Monday, April 10, 2017

AMERICAN HERO


Clarence Edward “Ki” Faulkner
September 14, 1923 – April 3, 2017

How does one summarize such an impactful life?

My Dad, Ki Faulkner, saved lives in the middle of a war, saved lives by making airports safer, and saved entire species from extinction.

An Eagle Scout with Troop Number 1 in Brewer, Maine, Ki Faulkner devoted his live to the outdoors.  He loved to hunt and fish, and to simply walk in the woods teaching others about the wonders of nature.

He left after his Freshman Year at the University of Maine, Orono to volunteer for the Tenth Mountain Division.  He quickly rose to acting Platoon Sergeant of 3rd Platoon in the 86th Regiment.  The Tenth Mountain Division was specially trained for mountain warfare and led the Allies’ final push in Northern Italy during World War II.

Ki was known for his leadership skills and his acts of bravery.  He earned two Bronze Stars, for rallying his men in turning back a German counter-attack on Riva Ridge and for leading the capture of the German Headquarters in Torbole during the battle for Lake Garda. 

Yet, he was most proud of his Soldiers Medal.  On February 10, 1945, his Platoon was staying in a warehouse readying for a patrol.  A pin popped out of a grenade during distribution of ammunition.  As others froze, Ki rushed forward, grabbed the grenade, and threw it through a ceiling skylight to explode in the air.  He saved the lives of eighteen of his comrades.  The commendation reads:

By his quick thinking, instantaneous initiative, and selfless heroism endangering his own life to save the lives of the other eighteen men, Sergeant Faulkner has earned the highest commendation and praise for his gallantry and valor.

Ki returned home and earned a BS in Wildlife Biology from the University of Maine.  Just as he was starting his career, he was called to duty during the Korean War.  His former Commanding General in Italy, Mark Clark, wanted veterans to “season” new recruits bound for the Korean War.  My Dad designed and led highly challenging field exercises for the 101st Airborne on Okinawa.

Once back in America, Ki began a 36-year career as the first Wildlife Biologist hired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  On October 4, 1960, he came to national prominence developing bird safety procedures in the wake of the deadly air crash at Boston’s Logan Airport.  His guidelines for removing bird habitats near run ways remain the global standard to this day.

While leading the Midwest Region in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Ki developed and led teams who saved entire species from extinction.  His Wolf experts developed the world’s first radio collars, including inventing batteries, transmitters, and plane based tracking technology, to better understand Wolf behavior, ultimately saving the Eastern Timber Wolf from extinction.  His Eagle experts, collected eggs from healthy birds in Minnesota, then used hot water bottles to keep them warm as they flew to other parts of America to replace soft eggs laden with DDT, thus restoring Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states.  His bird experts perfected ways to drive away Cowbirds in order to save the Kirkland Warbler from extinction.

Ki’s most ambitious effort began with the chance discovery of a Black Footed Ferret in a Prairie Dog town.  Ferrets were thought to be extinct since the 1920s.  His teams charted the tiny population and began a captive breeding and release program that continues to this day in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution.  In 2015, a male Ferret born in captivity was named after him in honor of his role.  “Ki Ferret” is now happily making little Ferrets after being released into the wild in Colorado.

My Dad’s greatest desire was to have young people, for generations to come, discover their own love for nature and the outdoors.  He founded the first co-educational Explorer Post for Wildlife.  In his final years, he donated all his collections, photos, and papers to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Museum at the National Conservation Training Center near Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  These include his hand tied fishing flies and hand carved decoys, all amazing works of art.

I was incredibly blessed to have Ki Faulkner as my father, and to be guided by him throughout my life, up to just a few days ago.  His legacy lives on through the descendants of those he saved in Italy, the animals who still thrive in the wild, and the generations of young people who will view his collections and be inspired to love the outdoors as much as he did.

Ki married Irene MacDonald Faulkner on June 22, 1946.  She passed on November 6, 2013.  They will both be memorialized and interred during a private family gathering in Maine later this year.

Those wishing to honor Ki Faulkner should make a donation to the Harpers Ferry Park Association; P.O. Box 197; Harpers Ferry, WV 25425.  Make checks payable to “Harpers Ferry Park Assn. Ki Faulkner”.

Scot Faulkner

Son

Thursday, March 30, 2017

TRUMPING HEALTHCARE


The blamestorming has begun over the failure to repeal and replace Obamacare.

Congressional Republicans have only themselves to blame.  Since returning to majority in the House in January 2011, Republicans have formally voted 54 times to address all or part of Obamacare.  Six were votes on full appeal.

In 2015, H.R. 132 is typical of these efforts.  It simply stated: “such Act is repealed, and the provisions of law amended or repealed by such Act are restored or revived as if such Act had not been enacted.”  Why didn’t Republicans vote on this last week?

Republicans did not vote on simply going back in time, because they thought government should play a significant role in healthcare.  It should not. Crippling regulations need to be changed and the private sector needs to be encouraged.  Last week’s legislation did not clear the way for these solutions.

The Republicans’ problem is squandering six years with legislation designed more for fundraising and campaigning than governing.  Instead, they could have viewed their repeal & replace efforts as prototyping or beta-testing a new product or APP.  They could have tested ideas and built Republican consensus.  Not doing this led to disaster.

What next?

In 2013, I outlined a patient-centric versus politician-centric approach.  Maybe now it will be followed.

Those wanting an expanded governmental role in healthcare and those opposing it are fighting the wrong battle in the wrong way.

The debate over national healthcare policy has lasted over a century – intensifying during the Clinton Administration. It has always been about coverage, liability, and finance, never about care protocols and patients. http://kaiserfamilyfoundation.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/7871.pdf

If making health affordable is everyone’s stated goal then why not focus on the actual care, health, and wellness of Americans?

America remains the best place on Earth to have an acute illness or shock-trauma injury. Our nation’s emergency rooms and first responder protocols are unequaled. Princess Diana may have lived had her car accident happened in New York City instead of Paris. America’s diagnostic methods and equipment are unequaled. That is why patients from all over the globe seek answers to complex symptoms by visiting the Mayo Clinic, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, Sloan Kettering and countless other world class facilities.

The other side of American healthcare is its failings in chronic care, expense, and a system that is controlled by the medical profession, pharmaceutical companies, and insurance industry. This triad of entrenched interests has prevented the widespread use of substances and therapies deemed effective in most of the world.

Thankfully, an increasing number of healthcare professionals are embracing global best practices, virtual technology, and patient-centric methods. Some are even exploring homeopathic and nutritional treatments that are common place around the globe, but viewed as “nontraditional” in America. These innovations are improving the health of patients while driving down costs. This is the arena where policy-makers should check their partisanship at the door. Seeking ways to improve healthcare, not health financing, will ultimately make health affordable to us all.

I have personal experience with the convergence of these worlds. Since 2007, I have been the primary caregiver to several family members with serious chronic conditions. These conditions have been punctuated by emergency care and major surgeries. Making decisions and managing treatment across this spectrum has been a real education.

This education has helped me identify four major areas of opportunity for healthcare improvement. These four areas will improve our health and healthcare, while addressing the affordability of private and public health services.

First, not all ailments require doctors and prescription medications. Government and industry policies drive people away from cheaper and more effective natural remedies. Herbal remedies have been successfully used since the first humans. For example, Apple Cider Vinegar has completely solved acid reflex. Cayenne Pepper has improved heart function. However, natural substances are not covered as a medical expense either by insurance or tax deductions. Instead, acid reflex sufferers must pay for over-the-counter treatments (which are also not covered by insurance or tax deductions), or must obtain expensive prescriptions after paying to see a doctor or a specialist. Being a natural treatment, the vinegar regime also avoids side effects and drug interactions. http://www.healthcentral.com/diet-exercise/c/299905/155581/potential?ic=506048  Why not go “back to the future” and find ways to support these more affordable and effective treatments?

Second, nurse practitioners form one of the new front lines of care http://www.aanp.org/. The overwhelming majority of my family’s office visits are with a nurse practitioner interacting with the patient and the lab technicians. Occasionally, a doctor will review the information and discuss treatment options with the patient. Supporting the evolution to Nurse Practitioners through education, professional certification, protocol modifications, and pricing would bring down costs and expand health opportunities both for professionals and patients.

Third, community caregiving is another new frontline of achieving and sustaining wellness. In 2009-2011, I was part of the planning team for developing a community-based care system for the Atlanta area. We found a disturbing pattern - patients, especially Medicare/Medicaid patients, arrive in hospital emergency rooms when their chronic conditions, such as Diabetes, congestive heart failure, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), become acute. These patients are treated at the most expensive point of care (emergency room). Once they are released, many do not have the support (family, friends, neighbors) or the capacity (some form of dementia) to follow a treatment regime that would prevent the next emergency room visit. These revolving door patients drive-up costs and end-up in a cycle of deterioration.

Our solution was to develop a community-based healthcare network. Such networks are known as “Accountable Care Organizations” (ACOs) http://innovation.cms.gov/initiatives/aco/.

They break-out of traditional hospital and doctor office environments to forge partnerships with the community – churches, social workers, local government, neighbor associations, and nonprofits. A needy patient with chronic conditions is assessed holistically. This includes risk factors (i.e. smoking, alcoholism, drugs) and environmental factors (family & home environment). A care plan is developed and assigned to a multi-faceted care team (comprising community resources) and a care manager. Doctors and nurses are part of the team. The majority of health actions take place among family and community - driven by Electronic Medical Records, aided by remote sensors and virtual care, and guided by the managed care team.

The result of this holistic approach is improved care, sustainable health, and reduced costs. It is the one way Medicare and Medicaid costs can be substantially reduced while enhancing quality of life. There are initiatives to promote this methodology within the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), but it is occurring too slow and is too isolated.

ACOs are making a difference, but no major politician has embraced the concept and neither party has promoted them as a way to reduce Entitlement costs.

Fourth, families have always been a pivotal component in healthcare. Whether it is a parent staying home to care for sick children, or adult children caring for ailing parents, family caregiving is vital, but also emotionally and financially draining.

Having been the care manager, Medical Power of Attorney, and patient advocate for both my parents and my wife, I know how much time is spent with ailing family members. Current IRS regulations provide for listing parents as dependents based only upon financial support. http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p501.pdf

However, there are no tax credits or deductions for those who have the Medical Power of Attorney and devote countless hours to direct care or acting as the patient’s advocate for managing their care. Politicians at both the state and federal levels should provide relief for this indispensable and growing volunteer service sector.  Supporting Family-based assistance will save billions in public assistance.

According to the National Alliance of Caregiving, 70 million Americans provide unpaid assistance and support to older people and adults with disabilities. Forty percent of these caregivers provide care for 2-5 years, while approximately 29 percent provide care for 5-10 years. Unpaid caregiving by family and friends has an estimated national economic value (in 2004) of $306 billion annually—exceeding combined costs for nursing home care ($103.2 billion) and home health care ($36.1 billion). This value is increasing as the population ages. http://www.caregiving.org/data/CaregivingUSAllAgesExecSum.pdf

These four areas of opportunity will not address every health issue or entirely diffuse the fiscal bombs strapped to medical entitlements, but they are a good nonpartisan start. It is time for politicians to focus on the wellbeing of patients, not themselves.

[Scot Faulkner was Chief Administrative Officer for the U.S. House of Representatives. He served on the ACO team for the Southeast Atlanta Health Care System [SAHCS], as an advisor to Kinexum, a medical research consortium, and as an advisor on professional standards and ethics to the American College of Dentists. He has been the Medical Power of Attorney and primary caregiver for his spouse and parents since 2007. http://citizenoversight.blogspot.com/ ]


Friday, March 24, 2017

HILLTOP BOOGEYMAN


By Scot Faulkner


There are many scary issues surrounding the long running battle over the future of the Hilltop House property.  The collapsing Hilltop House structure is a favorite spooky site on Youtube.  Neighbors worry about the 81 police incidents that have made the Hilltop House the center for drugs, vandalism, and worse.

The latest scare is “by right”.  Spokespeople for SWaN Investors, the Hilltop owners, have used their ominous voice to threaten that terrible things will happen if they do not get their way.  Their current boogeyman of choice is that SWaN will build a new hotel on a 1.25 acre commercial site “by right”.

“By right” sounds scary, but it is just the legal term for “grandfathered”, a right granted to any property owner.  “Grandfathered” does not sound as scary, which is why SWaN avoids it.  The better to spook Harpers Ferry’s elected officials and townspeople.

In 2015, a major fire destroyed three commercial buildings in the lower town of Harpers Ferry.  These buildings are slowly being rebuilt “by right”.  It is totally legal to build “like for like” when something needs replacing. 

Harpers Ferry is a National Historic District, administered by the Department of Interior and the President’s Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.  In order to comply with these national organizations, the town has very strict and detailed ordinances governing what can be built or rebuilt.  Architectural style and building materials must be approved to preserve the integrity of the Historic District.  The three buildings destroyed by fire are being rebuilt within these guidelines, even though they are “grandfathered” in terms of commercial use and their overall dimensions.

The Hilltop House owners can proceed, right now, with a “by right” or “grandfathered” hotel on their one and a quarter commercially zoned acres.  SWaN tries to make this sound terrible.  They are proposing an alternative that will develop an area nearly seven times larger, turning private residential lots into commercial space, and taking over three public streets.

SWaN’s “overlay district” is the real boogeyman.  Their “overlay” creates an area devoid of all ordinances and restrictions, which govern the town’s Historic District. 

Once approved by the Harpers Ferry Town Council, this seven times larger “overlay district” will become the new “by right” area where SWaN can tear down historic structures, clear cut trees, blast, jack hammer, take over public land, alter streets, and bulldoze with impunity. 

SWaN’s “overlay district” will allow them to build whatever they want in any style, shape, and size they want.  SWaN and its Town Council allies are already pushing for expedited permit approvals, some of which would be issued administratively without public notice or comment.

It is very scary in Harpers Ferry.  People shouldn’t worry about the ghosts of old, but fear the demons being created.


[Scot Faulkner has been an active member of the Harpers Ferry community since 1987]

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

TRUMPING STATE



Also published on Newsmax.    #TRUMPING

President Trump’s budgetary assault on the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is long overdue.  He is forcing a rethinking that will benefit America and the world.

The State Department is one of the most bloated of federal bureaucracies.  Front line consular officers, many just starting their careers at State, actually help Americans abroad. However, there are also countless “Hallway Ambassadors” who aimlessly roam from irrelevant meeting to obscure policy forum killing time and our tax dollars.

Legions of these taxpayer funded drones fill the State Department.  Some are reemployed retirees who travel to overseas missions conducting “inspections” to justify their additional salaries. 

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) is to the State Department what the Teacher Unions are to public education.  It exists to protect tenure and to prevent any accountability or reduction among the State Department drones.

The Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC) is a uniquely harmful part of State.  This Bureau’s main mission has been to create photo ops of treaty signings.  The arms control treaties have usually been unenforceable with sworn enemies of America.  The Bureau’s agreements with the Soviet Union undermined U.S. security.  The Bureau’s bureaucrats developed elaborate procedures for justifying the minimizing or overlooking of blatant treaty violations.  They are using this same play book for the Iranian Nuclear deal.

Headquarters waste and dysfunction are just the beginning of State Department ineffectiveness.  In the mid-1980’s, I viewed State Department field operations personally while serving as Director of the U.S. Peace Corps in Malawi.

The most egregious problem was the un-American culture that permeates career Foreign Service Officers.  Except for toasting America at the July 4th Embassy party each year, being pro-American is viewed as unprofessional. Long serving Americans would advise me that rising above nationalism and acting “world wise” was the mark of a seasoned diplomat. 

Not only did these U.S. foreign bureaucrats avoid Americanism, they avoided the host country.  The Embassy team members spent their business and recreational time with diplomats from the other Embassies and with European expatriates living in Lilongwe, the capital city.  Their only sojourns outside the capital were to Salima, the lakeside resort, or to the Ambassador’s vacation home on the Zomba Plateau.

As Country Director, I eliminated the chauffeur-driven luxury car used by my predecessor and reallocated the chauffeur to other duties.  At the wheel of a Nissan Patrol, I spent the majority of my time in the field with my seventy-five volunteers.  This meant absorbing in depth knowledge of Malawi and its people.

State Department versus reality was proven many times over.  The most blatant was the 1985 fuel shortage.  Malawi was land-locked.  The Mozambique Civil War closed off its closest ports.  A problematic network of rail lines brought goods, including gasoline, to Malawi via South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Zambia.  My volunteers told me a Zimbabwean labor dispute was going to cause a five week disruption of fuel to Malawi.  I dutifully reported this to the Embassy Team.  They scoffed, assuring me that their British friend running Mobil-Malawi was telling them no disruption would occur.  I directed my staff to begin stockpiling gasoline.

The disruption occurred.  The Embassy team kept dismissing my reports and telling themselves the disruption would be short-lived.  By week four, the Embassy motor pool was without fuel.  Staff was delivering messages via bicycle.  By week five, the Ambassador asked to purchase fuel from the Peace Corps, which had remained fully operational.

The Embassy was blind-sided on an even more important issue.  Air Malawi announced it was going to purchase a new fleet of passenger jets along with a comprehensive parts and maintenance agreement.  At this point the State Department replaced the Embassy’s Commercial Attaché with a Hispanic who could barely speak English.  Instead of sending this person to Spanish-speaking Equatorial Guinea, they posted him to the most Anglophile country in Africa.  He was miserable and totally ineffective.

Alternatively, the German Ambassador moved about Malawi’s 28 regions, equaling my zeal for the field.  When Boeing’s sales team arrived they were given a proper, but cool reception.  The Fokker team arrived to a hero’s welcome and the multi-million dollar deal was signed shortly thereafter.  American business lost a huge contract.

USAID has spent over $1 trillion on overseas projects since its founding in 1961.  Empty buildings and rusting tractors are silent testaments to its failures.  What funds were not diverted to corrupt government officials went for unsustainable efforts, driven more by academic theories than practicality.


State Department and USAID need a fundamental review and a day of reckoning. This is fertile territory for President Trump and Secretary Tillerson to implant business principles and common sense.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

TRUMPING IMMIGRATION




Also published on Newsmax.    #TRUMPING

President Trump is aligning immigration policy to our national wellbeing.  His approach is comprehensive and consistent.  It is a welcome change and not a moment too soon.

Immigration is a privilege not a right. 

A nation has every right and reason to make sure those who enter are who they say they are and those who want to stay are beneficial not burdensome.  It is amazing that these fundamental sovereignty issues are debated.

A border wall with Mexico is a necessary requirement for protecting national sovereignty and blocking future illegal immigration along America’ southern border.  Hopefully, Israel will be consulted on design as their walls are the most successful of the modern era.  National Park lands along the border could effectively use razor sharp sisal and other natural barriers to mitigate visual impacts.  Instilling a culture of proactive excellence among border and customs enforcement professionals is another critical element to assure our safety.

Eliminating sanctuary cities and reinstituting the rule of law is necessary for public safety.  Punishing companies who hire illegals must show that laws matter.  President Trump’s strong stand on enforcing immigration laws has already had an effect.  Intercepts of illegal immigrants along the Mexican border plummeted 40.5% from January to February.

Trump’s temporary ban on issuing visas to people from failed states is prudent and legal.  The six targeted countries continue to be chaotic war zones where viable public records are nonexistent.  Bribes and terrorist agendas creating fake identities are a border control nightmare.  Better to pause and plan, with appropriate documented waivers, until integrity is established

Trump aligning U.S. policy with established and proven policies in effect in other countries is a strategic step in the right direction.  Many nations use economic benefit as the guiding principle of their immigration policy.  Australia and New Zealand have always filtered for needed skills and education.  Australia issues visas to skilled workers based upon a points-based system, with points allocated for certain levels of education.  Visas are often sponsored by individual Australian States, according to their specific skill needs. Australian businesses also sponsor visas for highly sought after skilled workers.  Australia and New Zealand have never been assailed for racism or nativism.

In the 19th Century, America needed people to populate its ever expanding territories.  The federal government gave transcontinental railways vast land grants to incentivize laying rails to link the continent.  The Northern Pacific and Great Northern railroads launched major advertising campaign throughout Scandinavia to attract settlers to turn their land grants into vibrant farming communities that, in turn, used the railroad to ship goods.

In 1882, U.S. policy turned away from economic development and went down the slippery slope of nationality based immigration.  Initially, California workers wanted to block Chinese immigrants to stabilize wages.  Other laws followed, which established national quotas instead of skill-based immigration.  This shift came to grief in the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965.  Liberals, led by Senators Ted Kennedy and Phil Hart, filled the legislation with diversity goals and codifying the concept of “anchor babies”, where a child of illegal immigrants born on U.S. soil establishes entitlement for family members to move to America. 

President Bush supported the Immigration Act of 1990 (IMMACT90), which established flexible immigration caps and made permanent the admission of "diversity immigrants" from "underrepresented" countries. The cumulative result opened the floodgates to burdensome instead of beneficial immigrants.  Immigration policy completely changed from economic wellbeing and security to a liberal social engineering effort.

The 1965 and 1990 laws completely wrecked U.S. immigration policy.  I encountered this bizarre new regulatory world, twice.  In the 1980s, I had to personally appeal to Attorney General Ed Meese to allow the former CEO of KLM and his wife to retire in Florida.  It was amazing that U.S. immigration officials had rejected a wealthy corporate executive because there were too many Dutch immigrants.  In 2006, I had to appeal to the Bush White House to allow a Swiss Doctor, and his Nurse Practitioner wife, to join their parents in America and work for a Washington area hospital.  These happened at the same time poverty stricken immigrants from Third World countries were being welcomed on a daily basis.

Liberals, and even some Republicans, have spent decades creating damaging and surreal U.S. immigration policies.  These policies threaten national security, burden government services, and deprive America of people who can substantively contribute to the national economy. 


Thankfully, during his February 28, 2017 speech to Congress President Trump embraced a “merit based” immigration policy to benefit America’s economic revitalization.  Trump’s subsequent Executive Orders and initiatives are putting our national interest in the right place, in the right ways.

Friday, March 3, 2017

TRUMPING THE BUDGET 2017



President Trump’s inspiring and visionary speech to the Joint Session of Congress harkened back to the best of Ronald Reagan.    Just like Reagan, Trump has an historic opportunity to change the future of American government.  In his case, he can reframe the Federal Budget in business terms.  This means having the Executive Branch live within its means, demanding real value for money spent, and full accountability. Trump’s business-based approach will fundamentally challenge decades of out of control spending and waste.  This is the true test for his “draining the swamp”.

Members of Congress, from both parties, must be viable partners in bringing reality to government spending. This will be a challenge for those who usually protect Americans’ tax dollars with all the restraint of unsupervised Kindergartners with a bowl of M&Ms.

Much has already been made of Trump increasing Defense spending by $54 billion while seeking corresponding cuts in civilian discretionary spending.  Trump and his team need to understand that the Defense Department wastes funds just like civilian agencies.  Secretary Mattis could aggressively pursue military waste and confront questionable expenditures.  Good management can reallocate many additional billions to rebuild America’s capabilities.

Special interests across the political spectrum are already howling about cutting $54 billion from the FY2018 budget. The usual Washington Establishment commentators are rendering their garments predicting chaos, lay-offs, and other mayhem. This pre-emptive assault covers-up the vast sums of federal money lying around doing nothing.

There is $914.8 billion in unexpended, unobligated, funds piled up across the federal government within 1941 Accounts. Obama never conducted the “budget sweeps” done by all his predecessors. Trump, and his OMB Director, can recover these funds with the push of a button.

Another $1.028 trillion remains unexpended among general accounts and $461 billion remains unspent in trust funds.  While these funds are technically obligated, the fact that they have languished for years raises questions about their use and their management.  OMB should conduct an immediate review to sort out the worthy from the waste.

One of Trump’s first acts was to initiate an Executive Branch hiring freeze outside of Defense and Security functions.  A full freeze would have cut $350 billion annually in personnel costs, because 60,000+ employees a year leave government through retirements and voluntary departures. Not every vacancy should be filled.

Trump could save over $400 billion annually by delayering the entire Executive Branch.  Those on the front line of service are the ones who actually interact and provide tangible service to the public.  These positions, not the hierarchy, are what really matter. 

The private sector has found that 3-5 layers are more than adequate to assure the success of the front line.  Corporate performance “dashboards”, knowledge management, and empowering/enabling the front line have tossed away the old span of controls and pecking orders.  It is time for the Federal Government to join the 21st Century and eliminate from 9-23 layers of obsolete command & control supervisors and countless numbers of extraneous planners and monitors. 

It is also time to finally end hundreds of billions spent on federal programs based upon outdated ideological agendas and pork barrel politics.  Why does the Federal Government spend billions running regional electric companies?  Isn’t it time to finally end FDR’s 1930s power grab before its centennial?  The Executive Branch is haunted by the costly ghosts of power grabs and boondoggles from Presidents Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama. 

It is time to take full advantage of a dynamic President and Republican Congress to exorcise these costly phantoms once and for all.

Americans demanded a completely different way of doing business in Washington, DC.  Trump and the Republican Congress can prove they are serious about making this change with the 2018 Budget.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

‘Let’s be truthful’ on Hilltop House


BACKGROUND:
Steven Ramberg has been Harpers Ferry’s most vocal advocate for giving SWaN Investors everything they desire for developing the Hilltop House properties.  As Chair of the Planning Commission, Ramberg was relentless in making sure SWaN’s Overlay District became a reality. 

Ramberg’s wife, Betsy Bainbridge, is the most vocal SWaN partisan on the Harpers Ferry Town Council.  She has been the driving force behind the new ordinances, and the Overlay District.

Together, Ramberg and Bainbridge have used strong-arm tactics and intimidation to make sure SWaN’s project moves forward, no matter how many oppose it within the Harpers Ferry community.

It was no surprise that on February 15, 2017, Ramberg wrote a blistering Letter-to-the Editor of the Spirit of Jefferson assailing the National Park Service for raising federal concerns by letter and in remarks before the Town Council.

The following response was published in the Spirit of Jefferson on February 22, 2017.

It is unfortunate that the nine-year struggle over the Hilltop House project has been plagued by lack of valid information and an abundance of disinformation.  The recent letter sent by National Park Service to the Town of Harpers Ferry was an attempt to sort reality from rhetoric.

The National Park Service has a legal responsibility to protect the historic integrity of Harpers Ferry.  Without the Park Service, Harpers Ferry would be under 200 feet of water from a proposed Potomac River Dam in the 1940s. Without the Park Service, the C&O Canal would be a four-lane highway proposed in the 1960s.  Harpers Ferry is now facing another fundamental threat from an oversized project that would loom over the town and the Park.  The National Park Service is obligated to step forward to raise concerns and probe for answers.

The Park Service letter contains a well-established check list of issues arising from the National Environmental Protection Act, Section 106 of the Historic Preservation Act, and laws governing National Historic Districts.  These federal issues can be raised at any time, and must be fully resolved. There are additional regulatory issues affecting CSX, Amtrak, MARC, Maryland Transit Administration, and the Chesapeake Bay that must also be addressed.

The Park Service has a substantial investment in Harpers Ferry and has a legal responsibility to assess the impact of SWaN Investors’ Project on these federally funded operations.  This includes the Park’s annual funding for Harpers Ferry’s Police. Town documents pledge police to support SWaN’s construction.  The Park Service is the largest ratepayer to Harpers Ferry Water Works.  From 1988-1990, the Park directly funded and project managed the rebuilding of the Water Works’ intakes, pumps, mainline pipes, and water tanks.  Town documents pledge to meet all of SWaN’s water requests.

The federally funded Potomac Street rehabilitation project, managed by the Town, has also impacted the Park.  Federal funds were diverted from the original approved grant to enlarge the storm water system to handle the anticipated runoff from SWaN’s properties.  One result has been storm water now bubbling up onto Park property.

Mr. Ramberg’s Letter-to-the-Editor asserts, “no one has proposed any blasting to my knowledge”.  This is interesting, because in a December 7, 2015 letter, Mr. Ramberg wrote to Gordon Associates, a SWaN contractor: “I am wondering about an issue that keeps arising.  Did SWaN ever contemplate blasting for the garage or elsewhere on the site in the original concept proposal?”  Gordon Associates responds to Ramberg, “Blasting was expected for the construction of utilities, garage, and hotel.” 

On March 28, 2008, Gordon Associates sent Mr. Ramberg their “Surface Exploration and Geotechnical Evaluation for the Project”.  It clearly identifies multiple locations for blasting of the bed rock and outlines warnings for proceeding.

Harpers Ferry sits primarily on shale.  Most of Harpers Ferry’s structures are all or part masonry.  Any reverberations from blasting will affect the structural integrity of basements, foundations, and walls in buildings dating to 1748.  Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has more historic structures than any other Park unit in America.  The August 2011 Virginia earthquake caused over $1 million in structural damage throughout the Park.  It is therefore prudent for the Park to be concerned about blasting.  A reasonable approach would be for the U.S. Geological Survey to conduct a blasting impact analysis before the Harpers Ferry Town Council approves their Ordinance.


In his letter, Mr. Ramberg questions the integrity and motivations of Park officials, while dismissing valid concerns as hysteria. He insists that the Town’s Ordinance must be enacted so we will know what needs to be changed.   This is why the SWaN project destroyed public trust and divided Harpers Ferry long before the Park’s letter.