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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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County Commissioners held the scheduled meeting at 7pm on Wednesday to gather the two boards of the Ambulance Authority and the Emergency Squad to begin talks that they hope will lead to a merging of the two entities.  Harrison County EMS Executive Director Rick Rock was introduced and began by explaining why he wanted to help our county resolve this long standing problem.  Mr. Rock has family in Doddridge County and through those connections knows of the troubled past with ambulatory services in the county.  Mr. Rock was accompanied by Mr. Stephen McIntire, Assistant Chief of the Harrison County EMS.  Mr. McIntire was on hand as his role in the Harrison EMS is to ensure compliances with all federal regulations regarding the Drug Enforcement Agency rulings, it was explained that he complements Mr. Rock who is a CPA and handles the majority of the financial aspects of EMS and patient care.

 

The main point that was driven through the meeting centered around understanding that this has nothing to do with past divisions or “sides” of the county regarding ambulatory care, but should one be driven by one factor and that is optimal patient care for the monies spent.

Currently you have the structure of the County Commission who had set a county-funded Ambulance Authority who would be accountable and answer to the County Commission through its board of directors.  As well with the Emergency Squad, you have a Privately Held, Not for Profit Corporation that answers only to its selected board of directors.  They also receive funding in the form of donations from the county commission to defray expenses as they do service county residents.

Several members of each board were on hand to listen to the ideas presented and ask a few questions of Mr. Rock and Mr. McIntire.  The two took the time to explain their thoughts and vision based on several models across the State.  In an interview after the meeting, Mr. Rock explained a three tiered approach as one possible solution they are recommending to the commission.

Mr. Rock explained that this model has worked in the past for several small communities and might be the answer to our dilemma.  This is a complete reformulation of what we know today.  The top of the pyramid would be the County Commission, under them would be established a new over-sight board or committee that would oversee the group that would be providing the services.  The lower tier would be a mix of the existing groups and their assets provided all parties are agreeable and all financial disclosures are approved for a merge.

Mr. Rock explained “the middle tier would be a direct conduit for the county commission to oversee all financial aspects of the services being provided.  If your spending county money, where does it go?  Are your response times acceptable for your area?  These are the kinds of things that need to be monitored.”  “They would set policy for the county.  Seeing how the resources of the county are being used.  To hold them accountable so that you can’t have the same situation that occurred in the past.”  “You have to make certain that none of the parties have anything hanging out there like law suits, overdue or unpaid bills... Basically make sure everyones house is in good financial order.”

“I feel from an operational standpoint that when there is that external accountability that everyone adheres to, you find less problems arise.”

“Doddridge County is it’s own unique county, what works for Harrison may not work for Doddridge” Mr. Rock said.  “The great thing about this situation is you get to think outside the box.  You’ll have more people looking to solve the problem of better patient care and more suggestions will come to the table.”

We asked him if a small UHC Medical Care Center would help as part of the solution.  He indicated that UHC was concerned when they moved the hospital further from Doddridge, Ritchie, Tyler and Gilmer counties and that should be brought to discussion with them.  “That is an idea that should be pursued.  Put every option on the table.”

So now it is up to the two boards to meet themselves and approach the county commission with their ideas and their understanding of what they can provide.  Mr. Rock noted that a SWOT analysis be used to start the process.  SWOT analysis is a structured planning method used to evaluate the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a project or in a business venture.  The SWOT should bring everything to light and show where one group may compliment the others weaknesses, or where one group may have different ideas on how to function better at a cost savings.

We watch for the next meeting announcement for the merge.