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Daily Mail: Short takes - July 26

THE 4-2 vote by the Charleston Urban Renewal Authority to negotiate with KM Hotels of Henrico, Va., to develop property in the 1000 block of Quarrier Street is good news that is long overdue.

The parcel had been the Holley Hotel, a ramshackle place that was home to about 130 down-and-out people. Hotel owner Frank Veltri treated his guests like family. He cared about society’s downtrodden long before the politicians did. His annual Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless continues, even after his death in 2001.

CURA wanted the property. Veltri did not want to evict his people.

Veltri and CURA battled it out. With schoolteacher Thomas Hark serving as his lawyer, Veltri took CURA and its attorneys to the state Supreme Court and won a precedent-setting ruling on open meetings.

In 1990, Mayor Chuck Gardner and city officials announced an agreement in which CURA got the property and the people at the Holley got a new home.

Nearly quarter of a century after CURA demolished the Holley, a new hotel may arise. This reflects the city’s improved ability to attract visitors.

If its managers care half as much for their guests as Veltri did for his, it will be a huge success.

***

Suppose they gave a war protest and nobody came? That was the question this week when Code Pink held a rally at the Capitol in Washington and only eight people showed up.

It’s not as if Code Pink and its leader, Medea Benjamin, were in enemy territory.

“I haven’t seen you guys in a long time,” Capitol Police Officer Patrick Gray said, giving Benjamin a bearhug, the Washington Post reported.

“Man, you guys used to be feistier. I remember when there used to be like 200 of you guys.”

But the pickings were slim as Code Pink tried to show how many people in the United States want to stop aiding Egypt for its support of Israel over Hamas.

At least eight do.

Washington Post reporter Ben Terris noted that tea party rallies at the Capitol fail to attract as many people as they did in their heyday in 2010.

He blamed Congress.

“It’s not to say that there aren’t protests in Washington. Just this past weekend, hundreds of people gathered outside the State Department to demonstrate against Israel’s deadly offensive in Gaza. It’s just that Congress isn’t prime real estate for a rally,” Terris wrote.

But it’s not just Congress. When only “hundreds” of people protest anywhere in Washington, it shows a seriously lack of interest by even the most diehard activists.

After more than a decade of war protests, tea party rallies and Occupy Wall Street, the American people just may be fed up with all the bickering. That’s a healthy sign.

***

The liberal Center for American Progress released a report this week on teacher turnover rates and salaries. The report showed how committed taxpayers in West Virginia are to their schoolteachers.

The average teacher salary in the state was ahead of 12 other states, the report said.

Given that the average income in West Virginia is ahead of only Mississippi, that is laudable.

Not mentioned in the report is the generosity of the state’s teacher pension plan, which gives teachers up to 2 percent of their salary for every year they work. A teacher retiring after 35 year can collect a pension equal to 70 percent of his pay. Not bad.

And schoolteachers appreciate the effort. The turnover rate for teachers in West Virginia is 5 percent, well below the national average of 13 percent.

This costs taxpayers less than $11 million a year — or just one-third of 1 percent of the overall $3 billion a year taxpayers spend on schools in West Virginia from state, federal and local revenues.

Treating employees well earns loyalty.

***

Sharma Floyd runs the Shiloh Brew and Chew in Marysville, Tenn. After she read about a store in North Carolina, she took action.

“They had put up a sign that said ‘No Weapons Allowed’ and they were robbed at gunpoint two days later. The convenience store manager was shot,” Floyd told WBIR. “And that got me thinking. I lost a whole group of motorcyclists because they thought I didn’t allow weapons. But I believe it’s OK to carry as long as you have a permit.”

Floyd posted her own sign: “Guns Are Welcome.”

She told the CBS affiliate that her business increased. If she’s willing to trust them with their guns, they are willing to trust her with their food.

Concealed weapons permits allow law-abiding people who are not mentally ill to carry guns. Such permits are on the rise nationally — and the homicide rate is on the decline, falling to 4.7 homicides per 100,000 from 5.6 just a decade ago according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.

Legal guns are not the problem in America.

Illegal ones are.

***

This month marked the anniversary of a runaway oil train exploding in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, which killed 47 people. The July 6, 2013 incident, was Canada’s deadliest train derailment in 149 years.

In response, the Department of Transportation is moving to hasten the phasing out of the type of tank car involved in the explosion.

But there is a better way to guarantee safer transportation of oil: pipelines.

The Obama administration inexplicably has held up approval of the completion of the Keystone Pipeline, which would bring oil from North Dakota to refineries in Texas. Therefore, the oil continues to be shipped by rail, a much riskier mode of transportation.

Instead of just fixing the design of oil tank cars, the administration should work to reduce the need for them.


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