle. He also said that agencies who duplicate each others services should consider a merge, helping them both become stronger in the communities they serve. Mr. Daugherty spoke about the benefits from the Carnegie Corporation and the Rockefeller Foundations, where the money in those funds came from the community, but now continue to give back to those communities. How can we sustain charitable giving in our communities?

The reason this meeting was called was because of the impact of House Resolution #4719 (America Gives More Act). Senator Manchin noted that the resolution is purely a political move, no one signing onto 4719 is sincere. H.R. 4719 includes a package of five bipartisan bills reported by the Ways and Means Committee that would improve and make permanent a number of tax rules governing charitable donations and charitable organizations. Many see this as a detrimental move towards giving foundations. He stated that Congress is not sincere about correcting the tax code. Simpson-Bowles was a great start to fixing the tax code. He cited Warren Buffets explanation of him paying 16% tax and his secretary paying 26%, unfair and it needs to be fixed.

This resolution totaled up to 16 Billion dollars over a ten year period, which means government cut backs to pay for the Resolution. Minchin cited the problem in Washington is the ability to print money. These types of ideals must change. Government must operate like a household and balance its budget year to year. No more debit spending. He said “2014 was a difficult year and with what is coming down the pike, 2017 is going to be a horrific year.” Washington is looking at a 1.5 Trillion dollar deficit in the next budget year alone. “This is unsustainable” Manchin said. Senator Manchin thanked Philanthropy West Virginia and the West Virginia Nonprofit Association for their work and for putting on this forum. Those organizations help those who want to invest in non-profits as well as giving non-profits in the state a larger voice.

Time was coming to an end and the Senators people indicated that he had to wrap up. After handshakes and cards being exchanged, the Senator took a short tour of the new Extension Office facility. The senator and his entourage left for a meting in Ritchie County immediately following this forum.