Bridges – I support the Appalachian Regional Commission.

I found that listening to ALL of the things that are being screamed (from every aisle, on all sides) in Washington can be overwhelming. The cacophony of political voices make me a nervous wreck. So I try to concentrate on what is affected locally by the actions of those in charge, I try to be a voice for those causes – the ones close, that matter more on a personal level. I wrote letters to opposed DeVos because I felt her agenda is counterproductive to what the young people in WV need. I wrote my representatives about the repeal of the ACA and how that might affect part-time teachers (like my children). Tangible things that at least make me feel as if I am doing more than staring at a TV listening to pundits and wondering WTF. I wrote a letter to oppose the selling off of Wayne National Park lands (although I am not a resident of Ohio, I am a tourist who visits the National Parks and brings dollars into the area when doing so, albeit not a lot of dollars but every dollar has an impact of some sort). I hope, against hope, that the pebble thrown into the pond has the ripple effect this thrower of pebbles intends.

Yesterday the ACA repeal lost steam and so politicians will switch to some other shiny subject to terrify the masses. Tax reform and budget cuts are the rumored topics. With that, my attention sways to the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), one of the targeted cuts.

WV is known for coal. People have lived and died for coal in this state. It has supported so many for so many years.  It is no wonder that people hold onto Coal so vehemently in my state when that is the primary source of income for so many families for several generations. But to think that this state had no other resource to fall back on, leaving its residents vulnerable if ever that industry faltered – well, we are witnessing the ramifications of placing all of your eggs in one basket.  I used to get so pissed over the stereotype of stupid shoeless hillbillies living in shacks who had to pee outdoors.  When I left for college (a million years ago), I was asked by a person if I had ever used an outhouse or if I had running water indoors.  Of all of the things to ask me about my state, that one always irked me.  Growing up here, that is the image a large portion of the country assumes due to media, news and sometimes “our” own stupid actions. Later in life, I was fortunate enough to live in an area of the state that saw a surge of tourism, the “other” economic resource for our state.  People came in the droves to visit our beautiful state, to see its rivers and mountains and to recognize the beauty that it held (more than just the coal it produced).

So, in today’s times, I believe it is vital that we diversify the education of our young people.  I have always been a supporter of the Vocational Schools – not all kids want to attend college (some because they do not have the resources, some because it just isn’t their thing).  Those young people should have the ability to earn an income (outside of Walmart and fast food) that can support a family, if that is their goal in life.  Vocational Schools teach a wide variety of blue collar skills that allow young people opportunities to join the workforce on a livable level. In addition to Vocational School, we need other organizations who will help people (both young and old) learn skills in the potential post-coal era. ARC is an organization that has tried to diversify our “people resources.”  They are training people in impoverished areas of not only WV but 420 counties in 13 states.  Their five goals are as follows: 1) investing in entrepreneurial and business development strategies that strengthen Appalachia’s economy; 2) improving the education, knowledge, skills, and health of residents to work and succeed in Appalachia; 3) investing in critical infrastructure–especially broadband, transportation, including the Appalachian Development Highway System, and water/wastewater systems; 4) strengthening Appalachia’s community and economic development potential by leveraging the Region’s natural and cultural heritage assets; and 5) building the capacity and skills of current and next-generation leaders and organizations to innovate, collaborate, and advance community and economic development.

So, now ARC is under the political knife and has the potential of losing their federal funding.  It will not be a “death blow” to the organization but it will set them back drastically.  I have previously posted on social media the need of “new dollars” in our state to revive the economy (one of the reasons tourism is so vital, an influx of money from outside of our state).  ARC holds the belief that Export and Trade Development is a resource that is much needed to improve our state’s economy.  Some of their research reports on the subject can be found: here.

So, my next series of letters to the representatives will involve ARC, its importance in strengthening the 13 states in the Appalachian Region and asking what they intend to do to protect this important resource.

Additional reading materials:

The Atlantic

WV Public Broadcasting

Rural Alabama may lose ARC funding

KY leaders plan to fight for ARC

Washington Post

Do you have a cause that matters to you?  What is it?  Let me know in the comments below.

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