Coal’s decline in central Appalachia has decimated the tax base for local governments, and some are now cutting into waste management and even law enforcement.
The revenue squeeze from that diminished tax base is exposing financial mismanagement, worsening a dire economic situation, and resulting in partial government shutdowns and cutbacks in core government services like infrastructure, education, and healthcare.
I wrote for Southerly about this broad-based problem that’s affecting local governments around central Appalachia, but particularly in eastern Kentucky. Read the whole story at Southerly.
Whether it’s ownership of public lands or the quality of our environment, funding for land management agencies or the trade and tax policies affecting gear manufacturers, what happens in the outdoors is dramatically affected by elected lawmakers.
I wrote about six races in Appalachia and the Southeast to watch in the November midterms, plus two gubernatorial elections & a ballot measure.
Read the story at Blue Ridge Outdoors.
Terry Kilgore saw the writing on the wall. The longtime Republican state delegate, who represents Virginia’s southwestern-most district, had watched as Republicans grabbed the White House and both houses of Congress in 2016 and then failed to act on healthcare. A year later, Democrats came within a single, disputed vote of winning parity in the Virginia House of Delegates. And Kilgore’s constituents in an economically distressed Appalachian district were struggling with paying for healthcare.
All that contributed to Kilgore’s flip after four years to support Medicaid expansion in Virginia. He and a handful of other Appalachian Republicans broke ranks to join Democrats to expand coverage for an additional 400,000 Virginians, including many in the mountainous part of the state.
I wrote about the why and how for Belt Magazine. Read it here.
“I was working really late in my office on a Thursday night, and we had been closed for four days for snow, when my phone rang and this little boy said, ‘Lady are you going to open school tomorrow?’ I said, ‘I really don’t know, honey, but I’m going to make the call and it will be on television.’ He replied, ‘Please open. I am SO hungry.’ It was life-changing for me.”
👆 That’s Roanoke School Superintendent Rita Bishop talking about what goes into the decision to call off school for snow and other inclement weather. It’s a reason why city schools began opening cafeterias to students & their parents three years ago.
Buoyed by a USDA memo, other western Virginia school systems have increasingly been doing the same, including here in Floyd County, which twice this academic year have opened their cafeterias to the community on snowy days.
Read my story about that + how schools and non-profit organizations are increasingly partnering to feed children in economically distressed communities, at Scalawag Magazine.
Step over step. Step over step.
My dad was a lifetime runner, & I aim to follow in his steps. That’s part of why Mirna Valerio’s story resonates deeply with me. She’s using running as an avenue to lifelong fitness, and inspiring a ton of people along the way. She’s awesome.
Her memoir, “A Beautiful Work in Progress,” was released in October. I caught up with her for Blue Ridge Outdoors.
After years of building their regional economy around extractive industries, many Appalachian communities now are tapping into their bountiful outdoor assets to draw tourists—-and perhaps manufacturers and other job creators.
Places like Roanoke, Virginia, have created a new model for economic development, pairing traditional lures like workforce and infrastructure with an emphasis on livability and access to outdoor recreation.
Substantial challenges remain, however—-including President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, which would gut a number of programs crucial to economic diversification efforts.
Read the story at 100 Days in Appalachia.
This year the Salem Fair featured chocolate-covered bacon on a stick, which got me thinking about the vendors at the country’s biggest food fairs who drive fair food innovation.
A trip to Iowa during that state’s fair got the wheels spinning even faster, and next thing I knew, I was eating a pineapple bowl and interviewing the man who popularized deep-fried candy bars in the Midwest.
Read about that and more in my story for Munchies.
The cover story for the spring 2016 issue of Virginia Tech Magazine, which I co-write with Jesse Tuel, focuses on Virginia Tech’s Flint water study group.
I feel privileged that I got the chance to meet and learn from people doing powerful things in the name of service to others. These faculty and students are changing the world in a very real way for the residents of Flint.
Read the story at Virginia Tech Magazine.
Mirna Valerio, who started running at well over 300 pounds and now competes multiple ultramarathons each year.
Mike Wardian, an international ship broker who has become worldwide running celebrity.
Sophie Spiedel, a 50-something mom who recently completed her 10th Hellgate 100K.
Anita Walker Finkle, who ran right through cancer and out the other side.
Phil Phelan, who quit drinking to explore and document the hidden trails of Linville Gorge.
Read their stories in my feature on Trail Heroes for Blue Ridge Outdoors.