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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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After a short nomination procedure at the “emergency” County Commissioners Meeting Wednesday, Commissioner Ralph Sandora appointed Mr. Robert “Bob” Beamer to the DCAA board of directors.  The appointment comes at a crucial time as the Commissioners eye the takeover of the DCAA by the DCEMS, Inc.  If anyone in the county had doubts on what the commissioners feelings are on the  called merger, that was all put to rest at this meeting.  

Ms. Darlene Taylor-Morgan broke the story of the “take-over” in an article from the Exponent-Telegram dated November 25, 2013.  This was the first public disclosure of the take-over and commissioners Sandora and Robinson vehemently denied that any decision had been made.  

Mr. Robinson had requested that Mr. Rick Rock consult the county commission with the problem of having two agencies duplicating efforts in a cost cutting measure.  Mr. Robinson denied having made up his mind regarding what to do about this “merger”, but during this meeting he made it very clear  by stating - 

“It’s no secret where Butch stands...I’ve stated where I stand many, many times and I haven’t wavered from that so the election has backed my assertion that public opinion is going to be in accordance with what we feel.  You’re more than welcome to your opinion...everybody is.  But my feeling is public opinion has already spoken.”  

Butch Sandora has stated several times that he wants the DCAA gone. Mr. Sandora was against the formation of the DCAA when it was first proposed while serving with Commissioners Jerry Evans and Shirley Williams in response to the wrongful death lawsuit brought against the DCEMS, Inc. by the Norris Family.  He has made no secret to this fact stating that he requested “zero funding for the DCAA.”  To date the DCEMS, Inc. has not complied fully to the judges ruling.

Bob Beamer, husband of Tammy Beamer and brother-in-law to Pat Heaster, was voted onto the board of directors.  Williams voted Nay, Robinson Aye, with a tie vote Sandora breaks the tie with Aye.  Motion carried.  Beamer appointed.

When questioned about their choice  Mr. Sandora said “no public comment”  Chris Arnold then asked if this was an open meeting.  Sandora “Yup.  There is no public comment on the agenda.”

Sandora left it up to Greg and Shirley to allow Chris Arnold to speak.

There were no objections and Mrs. Arnold said “My problem with that is that they are definitely against the Ambulance Authority. Everything that has been in the paper for years.  And why would you put somebody on the DCAA board that is definitely anti-ambulance authority? “ 

Tammy Beamer: May I answer that question?

Ralph Sandora: Wait a minute.

Tammy Beamer: You know people can live in the same household, people can sleep together and be family, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you share the exact same thought process.

Ralph Sandora: OK

Chris Arnold: Are you saying that he is pro DCAA?

Tammy Beamer: I’m not saying anything.  I don’t speak for him.  I speak for me and my opinion is my opinion only.  And if you speak to any of my family members, they will tell you that.

Chris Arnold: I still think that it is just not fair. We have enough to deal with now, and to put somebody on there who’s wife is definitely against the Ambulance Authority...It  just doesn’t make sense.

Shirley Williams: I think it’s pretty obvious.

Chris Arnold: It’s not right.

Ralph Sandora to Greg Robinson: Got anything to say?

Greg Robinson: I don’t have anything to say.

Ralph Sandora: Me either.

Shirley Williams: I think it’s pretty obvious... what is the point?

Ralph Sandora: I’ll say one thing...You’ve made up your mind what he is thinking about the AA, and she’s made her mind up about what he’s thinking...how can you say what the man is thinking?

Deb Montoya: Can I say something?

Ralph Sandora: you can say anything you want....

Deb Montoya: I’m certainly surprised given the climate of what’s happening and that the commission would think that Tammy’s husband would be a good choice?  That surprises me... of all the people in the county you could not find somebody that didn’t have anything to do with anybody who has such volatile and vehement and strong opinions?  And surely there could have been a better choice.

Greg Robinson: Personally I’ve never heard Bob voice an opinion one way or another.

Ralph Sandora: I’ve never heard an opinion from him.

Deb Montoya:  Surely you could see that that nomination wasn’t in the wisest of decisions that you could make.  Surely you could see where there might be some problems with that decision.

Ralph Sandora: What kind of problem?

Deb Montoya: The problem with that nomination would be ridiculous... crazy... Why would you choose that person.  Especially if you want public opinion behind you.

Ralph Sandora: Well, everybody is entitled to their opinion.

Deb Montoya: Public opinion is probably going to be upset with that choice given that with his relationship to Tammy...Why not choose someone who doesn’t have that baggage with them?  

Greg Robinson: Let me make a comment here... You’re saying public opinion...in actuality you really have nothing to back that up...Just a moment...I’m not finished.  Look at the last two elections.  What has public opinion said in the election process?

Deb Montoya: I don’t know... What have they said in the election process?

Greg pointed to Ralph and himself indicating that the public voted them in as opposition to the creation of the DCAA.

Greg Robinson: It’s no secret where Butch stands...I’ve stated where I stand many, many times and I haven’t wavered from that so the election has backed my assertion that public opinion is going to be in accordance with what we feel.  You’re more than welcome to your opinion...everybody is.  But my feeling is public opinion has already spoken.

Shirley Williams: I’m wondering why I was not asked to give a persons name to be on the board?

Greg Robinson: You knew what was going to be on the agenda.

Shirley Williams: I was not considered...

Greg Robinson: You were given the same opportunity. 

Ralph Sandora & Greg Robinson: We didn’t meet (to discuss the nomination)

Deb Montoya: I thought you’d be bending over backwards to find somebody who was so clearly unbiased?  This seems crazy. Why did you set yourself up for such negative opinion?  I’m upset and I know everybody else is too.  I don’t understand...Why you would appoint someone so controversial...why would you do that?  

Ralph Sandora: Everybody finished?  

The meeting was then adjourned.