As a business owner and the largest employer in Tucker County in winter, I have never hired a lobbyist, naively believing that senators and delegates from our district -- and indeed any member of the state Senate or member of the House of Delegates -- would support the kind of tourism we offer. How false an assumption that turned out to be.
Timberline ski resort now is looking to hire a lobbyist. But so far, none I've met is available. They are too busy dealing deals with one another and the Legislature.
I recall an article in the Charleston Gazette in which Darrell Holmes, outgoing Senate clerk, expressed astonishment about how much power lobbyists have over the Legislature. It is my experience that he is utterly correct to an extent that I would never have believed possible.
I am shocked at the behavior of not only lobbyists but the entire Legislature regarding Senate Bill 492, which is expressly designed for Full House Resorts, the best I can tell a subsidiary of LGI Enterprises, to allow a sixth casino in Pendleton County at Fisher Mountain in Franklin, an hour and 20 minutes away from Timberline. It is designed to exclude Tucker County from a competitive stance.
We at Timberline sit next to a state park that has been infused with lottery money, and yet cannot open for skiing before our slope, even with such an enormous investment from the West Virginia Lottery.
The extent to which the House, Senate and lobbyists have gone to obfuscate the facts surrounding this bill has been hair-raising, including bold lies, red herrings and the black box technique of creating a total information vacuum to me, which even involves lies about the time and day the House Judiciary Committee would hear the bill.
The simple question of what is best for tourism in West Virginia has yet to be asked or answered by the Legislature, either in committee or on the floors of both Houses.
Is it better to let a juiced-up powerful lobbyist like Nick Casey shove a bill through the Legislature to bring in a mega-corporation led by Lee Iacocca, either this session or the next, or the next? The bald fact is they will not stop until it is passed.
The casino lobby indicates they have not "taken a position." That is double-speak for "we want it." I think I know why.
But first, perhaps it is more honorable to sit down at the table and discuss how we can all work together to use what we have and involve interested and relevant parties who actually live in those counties, including the commissioners, business interests, or -- heaven forbid -- the people themselves.