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Politics, Government, Election

Right-to-Work Withstands Legal Challenge

The Free Press WV

Last week I wrote about the ongoing legal battle over West Virginia’s right-to-work law. The headline was, “Right-to-work arguments in WV go on… and on.”

I was wrong… because that was before the state Supreme Court issued its decision overturning the lower court’s preliminary injunction preventing the right-to-work law from taking effect.

The majority opinion by Justice Menis Ketchum and the concurrence by Chief Justice Allen Loughry left no avenue for a possible appeal and no room to suggest they might be convinced that the right-to-work law is unconstitutional.

First, Ketchum established this is a legislative matter not a judicial one. “Whether a law is fair or unfair is not a question for the judicial branch of government,” he wrote.  But then he went on to make clear his belief about the union argument.

“Twenty-seven other states have adopted right-to-work laws similar to West Virginia’s, and the unions have not shown a single one that has been struck down by an appellate court,” Ketchum wrote.

Chief Justice Loughry was even more direct.  “In absence of any legal authority supporting its constitutional challenge and in the face of United States Supreme Court holdings undermining their (the unions’) position, the respondents’ (the unions’) action fails on all fronts.”

Justice Robin Davis dissented and will issue a separate opinion and Justice Margaret Workman concurs in part and dissents in part and also reserves the right to issue her opinion.  However, the lean of the majority of the court—Loughry, Ketchum and Beth Walker—is clear.

The case is now remanded back to Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey for a final hearing.  It would be wise for her to heed the not-so-subtle criticism from the court.

Justice Ketchum wrote in a footnote, “Because of the far-reaching effect of Senate Bill 1 (the right-to-work bill) and its potentially substantial impact upon the public interests, in the future, we encourage the circuit court to act with greater celerity in bringing this case to a resolution.”

Chief Justice Loughry was again a little more direct. He called Judge Bailey’s issuance of the injunction “inexplicable” and added, “I further encourage the circuit court to assiduously avoid further delay and grant this matter its foremost attention.”

The unions may continue their legal challenge, and Judge Bailey may even make an ill-advised ruling contrary to the strong message from the high court, but from a legal perspective this issue is settled.  Right-to-work opponents should put their efforts into changing the make-up of the Legislature or the Supreme Court if they hope to prevail on this issue.

Auditors Urge Shutting West Virginia Funeral Examiners Board

The Free Press WV

West Virginia’s Board of Funeral Service Examiners fails to protect the public against unscrupulous operators and should be disbanded, according to the Legislature’s auditors.

They cited four cases in the past few years where they say the board delayed for many months suspending or revoking funeral directors’ licenses despite evidence they had taken customers’ advance payments that should have been held in trust.

Lawmakers should consider removing the board’s oversight function to another state agency, or else replace all board members and ensure that two have no working ties to the funeral industry, according to Performance Evaluation and Research Division Director John Sylvia.

“Consumers of funeral services and goods are often in a distraught emotional state when making these high-cost transactions,” Sylvia wrote. “The evidence demonstrates a relatively high risk of dishonest business practices by unprofessional funeral service providers.”

Board Executive Director Regina Anderson, in an audit response, said board attorneys have advised them not to take disciplinary actions without formal complaints and when there are criminal cases to wait for convictions before acting.

“We now find ourselves being chastised for failing to act according to the interpretation of your attorneys when our attorneys have advised to the contrary,” Anderson wrote. The board currently consists of three funeral directors and one citizen member, with three more due to be appointed, she wrote.

According to Anderson, the board also is never informed of embezzlement by funeral directors unless there are media reports. “We only find out by chance,” she wrote.

Auditors focused mainly on the case of Chad Harding, former president of the board, who kept his license after he was found in an August 2016 federal court judgment to have received more than $900,000 from filing false claims for funeral services against more than 100 consumers who bought “preneed policies” with Homesteaders Life Co. The $2.8 million in treble damages for racketeering were paid by another businessman.

A month later, in September, the board first contacting Harding about its charges against him.

The month after that, the state attorney general’s office filed a motion in state court to permanently prohibit Harding from selling preneed funeral products and services.

In July this year, the board voted 3-2 to accept Harding’s settlement proposal for having his funeral director and crematory licenses suspended for six months, followed by six months’ probation and $25,000 to cover the board’s legal fees. Three board members subsequently resigned.

Anderson wrote that the board was looking at additional legal fees of about $50,000 if it pursued the case instead of settling it and the final outcome would not have been guaranteed.

September ‘We Card’ Awareness Month

The Free Press WV

In an effort to combat underage tobacco use, Governor Jim Justice joined with the West Virginia Oil Marketers & Grocers Association and the West Virginia Wholesalers Association to proclaim September “We Card” Awareness Month.

The initiative is designed to encourage all retailers to successfully identify and prevent age-restricted product sales to minors.

“The West Virginia Oil Marketers & Grocers Association and the West Virginia Wholesalers Association — organizations representing the companies that sell these products — want to make sure that they don’t get in the hands of kids,” said Traci Nelson, president of the West Virginia Oil Marketers & Grocers Association and executive director of the West Virginia Wholesalers Association.

The West Virginia Wholesalers Association and OMEGA strongly encourage retailers to train or re-train employees by taking advantage of We Card’s award-winning training courses offered online through We Card’s eLearning Center at www.wecard.org or through licensing to retailers and other organizations.

For additional information, call 304.343.5500 or visit www.Omegawv.com.

Let’s Make America Free Again: 230 Years After the Constitution, We’re Walking a Dangerous Road

The Free Press WV

“I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in — and the West in general — into an unbearable hell and a choking life.”—Osama bin Laden (October 2001)

Ironically, during the same week that we mark the 16th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we find ourselves commemorating the 230th anniversary of the U.S. Constitution.

While there has been much to mourn about the loss of our freedoms in the years since 9/11, there has been very little to celebrate. Indeed, we have gone from being a nation that took great pride in serving as a model of a representative democracy to being a model of how to persuade a freedom-loving people to march in lockstep with a police state.

What began with the passage of the USA Patriot Act in the wake of the 9/11 attacks has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.

Since then, we have been terrorized, traumatized, and tricked into a semi-permanent state of compliance. The bogeyman’s names and faces change over time, but the end result remains the same: our unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security.

All the while, the Constitution has been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded to such an extent that what we are left with today is but a shadow of the robust document adopted more than two centuries ago. Most of the damage, however, has been inflicted upon the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the Constitution—which historically served as the bulwark from government abuse.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, roving VIPR raids and the like—all sanctioned by Congress, the White House, the courts and the like—a recitation of the Bill of Rights would understandably sound more like a eulogy to freedoms lost than an affirmation of rights we truly possess.

We can pretend that the Constitution, which was written to hold the government accountable, is still our governing document. However, the reality we must come to terms with is that in the America we live in today, the government does whatever it wants, freedom be damned.

Here is what it means to live under the Constitution today.

The First Amendment is supposed to protect the freedom to speak your mind, assemble and protest nonviolently without being bridled by the government. It also protects the freedom of the media, as well as the right to worship and pray without interference. In other words, Americans should not be silenced by the government. To the founders, all of America was a free speech zone.

Despite the clear protections found in the First Amendment, the freedoms described therein are under constant assault. Increasingly, Americans are being arrested and charged with bogus “contempt of cop” charges such as “disrupting the peace” or “resisting arrest” for daring to film police officers engaged in harassment or abusive practices. Journalists are being prosecuted for reporting on whistleblowers. States are passing legislation to muzzle reporting on cruel and abusive corporate practices. Religious ministries are being fined for attempting to feed and house the homeless. Protesters are being tear-gassed, beaten, arrested and forced into “free speech zones.” And under the guise of “government speech,” the courts have reasoned that the government can discriminate freely against any First Amendment activity that takes place within a government forum.

The Second Amendment was intended to guarantee “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” Essentially, this amendment was intended to give the citizenry the means to resist tyrannical government. Yet while gun ownership has been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court as an individual citizen right, Americans remain powerless to defend themselves against SWAT team raids and government agents armed to the teeth with military weapons better suited for the battlefield. As such, this amendment has been rendered null and void.

The Third Amendment reinforces the principle that civilian-elected officials are superior to the military by prohibiting the military from entering any citizen’s home without “the consent of the owner.” With the police increasingly training like the military, acting like the military, and posing as military forces—complete with military weapons, assault vehicles, etc.—it is clear that we now have what the founders feared most—a standing army on American soil.

The Fourth Amendment prohibits the government from conducting surveillance on you or touching you or invading you, unless they have some evidence that you’re up to something criminal. In other words, the Fourth Amendment ensures privacy and bodily integrity. Unfortunately, the Fourth Amendment has suffered the greatest damage in recent years and has been all but eviscerated by an unwarranted expansion of police powers that include strip searches and even anal and vaginal searches of citizens, surveillance and intrusions justified in the name of fighting terrorism, as well as the outsourcing of otherwise illegal activities to private contractors.

The Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment work in tandem. These amendments supposedly ensure that you are innocent until proven guilty, and government authorities cannot deprive you of your life, your liberty or your property without the right to an attorney and a fair trial before a civilian judge. However, in the new suspect society in which we live, where surveillance is the norm, these fundamental principles have been upended. Certainly, if the government can arbitrarily freeze, seize or lay claim to your property (money, land or possessions) under government asset forfeiture schemes, you have no true rights.

The Seventh Amendment guarantees citizens the right to a jury trial. Yet when the populace has no idea of what’s in the Constitution—civic education has virtually disappeared from most school curriculums—that inevitably translates to an ignorant jury incapable of distinguishing justice and the law from their own preconceived notions and fears. However, as a growing number of citizens are coming to realize, the power of the jury to nullify the government’s actions—and thereby help balance the scales of justice—is not to be underestimated. Jury nullification reminds the government that “we the people” retain the power to ultimately determine what laws are just.

The Eighth Amendment is similar to the Sixth in that it is supposed to protect the rights of the accused and forbid the use of cruel and unusual punishment. However, the Supreme Court’s determination that what constitutes “cruel and unusual” should be dependent on the “evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society” leaves us with little protection in the face of a society lacking in morals altogether.

The Ninth Amendment provides that other rights not enumerated in the Constitution are nonetheless retained by the people. Popular sovereignty—the belief that the power to govern flows upward from the people rather than downward from the rulers—is clearly evident in this amendment. However, it has since been turned on its head by a centralized federal government that sees itself as supreme and which continues to pass more and more laws that restrict our freedoms under the pretext that it has an “important government interest” in doing so.

As for the Tenth Amendment’s reminder that the people and the states retain every authority that is not otherwise mentioned in the Constitution, that assurance of a system of government in which power is divided among local, state and national entities has long since been rendered moot by the centralized Washington, DC, power elite—the president, Congress and the courts. Indeed, the federal governmental bureaucracy has grown so large that it has made local and state legislatures relatively irrelevant. Through its many agencies and regulations, the federal government has stripped states of the right to regulate countless issues that were originally governed at the local level.

If there is any sense to be made from this recitation of freedoms lost, it is simply this: our individual freedoms have been eviscerated so that the government’s powers could be expanded.

Yet those who gave us the Constitution and the Bill of Rights believed that the government exists at the behest of its citizens. It is there to protect, defend and even enhance our freedoms, not violate them.

It was no idle happenstance that the Constitution opens with these three powerful words: “We the people.” As the Preamble proclaims:

We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION for the United States of America.

In other words, we have the power to make and break the government. We are the masters and they are the servants. We the American people—the citizenry—are the arbiters and ultimate guardians of America’s welfare, defense, liberty, laws and prosperity.

Still, it’s hard to be a good citizen if you don’t know anything about your rights or how the government is supposed to operate.

As the National Review rightly asks, “How can Americans possibly make intelligent and informed political choices if they don’t understand the fundamental structure of their government? American citizens have the right to self-government, but it seems that we increasingly lack the capacity for it.”

Americans are constitutionally illiterate.

Most citizens have little, if any, knowledge about their basic rights. And our educational system does a poor job of teaching the basic freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. For instance, when Newsweek asked 1,000 adult U.S. citizens to take America’s official citizenship test, 44% were unable to define the Bill of Rights.

A survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Center found that a little more than one-third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, while another one-third (35 percent) could not name a single one. Only a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto. One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration. And more than half of Americans do not know which party controls the House and Senate.

A 2006 survey by the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum found that only one out of a thousand adults could identify the five rights protected by the First Amendment. On the other hand, more than half (52%) of the respondents could name at least two of the characters in the animated Simpsons television family, and 20% could name all five. And although half could name none of the freedoms in the First Amendment, a majority (54%) could name at least one of the three judges on the TV program American Idol, 41% could name two and one-fourth could name all three.

It gets worse.

Many who responded to the survey had a strange conception of what was in the First Amendment. For example, 21% said the “right to own a pet” was listed someplace between “Congress shall make no law” and “redress of grievances.” Some 17% said that the First Amendment contained the “right to drive a car,” and 38% believed that “taking the Fifth” was part of the First Amendment.

Teachers and school administrators do not fare much better. A study conducted by the Center for Survey Research and Analysis found that one educator in five was unable to name any of the freedoms in the First Amendment.

In fact, while some educators want students to learn about freedom, they do not necessarily want them to exercise their freedoms in school. As the researchers conclude, “Most educators think that students already have enough freedom, and that restrictions on freedom in the school are necessary. Many support filtering the Internet, censoring T-shirts, disallowing student distribution of political or religious material, and conducting prior review of school newspapers.”

Government leaders and politicians are also ill-informed. Although they take an oath to uphold, support and defend the Constitution against “enemies foreign and domestic,” their lack of education about our fundamental rights often causes them to be enemies of the Bill of Rights.

So what’s the solution?

Thomas Jefferson recognized that a citizenry educated on “their rights, interests, and duties”  is the only real assurance that freedom will survive.

As Jefferson wrote in 1820: “I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of our society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.”

From the President on down, anyone taking public office should have a working knowledge of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and should be held accountable for upholding their precepts. One way to ensure this would be to require government leaders to take a course on the Constitution and pass a thorough examination thereof before being allowed to take office.

Some critics are advocating that students pass the United States citizenship exam in order to graduate from high school. Others recommend that it must be a prerequisite for attending college. I’d go so far as to argue that students should have to pass the citizenship exam before graduating from grade school.

Here’s an idea to get educated and take a stand for freedom: anyone who signs up to become a member of The Rutherford Institute gets a wallet-sized Bill of Rights card and a Know Your Rights card.

If this constitutional illiteracy is not remedied and soon, freedom in America will be doomed.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we have managed to keep the wolf at bay so far. Barely.

Our national priorities need to be re-prioritized. For instance, Donald Trump wants to make America great again. I, for one, would prefer to make America free again.

As actor-turned-activist Richard Dreyfuss warned:

Unless we teach the ideas that make America a miracle of government, it will go away in your kids’ lifetimes, and we will be a fable. You have to find the time and creativity to teach it in schools, and if you don’t, you will lose it. You will lose it to the darkness, and what this country represents is a tiny twinkle of light in a history of oppression and darkness and cruelty. If it lasts for more than our lifetime, for more than our kids’ lifetime, it is only because we put some effort into teaching what it is, the ideas of America: the idea of opportunity, mobility, freedom of thought, freedom of assembly.”

~~  John W. Whitehead ~~

City of Glenville Police Report

The Gilmer Free Press
City of Glenville, WV Police Report
Crime/Ordinance Violation
Officer
Disposition
Location
Speeding Garrett Cited N. Lewis Street
Defective Equipment Garrett Warning N. Lewis Street
Defective Equipment Garrett Warning N. Lewis Street
Defective Equipment Garrett Warning N. Lewis Street
Defective Equipment Garrett Warning N. Lewis Street
Defective Equipment Garrett Warning N. Lewis Street
Defective Equipment Garrett Warning N. Lewis Street
Defective Equipment Garrett Warning N. Lewis Street
Speeding Garrett Warning N. Lewis Street
Driving without headlights Garrett Warning S. Lewis Street
Speeding Garrett Warning W. Main Street
Assist another Agency Huffman Attempted to locate a stolen vehicle negative contact Glenville
Assist another Agency Huffman Subject disrupting other shoppers he was taken into custody at Probation officers request and drug tested Dollar General
Serve Warrants Huffman Subject Arrested and Transported to CRJ Magistrate Court
Speeding Huffman Cited W. Main Street
Trespassing Huffman Subject arrested for Trespassing asked to leave Walnut Street
Vehicle unlock Huffman Vehicle Unlocked Go Mart
Loose Dog Huffman Unable to locate River Street
Escort Huffman Escorted a Band into to town at Mayors Request Glenville
Suspicious Person Garrett Subject had left the area Howard Street
Speeding Huffman Cited W. Main Street
Speeding Huffman Cited W. Main Street
Speeding Huffman Cited W. Main Street
Speeding Huffman Cited W. Main Street
Speeding Huffman Warning W. Main Street
Speeding Huffman Warning W. Main Street
Speeding Huffman Warning College Street
Speeding Huffman Cited College Street
Suicidal Tendencies Huffman Suspect refused medical treatment E. Main Street
Possible hostage situation Huffman Unable to locate the vehicle and was advised by Calhoun Control that wasn’t sure if the vehicle even came towards Gilmer County WV HWY 5 W
Failure to signal Huffman Warning Pine Street
Stop sign Violation Huffman Warning Pine Street
Suspicious Person Huffman Subject left the area prior to my arrival Calhoun Banks
Suspicious Person Huffman Spoke to subject and advised him he was making people very nervous and the that I had been advised they wanted him to leave Subject left the store Rite-Aid
Speeding Huffman Warning W. Main Street
Stop Sign Violation Huffman Warning Walnut Street
Suspicious vehicle Huffman Driver was asleep, I spoke to the driver and she left the area Stadium Drive
Assist another agency Huffman Assisted with a Breaking and Entering WV HWY 5 W
Suspicious person Huffman Subject left the area upon my arrival Cornerstone
Defective Equipment Garrett Warning Mineral Road
Defective Equipment Garrett Warning Mineral Road
Shoplifting Huffman Cited for 1st offense shoplifting Go Mart
Speeding Garrett Cited for Driving suspended 1st offense S. Lewis Street
Speeding Garrett Cited for Speeding and Driving Suspended 1st offense College Street
Alarm Investigation Huffman Employee set off the alarm everything ok Library
Alarm Investigation Huffman All doors were secure United Bank
Assist another agency Huffman Assisted DNR, WVSP, GCSD with Active Domestic Right Ellis Rd
Stop Sign Violation Huffman Warnings for Stop Sign Violation and Unsigned Registration College Street
Trash Complaint Huffman Cited for Mandatory Trash Disposal Howard Street
Speeding Huffman Cited for Speeding and No Proof of Insurance W. Main Street
Speeding Huffman Warning College Street
No Seatbelt Huffman Cited College Street
Expired MVI Huffman Cited W. Main Street
Speeding Huffman Cited for speeding and warning for No Proof of Registration W. Main Street
Vehicle Unlock Huffman Vehicle Unlocked US WY 33W
Speeding Huffman Warning W. Main Street
Speeding Huffman Warnings Issued for Speeding, No Proof of Insurance, and Unsigned Registration W. Main Street
No Seatbelt Huffman Cited for no Seatbelt and Warnings Issued for Defective equipment, Failure to Signal, and Unsigned Registration E. Main Street
Cardiac Arrest Huffman Assisted EMS with a Cardiac Arrest Complex
Speeding Huffman Warning W. Main Street
Motor Vehicle Crash Huffman Crash Report Completed 1 subject DOS and one subject transported to Stonewall Jackson Hospital WV HWY 5 E
Assist Another Agency Huffman Assisted WVSP with a suicide US HWY 33 E
Alarm Investigation Huffman Sherriff cleared the call prior to my arrival Calhoun Banks
Speeding Garrett Cited College Street
One Way Street Violation Huffman Cited Pine Street
One way Street Violation Huffman Cited for One Way Street Violation and No Proof of Insurance Pine Street
Speeding Huffman Cited for Speeding and Warning Issued for Left of Center College Street
Altercation Garrett Neither party wished to file charges Beverly Drive
Assault Garrett CI Started Goodwin Hall
Child Neglect Huffman Suspect arrested on 2 counts of child Neglect Sheridan Street

Consumers Are Warned of Equifax Impostor Scam

The Free Press WV

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey warns the public of a scam in which callers impersonate Equifax employees, calling and seeking more personal information in the wake of last week’s massive data breach potentially affecting more than 730,000 West Virginia consumers.

A new batch of scammers are using the data breach to victimize consumers a second time. They use false telephone numbers, impersonate Equifax representatives and claim to be verifying account information. In fact, these callers are after more personal identifiable information from consumers who are eager to learn whether or not they were victims of the breach.

“Right now, consumers are anxious and want to make sure their credit and banking information is secure,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “However, scammers use this fear to prey on consumers and potentially obtain even more sensitive information.”

More than 730,000 West Virginia Consumers could be impacted by a data breach targeting Equifax, Inc., one of the nation’s three major credit bureau monitoring agencies. Equifax reported hackers exploited a website application vulnerability and gained access to files potentially impacting 143 million consumers nationwide.

Equifax does not make unsolicited calls to consumers. The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division warns any call claiming to represent the company is likely a scam and consumers should exercise extreme caution.

The initial Equifax data breach primarily accessed names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses. In other instances, hackers also may have gained access to driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers and dispute documents containing personal identifying information, thus increasing the risk of identity theft for those impacted.

Anyone with questions or needing more information about the Equifax data breach or the related impostor scam can call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1.800.368.8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304.267.0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

Right-to-Work Arguments in WV Go On… and On

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia legislature passed a bill during the 2016 regular session making West Virginia a right-to-work state. Governor Tomblin vetoed the bill, but the House and Senate overrode the veto and the law went into effect July 01, 2016.

However, nearly 15 months later West Virginia is still not a right-to-work-state.

The state AFL-CIO challenged the law in court and in August 2016, Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey issued a temporary injunction prohibiting the law from being enforced.  State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey challenged the court order and finally last week the state Supreme Court heard arguments in the case.

The high court should rule soon, but that won’t be the end of it.  The issue before the court is whether the circuit judge’s temporary order blocking the law should stand.  Regardless of how the Justices rule, it’s likely that a court fight over the merits of the right-to-work law is ahead.

Labor argues the law is unconstitutional because it is tantamount to an illegal taking since a union may have to represent a worker even if that worker does not join their organization or pay dues.  “Our contention remains as strong as it was the day we filed this lawsuit in 2016 that this law is an unconstitutional taking of property rights from local unions and their members,” said AFL-CIO President Josh Sword.

Sword is right that the union will have to represent all employees at a workplace whether or not they join and pay dues, but only if the union acts as the exclusive bargaining agent.  If the union chooses to have that exclusive representation–which carries with it a considerable amount of power and benefits–then under federal law it must represent all employees.

If the union does not wish to be the exclusive bargaining agent, then it can operate with a “members only” arrangement where it represents only dues-paying workers who willingly join the union.

These and related issues have already been adjudicated a number of times in many of the 28 states that have adopted right-to-work laws. West Virginia’s law is not substantially different from these other cases to warrant it being tossed out, unless a judge or a court here makes that call for political reasons.

For years, West Virginia was not a right-to-work state because Democrats controlled the legislature. That has changed and the Republicans wasted no time passing the bill and even overriding a gubernatorial veto.

Whether or not West Virginia is a right-to-work state is a public policy decision to be debated and voted upon by the people’s representatives.  That process was followed and the courts should recognize that while the unions are upset, their arguments do not justify overturning the legislature’s will.

What Matters Is What Happens Next, Not ‘What Happened’

“Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow.”

The Free Press WV

Remember when Bill Clinton used this Fleetwood Mac nugget as a theme in his 1992 campaign? Today, as Hillary Clinton’s campaign memoir goes on sale, the Democratic Party Clinton and his fellow “centrists” remade in their image seems unable to stop thinking about yesterday.

Can the Democratic Party truly reject its past mistakes and look to the future?


Don’t Look Back

The past shouldn’t be off limits, of course. We’re supposed to learn from our mistakes. Nevertheless, Democratic Party operative Paul Begala tweeted, “New rule: Nobody is allowed to comment on Hillary’s book until… they have read the book.”

Why does it seem like Democratic insiders are always trying to police the discourse? Politics is public property. People can talk about whatever they want. Still, when it comes to political debate, it’s wise to actually follow Fleetwood Mac’s advice, and not just hum along:

Don’t stop thinking about you-know-what.

So, are the controversies Hillary Clinton’s campaign memoir stirs up useful, or a waste of time?

It cuts both ways. Clinton says she’s done running for political office. If that’s true, it’s unproductive to argue about her personal merits. But her contentious and inaccurate statements in published excerpts from the memoir seem designed to influence the future of the party.

If she seeks influence, these statements should be challenged, in a forward-looking way.


Settling Scores

Begala’s comment was a response to Twitter comments by MSNBC host Chris Hayes, who called the book “compelling and candid and written with a pretty remarkable intimacy” and said that “the ‘juicy’ newsy tidbits give the impression it’s some kind score-settling rant, which it is not.”

Calling the book “compelling,” “candid” and “intimate” is not the same as saying it is “reflective,” “courageous,” “brave,” or “insightful.”

The excerpts already released have given us some stark statements – for example, that Clinton’s disappointed her campaign didn’t channel the kind of energy and enthusiasm that the Women’s March engendered, and that she blames both Bernie Sanders and his followers for contributing to her defeat.

These aren’t just personal beefs. They speak to the future of the progressive movement. That means they deserve a response.


The Blame Game

“I couldn’t help but ask,” Clinton reportedly writes of the Women’s March, “where those feelings of solidarity, outrage, and passion had been during the election.” That question should inspire some self-reflection on her part. The Democratic Party’s leaders need to ask itself how a spontaneously organized demonstration generated worldwide enthusiasm and support, even as their party continues to decline at all electoral levels.

Republican cheating has a lot to do with it. So does the corrupting effect of money in politics, which elevates Republicans while weakening Democrats – perhaps most of all when they are its recipients.

A Democratic Party that depends on big-donor money will always struggle to craft a coherent message. Clinton’s campaign was merely the latest and most vivid example of that.

The party faces a turning point. It can devote itself to economic populism and find new sources of both funding and energy, as the Sanders campaign did. Or, it can rededicate itself to the Wall Street centrism of its last three decades and continue to fail.


Bashing the Future

Hillary’s bashing of Bernie and his supporters in the book is both unwise and unfair. In a CBS News interview ahead of the book’s release, Clinton mischaracterized both Sanders’ campaign and his supporters’ behavior.

Clinton was more divisive toward Obama in 2008 than Sanders was toward her in 2016, and it showed in the results: Only 12 percent of Sanders supporters voted for Trump, while more than twice as many Clinton supporters voted for McCain.

This bashing is also politically suicidal for Clinton’s party. Bernie Sanders remains the most popular politician in the country. In fact, he’s the only politician most voters actually like. Meanwhile, Clinton’s popularity has fallen below even Trump’s. Demographically, Sanders enjoys his strongest support among African Americans and the younger voters who will shape this country’s political future. It’s madness to alienate them.

It’s even worse to stigmatize them. Clinton repeats the falsehood that Sanders supporters were overwhelmingly young males – millennial Bernie supporters were mostly female. She also repeats the unfounded slur that Bernie supporters were unusually vicious online. A 2016 survey showed that, compared to Sanders backers, nearly twice as many people considered Clinton supporters “aggressive and/or threatening” in social media interactions.


PACs and Propaganda

Clinton isn’t just settling scores. She’s trying to marginalize her opponents in order to weaken their influence. She doubled down on that effort last week by supporting one of her most hyperbolic online supporters, Peter Daou, in a clumsy and bellicose online propaganda venture called “Verrit” – a blog, essentially, he founded with his wife Leela.

More importantly, Clinton has formed a PAC to raise money for candidates she finds ideologically suitable. Clinton’s PAC is structured as a so-called “social welfare nonprofit.” These entities, as the New York Times notes, “are often cited for a rise in dark money in politics because of their ability to protect donor anonymity.”

She must not succeed. Clinton, together with her allies and supporters, represents both an outmoded ideology and a troubling set of values. That ideology, while progressive in some ways, clings to an outmoded faith in free markets and corporations while seeking to manipulate them for constructive purposes.

“I want to really marry the public and the private sector,” Clinton has said.


Whose Values?

Clinton’s values are best expressed in the book excerpt where she dismisses the Sanders agenda as a “pony” and “no-minute abs.” These awkward attempts at humor trivialize programs Bernie supports like Medicare For All, which could save an estimated 320,000 lives over ten years.

That Clinton dismisses  vital and potentially life-saving programs with contempt speaks volumes. So does her assertion that they are unattainable “ponies,” when they have been attained, and are pillars of society, in other developed democracies.

Clinton’s distorted values are shared by an entire cohort of Democratic politicians, consultants, and followers. This value system thinks it’s perfectly fine to form a dark-money PAC. It celebrates being part of the governing elite, so much so that the ostensibly progressive Clinton could proudly claim the execrable Henry Kissinger as a “friend.”

This value system says this country can’t do big things like Medicare anymore, and shouldn’t bother trying. It says you can take six-figure speaking fees from Goldman Sachs and still believe you have answers for the public’s “anger” toward Wall Street. Clinton opposed a 21st century Glass-Steagall Act, and tried to deflect the debate over big banks with a false “either/or” approach toward shadow banking, as if it were impossible to address both problems.

These aren’t my values. I doubt they’re yours.


Don’t Stop, It’ll Soon Be Here

Dems would be wise to pay attention to the next line of Fleetwood Mac’s song, too. The Democratic Party has been failing its constituents for years. If it doesn’t change, the party will fail again.

Economic inequality has skyrocketed under both Democratic and Republican governments, and voters know this. Runaway fossil-fuel consumption is ravaging the planet. Mass incarceration has become a social plague. Each of these problems is approaching an irreversible tipping point. To solve them, we’ll need braver and bolder solutions than their stagnant ideology permits.

Fighting about Hillary Clinton’s personality is a waste of time. But it’s important to debate values. It’s even more important to offer constructive alternatives.

Case in point: As these words are being written, Bernie Sanders is about to introduce a Medicare For All bill in the Senate, with the support of Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and other leading Democrats.


What Do We Stand For?

“People don’t really know what we stand for,” historian Michael Kazin said recently of his fellow Democrats. That’s clearly true. But the real problem is that Democrats don’t know what Democrats stand for. They need to choose, once and for all.

It’s no wonder some Democrats want to police the discourse. That’s part of a larger goal: policing the limits of the possible. But the old ideas of the politically possible aren’t just wrong. They’re disastrous. If we don’t do big things there’s a good chance we won’t make it as a civilization.

Yes I’ll read Clinton’s book, cover to cover. I’ll argue about it too, if that helps shape the future in some small way. Otherwise, I’ll let it pass. This is a time of emergency, with more urgent issues at hand. There’s no point fighting about the failures of the past, unless it clears the way for the successes of the future.

~~  Richard Eskow ~~

West Virginia Submits ESSA Plan To U.S. Department of Education

The Free Press WV

The West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) submitted its plan today to the United States Department of Education (USDE) to comply with the federal law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The plan was submitted one week ahead of the September 18 deadline.

“I am extremely proud of the extraordinary amount of work put into developing this plan and for the valuable input we received from various stakeholders including teachers, parents, administrators, community members and elected officials,” said West Virginia Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Steven Paine. “I feel confident that West Virginia’s plan outlines a foundation that is best for all Mountain State students and know we will ultimately see results surrounding student achievement.”

West Virginia’s plan details the foundational pieces of its public education system including content standards, the statewide assessment, the school accountability system and support for struggling schools. The plan also details how federal funds will be distributed to counties.

Several changes were incorporated into the final version of the plan as a result of stakeholder input. Within the state’s accountability system, the five-year graduation cohort was included to accommodate those students who require additional time to graduate. The English Language Proficiency indicator was incorporated into the English language arts measure within the Academic Achievement indicator. The Student Success indicator, which considers attendance and behavior, now includes an exemption for all absences due to out-of-school suspensions and level three behavior violations are exempt from accountable suspensions. Summer School courses will be included within the high school Student Progress indicator, which considers credits earned toward graduation.

The USDE has 120 days to review the plan and provide feedback. To review West Virginia’s plan, visit: http://wvde.state.wv.us/essa/review/

Disaster Recovery Should Heal, Not Divide, Our Communities

The Free Press WV

Houston has barely begun to recover from Hurricane Harvey, as Irma devastates the Caribbean and heads towards Puerto Rico and Florida. Its hard to imagine all the grief, effort, and cost it will take to rebuild from one of these thousand-year storms, much less two.

But we better get used to it. Climate science tells us more superstorms are coming. We should learn how to recover from them in a smart, humane way – one that promotes economic and social justice, so people, families and communities can truly heal.

Trump and the Republicans are about to do it the other way.


Money From Misery

The devastation of Houston was made worse by poor planning and deregulation. That wasn’t an accident: it was greed. Wealthy individuals and corporations want to keep their taxes low, so they blocked government spending for preparedness and recovery.

After Hurricane Sandy devastated New York and New Jersey in 2012, one of the most vocal cheerleaders for this brand of ghoulish selfishness was Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who dismissed disaster mitigation efforts as “pork” and joined most of his fellow Texas Republicans in voting against aid to Sandy’s victims.

Today, it’s Cruz’s own constituents who are paying the price for this selfish, short-sighted philosophy.

The greed of oil companies like ExxonMobil and Valero led them to lobby against the EPA’s regulation of benzene. As David Sirota and Jay Cassano report, this will probably allow them to escape punishment for leaking this highly carcinogenic solvent, a common element in gasoline, into the atmosphere around Houston in the hurricane’s aftermath.

Why spend money to prevent deadly leaks, these corporations reason, when you can get the rules changed in your favor for a fistful of lobbyist dollars?

In a just world, the politicians and special interests responsible for so much suffering would be forced to step aside so that saner, more ethical people could clean up their damage and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again next time. But we don’t live in that world… yet.


Target: Houston

As Thomas Jessen Adams and Cedric Johnson write about Houston, “the race to capitalize on the disaster, to redistribute wealth upward, and to transform the region has already begun.” The Trump administration, together with the right wing extremists who currently govern Texas, will direct recovery efforts. They are likely to roll back environmental protections – which will make future disasters worse – and further weaken worker protections like the Davis-Bacon Act.

This playbook is familiar to anyone who followed what happened to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

It’s disaster capitalism, straight out of Naomi Klein’s book The Shock Doctrine: every catastrophe is an opportunity to consolidate wealth and power for the elites, and undermine the public institutions that serve the majority.

If our current leaders have their way, working people will be driven even further from the desirable parts of the city, making them more dependent on cars and forcing them to give up even more of their lives to difficult and lengthy commutes.

Recovery money will be channeled toward contractors and projects that further enrich the already wealthy, building high-end housing and luxury retail outlets instead of the affordable housing in transit that most people. The Department of Education under Betsy DeVos will try to privatize Houston schools, a move that would increase segregation, reduce social mobility, and make economic inequality even worse.


Ethical Recovery

It doesn’t have to be that way. Disaster recovery could be based on some fundamental ethical principles, including:

1. Disasters are going to happen more often now, so we better get good at recovering from them.

The science is settled. Hurricanes are getting more severe because of climate change. Even as we fight to minimize the harm we’re doing to the environment, we need to accept the fact that disasters like Katrina, Harvey, and Irma are going to shape our world for the foreseeable future.

2. We must never again allow the powerful to use disasters to exploit the powerless.

The recovery from Hurricane Katrina was a national disgrace, thanks to an economically and racially biased plan of action. The city lost 96,000 black residents, nearly one-third of its African-American population, after rebuilding efforts that were slow to help the mostly black Lower Ninth Ward.

Gary Rivlin notes New Orleans no longer has a public hospital. Affordable housing was bulldozed, not repaired.

The city’s 7,500 teachers were fired and charter schools replaced the traditional system. The city’s most disadvantaged children suffered as a result. As Jeff Bryant writes, “here’s no evidence anywhere that the NOLA model of school reform has ‘improved education.’” Borrowing a phrase from TV’s The Wire, Bryant also characterized the charterized school district’s test scores as a case of “juking the stats.”

Hurricane Katrina was a tragedy. The response was a crime.

3. Rebuilding, like all government aid, must respect those most in need.

Our current system of mass incarceration targets people of color, who make up more than half (59 percent) of the nation’s prison population. Although black and white Americans sell and use drugs at roughly the same percentages, the African-American imprisonment rate for illegal drugs is nearly six times higher than the white rate.

Maybe that’s why prison inmates in New Orleans were abandoned, potentially to drown, during Hurricane Katrina, enduring days of horrifying neglect before being rescued.

Prisons must be rebuilt as humane institutions, and plans must be put in place to keep inmates safe.

But prisons are only the tip of the iceberg. Rebuilding efforts provide an opportunity to ensure that affordable housing is available to all those who need it. A recent report from the Urban Institute shows that there is an affordable housing crisis, and that it has reached every single county in the United States. “Without the support of federal rental assistance,” the report concludes, “not one county in the United States has enough affordable housing for all its (extremely low income) renters.”

This is a catastrophe, too, a slow-motion disaster playing out all around us. Its victims deserve to be rescued too. Communities must be affordable, safe, and secure for all of their residents.

4. We need to get smarter about transportation.

Hurricane Harvey destroyed several hundred thousand cars – as many as 1 million, according to some estimates. Insurance companies will bear the multibillion-dollar cost of replacing them, but that cost will then be borne by the economy as a whole in the form of higher premiums.

Most residents will also have to pay an insurance deductible, and lower-income people are more likely to have a high deductible. Given the fact that many Americans say they don’t have $400 for an unanticipated emergency, this means that many Houstonians will suffer another hardship as they replace their cars.

And they will have to replace them, just to survive. Houston is geographically broad, and it’s difficult to live or work there without an automobile. That’s why the car ownership rate there is 94.4 percent, second only to Dallas. By contrast, supposedly car-crazy Los Angeles has an ownership rate of only 86.5 percent.

An estimated 15 percent of Houston residents don’t have car insurance, which is likely to mean they can’t replace them at all. That could doom them to joblessness and poverty, which raises the question: can car ownership ever be considered a fundamental right?

Replacement cars are already making their way to Houston. They will make climate change worse, and so will help lay the groundwork for future disastrous hurricanes. Cars are part of the problem in the long run, not part of the solution.

Houston, like other cities that lack effective public transportation, force their residents to rely on cars. This is like imposing a regressive kind of “life tax” that imposes a disproportionate burden on lower-income people.

Future rebuilding efforts need to concentrate, not just on replacing what was there before, but in replacing it with something better. That means public transportation, and government investment in cheaper and more energy-efficient vehicles.

5. Rebuilding efforts must repair the planet, as well as the city.

We have been repairing the damage caused by climate change by rebuilding infrastructure that makes climate change worse. That is, very literally, insane. We should replace destroyed homes with ones that are energy-efficient, repair highways and bridges so that they impose less wear and tear on vehicles, and (as mentioned above) build or upgrade mass transit wherever possible.

Disaster recovery efforts should also include mitigation of future disasters. In Houston’s case that means slowing or stopping development on nearby wetlands, a reckless undertaking that makes flooding more severe.

Rebuilding efforts must consider the planet, as well as the city.

6. Safe, well-governed communities are a human right.

Lastly, it needs to be recognized that we’ve taken a reckless and shortsighted approach toward urban planning and regulation over the last several decades. Whether it is the deregulation that has contributed to Harvey’s environmental and human toll, or the lack of foresight that is exacerbated our housing and transportation crises, we’ve allowed our cities to become unsafe spaces. That needs to stop.

Every human being has the right to be safe. Every human being has the right to expect that their government will protect them, from human greed as well as natural disasters. Under the sway of the cult of privatization, our municipal, state and national governments have been falling down on the job. That has to change.


Conclusion

As this is being written, Hurricane Irma has devastated much of the Caribbean and is bearing down on Puerto Rico and Florida. Scientists say that its record winds and “epic” size is being fueled by climate change. There will be more storms like it in the future – and very possibly worse.

We need to be ready for disaster – with our satellites, our rescue teams, with our earth movers and cranes. But we also need to be ready with our values and our ideals. It’s time to redefine disaster recovery – not as an opportunity for exploitation, and not even to restore the status quo, but as a way to heal from the rapid and slow-moving disasters happening all around us.

~~  Richard Eskow ~~

Glenville City Council Minutes

The Free Press WV
GLENVILLE CITY COUNCIL MINUTES
August 07, 2017
7:00 p.m.

 

The meeting was called to order at 7:00 p.m. by Mayor Dennis Fitzpatrick with Council members Fisher, Wiant, Dean, Huffman and Taylor present.

Pledge of Allegiance


I. Call to Order

Public Comments None

 

Introduction of new Ward 3 council member Leisa Dean.


A. Approval of Minutes – July 03, 2017

The minutes from the July 3, 2017, meeting were reviewed. No corrections were noted and minutes were placed on file for audit.


II. Reports


Financial

The book keeper provided the financial summary to council and a copy of last year’s budget noting a carryover amount. Coal Severance is low with not much revenue. We are currently at 10.41% if this year’s fiscal budget with 6.20% revenue and 8.25% expenditures. The invoice for $52,000 was paid for street paving from Street Fund. Councilwoman Huffman made a motion to approve the end of year financial statement as presented. Councilwoman Taylor seconded the motion. Motion passed. Councilwoman Huffman made a motion to approve the July 31 financial statement as presented. Councilman Fisher seconded the motion. Motion passed.


Street Report

Mayor Fitzpatrick provided the street report to council. He noted paving is complete. The City has been paving the streets over the last three years with majority of streets now in good condition.


Police Report

Chief Huffman provided the police report to council. The new Officer is doing well at the academy with graduation scheduled on September 29. Council approved Mayor Fitzpatrick and Chief Huffman to attend the graduation ceremony.


Glenville Utility

Mayor Fitzpatrick attend the July 24 utility board meeting. The new meeting schedule will be the 4th Wednesday of each month.


Recorder

Nothing to report.


Mayor Comments

- Travel to Logan on the 10th Room/travel– August 10

Councilwoman Huffman made a motion to approve Mayor Fitzpatrick to attend the Floodplain management meeting on August 10 with reimbursement for travel expenses. Councilman Fisher seconded the motion. Motion passed.

- National Night Out Mayor Fitzpatrick thanked all those who assisted in making the National Night Out a huge success. Chief Huffman noted there were approximately 300 in attendance with 140 book bags with school supplies given out.


- Municipal League Meeting in Morgantown

Mayor Fitzpatrick attended the Municipal League meeting and brought back good information regarding inexpensive pothole repair and made a contact regarding dilapidated building. He will contact her for more information.


- Rosie the Riveter

Gary Coberly’s mother, Ruby, is one of the remaining Rosie the Riveter workers. He contacted the city because they have a large bell that they would like the City to erect on a light pole in the city park which could be used for different occasions. Grants and donations are being pursued to fund this project with the dedication planned for next year.


- Paving update (less than 40,000.00)

Discussed earlier in meeting


- Barking Dog Ordinance

Reminder that the City has ordinances in place regarding barking dogs, leash law, poop n scoop law. Mayor encouraged citizens to call dispatch or him if there is an issue.


- High Grass

The Street Department cut high grass over the bank on Walnut Street following a complaint.


- Update on River Street Lot

Encouraged everyone to check out the lot on River Street and still looking for ideas for use of this lot. The community garden idea is currently an option.


- Invoice website

The website maintenance yearly invoice of $257.50 is due. Councilwoman Huffman made a motion to approve payment for the website maintenance in the amount of $257.50. Councilman Fisher seconded the motion. Motion passed.


- Hardman’s 110 Year celebration September 1st, 2017

Hardmans 110th year celebration will be all day on Friday, September 01. Encouraged everyone to stop by Hardmans.


- Audit set for the 7th or 14th

Audit is scheduled for this month.


- AC in City Hall Building

The cost for Air Conditioning for the City Hall Building is $3840.00 and will come out of Contingency Fund. Councilwoman Taylor made a motion to pay the invoice of $3840.00 for air conditioning for City Hall. Councilman Fisher seconded the motion. Motion passed.


III. Unfinished Business

None


IV. New Business

None


V. Other Business to come before Council

Councilwoman Taylor noted that Sam Caison would like to do the Save the Memories 5K Run/Walk on Saturday, August 26, beginning at 9:00 a.m. again this year sponsored by the Nursing Home in conjunction with FRN. Money raised will go to the Alzheimer’s Association. The city police will assist with this event. Councilwoman Huffman made a motion to approve the Save the Memories 5K Run/Walk. Councilman Fisher seconded the motion. Motion passed. Councilwoman Huffman noted concern of kids playing in the dilapidated house on College Street. Mayor Fitzpatrick has talked with the County Dilapidated Building Committee and they are working on this. Councilman Wiant asked about time limits on handicapped parking on Main Street. If the owner of the vehicle has a handicapped permit, there are currently no time limits. Chief Huffman will check on this.


VI. Next City Council Meeting

The next council meeting will be September 04, at 7:00 p.m.


VII. Adjourn

Meeting adjourned at 7:30 p.m.

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