US Healthcare: A little gratefulness would be nice.

Visit any US hospital doctor’s or surgeon’s lounge and you’ll hear the low, continuous rumble of complaints. Reimbursements are down, Medicare is cutting back, Obamacare is going to be the end of us, patients are waiting longer, Malpractice costs are skyrocketing. As a surgeon who has divided his time between Africa and America, I’ll be honest with you: it’s easy to lose patience with all the complaints.

We’ve forgotten how good we have it. Yes there are problems. Yes, some reform is needed (why don’t we start with tort reform..but don’t get me started, as I’ll soon sound like the ones I’m trying to encourage here). But we have the best system in the world. I’ve been in so many hospitals in East Africa and I can tell you: your worst nightmare would be waking up to find out you are in a Kenyan District hospital.
In the US, I use a “disposable” clip applier during laparoscopic surgery. It likely cost the patient one hundred and fifty dollars. In Kenya, I’d use the same “disposable” instrument a dozen times. (And guess what, it worked!). Overall, because there is no money, we were forced to make do. Patients endure “wards” with dozens of cots lining the walls. There is one sink at the end of the room, a pharmacy with the basics, and a housekeeping service that can’t seem to keep up….so I just learned to overlook the trash.

In Kenya, we didn’t have a CT scanner or MRI scanner at my hospital. We had an ultrasound, but no radiologist. We didn’t have many subspecialists. The medicine was provided by a generalist and if you come in with a head injury, you’ll get me (a general surgeon) instead of a neurosurgeon to drain the blood pressing on your brain.

But in Kenya, if you listen to the buzz around the doctors, there is a funny absence: no complaints. They’ve never known anything better and they’ve learned to make do.
I’m not saying there aren’t room for improvements. I’m just saying that mixed in with all of our negative comments, we should whisper a “thank you,” for the best health system in the world.

Harry Kraus, MD, FACS
Best-selling author of “The Six-Liter Club”

This post was submitted by Harry Kraus, MD.

Interview: Dr. Kizner, New Harrisonburg Schools Superintendent

Dr. Kizner, new superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools

“I’ll never accept as a reason that a child cannot succeed and excel,” says Dr. Scott Kizner, Harrisonburg’s newly appointed Superintendent of schools. The city school board unanimously approved today Kizner’s four-year contract to start on July 1, 2010 with an annual salary of $141,000. (See full press release)

Dr. Kizner , currently in his sixth year as Superintendent of the Martinsville (VA) City Public Schools (MCPS), was one of three finalists for the Harrisonburg position from among 20 candidates from Virginia and other states, according to city school board documents. In taking the Harrisonburg position, Kizner will also be taking an annual salary cut from  $143,000+ contract awarded by Martinsville in 2008. Martinsville has an annual budget of around $22 million compared to Harrisonburg’s almost $56 million for ‘09-’10. Westerly (RI) Public Schools, where Kizner also served as Superintendent for six years, has a budget of about $50 million.

Kizner is familiar with difficult budget decisions as Martinsville has Virginia’s highest unemployment rate at over 21% and a student population that has decreased to its current level of almost 2500. Martinsville did meet its federal AYP requirements (Adequate Yearly Progress) and, in a recent independent efficiency review contracted by the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget, it was concluded that Martinsville was “a highly efficient and effective school division.”

In his first interview after his appointment, Kizner noted his “excitement and desire to get to know the school system and people of Harrisonburg” as his first item of business. Kizner is no stranger to Harrisonburg, though. The New York native earned his Master of Arts degree from James Madison University and currently has a daughter attending JMU. “I’m looking forward to collaborating with JMU and the other area institutions on everything from early childhood through high school,” said Kizner.

Among his Martinsville tenure highlights, Kizner said he is proud of a program that works with parents (68% of students live in single parent home, according to MCPS)across the school system  in an effort to have all students apply for college, whether they plan to attend or not. “From my work in special education,” said Kizner, “I know you have to start with every child’s strengths and then work hard to raise their standards.” Martinsville requires that all students complete 40 hours of service learning/community service prior to graduation.

Kizner also noted his support for the arts, remarking that during tough budget decisions he has “never touched his arts budgets.”  “Arts are the reason that some kids wake up to go to school. For some kids who may be struggling, this is how they best express themselves.”  An arts-mentoring program in MCPS is set to receive recognition from Virginia Tech, according to Kizner.

Kizner plans to move to Harrisonburg with his family in the beginning of July. At the time of this posting, a Martinsville School Board member had not yet returned a request for comment.

New Superintendent Chosen for Harrisonburg City Schools

The Harrisonburg City School Board has issued a press release announcing the next Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Scott Kizner.

PRESS RELEASE: Dr. Scott Kizner appointed to succeed Ford as Superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools

April 28, 2010 – 11:30 A.M.

Dr. Kizner, new superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools

Harrisonburg, VA – The Harrisonburg City School Board announced the appointment of Dr. Scott R. Kizner as its new Superintendent of schools at a special meeting today. The board voted unanimously to approve a four-year contract effective July 1, 2010 with an annual salary of $141,000. Kizner will begin his new duties following the retirement of Dr. Donald Ford whose 13-year tenure as division Superintendent will end on June 30, 2010.

Dr. Kizner’s selection came after a three-month search that included more than 20 candidates from Virginia and other states. The board enlisted the assistance of the Virginia School Board Association for the search and interview process that began in January with a community survey and public hearing to receive feedback on desirable traits and qualifications for the new superintendent.

Commenting on the overall search, Board member Kerri Wilson said, “the process we used in selecting our new Superintendent was extensive and thorough, drawing a large number of highly qualified educators from across the country. As a result, the school board had the opportunity to select the best candidate to lead the Harrisonburg City Public Schools.”

Immediate-past chairman Tom Mendez said, “Dr. Ford has established a tradition of excellence in our schools that is envied and well-respected throughout the state. I am very pleased that we’ve found an experienced leader to carry on and enhance the great work that has been accomplished in our division.”

Dr. Kizner is currently serving in his sixth year as the Superintendent of the Martinsville City Public Schools following a six-year term as Superintendent of the Westerly, RI Public Schools. Prior to becoming a superintendent, his educational experiences included teaching children with disabilities, being a school psychologist, directing special education programs, and serving as assistant superintendent of instruction in the Northern Shenandoah region of Virginia. Throughout his career, Kizner has served on many state and national boards including the Governor’s School Readiness Task Force and the Virginia Early Childhood Advisory Council. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Baruch College, a Master of Arts degree from James Madison University, and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Virginia Tech. He also completed post-doctoral requirements in educational leadership at the University of Virginia.

During the special meeting, board members took the time to welcome the new superintendent, giving their own personal reasons why they selected Kizner for the position.

Board member Greg Coffman stated, “My principal criteria for our new superintendent were an innovative leader and an educator whose first concern is the success of our youth, regardless of their socio-economic or cultural background. In my mind, Dr. Kizner met these qualifications magnificently.”

Board Chairperson Sallie Strickler echoed Mr. Coffman’s sentiments and stated, “Dr. Kizner’s track record shows that he supports collaboration, both horizontally and vertically, to ensure that the entire school division is working toward the same goal of helping every student achieve. I have been impressed by how actively involved Dr. Kizner is in all aspects of the schools.”

Vice Chairman Nick Swayne expressed his reasons for support adding, “Dr. Kizner has demonstrated exceptional strength in establishing strong ties to a diverse community. By building relationships and pulling community resources together, he has raised student performance and created learning opportunities for all children.”

Board member Tim Lacey cited Kizner’s commitment to education and his high expectations as key reasons for supporting him. “During his tenures as superintendent, he has led both school systems to being recognized as high-performing school districts. I’m excited to see what he can do here in Harrisonburg,” Lacey said.

On his selection by the board, Kizner said, “I am excited and honored to be the next Superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools. This is a great school system and I look forward to building on its many strengths and successes. My family and I welcome the opportunity to become part of the Harrisonburg community.”

Scott and his wife, Lori, a school counselor and certified school administrator, have a 24-year old daughter in law school, a 20-year old daughter at James Madison University who is studying to become a teacher, and a daughter that will be enrolled as a junior at Harrisonburg High School in the fall.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, Mrs. Strickler announced that the board will host events in the coming months to introduce Dr. Kizner to school employees and the community. “We look forward to welcoming Scott and his family back to Harrisonburg,” Strickler added.


The Harrisonburg City Public Schools have a very diverse student population with approximately 4,400 students, 800 employees and a $55 million annual budget. The division has 5 elementary schools, 2 middle schools and one high school. All schools are fully accredited by the Virginia Department of Education.

Policy and Pragmatism

I am opposed to capital punishment, abortion and torture. Those are my policies. However, I have learned that policy is not immutable doctrine. It’s more like a map that helps us find our way. A locomotive engineer does not need a map. His steel wheels are going to follow where the rails lead and his options are limited to the few track switches on his route. Some who adhere to policy are like railroad engineers and others are more like motorists. I think I tend to be like the latter.

There are several reasons I believe capital punishment should be abolished, first and foremost is that innocent individuals will inevitably be wrongfully convicted and executed in our imperfect legal system. Folks found to be innocent after years of incarceration can be released and compensated but there is no remedy for a corpse who is vindicated after the fact.

Then there is the argument that Clarence Darrow used in defending those young privileged sociopaths, Leopold and Loeb. He argued that state-sponsored homicide appeals to our worst nature and thereby diminishes our humanity. The United States is one of the few industrialized nations that continue to sanction executing felons. I agree, capital punishment is an archaic holdover from the Dark Ages and should be abolished.

Then I am confronted by the case of a serial pedophile, who after being judged guilty in an extensive trial, admits to having tortured and murdered small children, and I find it very hard to support my own stated policy. I want absolute assurance that man will never harm another child, even if that means execution.

Abortion is a tragedy for all involved. I believe as a matter of policy, we should do all we can to prevent and avoid the aborting of fetuses. I do not believe aborting a fetus of several days is morally equivalent to abortion at six months but any termination of life is, as far as I am concerned, a sad thing.

Then, I am confronted by the case of a fourteen-year-old who is pregnant through rape by her drug-addicted, psychotic father, or the case of a young mother of two who was assaulted and gang-raped. Now, I am forced to concede that abortion is the lesser of two evils. I cannot justify my policy to force a teenager or young mother to bear a child that will be a reminder of her horrible experience for the rest of her life.

I find it hard to impose my morality on those who, after much soul-searching, arrive at a different policy regarding abortion because I understand there are no clear or simple choices, even though some may feel otherwise. So, I tend to emphasize prevention of unwanted pregnancies through education and contraception rather than prohibition of a woman’s right to choose to abort.

Finally, the euphemism, “extraordinary interrogation techniques” is one I find to be especially revolting. We all understand the term refers to torture, and calling it something else does not mitigate its obnoxious nature. State-sanctioned torture should be abolished, period. There is no rational justification for using these dehumanizing tactics to gain information. Aside from the demonstrated fact that information obtained through torture is completely unreliable and often leads to poor decision-making, it is just wrong.

However, ask me to serve on a jury and vote to convict an intelligence officer who uses force on a known terrorist to attempt to get information to save his wife and child from an imminent impending attack, and my policy may just have to bend a little. That defendant is probably going to walk out of the courtroom a free man. However, my policy remains intact, state-sanctioned torture is wrong and should not be the policy of the United States of America, even though I may have a personal reservation based on specific facts at hand.

To some, my equivocation on stated positions may seem hypocritical. The point I am attempting to illustrate is that it is easy for us to construct our ideologies as long as we are not confronted with the nuances of real life situations. An individual’s policies, as well as those of a company, a church or an elected government, all have one thing in common – they are all maps, not railroad tracks.

The reason we give judges discretion in sentencing convicted criminals is that no law can be written in such a way as to anticipate the mitigating factors of each and every situation that may arise. Larceny is a crime but most agree that stealing a loaf of bread to keep a family from starving is not morally equivalent to stealing the life savings of a retiree who is barely meeting expenses.

If we are to plan for the future (which I believe we must), we need to understand that we cannot contemplate every contingency, which means we must craft our policies to guide us through and not restrain us from dealing with the many obstacles that lie ahead, just out of view. That, too, is my policy.

This content was submitted by the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Harrisonburg Times.

This post was submitted by David Rood.

Earth Day Bird List from Hillandale Park

Downey Woodpeckers are identified in Hillendale Park in Harrisonburg

As part of Earth Week in Harrisonburg this year, a walk to see and hear birds in Hillandale Park took place Saturday April 24th at 8 am. Twenty-five species of birds were heard and/or seen even with gray skies. We did see a Crow but could not definatively identify the bird since it did not give either the characteristic Fish or American Crow call.

If you are interested in birds or “birding,” both Rockingham and Augusta counties have local bird clubs. The Audubon Society and American Birding Association are other sites for more information.

Here is the full list of birds identified on Saturday:

  • American Goldfinch
  • American Robin
  • Blue Jay
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Carolina Wren
  • Chipping Sparrow
  • Common Grackle
  • Crow species
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Eastern Phoebe
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Field Sparrow
  • Green Heron
  • Mourning Dove
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Northern Flicker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler

Submitted by Robyn Puffenbarger, Associate Professor of Biology, Bridgewater College and Earth Day Birding Walk Guide

This post was submitted by Robyn Puffenbarger.

Alternative Health: Help For Allergy Season

My son was wheezing as he ran across the soccer field last fall. The increase of Singulair and Claritin did not help to control his allergy symptoms. For him, like many people, spring, summer and fall brought the same old battle against pollen and ragweed. Thankfully, I met Jennifer Parker, M.S., R.D., a registered dietician who gave me great advice to help him find relief.

Parker works at DaVita Dialysis Center and takes a very holistic approach to overall health and to fighting allergies. Parker and her two daughters had allergy related symptoms for many years when she came across a magazine article about Vitamin B12. “Rock stars and movie stars were taking it to increase energy, when they started to realize that it was helping their allergies, too ” she said. “B12 improves your immune system. It retunes your system so that it can work effectively. You can take it sublingually (tablet under the tongue), there is no dangerous dosage and it is more effective than over-the-counter medication.”

Parker also fought back against allergens in her home. She took out any carpet that was not wall to wall. She also vacuums high traffic areas every other day. Her vacuum has a HEPA air filter attached. (HEPA filters capture smaller particles than regular vacuum filters.) She washes bedsheets very regularly and keeps pets out of the sleeping areas.

“I got rid of things that harbor dust mites,” she said. “I limit the amount of stuffed animals in my children’s room and encourage them to give some to charity.”

Recently on NPR’s Morning Edition, Dr. Phillip Gallagher of Allergy and Asthma Associates of Northwestern Pennsylvania gave this advice for allergy sufferers:

It’s very difficult to avoid pollen. You can keep your windows shut and, if you have to, run your air conditioning. If you’re spending time outdoors, you can rinse your nose with a little saline when you come in and take a shower. If there are tasks outside that seem to bother you, you can try wearing a mask to see if that will help, because the pollens are relatively large particles and so usually, mechanical masks will hold them back. It’s just a regular dust mask you might find at a hardware store.

The author, Tracey Brown, is a massage therapist in Harrisonburg, VA.

And as for my son? Although the B12 can be taken anytime, Parker suggested that I start him on a regimen three weeks before allergy season begins. I started him on 5,000 mg daily in February. And we have seen no allergy symptoms this spring.

So what’s your allergy story? Please share in the comments section below.

This post was submitted by Tracey Brown.

Film: Four Local Profiles of Real Sustainability

Sustainability has been a hot topic in Harrisonburg in recent years. Many groups and causes have developed to raise awareness about issues, ranging in focus from JMU’s Institute for Stewardship of the Natural World to the Voluntary Gas Tax to EMU’s planned solar power project and much more.

Each of these projects are championed by individuals or small groups that provide the vision and drive to create new opportunities to learn about and implement ways to live that decrease environmental impact and, many times, increase quality of life.

Cyndi Gusler is featured in Pathways to Whole.

This Saturday, four such leaders will be profiled in the premiere of the 2010 Documentary Production Class film entitled, “Pathways to Whole – Stories from the Journey.”  Admission to Court Square Theater is free, and donations are accepted.  Paulette Moore, EMU professor, was a lead producer in the film.  From the press release:

This documentary focuses on the lives of 4 main characters and how each one has found a way to address the smaller and larger issues within the systems they live in through biking, gardening, art and peace building, among other things.

Tom Benevento is from Harrisonburg, Virginia and an active member of Our Community Place (OCP) and New Community Project. He loves to garden and bike and is involved in a bike movement project that is starting up. Recently Tom traveled to Davis, California with others from Harrisonburg, including Mayor Kai Degner, to learn about how they’ve made biking a sustainable system in their town. Tom and the others hope to make Harrisonburg more bike-friendly and incorporate a similar system here.

Skip Bracelin, member of Our Community Farm in Harrisonburg, Va, has done and seen a lot of things in his lifetime. Skip spent over half a year traveling the Appalachian Trail with his wife and two dogs. He currently lives and works on Our Community Farm and is an active participant in the daily activities there. He is a talented gardener and loves taking care of plants and animals, as they are all connected to us and each other in some way.

Cyndi Gusler is chair of the Visual and Communication Arts department at Eastern Mennonite University (EMU). Cyndi has been studying and creating art since her undergraduate studies at EMU. She considers using found materials her main art form. Cyndi recently went on a trip to Guatemala to learn about and study permaculture and how it relates to art. She currently works and lives in Harrisonburg, Virginia with her husband Chad and two kids Aaron and Lily.

Titus Peachey currently works for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as the director of Peace Education. An EMU alum, Titus has spent time living and serving overseas in Laos with MCC after serving in Vietnam as a conscientious objector during the war there. In Laos he became interested in working at removing cluster bombs that were left in the ground from the silent air war over 40 years ago. He currently lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania but continues to work at peace building and speaking out against the dangers and harm of cluster bombs in Laos and other countries. He is also a member of the board for the group Legacies of War, based in D.C. and works closely with the director, Channapha Khamvongsa.
Date: Saturday April 24, 2010 (tomorrow)
Time: 7:30 pm
Location: Court Square Theater, Downtown Harrisonburg
Duration: 2 hours
Intended audience: general public

Power to The People?

Those of us with a preponderance of gray (or in my case, sparse) hair will vividly recall the angry chant of “POWER TO THE PEOPLE” from Yippies and other radicals on the Left. The phrase was even memorialized in a song by John Lennon, and came to symbolize the vehemence felt by liberals and pseudo-liberals about the Vietnam War, a war prolonged and expanded by the Nixon Administration in the late Sixties and early Seventies.

But the anger did not begin with Nixon. Though Lyndon Johnson was considered to be every bit a liberal as John Kennedy, his decision to allow the military to pursue an unpopular war, which it knew it could not win turned the Left against him. LBJ wisely chose not to run for re-election in 1968 but that did not stop the raucous ugly protests and rage by the anti-war crowd. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a decent man with impeccable liberal credentials, inherited that anger and distrust from his own base. The Democrat landslide of 1964 would not be repeated and the resulting Republican victory spawned an even angrier and demoralized Left. In retrospect, the shift of power was inevitable but in the heat of the times, few liberals could see it coming.

It is my contention that angry people never see clearly and seldom act responsibly. I state this now, having participated in the outrageous protests of the Sixties and Seventies, and having since devoted the intervening years to studying history and gaining some perspective on the political tactics in the context of traditional American values. When I hear Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh venting against their political adversaries, I relive the hate I felt for LBJ and Nixon. I understand why they are so upset with people who are in power, people who do not share their political, economic or religious views. I understand the anger and I also understand how that anger is self-defeating. It is apparent that, because they are so angry, they cannot see clearly and will not act responsibly. Eventually, their influence will wane.

Fringe groups like to say, “most Americans want…” but to anyone outside that fringe, it is clear that they have no idea what “most Americans” want. They extrapolate what THEY want to a fictitious majority to try to make a case for their ideology and policies. Anyone who has ever participated in formal debate knows that the Achilles’ heel to any argument is overstating one’s case. The fringe’s hyperbolic assertions may get the attention of the masses but when the facts are examined more carefully, reason will usually prevail over emotion. We have seen this with the Far Right’s alarmist terms such as “Death Panels.” What they contrived to be a cogent argument backfired to be an embarrassing joke. The same can be said of the term, “Socialist.” I have found that most people on the Right who invoke that hot-button term have no understanding of its definition.

The petulance shown by Republican leaders and the fringe Right at the passage of health care reform is a sad commentary on how we have abandoned our most sacred of American values. It reminds me of professional wrestling, where the match isn’t over until someone is knocked unconscious with a metal folding chair. Contrast that with boxing, where the losing prizefighter congratulates the winner with a handshake or embrace. Our political leaders on both sides of the aisle need to become more like Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano and less like The Undertaker. After all these years, I still support “Power to The People” as long as “the people” believe in democracy, civility and human decency.

This content was submitted by the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Harrisonburg Times.

This post was submitted by David Rood.

Rose Writes to JMU Parents

In response to the Springfest incident last Saturday, JMU President Rose sent an email to parents of JMU students.  The email is included below in its entirety.

April 16, 2010

Dear Parents:

By now, you have seen the news coverage of the Springfest gathering in Harrisonburg last weekend.  I’d like to acknowledge that the vast majority of our students did not attend the event and those who did, for the most part, cooperated with law enforcement officials on the scene.  Many of the JMU Students who live in the vicinity welcomed the police presence and the ultimate decision to disperse the out of control crowd.  I am appreciative of law enforcement’s timely response and commitment to restoring order.

JMU students who made poor decisions and participated in destructive behavior will be subject to the university’s judicial process as they are identified.  The events of last Saturday have cast a cloud upon the reputation of James Madison University and our relationship with the community.

The collective behavior of the individuals involved on Saturday was disturbing.  Public drunkenness, destruction of property and threats to personal safety are inexcusable regardless of the circumstances.  All of us have a stake in the safety and well being of our students.  On and off-campus safety is ensured through the good decision making of each member of our university.

We are conferring with students, property owners, law enforcement, community leaders and government officials in an effort to prevent similar situations in the future.

I am encouraged that many of our students – even ones who did not cause any trouble at Springfest – have already taken responsibility for their actions and have expressed interest in restoring the relationships that the university values.  Recently, Student Government Association President Candace Avalos attended the Harrisonburg City Council meeting and publicly apologized on behalf of the entire student body.  Additionally, many of our students are coordinating efforts to personally reach out to area citizens who were negatively impacted by the events of this past Saturday.

The university acknowledges the fact that you, as parents, have invested a great deal of time, money and care into seeing that your children succeed during their college experience.  We take great pride in producing some of the nation’s most well educated, enlightened and productive citizens.  Although events such as Saturday evening are distracting, the university remains committed to our mission and will use this as an opportunity to strengthen our community.


Linwood H. Rose

Project: Bus Tickets for Salvation Army Residents

My name is Grady Hart, I am a freshman at JMU and a member of JMU Amnesty International.  I am writing this letter in regard to the local Salvation Army, where I have been volunteering weekly for the last couple of months.

While volunteering there, it has come to my attention that very few of its residents even have bikes, much less cars. Unfortunately, they also have very little money, especially due to the less than ideal economic times right now. I have also noticed, however, that they do not seem discouraged by this fact, as some have still been able to find jobs and are now working for a better life for themselves, and in some cases, their families.

On a personal level, I find it inspiring that even in the situation in which they find themselves, where despite not having money for food or shelter, they still have the drive to pick themselves up and keep on fighting. This is why it pains me so greatly to see them hindered and often defeated by lack of such a simple yet vital resource as transportation, as their extremely modest incomes do not allow them the luxury of purchasing bus tickets to find jobs, to get to and from jobs, and to do other essential things such as visit doctors and family.

It is for this reason that I recently organized and hosted a benefit concert in Harrisonburg in order to raise money for the purchase of bus tickets for these more than deserving fellow Harrisonburg residents. In one night, through the good will and support of JMU students and other Harrisonburg residents alike, we raised almost $350, which will all go directly to the Salvation Army to purchase bus tickets for its residents.

While the concert was a great success, I do not view it as a long term solution, as about 40 bus tickets per week are needed, and at $20 for a book of 25 tickets, the funds will go dry after about eleven weeks.  To address this problem, I have contacted and been in conversations with the Mayor, Mr. Kai Degner, and am also planning to speak along with several other dedicated classmates at the next City Council meeting.

This is a large problem, and in order to resolve it, we will need the help and support of many more people than just my classmates and me. Ideally, I would like for these Salvation Army residents to be able to receive free bus tickets so long as they are using them for worthy causes, such as job searching, doctor appointments, or getting to and from work. However, I also understand that this is not an ideal world and compromises often must be made. I therefore believe that it is only through collaboration that a long term solution to this problem will be found. I call on everyone who reads this letter to please help join the fight.

Since I will be presenting at the next City Council meeting, one very easy way to help this worthy cause would be to contact Mayor Degner and the other council members, Vice-Mayor Baugh, Council Byrd, Council Frank, and Council Wiens to voice your support of free or discounted bus tickets for Salvation Army residents. The contact information of each resident can be found at the following web address.

As you can probably tell, I believe that this is a cause worth dedicating my time and energy to; I hope you will also find this to be true. Please help in any way that you can so that we can make a difference and help these fellow Harrisonburg residents to help themselves.

Grady Hart- JMU 2013

This post was submitted by Grady Hart.

Fish Kills in Shenandoah Begin (Again)

The lesion mainly impact young small mouth bass and red-breasted sunfish.

Since 2004, the spring season has marked the beginning of fish dying in the Shenandoah River.  The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries released yesterday a press release indicating they are receiving early and isolated reports of fish kills.

The public is being urged to help the investigation by reporting fishkills with location, date, any unusual water conditions, types and numbers of fish, and photographs.  According to yesterday’s release,

The impacts appear to be most severe among smallmouth bass and sunfish, although other types of fish also have been affected. Outbreaks often are accompanied by open sores, or skin lesions, in many of the diseased fish. Typically these events have begun in the spring when water temperatures rise into the 50s and have continued until water temperatures reach the mid-70s, generally running from early April until mid-May.

While the Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force has been studying the issues for years, no “smoking gun” has been found as cause for the fishkills.


Full release from the DEQ:

When the water temperature is right, sunfish in the Shenandoah River and beyond have been impacted by bacterial lesions.

April 19, 2010

Contact: Bill Hayden, DEQ
(804) 698-4447

RICHMOND, VA. — The Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries continue to track and investigate springtime fish disease and mortality events that have occurred in several rivers in the western part of Virginia in recent years. Only a few isolated problems have been reported to date this spring, but as the period begins when these events have occurred in past years, the state agencies are enhancing their investigation by seeking input from the public.

Since 2004, fish disease outbreaks and mortality have occurred in the Shenandoah River basin. In spring 2007 similar events began in the upper James and Cowpasture rivers. The impacts appear to be most severe among smallmouth bass and sunfish, although other types of fish also have been affected. Outbreaks often are accompanied by open sores, or skin lesions, in many of the diseased fish. Typically these events have begun in the spring when water temperatures rise into the 50s and have continued until water temperatures reach the mid-70s, generally running from early April until mid-May.

In 2005, DEQ and DGIF formed the Shenandoah River Fish Kill Task Force, a group of stakeholders, including university and government scientists, environmental groups, fishing guides, and volunteer monitors – all with the goal of finding the cause of the annual spring die-off events. This coordinated approach helped state agencies set priorities, identify, conduct and evaluate research into causes of the springtime outbreaks.

Studies by state and federal scientists and several university researchers have focused on water chemistry, general health of fish and other aquatic life, and fish diseases. Water quality studies to date have not identified any individual chemicals at levels that would be expected to cause fish disease or mortality. Fish health studies indicate that fish are subjected to multiple stresses, with evidence of damaged skin, gills and internal organs. Fish appear to have a high number of internal parasites, and a high prevalence of a condition called fish intersex also has been observed in some species.

Biological pathogens, especially bacterial fish diseases, have come under greater focus during the past two years. Initial findings suggest links between certain bacteria and the disease outbreaks. Ongoing studies involving DEQ, DGIF and the U.S. Geological Survey’s Leetown, W. Va., Science Center, continue to explore the role of bacterial communities, along with environmental and contaminant factors that may cause immune suppression.

The public has made a significant difference in this investigation. State officials and environmental leaders have learned of many of these outbreaks from reports provided by fishermen, land owners and other river users. Knowing the timing and distribution of these events will help scientists focus on the areas where incidents are active, and will help generate the most meaningful data. This information also allows DEQ and DGIF to post current information on locations and severity of fish disease and mortality and share this information with the public through updates on the agency websites.

The public is encouraged to continue to provide reports on observations of diseased, dying or dead fish. Helpful information includes location, date, unusual water conditions, types and numbers of fish, and photographs. Anyone with information on dead or dying fish is encouraged to contact the DEQ regional office in Harrisonburg at (540) 574-7800, or toll-free in Virginia at 1-800-592-5482. Information also can be emailed to


Harrisonburg Earth Week 2010 Begins!

Harrisonburg Earth Week 2010, which began Saturday, April 17th, will feature a variety of workshops, talks, movies, and other events addressing the central theme “Celebrating Earth: Building a Sustainable Community”.

Over 35 events will take place at a variety of locations, including downtown Harrisonburg, JMU, EMU, Bridgewater College, Harrisonburg High School, local churches, and city parks.

Workshops will include sessions on growing mushrooms, building a greenhouse, gardening, and making a rain barrel. Outdoor activities include walks in the Arboretum and working to remove invasive plants in the parks. Talks will touch on moutaintop removal mining, sprituality, energy efficiency, and a variety of other topics.

The week began officially with the kick-off event, “Four Views on Community Sustainability”, which took place Sunday, April 18th, 4:00 PM, at Harrisonburg High School with a panel of community leaders including Loren Swartzendruber, Erik Curren, Kai Degner, and Kathy Holm presenting different perspectives on building a sustainable community.

Earth Week 2010 was organized by a steering committee including representatives from local environmental and community organizations, led by the Climate Action Alliance of the Valley (CAAV). For more information visit


April 22, 2010 marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. To celebrate this anniversary, the Harrisonburg Earth Week Coalition has planned a wealth of activities throughout Earth Week, April 17th to April 24th. Activities for all ages will take place all over town: movies, workshops, live performances, bird walks, scavenger hunts, and more. The week-long series of programs, entitled Celebrating Earth, Building Sustainable Communities, has been organized by a coalition made up of representatives of local colleges, universities and government entities, as well as citizens’ and environmental groups (visit the Sponsors link for more information).

All plans are subject to change, so be sure to check back here for final information.

Earth Week Events Calendar
Saturday, April 17th

Sunday, April 18th

Monday, April 19th

  • noon: The Shenandoah Mountain Proposal: Land Protection in the GW National Forest, with Carol Lena Miller, Clementine Cafe
  • 7:00 pm: Mountain Top Removal, with Judy Bonds of Coal Mountain River Watch, JMU Miller Hall
Tuesday, April 20th

Wednesday, April 21st

Thursday, April 22nd – HAPPY EARTH DAY!

Friday, April 23rd

Saturday, April 24th

This post was submitted by Ralph Grove.

Hundreds Gather for Tea Party

On Tax Day, Thursday April 15th, hundreds of citizens congregated on the lawn at Court Square in downtown Harrisonburg. Like many other related gatherings across the state and country, their purpose was to draw attention to a general dissatisfaction with the government, especially the federal government, while calling for lower taxes, a limitation to the size and scope of government, and a respect for the United States Constitution.

The Shenandoah Valley Tea Party organized both the event here in Harrisonburg as well as a related one in Staunton. Keynote speakers included: 26th district State Senator Mark Obenshain, former Republican Party of Virginia Chairwoman Kate Obenshain, and former Virginia Senator and Governor George Allen.

During the rally, many of the attendees held signs with slogans such as: “‘Capitalism’ is not a bad thing!”, “Defend the Constitution!”, and “Wealth is Earned, Not Distributed!”. Although there were a few counter-protesters during the early stages of the event, including one who was arrested, the proceedings went quite smoothly overall. Upon the conclusion of the event, the organizers invited each person to tear a blank 1040 Form in order to symbolize freedom from the current tax code and increasing Washington spending.

The real question in my mind is, how many of these folks will stay active in the movement? The next scheduled Tea Party event is a 6th district town hall meeting with Representative Bob Goodlatte in May. I guess we will find out then.

Note: Photos and video available at

This post was submitted by Joshua Huffman.

Art Exhibit: Heart To Heart

Sam Hunter's art exhibit is inspried by a heart attack. See her exhibit at Sawhill Gallery through April 21, 2010.

That art makes manifest an artist’s inner dialog with their personal demons is a well accepted notion. The exhibit by Sam Hunter, now on display at James Madison University’s Sawhill Gallery, is a prime example of just such a revealing dialog, this time between an artist and their body.

Ms. Hunter, a recent transplant to Virginia by way of Southern California and originally England, presents us with an array of thoughtfully arranged and interestingly displayed fiber and mixed-media works that explore her response to a recent heart attack, and more importantly, her subsequent struggle to recover.

How Do You Mend a Broken Heart by Sam Hunter

As Ms. Hunter put it, the “heart attack robbed, but it also gifted me something in return.” What the heart attack gifted appears to have been a new and conceptually powerful outlet for her art. Coping with the sudden shock of dealing with a heart that was no longer trustworthy, and the ongoing medical concerns of how best to move forward in life, Ms. Hunter shares “art has always saved me” and the work on display bears witness to that salvation.

Titles of work such as Apical Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and Median Sternotomy might seem strange and medically remote, but the sensitive handling of the collected two and three-dimensional images and forms invite us to empathize and reflect on our own physical fragility. As the late, great Robert Arneson once shared “all works of art are a self-portrait.”

The self-portrait Ms. Hunter presents us with is a brave and interesting new vista to which we can all relate. Just listen to your heart beat. “Wearing My Heart on My Sleeve” Trough April 21. (Sawhill Gallery, Duke Hall, James Madison University, 800 S. Main St., Harrisonburg, VA., 540-568-6918.)

Written by Cole H. Welter

This post was submitted by Cole Welter.

Alternative Health: Reiki

A few years ago, I was in massage therapy school. During a snack break I noticed a teacher about five feet away, showing a student hand positions for a different kind of therapy. The student didn’t feel a thing. But I suddenly felt a sensation of springtime, although it was a dark winter of my life.

During this time, I had just lost a job, my health insurance, and my mother to cancer. But as the teacher administered this touch, I started to feel relaxed and warm. I started to cry. Even though she wasn’t touching me, I came to understand that healing from this kind of touch, known as Reiki (RAY-key), can be done at a distance. I wanted to know more.

Reiki, developed by a Japanese Doctor after World War II, means universal-life energy, according to “Reiki: The Healing Touch,” by William Lee Rand. Reiki is not a religion, but a relaxation technique. The theory of Reiki is that we are alive because of life energy flowing through us. When this energy is blocked, we become out of balance, or we may become ill. The ability to use Reiki healing is transferred from the hands of a licensed Reiki Master to the hands of a student during training (or attunement). The healing is in turn transferred to the client.

Lynn Boggess, a licensed senior Reiki master, teacher, and practitioner.

I spoke to Lynn Boggess, a licensed senior Reiki master, teacher, and practitioner. She has been a full time Reiki practitioner since 1997, and is the founder of the Virginia Center for Reiki Training. I asked Lynn if she has seen Reiki energy heal in her practice.

Lynn: I have seen miracles. There was a gentleman who had toxic glue poisining. He was unable to walk. Migraines all the time, nausea, horrible symptoms. Reiki detoxed the glue from his body and his symptoms disappeared.

Tracey: How has the use of Reiki grown in the U.S.?

Lynn: The public wants to take more responsibility for their health. We are learning that we need to heal body, mind and spirit. Reiki is part of the holistic healing community and so I am now being asked to donate time for Reiki by oncologists. I am also teaching people with diabetes on the benefits of Reiki.

T: What do you say to people who have doubts about the validity of Reiki?

L: The Reiki is still going to do its job. I work with people who are really sick and they are ready to participate in their healing. If people want to know more they can go to the website for the International Center for Reiki Training ( It has links for research on Reiki and explains Reiki to Christians.

The Virginia Center for Reiki Training is located on a hillside on 18 forested acres of land, in Blue Ridge, VA. I attended a class filled with people from all walks of life: a teacher, nurses and a civil engineer. There were mostly women but a few men too, from all over the United States. Reiki felt like meditating with a friend. It gave me space to be calm and quiet. Since the class, I have given Reiki sessions to my husband and myself. He has his doubts.

If you have doubts about Reiki or you would like to experience it, find a practitioner in your area. You can find out about the Virginia Center for Reiki Training and Lynn

Author Tracey Brown is a Harrisonburg resident and a Massage Therapist at the Beauty Spa, Harrisonburg, VA.

Boggess on her website,

This content was submitted by the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Harrisonburg Times.

This post was submitted by Tracey Brown.

Ethnically Diverse Harrisonburg

Kurdish Community at the Harrisonburg International Festival

I hope and pray that the Harrisonburg Times can be a medium for the cultural richness of the city. There are so many immigrants and refugees in the city that I believe that Harrisonburg is blessed. I would like that those immigrants and refugees have a voice here.

This post was submitted by Jay Bender.

JMU Riot: Blame Game is Not Constructive

This riot blame game needs to stop. Harrisonburg and JMU are inextricably linked. Both are equal partners in this community and mutually benefit each other. Splitting our community along these lines merely adds to the shame and embarrassment. Instead of creating this dichotomous rift as a means of shifting blame, we should be engaging in constructive dialog as partners in this community to figure out how to prevent such regrettable situations and sustain this mutually beneficial relationship.

In situations of this magnitude there is rarely a clear cut right or wrong. This case is no exception. Clearly a number of students did not act in accordance with the values espoused by the university and this city and should take personal responsibility for their actions. However, there was a serious lack of foresight by the city and the university that allowed the situation to reach the critical mass necessary for this level of civil disturbance. Each should take responsibility for their portion and move on to a more constructive debate.

I would encourage members of the groups who are committed to working together to attend future city council meetings and any other community dialog.

This content was submitted by the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Harrisonburg Times.

This post was submitted by William Koons.

Fair and Balanced

Dave Rood is a contributor to the

Much has been made of the so-called “Liberal Mainstream Media.” Allegations of bias come from both sides of the political spectrum but mostly we hear the Right crying foul for what they perceive to be news and entertainment media dominated by the Left. There is little doubt that the politics of many in the national media tend to be slightly left of center but the notion that the Right has been drowned out is patently absurd. The Right uses this myth of a Liberal-dominated national news media to justify the plethora of extreme Right-wing talk and public affairs shows on radio and now Fox television.

Fox News uses the tagline, “Fair and Balanced,” which has come to be one of the greatest ironies of all times. The network, owned by Australian-American mogul, Rupert Murdoch, manages operations much like George Steinbrenner runs the New York Yankees. Both understand the power of large sums of money and each imposes his will through spending whatever it takes to get what they want. It is sort of like the American Dream turned on its head. Instead of ordinary guys taking risks to develop their innovative ideas and make their fortunes, entrenched billionaires Murdoch and Steinbrenner use their money to sell their ideas, and overwhelm their competition.

The argument from the Right is that Fox News, as well as the thousands of local ultra-conservative radio and print franchises, are merely a counter-balance to the Left’s influence on the national media. It just does not work that way.

For the sake of argument, let us assume the national media is indeed the tool of the Left. The antidote is not more propaganda from the Right but truthful (as in the whole truth) and objective reporting. Any first-year journalism student knows the difference between “the press” and “yellow press.” When a reporter searches for facts to affirm what he has already concluded to be true, he is not reporting. He is selling. When a news anchor adds colorful condescending commentary to stories for the purpose of discounting or ridiculing the stated facts, she is not reporting. When the line between entertainment (e.g. Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, et al) and news is deliberately blurred, the news is devalued and naturally becomes highly suspect.

There are such things as professional standards of journalistic ethics and practices. A reporter does not have to disavow his political ideology to do his job but, like any doctor, teacher, scientist or other professional, he must suppress his bias to accurately investigate a story. This is why Creationism cannot stand the test as a science. Creationism begins with a conclusion and includes only those data that support the conclusion. Science begins with a hypothesis and confirms, disproves or modifies it as data are collected. Fox News reporters may not technically be propagandists but anyone who views the network for more than a day or two will see that the Murdoch fortune is working behind the scene to shape the news to fit his ultra-Right-wing taste.

One would think that all of the lampooning and mocking Fox has received would lead them to straighten up and fly right (poor metaphor) but it has not. Just as Steinbrenner will not stop stealing talent from other teams in the American League East, Murdoch is not likely to seek to become a noble individual who actually cares about the plight of average folks more than indulging his perverted sense of American values or shoring up his vast pile of cash.

The Harrisonburg Times is taking the mound against some heavy hitters. Obviously, it does not have the financial resources possessed by other news media in this market. If this fledgling e-paper is able to fly, it will be due to the support of local citizens who care about the information they consume, as well as the information they are fed. It is a noble attempt to both educate and enlighten our community. The Harrisonburg Times will eventually be known as either a revolutionary hero like George Washington or a romantic idealist like Don Quixote. I am rooting for it to be more like George… Washington, not Steinbrenner.

David Rood
daverood [at]

This content was submitted by the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Harrisonburg Times.

This post was submitted by David Rood.

The Need for Political Dialogue

Like many of you, I went to high school here. During that time, when most kids of that age think about a couple of things: girls, music, sports, or hanging out with friends, my major interest was (and still is) politics. I know what you are thinking, “You’re a weird one, Joshua”.

The odd thing was, when my teachers found out about my newly formed political views, some treated me differently. Unfortunately, a few were quite hostile. While we are on the topic, let me dredge up another example from those days, prom. While most guys were trying to find a way to score, I spent the car ride discussing the latest political developments with my date. You roll your eyes (and not without good reason). In retrospect, I admit that prom is not a night for politics. Nevertheless, the one overriding thought of the time was, don’t talk about politics and keep your opinions to yourself. The same maxim held true for family and other social gatherings.

But why must politics (and religion) be a social taboo? Don’t decisions made in the city or county halls, state houses, and in Congress have the potential to drastically change our lives? Do you know how your representatives vote, or even who they are? Regrettably our society has degraded to such a point that there rarely is civil political dialogue. A difference in political opinion cannot be resolved via rational debate, but by shouting, threats, and anger. We are ingrained with this “us against them” mentality. Regardless of your position, we are always right and they (being the opposite viewpoint) are always wrong. We are constantly being divided. We are liberals versus conservatives and Republicans versus Democrats. But these words are losing their meaning.  This lack of discourse further hinders political awareness.

You call yourself a Republican or Democrat but what does that term really mean? More importantly, what issues are critical to you and where do you stand on them? Who knows? Politics in the news has been reduced to personal attacks and 30 second sound bites. Apathy is growing. Gasp…if I can’t defend my positions, does that mean I could be wrong? Never! No one wants to expose their ignorance and so the politically ignorant will use any tool at their disposal to avoid such a discussion. Unfortunately, these tactics create a downward spiral made worse with each passing generation.

If the Harrisonburg Times gives me the opportunity, I will gladly take the chance to tell you about my personal political philosophy. But, even more important than the ability to spread my own ideology, is the need for understanding and dialogue. After all, you might be a closet Democrat or Republican and not even know it, but vote the opposite way because you don’t know any better. I don’t want to sound like an elitist, but the simple fact is I’ve seen it happen.

My hope for this publication is that it can be a forum for rational, open, and honest political inquiry and discussion. I’m sure that I’ll disagree with many of the political opinions of my fellow writers and readers just as surely as they will disagree with mine. Of course, I know that few of you will ever share my burning passion for politics, but for those that have even a mild interest, even you high school students, you needn’t be ashamed, bullied, or intimidated. Believe it our not, politics is vitally important to the health and wellbeing of not only our government, but also our society. For how can you vote when you don’t know the issues or the candidates involved? How can you complain the government is doing too much or too little if you don’t know how your representative voted? It is now time to renew a political dialogue. Let us begin.

This content was submitted by the author, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Harrisonburg Times.

This post was submitted by Joshua Huffman.

Looking Back and Forth: City Lights

Nancy Bondurant Jones will be submitting a regular column to the titled “Looking Back and Forth.”

Through centuries city lights have  not only offered  brighter nights but often reflect city culture.   For example in the Smithsonian magazine for January 2010,  David Martin quoted a 14th Century homeowners association in the year 1365 regarding lighting:

Manor hath provided torches throughout the community for the convenience of all.  However, all torches must be extinguished by curfew and not reignited until the following dusk so as not to obscure viewing of God’s celestial firmament.

What a lovely reflection—though today the number of lights serve to dim sky views.  Yet lights have always been an symbol of proud growth.  Historian John Wayland gave Dec. 22, 1890, as the date electric lights were first turned on in Harrisonburg—streets unlisted:  “Globes suspended from chestnut poles of regulation size…out of the way of traffic. All to burn nightly, except when the moon is actually full and not cloudy.”
Harrisonburg had been officially designated an independent city in 1916 but it took decades later for neon signs and strings of electric lights to evoke that “city feeling.”

Yet in the mid-1930s, a dark horizon still marked rural nights.  Furthermore, as towns and cities gradually acquired more lights, a vast social gulf grew between those living in darkness with kerosene lamps their only lights while townsfolk sat blessed by electricity.

Amid the nation’s worse  financial depression, the President sought to lift Americans’ pride and to close the nation’s cultural divide.  The Rural Electrification Act was signed by Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt in May 1936.  Two years later, on Jan. 29, 1938, the Daily News-Record reported, “More than 97 rural homes in the western section of Rockingham Co. enjoyed electric lights and power for the first time Saturday night when 47 miles of the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative lines were energized.”

In spite of some farmers’ fears of electric wires in their homes, on June 16, SVEC reported 118 miles had been energized the prior week for over 400 farms in West Rockingham County and Northwest Augusta Co.  By year’s end, the SVEC had served 1,825  local homes with current, and across the nation, similar growth drew farmers to praise their President.  One Tennessee,  farmer giving witness in church said: “Brothers and sisters, I want to tell you this:  The greatest thing on earth is to have the love of God in your heart—and the next greatest thing is to have electricity in your house.”

Modern Americans may agree if they ever think about it, taking electricity for granted  and complaining fiercely when a storm takes down their line. Yet they’re proudly aware that a modern “city” offers not only great conveniences, but also stylish decorative touches.  Since the 1930’s in many small towns across the nation, any Saturday night drew both country and city dwellers to greet friends, and all to marvel at neon signs and electric lights along Main Street or the passing parade of cars one way.  And electric lights were often followed by neon and fluorescent.  In 1941 Gus Julius remodeled his restaurant to full-time with fluorescent inside and neon along the street.  Newsweek magazine ran an article on this first restaurant in the nation completely lit by fluorescent lighting.

Today holiday nights still beckon those driving or strolling on Main Street.  Traffic now flows one way and  the once familiar large stores now line distant malls.

Yet current lights mark eateries, small shops and clubs  that beckon strollers along Main Street with foods, music, stylish miscellany plus art.    We even celebrate “First Fridays”  downtown for “art & music, shop & stroll, wine & dine” each month from April through October—city lights still reflecting city culture.

This post was submitted by Nancy Bondurant Jones.