County deserves competent board of commissioners

November 28, 2013

Dear editor,

At the Nov. 18 Ashe County Board of Commissioners’ meeting, Commissioner Gerald Price proved yet again why he lacks the basic capacity to effectively serve when he voted in opposition to the High Country Council of Government’s long-range bicycle plan.

Said Price, “There’s a lot of times there are bicyclists out there and I see it very, very hazardous for them. I also think about the people that are trying to get back and forth to work and I don’t see that gentleman on his bicycle paying 55 cents per gallon for a road tax either.”

Let’s start with safety. Price recognizes the hazards of cyclists and vehicles sharing the road, but he isn’t interested in reducing the hazards, as the plan would do, even with the N.C. Department of Transportation footing the bill. Brilliant Mr. Price.

But Price, the poster boy for hypocrisy, outdoes himself with his gas tax argument. This self-admitted tax evading “sovereign citizen,” who also doesn’t make his legally incurred car or mortgage payments, thinks others SHOULD pay taxes.

Furthermore, Price evidently has no concept of cycling’s importance to the county and must be unaware of the numerous cycling events bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. For example, a 2012 ASU study of the Blood, Sweat and Gears ride determined that 1,200 non-local riders spent an average of $495 each throughout the High Country. Another major ride, the Blue Ridge Brutal, is one of the primary fundraisers for the Ashe Arts Council and Civic Center.

Certainly he’s unaware that Railroad Grade Road is classified as one of the top 10 bicycling routes in the state. Apparently he also has no idea that Biking Buddies is an Ashe County cycling business or that SSSink has, for years, produced decals for bicycles, including many professional cycling teams. Heck, it seems he doesn’t even know Walmart is in the bicycling business.

It looks like he’s also unaware Ashe County receives a two percent sales tax on every business transaction involving the sale of bicycles, bicycle components, accessories and apparel. Nor does he seem to realize local and non-local cyclists pay their “road tax” every time they buy county gasoline for their vehicles.

Fortunately, the board voted 3-1 to adopt the plan. It was such a “no brainer” even Gary Roark uncharacteristically voted in favor. And speaking of Roark, perhaps if he spent less time bad-mouthing our former county manager and more time focusing on his job, the county’s sustained double-digit unemployment could be cut.

Commissioner Roark, if there’s actual justification as to why you and your cohorts forced Dr. Mitchell to resign, why don’t you share it with the entire county rather than a select few?

Interestingly enough, Commissioner Judy Poe wasn’t in attendance and didn’t vote, but she’s no supporter of cycling’s benefits. Long-time readers will recall Poe led the opposition preventing the Virginia Creeper (cycling) Trail’s extension into Ashe County before being elected to the board. Numerous economic studies have documented the folly of that decision.

In 2008, the Virginia Creeper Trail’s economic impact was estimated to be between $2.3 and $3.9 million annually. In a 2011 Virginia Tech study, over half the businesses surveyed in Damascus, Va., said 61 percent of their business came from trail users. One business owner said there’s not a business in town not impacted by the trail. Damascus is a trail-based financial success due to tourism and as someone once told me, imagine the economic boom had the trail been extended to Lansing or beyond.

Failing to recognize opportunities to expand tourism, grow businesses, increase property values and, most importantly, create jobs is just another example of ineffective vision and governance. There’s been a lot of that lately and this county deserves a board that’s forward-looking, competent and populated with individuals dedicated to the public interest rather than narrow parochial interests. Price and Poe must go.

Ken Lynn