THE FUTURE OF SUNNY CAL - Star Gazing The Next Twenty-Five: Part I

(01/28/2001)

By Bob Weaver (Part one)

We haul out the crystal ball and paint a picture of Sunny Cal in the next 25 years, for better or worse.

The steep hills, narrow hollows and poor access will continue to be Calhoun's curse and blessing. Shades of Celtic culture and Melungeon temperament will remain, but will continue to disappear. The identity of extended family or neighbors as "whole people" will diminish, along with the connectedness to place and time. Where you came from ("Who are you?"), referring to family of origin and how you have survived will be replaced by what you are doing now ("What do you do?"). Most of the pioneer families of origin will disappear as new citizens, mostly from the northeast, buy cheap land for a lifestyle preference. Land ownership will become more diverse, with smaller acreage.

The population of the county will remain about the same (8,000+) with some slight increases over the next 25 years. The Census Bureau is actually predicting a decline in population in about 25 years, which may be related to the aging population. West Virginia and Calhoun County continue to have among the oldest populations.

The political dynamic of the county will move toward information and disclosure. Historically, systems have operated behind closed doors. The less you tell the public, the better off you'll be. The flow of news and information during most of the past century has been controlled by omission with word-of-mouth accounts, often inaccurate. With the advent of the internet and computer technology, people want to know what's happening, even in rural Calhoun County.

The failure of local governments or systems to take a pro-active stance to inform the public will be consistently challenged. If they are not open, they will collapse. The "old politics" of the 20th century will be replaced by activist groups that develop agendas and help elect officials.

Despite poor access to the outside world, retail sales will continue to plummet except for convenience stores and specialty services. There will be a continuing business shift toward southern Calhoun County and I-79. Small rural businesses will be forced to close unable to meet mandates of the EPA, which are based on urban assumptions. The Town of Grantsville will be unable to support itself as a municipal entity, no police or street services. Customary services like water and sewage will likely be taken over by a public service district.

The county government, unable to finance minimal services because of a low tax base, will be consolidated with other county units. The county will be unable to meet mandates by the State of West Virginia. Consolidation will occur by pressured choice or by take-over and West Virginia will eventually have about a dozen or fifteen counties.

Grantsville will no longer be a seat of government. Tax decisions will be made by voters and representatives elected from more populated areas, an even further decline in voices speaking for rural areas, a form of taxation without representation. Centralization will be "sold" as efficient and less costly. It has yet to prove otherwise.

Likewise, because of student decline and funding problems, the current county school system will be scrapped and administratively consolidated with several other counties. Calhoun will have one central school site with greater emphasis on home schooling using electronic media with fewer teachers. Teachers will be tested more proficiently prior to their being hired, and they will be given competency based tests to maintain their positions.


Hur Herald ®from Sunny Cal
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