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Looking ahead to 2018

The Free Press WV

I’m not much on making New Year’s resolutions.  The history of failure to keep them weighs heavily and who needs more of that?

Still, the idea of a fresh start speaks to me.  There is the inherent desire to discard all the mistakes of the previous year and at least consider the possibility of not making them again in 2018.

That’s not exactly the definition of optimism, but then again, I’m not an optimist.

President Ronald Reagan surely was an optimist.  He loved the story about the boy who was shown a pile of horse manure in a stable. Instead of showing disgust, the boy jumped on the pile and started digging.  “With all this manure, there must be a pony in there somewhere!”

Now that’s optimism.  I would have looked at the pile and thought about the smelly job of hauling it away, but then got busy with my pitchfork. In that way, I am my father’s son.

My late father was a man who lived his life by always doing what had to be done, while keeping the complaining to a minimum.  But in taking on the task at hand he was always moving forward… sometimes at an imperceptibly slow pace or with setbacks, but still the motion was decidedly positive.

With his head down, his gaze was more toward the steps in front of him than the horizon.  The goal may not have been lofty, but it was practical and, yes, even hopeful.

In the “pony” scenario my father would have quietly cleaned away the pile of manure and then felt reasonably accomplished by finishing the task.  He would not have been disappointed because there was no pony, because he would have never expected one.

I doubt any of this sounds very inspiring, especially to you who have set goals for the New Year and plan to keep them.  I’m always impressed when I meet people who have lost weight, committed to a better diet and exercise or taken that trip that’s been on their bucket list.  You have overcome lethargy and routine and improved your lives.  That’s impressive.

My plans for 2018 lack specifics, but I am nevertheless hopeful.  Benjamin Franklin said, “Be at war with your vices, peace with your neighbors and let every New Year find you a better man.”  That’s good counsel.  Just try to be better.

My father’s journey resulted in a life well lived. It was not one of great accomplishment and he did not leave behind a box-checked bucket list.  But he left the horse stall clean, if you know what I mean, and did 10,000 other things that just needed to be done.

That’s progress, and progress is linked with hope.  If you are hopeful you will not be cynical. I have no specific resolutions for 2018, but I’m excited to find what the year will bring.

Let’s go forward and see what happens.

My top ten West Virginia news stories of 2017

The Free Press WV

It’s time for my top ten West Virginia news stories of 2017.  I asked the MetroNews staff for their input and then put together my list.  See if you agree or disagree and tell me what you think I missed!


10)  Mountaineer sports is always big news in West Virginia and no sports story was bigger than Florida transfer quarterback Will Grier finally taking his first snaps.  Grier demonstrated pinpoint accuracy and uncanny escapability as he passed for nearly 3,500 yards and 34 touchdowns, leading the Mountaineers to seven victories before a season-ending injury against Texas. His favorite end zone target was David Sills, whose 18 touchdown catches led the nation.  Despite a disappointing bowl loss to Utah, optimism is running high for next season because Grier and Sills are both returning for their senior season.


9)  School consolidation issues are nearly always contentious, but none more so than in Nicholas County in 2017.  The flood of 2016 destroyed Richwood High School, Richwood Middle School and Summersville Middle School. The Nicholas County School Board approved a controversial plan to consolidate those schools, along with the Nicholas County High School and the Career and Technical Education Facility at one campus near Summersville. That decision divided the community and prompted a legal fight.  The year ended with a conflict resolution specialist from the Federal Emergency Management Agency trying to help the two sides find common ground. That effort is expected to continue into 2018.


8) West Virginia is rich in coal and natural gas so energy is always a significant story. The beleaguered coal industry began to come back in 2017.  Prices for metallurgical coal increased and the steam coal market improved.  President Trump’s decision to scrap the Clean Power Plan sparked optimism within the industry as some companies began calling miners back to work.  Meanwhile, work to build several major natural gas pipelines through West Virginia continued, often over the objections of property owners and environmentalists.


7) Donald Trump captured 68 percent of the vote in West Virginia on his way to the presidency, so he knew that he would get a warm reception in the Mountain State.  Trump visited West Virginia twice last summer. On August 3, Trump spoke to a huge rally in Huntington where the surprise guest was West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, who announced that day he was switching from the Democratic to the Republican Party. Just two weeks before, Trump spoke to thousands of Boy Scouts at the National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.  However, Trump triggered controversy by talking politics in what was expected to be a non-political appearance.


6)  West Virginia continued to struggle with the drug epidemic in 2017.  The Centers for Disease Control released new figures showing that the state’s overdose death rate in 2016 reached 52 per 100,000 people, more than twice as high as the national average.  Dr. Rahul Gupta, the State Health Officer, said someone dies in West Virginia from a drug overdose every ten hours.   Many of the overdose deaths were linked to fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that has 50 times the potency of morphine. Elaine Sheldon’s documentary Heroin(e) provided a first-hand account of three women in Huntington who are fighting back against the drug epidemic. Her film is under consideration for an Academy Award.


5)  The Justice administration announced in November a memorandum of understanding with China Energy for $84 billion in investments in West Virginia over the next two decades.  The agreement was the largest among an estimated $250 million in deals signed by President Trump during his visit to Beijing.  The West Virginia projects are expected to include natural gas power generation, chemical manufacturing and underground storage.  Governor Justice said the pledged investment is so big that “it absolutely takes your breath away.”  However, the announcement has been tempered somewhat by a lack of details on specific projects.


4)  We learned last month about previously undisclosed extravagant spending by the West Virginia Supreme Court on office remodeling and furnishings.  The most talked about examples were a $32,000 couch and $7,500 for a specially designed inlaid wooden floor in the shape of the state in the office of Chief Justice Allen Loughry, and $28,000 for two luxury rugs as part of a $500,000 tab for remodeling Justice Robin Davis’s office.  But all the Justices had expensive furnishings that focused attention on the fact that the Legislature does not have oversight of the Judiciary’s budget. Legislative leaders say they will try to change that in 2018.


3)  Many of West Virginia’s roads are so bad that a couple of years ago, I started an on-air campaign called #FTDR—Fix the Damn Roads.  Finally in 2017 the state did something about the crumbling infrastructure.  Governor Justice proposed a $1.6 billion dollar road bond, and he crisscrossed the state to push for passage, calling it “the biggest election in the history of the state.”  Voters bought in, with 73 percent voting for passage. Combined with a leveraging of federal dollars and a planned increase in turnpike tolls, West Virginia will undertake one of the largest road and bridge building and repair efforts ever starting in 2018.


2)  West Virginia’s finances were tight in 2017.  Governor Justice and legislative leaders quarreled for weeks about the budget. The debate continued throughout the regular session and then carried over into a 20-day-long special session. At one point, a frustrated Justice even dramatically unveiled a platter of bull manure that he said represented one of the budget proposals. The debate was often acrimonious, straining relationships and triggering name calling, particularly by the Governor. Finally on June 16, the House and Senate agreed on a $4.225 billion budget, which Justice allowed to go into law without his signature.


1)  Jim Justice ran for Governor in 2016 as a non-traditional candidate.  He repeatedly cited his business experience over his political acumen.  He won the election and on January 16th was sworn in as the state’s 36th Governor.  Justice brought his cheerleading can-do style to the Governor’s office, as well as a rejection of any action he deemed as political.  His candid “with-me-or-against-me” approach won converts, but also ran afoul of a number of Legislators who saw Justice as hard-headed and uncompromising. Justice then turned the political structure of the state on its head later in the year when he switched from the Democratic to Republican Party.  “Like it or not, but the Democrats walked away from me,” Justice said.  “… West Virginia, I can’t help you anymore by being a Democratic Governor.”   We’ll see how the change of heart, and party, plays out in 2018.

The Christmas when the fighting stopped

The Free Press WV

Has there ever been a Christmas when there was no war, no fighting in any corner of our planet?  It’s difficult to imagine since the world’s history has been a series of conquests and defenses.

But there was once a Christmas when the fighting did stop, when enemies shook hands and laughed and even sang Christmas carols together.

The First World War had been underway just a few months in December 1914, but it was clear a long, bloody fight was ahead.  The Germans and the English were dug in their muddy trenches separated sometimes by just 60 yards.

Between them was a No-Man’s land of mud, debris and the casualties of both sides, left unburied for weeks.

But something remarkable happened along the battle lines on Christmas 103 years ago; the German and British soldiers stopped fighting.

It wasn’t that they were afraid to fight. The trenches of both sides were filled with brave men who faced death each day.  No, the peace began as an informal truce casually agreed to by the officers in the field, but not the generals safely in the rear.

At night the English first saw the lights of Christmas decorations in the German trenches, and then heard the sounds of the German soldiers singing Christmas carols.  The British soldiers responded in kind.

All along the Western Front the scene repeated itself.  The impromptu truce spread.  In some places along the lines the warring soldiers emerged from their trenches, leaving their guns behind, and met in No-Man’s land where they exchanged food and conversed as best they could.  One group of soldiers played a game of soccer.

Percy Jones of the Queen’s Westminster Regiment said, “Altogether we had a great day with our enemies, and parted with much hand-shaking and mutual goodwill.”  Corporal John Ferguson of the Seaforth Highlanders remarked, “Here we were, laughing and chatting to men whom only a few hours before we were trying to kill.”

Well behind the trenches the British High Command was distressed, fearing it might not be able to get the men to start fighting again.  The war might grind to a halt. Headquarters issued a statement blaming the lack of fighting at the front on “stormy weather.”

Eventually, the soldiers at the front drifted back to their positions.  At some locations along the front the Christmas Spirit carried to the New Year before fighting resumed.  The fighting of course did start again and continued for nearly four more bloody years.

This Christmas as we search for good news in a troubled world we can remember that Christmas 103 years ago when the spirit of peace on earth and good will toward men was strong enough to—for a time at least—stop a world war.

The Republican gamble on tax reform

The Free Press WV

In 2010, Democratic California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi famously said of the Affordable Care Act, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it away from the fog of the controversy.”

The statement was taken by Obamacare opponents as an indication of how Democrats crafted a complicated bill remaking the nation’s healthcare delivery system without a full understanding of its impact.

Now Republicans are passing, and President Trump will sign, the biggest tax reform plan since the Reagan tax cuts of 1981.  Certainly more details are known about the tax bill than the ACA.  There are numerous websites where you can enter your tax information and see how you will be affected.

However, that does not mean the tax bill is widely understood by Americans or, even if they understand it, they may not want it.

The New York Times did a survey of people that could expect a tax cut.  It found that “even among people with more than 90 percent chance of getting a cut, about half said they did not expect to get one.”

That helps explain why the tax cuts are not popular. The statistical website FiveThirtyEight reports, “According to an average of nine surveys taken this month, 33 percent of Americans are in favor of it, and 52 percent are opposed.”  Contrast that with the Reagan tax cuts when a Gallup Poll found 51 percent approved, while 26 percent were opposed.

These numbers and others put Republicans in a precarious position heading into 2018. The GOP is already bracing for losses often suffered by the party in power in midterm elections, especially when the President is of the same party and has low approval ratings.

West Virginia’s three Republican members of the House of  Representatives—David McKinley (R-WV1), Alex Mooney (R-WV2) and Evan Jenkins (R-WV3)–along with Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito all supported the tax bill.

Capito is not up for re-election until 2020. However, McKinley and Mooney have to defend their seats next year, and Jenkins is running for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate.  They have to own the tax bill during the 2018 election cycle.

They are banking on that working out for them. Their best arguments are that more than 80 percent of West Virginia taxpayers use the standard deduction rather than itemizing and those folks all get a tax break. Additionally, small businesses, which dominate the state’s economy, will also see a lower tax liability.

But a lot of things could go wrong. There could be a massive correction in the stock market.  The economy could hit one of its cyclical downturns.  What if big corporations, which stand to benefit most from the tax bill, see profits surge, but wages do not follow?  What if the deficit explodes?

The political fallout could be dramatic.  Americans, who according to surveys never saw taxes as their top issue, will take out their frustrations on the party in power, giving Democrats in West Virginia and across the country a foothold to try to regain their majorities.

Republicans said they needed the tax bill; they and President Trump had to have a legislative victory to carry them through the midterms.  We will know in a few months whether that was the correct calculus.

A Republican version of the Pelosi blunder might be, “Let’s pass the tax bill and see what happens.”

West Virginia has more regulations that you can count… almost

The Free Press WV

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has launched State RegData, “a first-of-its-kind project to quantify the level of regulation across the 50 states.”  It would be impossible to read all those regs so Mercatus is using a text analysis that identifies key words in state codes such as shall, must, may not, prohibited and required.

These are the key words and phrases that give regulations their power, and our state has a lot of them.  “West Virginia has 125,700 regulatory restrictions in its administrative code,” according to the Mercatus study. That’s fewer than Pennsylvania, Virginia and Kentucky, but more than Maryland and North Carolina.  The Tar Heel State has 16,000 fewer restrictions that West Virginia.

Clearly, some (or perhaps many) of the restrictions are important public health and safety measures, but consider the following: The state Code’s rules for acupuncture has 344 restrictions.  Barbers and cosmetologists face a labyrinth of 302 restrictions, while dietitians have 191 do’s and don’t’s. The Division of Water and Waste Management and the Division of Air Quality have a total of 9,087 restrictions!

The Mercatus report says all of these regulations have compliance costs.  Individually they may not be that significant, but “The body of regulations in a state, taken together, has an effect on the economy that is greater than the sum of the effects of each individual regulation.”

Mercatus cites several major studies showing that collectively the profusion of regulations creates a drag on economic growth.  A 2013 study in the Journal of Economic Growth estimated that federal regulation has slowed U.S. growth by an average of two percent a year since 1949.

This is especially relevant in West Virginia, which has been trying to climb out of the economic doldrums for the last decade.

“From 2006 to 2016, West Virginia real GDP growth averaged just 0.7 percent per year,” Mercatus reports. “If this trend continues, it will take 100 years for the state economy to double in size.”  However, if the economy grew at three percent annually, the economy would double in just 24 years.

Last year, the state legislature passed a sunset provision triggering the expiration of all new regulations after five years unless lawmakers reauthorize them. That’s a start, but more needs to be done.

Mercatus suggests a cap limiting regulatory accumulation. It’s working in Canada where a 2015 law requires at least one regulation to be removed for every new one that is adopted. The federal law was modeled after British Columbia’s 2001 measure, which has reduced that province’s regulatory requirements 43 percent.

Our political culture has perpetuated the regulation creation craze by expecting our elected representatives and government agencies to “do something” about every real and potential problem.  The result is a clogged code that inhibits growth and assigns an ever increasing amount of power to the bureaucracy.

The Mercatus report makes clear that a priority for our politicians in West Virginia should be to get rid of regulations before adding new ones.

WV Supreme Court: Champagne Taste on a Beer Budget

Justice Robin Davis’s office renovation cost one-half million dollars
The Free Press WV

West Virginia House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha) is the latest legislative leader to express outrage over excessive spending by the West Virginia Supreme Court on office renovations and furnishings.

The Court has spent $3.7 million in office repairs, redecorating and refurbishing over the last several years, and some of the spending is more in keeping with the tastes of a millionaire than of a poor state that struggles to balance a tight budget.

“These things that have come to light are alarming,” Armstead told me earlier this week on Talkline.

Much of the attention has focused on the $32,000 couch in Chief Justice Allen Loughry’s office.  He says former court administrator Steve Canterbury is to blame and that he fired Canterbury the first chance he got.  Canterbury says Loughry knew what the couch cost and approved it.

But one of the largest of the controversial expenses was the renovation of Justice Robin Davis’s office. That cost $500,278.23.  According to Realtor.com, the median listing price for a house in Charleston is $150,000.

Davis’s office work included over $23,000 for “design services” by Ed Weber Architects.  The glass countertops, glass door and floor cost $90,000.  Stainless steel cabinets and shelves cost $40,000. Two Edward Fields rugs priced out at over $28,000.

Davis, in an interview with WCHS TV’s Kennie Bass, who broke the original story, owned up to the expenses.  “I wanted the people of West Virginia to hear about my office from me,” she told Bass. “Anything that is done in this office is on me.”

Lawmakers may well take that to heart.  “No one can justify spending that kind of money… it’s incredibly excessive spending,” Armstead said.

The controversy expanded this week with the revelations that Justice Loughry had a sofa left behind by the late Justice Joe Albright and a Cass Gilbert desk at his home office.  Loughry, who is increasingly frustrated by the controversy, had the couch and desk removed and taken to storage.

“The desk was not returned because its use was inappropriate, but because issues such as this are becoming an obstacle to the Court completing its important work,” Loughry said.  Supreme Court spokeswoman Jennifer Bundy said, “The Court has a longstanding practice of providing the justices an opportunity to establish a home office, with Court-provided technology equipment and furniture to suit their respective needs.”

The Supreme Court spending issue has the West Virginia Bar buzzing. The legal community is a small, close-knit group and what happens at the high court is of significant interest. However, neither of the two main legal organizations in the state—the West Virginia State Bar and the West Virginia Association for Justice (trial attorneys)—is willing to be publicly critical of the court.

Sometime next month, Loughry will appear before the House and Senate Finance Committees to explain the Judiciary’s budget for next year. It is normally a perfunctory exercise since by law the legislature has no control over the budget.

However, the committee rooms will be packed for these hearings and lawmakers will have plenty of questions about how taxpayer dollars are spent on the third floor in the East wing of the Capitol.

~~  Hoppy Kercheval ~~

Men Behaving Badly

The Free Press WV

The stories about sexual harassment, abuse and assault of women by men in power will fade because every story has a shelf-life.  The staying power of the story is of undetermined length, but we know from experience that the media will move on.

The question is whether the revelations of the past two months will have had an impact that goes beyond the headlines or will we fall back into what we now know is the familiar pattern of some men in positions of power taking advantage of women, while the women are reluctant to come forward.

A good friend of mine, who is a professional woman, told me, “Every woman I know, and I mean everyone, has experienced sexual harassment in the workplace or sexual assault including being groped, kissed, fondled and touched in inappropriate ways.”

So why didn’t they say something?  My friend wrote, “When this happens, most women do not turn around, haul off and wallop the offender; they look at themselves to see what they did wrong—acted too friendly, went into the room alone?  They (and many others) blame themselves.”

If nothing else, that appears to be changing because abused and harassed women, through the power of their collective voices, are now coming forward.  The message is that no abuser, no matter how powerful, is off limits.

CBS This Morning anchor Nora O’Donnell, following the allegations of harassment against her co-host Charlie Rose, said “This is a moment that demands a frank and honest assessment about where we stand and more generally the safety of women.” She said the revelations are producing a reckoning.

That suggests a settling of accounts for abuses that have occurred. Maybe that happens, but care is advised.  Not all bad behavior is created equal.  There’s a significant difference between boorish behavior and sexual assault. Each case must be judged on its own merit.

National Review Editor Rich Lowery wrote that we are undergoing a low-grade cultural revolution. “A model of predation practiced by scruple-less powerful men is getting destroyed before our eyes and it’s a very good thing.”

As men, we have held the most power in society for the longest and, until very recently, women could only accrue power through men. That’s changing for the better, but as has become evident in recent weeks, we still have a ways to go.

What we have learned most recently has been painful, particularly for the victims, but also necessary to bring about change.

Legislators Turn Focus on Supreme Court Spending Following Report on Luxury Purchases

The Free Press WV

The issue of the lack of legislative review of the judiciary’s budget has been simmering at the State Capitol for a few years now.  Some lawmakers object to the State Supreme Court’s power to determine its own budget with no oversight from lawmakers.

The judiciary’s budget autonomy is written into the state Constitution. Article VI, Section 51, Subsection A(5) actually states that the legislature does not have the authority to decrease the judiciary’s budget.

In theory, the court could ask for significant budget increases every year and there’s nothing the legislature could do about it.  In practice, however, the court has generally worked with lawmakers to craft a reasonable budget that is in line with state spending.  That shows restraint.

The General Revenue portion of the judiciary’s budget this fiscal year is $141,759,670.  That’s a lot of money, but it has increased less than two percent over the last three budget years.

In 2016, the legislature considered a joint resolution to amend the state Constitution by eliminating the judiciary’s budget protection, but it didn’t go anywhere.  There was no groundswell of support or particular constituency motivated enough to take on the State Supreme Court.

However, that changed this week with the revelation by WCHS TV of excessive spending and waste on Supreme Court office furnishings—a $32,000 couch and $7,500 for an inlaid wooden floor in the state’s design in Chief Justice Allen Loughry’s office; $28,000 rugs and an $8,000 chair in Justice Robin Davis’s office; a $9,000 sofa in Justice Margaret Workman’s chambers, to name a few.

All paid for with taxpayer dollars.

The luxury furnishings were part of a general renovation of the Supreme Court’s Capitol offices.  The initial estimate was $900,000 back in 2009, but that ballooned to $3.7 million with changes, additions and, yes, fancy furniture.

Legislative leaders say the luxury spending has renewed interest in the constitutional amendment.  “This just isn’t right,” said Senate President Mitch Carmichael (R-Jackson) on MetroNews Talkline.  “We’re going to make an effort to change that.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Shott said he has no issue with upgrades to the historic Capitol building that are “appropriate and necessary,” but he adds that he “was stunned and angered by the amount that was spent for some of the furnishings that are more temporary.”

Changing the Constitution is not easy.  It requires a two-thirds vote by both chambers of the legislature and then approval by the voters.  Additionally there will be compelling arguments against it.  Would legislative oversight inject more politics in to the judiciary?  Would justices and judges feel compelled to craft decisions that meet approval of those who control the purse strings?

Those are rational questions that will need to be debated during the upcoming session. However, it’s going to be hard for lawmakers and the public to get the image out of their minds of a $32,000 couch.

“We’ve had some very difficult financial times.  We have state employees at nearly every agency that are not well paid,” Shott said.  “The thought that someone would spend that kind of money on a piece of furniture in view of those situations is just really troubling.”

Jobs Are Opening, But You Need The Training

The Free Press WV

The image of a shuttered factory representing the decline of blue collar jobs has been etched in our minds, and for good reason.  Since 1991 the U.S. economy has lost three million good paying jobs that did not require a college degree and all but 500,000 of them have been in manufacturing.

The days of getting a high school degree and turning that into career in a blue collar industry are rapidly disappearing. However, the economy is not static.  As those traditional jobs are disappearing, new jobs are opening up, according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and JPMorgan Chase & Company.

The U.S. has approximately 123 million workers in the economy and 30 million of those are workers without a BA who have good jobs, and that sector has expanded by three million since 1991.  These are new skilled-services jobs in business, health care, hospitality, construction, education services, natural resources, wholesale and retail and government services.

The Center defines a good job as a salary of at least $35,000 a year ($17 an hour) for those under age 45 and at least $45,000 ($22 an hour) for workers age 45 and older.

The biggest difference between these new jobs and traditional blue collar jobs is the level of education necessary to perform the work. “Among good jobs, employers favor those with Associate’s Degrees or some college,” the report said.

“There are millions of good jobs in our economy for workers who have graduated from high school and completed some post-secondary education or training,” said Chauncy Lennon, Head of Workforce Initiatives with JPMorgan Chase.  “We need to connect this workforce with these opportunities.”

Community and technical colleges are playing a more vital role in the economy. They can adapt more quickly to the needs of the local economy and provide the necessary training over a shorter time period than traditional four-year liberal arts schools.

The new jobs at the Procter & Gamble facility near Martinsburg are a good example. The company partnered with Blue Ridge Community and Technical College on job training for potential workers even before they broke ground.

None of this should be seen as devaluing a four-year degree.  The report said workers with BAs have gained 8.4 million good paying jobs since the Great Recession (2007-2009) compared with 3.2 million workers with less education.

However, there is still a place—and a growing need—in our economy for dependable workers without a BA who have a particular skill, can communicate well and problem solve.  Many of the old factory doors have closed, but new doors are opening.

West Virginia’s Big Deal with China

The Free Press WV

The announcement was stunning if, for no other reason, than the size of the number.  China Energy says it will invest $83.7 billion in natural gas-related projects in West Virginia.  As a comparison, that’s larger that the state’s entire economic output for 2016 ($73.4 billion).

The projects are a significant portion of the quarter-trillion dollars worth of deals announced by the Trump administration during a meeting in Beijing with Chinese leaders as part of the President’s attempt to correct the trade imbalance.

West Virginia Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher, who was in Beijing for the announcement, explained that the investment will be over 20 years in power generation, chemical manufacturing and the construction of an underground storage hub for natural gas liquids.

Two natural gas power plants are already planned, tentatively one in Brooke County and another in Harrison, but Thrasher stresses that the site selection process is ongoing.

“This is the beautiful thing about this project,” Thrasher told me in an interview from Beijing.  “These are raw products from West Virginia, and they are going to stay in West Virginia.”

The news is almost too good to be true, which does trigger a reasonable amount of caution. West Virginia’s road to economic doldrums is littered with announcements about the next big thing, so much so that the phrase “game changer” should be stricken from our vocabulary.

It was almost four years ago to the day (Nov. 11) that Governor Earl Ray Tomblin announced the planned development of an ethane cracker and associated petrochemical plants at Parkersburg. However, Odebrecht, later pulled out.  Braskem, a subsidiary of Odebrecht, has taken over the project, but it has not proceeded with construction.

Additionally, the business publication Bloomberg raised caution flags about the U.S.-China deal. “The reality, however, is that the roughly 15 agreements unveiled on Thursday are mostly non-binding memorandums of understanding and could take years to materialize, if they do at all,” Bloomberg reported.

But there are reasons to have more optimism about at least the initial portions of the West Virginia deal.  Thrasher reports that the Chinese have already been to the state scouting out sites for the power plants.  Also, China Energy has a long-established research and development relationship with West Virginia University.

Brian Anderson, director of WVU’s Energy Institute, predicted the deal will have a dramatic impact on the state’s economy.  “Instead of sending jobs offshore, we are bringing hundreds of thousands of jobs statewide and directly into the state,” he said.

We all hope so. Some of the largest deposits of natural gas are right below us and accessible through hydraulic fracturing. Utilizing the gas here through power generation and petrochemical production will create wealth and opportunity.

Certainly the memorandum of understanding with China Energy is a reason for optimism. This could be the start of what we have been waiting for ever since the first person uttered the “game changer” phrase about natural gas.

But we’ve been stood up enough times over the years to be cautious.

WV Revenues Match Expenditures, Keeping The Budget In Balance

The Free Press WV

West Virginia state government’s budget looks decidedly better four months into the new fiscal year than at the same time the two previous years.

Figures released Monday by the State Department of Revenue show the state collected $354 million in October, matching almost exactly the projections.  It’s critical to meet the monthly projections because the budget is based on the expected collections. If revenue falls too far short, mid-year cuts have to be made.

So far this fiscal year revenue collections are just slightly below estimates, by $8 million, but that’s not much considering the General Revenue budget is over $4 billion.  The collections-to-expenditures match is positive news for the state.

“We are in a much better place,” said State Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy. “Because the revenue projections are spot-on we don’t have to make the painful decision about recommending mid-year budget cuts.”

That has not been the case in the last couple of years, when a significant slowdown in the coal industry and a drop in natural gas prices wrecked the state’s economy and caused tax collections to spiral downward, well below projections.

Last year at this time revenue collections trailed estimates by $87 million.  That hole was serious enough for then-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin to impose a two-percent midyear spending cut. The state faced a similar shortfall in 2015, forcing Tomblin to cut four percent from most state agencies and one percent from public education.

But now the state’s economy is showing some improvement.

For example, for the first four months of the year the state has collected $80.7 million in severance taxes—the taxes on coal, gas and timber—for the General Fund.  While that figure is $13 million below projections, it is still 68 percent higher than the same period last year.

Personal Income Tax collections are up, due in part to a slight rise in employment.  However, sales tax collections are running behind projections because West Virginians are not spending as much as expected on taxable goods and services.

“We are keeping an eye on sluggish sales tax numbers, but we aren’t worried at this point,” Hardy said.  “And we are excited to see marked improvement in our Personal Income Tax and energy industry revenues.”

The revenue projections and collections are indicators of the strength or weakness of the state’s economy.  The most recent numbers show some positives, but more importantly they indicate the worst of the state’s economic downturn is behind us.

What Does the Virginia Election Say about West Virginia?

The Free Press WV

Democrats are understandably pumped after Tuesday’s elections.  Democrats won the governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey and scored additional victories across the country.  The Dems erased a 32-seat Republican advantage in the Virginia House of Delegates and, depending upon recounts, could become the majority in the House.

Democrats are crediting their victories to energized voters response to Donald Trump’s presidency.  Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam capitalized on Trump’s unpopularity among a majority of the voters of the Commonwealth to defeat Republican Ed Gillespie.

“Virginia has told us to end the divisiveness, that we will not condone hatred and bigotry—and to end the politics that have torn this country apart,” Northam said in his victory speech Tuesday night.

So do the Virginia results provide any early signs of what might happen in West Virginia next year, especially in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin and, on the Republican side, either Congressman Evan Jenkins or Attorney General Patrick Morrisey?

Virginia had been more of a purple state, although it is clearly bluer after Tuesday.  Hillary Clinton won by five points in Virginia, the only southern state to back the Democratic nominee. By contrast, Trump carried West Virginia by a whopping 42 points over Clinton.

Clinton won the Washington, D.C. suburbs and urban areas while Trump won rural areas of Virginia, including every county that borders West Virginia (except Loudoun County, which is just outside of D.C.).

The Trump counties in Virginia, especially those in Appalachia, are demographically similar to West Virginia—largely rural, white and poorer.  Gillespie carried nearly every county Trump won last November.

Gillespie was particularly strong in counties that border West Virginia. He captured an average of 71 percent of the vote in 13 of the 14 counties. The lone exception, just like last year, was Loudoun County, where Northam won with 60 percent.

Here’s another way to look at the results:

Twenty-five of Virginia’s counties are considered Appalachian.  Trump won all but one of those counties (Montgomery) last year with an average of 74 percent of the vote.  Gillespie’s results were identical. He won 24 of the 25 Appalachian counties with 74 percent.

All 55 counties in West Virginia are considered part of Appalachia and Trump won every county in the state in 2016.

Nationally Democrats need something to build on after 2016, and they should be energized after Tuesday.  However, the Virginia vote also showed Trump’s base remains strong. That’s a positive sign for Republican candidates in West Virginia next year and an area of concern for Senator Joe Manchin and the rest of the Democrats in the state.

The Power of Incumbency

The Free Press WV

We hear a lot about a deeply divided country and fissures within the two main parties.

The division among the Democrats was evident in the last election when liberal Bernie Sanders mounted a formidable challenge against Hillary Clinton, the party establishment’s choice.

Now there is a highly publicized split within the Republican Party.  Former Trump campaign manager Steve Bannon announced earlier this month he is “declaring war on the Republican establishment” by recruiting primary challengers for more moderate Republicans.

But do primary challenges work?   Historically, incumbent members of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have been able to survive contested primaries.

Sabato Crystal Ball Managing Editor Kyle Kondik looked back at the re-nomination rate of members of Congress for the last 70 years and found that incumbents almost always survive the primary.

Kondik reports that since 1946, just 233 of 14,309 members of the House seeking re-election have failed to win re-nomination. That’s a re-nomination rate of 98 percent.  On the Senate side, only 46 of 1,026 incumbents lost a primary challenge, for a 96 percent re-nomination rate.

Incumbents have had even higher success rates over the last 30 years, with a 99 percent re-nomination rate.

West Virginia has followed a similar track.  I didn’t go as far back as Kondik, but I came up with just two Congressional incumbents losing in the primary in recent memory.  In 2010, Mike Oliverio knocked off long-time 1st District Congressman Alan Mollohan in the Democratic primary.

In 1992, Bob Wise defeated Harley Staggers, Jr., in the 2nd District Democratic primary. However, that race has an important caveat; Wise and Staggers, both incumbents, were matched against each other after redistricting eliminated one of the state’s Congressional districts. There was a similar circumstance in 1972 when the merging of two districts caused incumbent Congressmen Ken Hechler and James Kee to run against each other in the Democratic Primary, which Hechler won.

For the most part, during the modern political history of West Virginia, politicians like Robert Byrd, Jay Rockefeller, Jennings Randolph, Bob Wise, Nick Rahall and Shelley Moore Capito maintained unblemished primary records, often winning by wide margins.

“As is clear, those who want to be re-nominated almost always win re-nomination,” Kondik wrote, “and despite the oft-cited primary unrest on the GOP side, that has not really translated into more incumbents losing.”

True, former House Majority leader Eric Cantor (R, VA-7) lost his primary in 2014, but his race has been the exception and not the rule. Also, Senator Jeff Flake’s (R, AZ) decision not to run for re-election may be counted as a loss since he was lagging in the polls and Trump had backed one of his primary opponents, former state Senator Kelli Ward.

Political incumbency is a stubborn thing.  The past suggests that the two political parties tend to rally around the incumbent on Election Day, but as the Trump nomination and election showed, the past may not be prologue.

Lincoln Told Us How to Honor The War Dead

The Free Press WV

As I sat to write this commentary, CNN was having a panel discussion on the controversy over what Presidents have said to families who have loved ones who have been killed in the line of duty.  The graphic reads, “War of Words.”

We overuse military metaphors, which diminishes the seriousness of conflicts where people die and are maimed. I’ve never been in battle, but I suspect a “war” where the weapons are words is nothing compared to being shot at.

The public debate over the last week has been consumed by what President Trump did or did not say to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson.  Trump’s offhanded and unnecessary comment comparing his outreach to the families of fallen soldiers to previous presidents produced rounds of noxious finger pointing, especially between the President and Florida Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson.

Several major news organizations even tried to track down the families of service members who have been killed since Trump took office to see if the President contacted them and whether he was properly empathetic.

It has been an ignominious experience for the country, as bereaved families have become pawns in an unnecessary and spiteful debate.  Thank goodness an adult finally entered the room.

Gen. John Kelly, President Trump’s chief of staff, took to the podium in the White House press room last Thursday to try to provide some context and compassion to the story.  Kelly has unquestioned standing since he has been to war, issued orders that sent soldiers to their graves and suffered the loss of a son in battle.

As Politico reported, “In an extraordinary performance that mixed poignant experiences, political strategy, nostalgia for a less hostile society, and a seeming rebuke of his boss, Kelly accomplished what few others have been able to do: he forcefully vouched for Trump in a moment of political peril.”

That’s true, and his comments should help extinguish this tawdry exercise, even though he apparently made an error about Congresswoman Wilson that added some fuel to the media-driven fire.

But the whole ordeal has made me feel as though we are carelessly walking over the graves of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our country, our freedom and our liberty.  They are entitled to absolute reverence.

So what are civilians supposed to say about the war dead that is meaningful and not patronizing?  President Abraham Lincoln addressed that issue at Gettysburg. “But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.”

In other words, their selfless actions speak for themselves. However, Lincoln did leave a way forward for the rest of us.

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.  It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, and that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from this earth.”

Thus our charge is not necessarily to try to find the right words, but rather to rededicate ourselves to advancing the cause of a more perfect union in whatever way we can.  We honor those who have made the ultimate sacrifice by earning what they gave us.

WV Ventures into Potatoes and Cow Breeding with Little Success

The Free Press WV

When Walt Helmick was State Agriculture Commissioner he wanted to encourage the expansion of the agri-food industry.  Helmick argued the state was underachieving in food production so he began pilot programs for beans and potatoes.

Helmick and his team envisioned creating and equipping various collection points around the state where farmers could bring their potatoes to be cleaned and prepared for market.  The state spent about $1 million of taxpayer money on a huge machine, crates and other materials and established the first potato aggregation point in Huntington.

West Virginia built it, but the potatoes never came.  Crescent Gallagher, spokesman for the state agriculture department, said the machine has only been used three or four times and it is now for sale. “We decided it’s not something we have the resources for any more,” he told MetroNews reporter Brad McElhinny.

The ag department’s abandonment of the potato business is also attributable to the change in administrations. Republican Kent Leonhardt defeated Helmick, a Democrat, last November.  Leonhart was critical during the campaign of Helmick’s potato plans.

Helmick’s ag department also made the controversial decision to use tax dollars to buy four breeding cows from Oklahoma and bring them to West Virginia with the intent of making available superior bloodlines.  That move upset the West Virginia Farm Bureau, which argued the state’s breeding cows created unfair competition for farmers.

Leonhardt’s administration is now stuck with the cows.  “There’s no reason to sell them because we wouldn’t get anywhere near what we bought them for,” Gallagher said.

In fairness, the state agriculture commissioner’s job description includes “implementing legislative enactments designed to advance the interests of agriculture, horticulture and similar industries in West Virginia.”  I remember interviewing Helmick about the project; he was just trying to jumpstart the state’s agriculture economy.

However, this turned into another example of the government using taxpayer dollars to pick economic winners and losers. Occasionally government planners will hit on a winner, but most of the time the result is wasted money and that was the case with the potato project and the bulls.

The private sector, through the tried and true method of market competition, weeds out bad ideas, while allowing for good ones to flourish. If a potato processing facility made economic sense for West Virginia, it’s likely that a hardworking entrepreneur would have figured that out long ago.

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Readers' Recent Comments

Reduce requirements.
Lower teacher standards.

Produce less educated students.
Continue WV’s downward education spiral.

The current State Board of Education is less prepared to lead than back in the Gayle Manchin
days of failure.

Do not fool yourselves. Realize Paine is pain.
Do not expect WV educational leaders to improve education.

They have been showing us for years that goal is
out of their reach.

By Failed State BOE on 01.18.2018

From the entry: 'West Virginia board revises high school requirement, grading'.

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Does anyone know the County’s plan for getting us out of the State’s bottom group for college and trades ready after high school?

What are the causes for our being at the bottom for being ready and what is being done to solve them?

Causes never cease by themselves and the only solution is top quality leadership pushing a highly focused corrective program.

By Rusty Moore on 01.16.2018

From the entry: 'West Virginia board revises high school requirement, grading'.

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Example of a yes/but situation. Just because kids are pushed through does not mean that they are college and career ready. Read past comments about Gilmer’s being in the failing category for academic preparation. The way WV info is reported allows selective use of results to bloat up claims of how well a high school does in preparing students for the real world.

By R. Wells on 01.16.2018

From the entry: 'WEST VIRGINIA HIGH SCHOOLS RECOGNIZED FOR EXEMPLARY GRADUATION RATES'.

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Sunday’s Charleston Gazette-Mail had a warning that just because a high school has a high graduation rate that does not mean that its students are college ready. Gilmer County is one of them to put us in the State’s bottom category for readiness, but you won’t hear about it locally. Kids call it dumbing down.

By Give Citizens The Facts on 01.14.2018

From the entry: 'West Virginia board revises high school requirement, grading'.

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What about all the septic in the hollers that is draining into the creeks??

By Ugly on 01.10.2018

From the entry: 'PSC Investigates Impact of New Corporate Tax Law on Utilities'.

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This point should be kept in mind i.e. “The Commission has directed all privately owned electric, gas, water, sewer and solid waste facilities to track the tax savings resulting from the 2017 Federal Tax Act on a monthly basis beginning January 01, 2018. “.

By Michell J. Hill on 01.07.2018

From the entry: 'PSC Investigates Impact of New Corporate Tax Law on Utilities'.

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Troyan advocates for competition among schools with survival of the top performers. Her point is that the lack of accountability for county school system administrators must change to be similar to the way corporate America functions. Failure must have consequences!

By Accountabilty Needed on 01.03.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Minutes of Regular Meeting - 11.27.17'.

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Gilmer singled out again in article by Jessi Troyan for our being at the bottom for preparing high school grads for college. We know we have a serious problem. We await on top school system leadership to devise a workable remedial plan for the County. Denial of having problems cannot be used anymore to cover up

By B. Post on 01.02.2018

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Minutes of Regular Meeting - 11.27.17'.

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You were in my life for what seemed like a short time but will be in my heart forever. I’ll see you at the family reunion one day again.

By Dana Linger on 12.29.2017

From the entry: 'Kathern Fay (Cogar) Linger'.

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Concerns about urgent need to upgrade student learning have persisted for too long in the County. 

We are tired of hearing lame excuses that under-achievement is caused by uncaring parents who do not emphasize the importance of education.

Parents are keenly important for contributing to student learning, but they cannot compensate for school “culture” deficiencies linked to leadership short comings.

By Parents For Better Leadership on 12.29.2017

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Minutes of Regular Meeting - 11.27.17'.

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Those who go to college perform down at the bottom in comparison to high school graduates in other WV counties. This evidence suggests that Gilmer’s students who don’t go to college are short changed too. Immediate leadership changes to straighten out under achievement are in order!

By E. Moore on 12.28.2017

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Minutes of Regular Meeting - 11.27.17'.

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Jeanette,
I am so sorry for your loss.

By Margie Shook on 12.18.2017

From the entry: 'Warren Curtis Pierce'.

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The whole child concept is admirable, but with GCHS grads being behind in proficiency for academic subjects we need to make changes to drastically improve learning to enable our kids to compete in the highly competitive modern world.

Our being the 52nd worse off among 55 WV counties for college remediation rates is undeniable proof.

Administrators must determine legitimate causes of our bottom ranking for use in improving learning instead of applying usual low payoff tinkering to be passed off as progress.

By B. K. Brooks on 12.15.2017

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Minutes of Regular Meeting - 11.27.17'.

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That’s the #### dems new ploy, they can’t win on policy so they charge sexual harassment.

By The Silent Majority on 12.15.2017

From the entry: 'Meet the Miss USA Contestant from Gilmer County, WV Accusing Trump of Sexual Misconduct'.

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Why was there no outrage like this when Billy Boy was doing his deed in the White House? and other places?

Oh, I forgot.  He was the media’s boy?

By HOW COME NOW ? on 12.14.2017

From the entry: 'Meet the Miss USA Contestant from Gilmer County, WV Accusing Trump of Sexual Misconduct'.

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Wanna bet that in green counties when results sag there is no hesitancy to make administrative changes when needed? In Gilmer County the approach has been to hide facts and to manufacture rosy ones to report to citizens.

By Moore on 12.11.2017

From the entry: 'More college-going students in WV need remedial classes'.

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This is basically the process for an improvement plan. A school board specifies student achievement standards and it assigns a superintendent to work with central office staff and school administrators to produce a comprehensive plan for making needed changes. After putting a plan in place results are closely monitored by a school board while holding a superintendent personally accountable for achieving the standards.

By School Board Member In A Top Performing County on 12.10.2017

From the entry: 'More college-going students in WV need remedial classes'.

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Did I miss the County Commission Agenda for the December meeting?  The GFP site is displaying a little differently and I can’t seem to find it.  Do they still meet on First and Third Fridays??

By Searching on 12.10.2017

From the entry: 'More college-going students in WV need remedial classes'.

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The no excuse rate for Gilmer County is 59% and there are only three other WV counties worse off. This alarming information flags dire need for the County’s school board to do its job by implementing an improvement plan.

By Gilmer Students Ripped Off on 12.08.2017

From the entry: 'More college-going students in WV need remedial classes'.

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“We’re going to see a sea change in American agriculture as the next generation gets on the land,“

Yeah, right.  That will last about as long as it takes to discover exactly how hard farming is, and the amount of work it takes to make even a minimal living.

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 11.30.2017

From the entry: 'A Growing Number Of Young Americans Are Leaving Desk Jobs To Farm'.

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I always thought a Harvard education was something special.  Well, I guess it is.  Just a week ago they had ‘sex week’.  One of the course offerings was analsex101.  That’s right.  Google it.  Plenty of coverage. True story.

By Harvard 'taint what it used to be? on 11.23.2017

From the entry: 'Feds Threaten To Sue Harvard Over Asian-American Admissions'.

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This is nothing new.  It has been happening for years and no attempt to stop it.  Just quiet it down when word leaks out.  The court system thumbs their noses and laughs at ‘their hillbillies’.

Remember the hub-bub about $100,000.00 bathrooms in the Capitol building a few months ago?

Think they have them all remodeled so those whom you elected can krap in style the next legislative session?  lol

By Web on 11.18.2017

From the entry: 'Legislators Turn Focus on Supreme Court Spending Following Report on Luxury Purchases'.

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The justices are part of the aristocracy. Does anybody think that they care what the peons think?

By Skip Beyer on 11.18.2017

From the entry: 'Legislators Turn Focus on Supreme Court Spending Following Report on Luxury Purchases'.

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Why are Gilmer’s voters kept in the dark about activities of the two LSICs in the County? No published agendas before meetings, no published meeting minutes, and plans with details for school improvements are not disclosed. Violation of WV’s open meeting laws? To top it off memberships of LSIC’s and who selected the individuals are kept secret from voters.

By Gilmer Voter on 11.16.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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LSIC plans are short on specifics for measurable academic improvements to be achieved. That way no matter what happens extraordinary successes can be proclaimed. The strategy is designed to make meaningful accountability impossible for school system administrators.

By More Of Same For WV Schools on 11.15.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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A food pantry opens at Marshall University?

For students I can understand.
But its also for faculty and staff?

Really now?  Their salaries are that poor they need access to a food pantry?

Times area really tough in West Virginia.  Really are.

By Tough Times at Marshall University on 11.14.2017

From the entry: 'West Virginia News'.

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LSIC=Local School Improvement Council. Each WV school has one. Google to learn what each one is supposed to do to improve a school. Ask for plans for your schools.

By POGO on 11.13.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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What is this “LSIC” commenter speaks about?
Who and what is that all about?

By reader on 11.12.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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Fellow West Virginian’s.  What is being seen here is Paine’s return to ‘power’ and the continued 20 years charade by the WVBOE.

They spend your tax dollars.  They do their best to cover their failed efforts.  They cheat our children of a good education. 

They play (think manipulate) with the grading system every couple years, making it impossible to follow students upward or downward progressions.

Don’t expect any good, any progress, any improvement to happen in West Virginia.  It’s not in the cards.  Well, that is not in the ‘administrators’.

By 20 years of WVBOE 'playing' school on 11.12.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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All high schools in WV have ACT Profile Reports for each graduating class.

The only performance information typically cited in school districts is average ACT scores for graduating classes.

If you can get copies of Reports for your high schools read them to independently evaluate testing results for career and college readiness, science, technology engineering and math (STEM), and other categories.

Chances are that your local administrators gloated that average ACT scores for graduating classes are commendable to give your high schools passing marks, but other testing outcomes in the Reports may show otherwise.

It is doubtful if LSIC members for your high schools know about the Reports to be grounds for demanding academic improvement plans. Check Reports for high schools in your school district to make up your own minds.

By WVDOE Fact Checker on 11.11.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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Policy 2510 is an admission by the West Virginia Board of Education of their own failure.

Dumb down the standards in order that students can get a passing grade.

You grand pooh-bahs in Charleston BOE should be ashamed of yourselves!  But you have no shame. Obviously so.

Steve Paine, leading the failure of education in West Virginia.

By # 2510 policy--WVBOE ADMITS OWN FAILURE on 11.10.2017

From the entry: 'Board of Education Takes Action on Policies to Provide Flexibility to Counties'.

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With a deal like this—WHY—are we selling road bonds and—WHY—were all the motor vehicle fees INCREASED on West Virginia’s citizens?  WHY ! ?

Thanks for nothing Jim Justice and the WV legislators.

By WEST VIRGINIA TAXPAYER on 11.10.2017

From the entry: 'WV Signes $84 Billion Shale Gas Deal with China Energy'.

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The Rosie Bell will be a nice addition to the Park !

A thank you to Donna Waddell and her leadership and the FRN for making the Park happen !

By Thank America's Rosie's ! on 11.10.2017

From the entry: 'What This Bell Means to Gilmer County'.

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Aren’t they supposed to have agendas AND minutes for each and every meeting, by law?  They put it right there on the agendas that there were None. And months’ go by without even Seeing an Agenda.  It’s a citizen’s right to go in and ask to see them ALL.  Someone needs to look into this.  Especially with all the speculation that goes on around legal issues in the county!

By GilmerCountyCommission? on 11.03.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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The grade 7 spike in math in comparison to lowered performances in higher grades begs the question about reasons. What is being done to ensure that math skills will not drop by graduation time? Has anyone looked at adverse effects of block scheduling and other factors?

By Answers Needed on 11.03.2017

From the entry: 'SEEING MATH IN NEW WAYS'.

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We’ll.  It’s a step forward to see the Commission AGENDA - but what about the minutes?  The last two agendas have said “ Approve County Commission Minutes-None”      Aren’t there supposed to legally be minutes for the public to read?????  This makes NO sense unless things are going on that the Commission doesn’t want the public to know.  Obviously.  SHOW THE MINUTES Jean Butcher, do your job!

By 304 More Issues on 11.02.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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This posting is very informative and it documents what can be done with innovative approaches to teaching math. For too long we were fed the party line that all was well in our schools for math and everything else. That myth prevailed because facts were hidden to hold down the County’s demands for accountability. Hats are off to Kelly Barr and Traci DeWall.

During intervention it was commonly known that school board members made repeated requests for all kinds of student progress information, but it was kept from them. That era has ended and the County’s school board is expected to focus on its top priority responsibility that is to continually improve student learning in our schools. Our kids can perform if they are given the chance.

By Gilmer County Parents on 11.02.2017

From the entry: 'SEEING MATH IN NEW WAYS'.

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Gilmer look at this Did You Know. If you look at the State’s data on Zoom Dashboard to review changes in mastery of math and reading for the GCHS’s 11th grade for the 2011 and 2017 testing years it is clear the you have a problem with your math program. In 2011 the math pass rate was 36.92 compared to 37.29% in 2017. Progress with reading was truly commendable. The pass rate went from 26.98 in 2011 to 64.41% in 2017. Why the lack of progress for math? We know that your school board members are trying to get information about plans for improvements for math and science, but is full disclosure of details any better than it was under intervention? Let us know.

By B. Cummings on 10.30.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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Lots to learn kids. By the way,  How’s the Commission coming along with the September meeting minutes?

By 304 on 10.30.2017

From the entry: 'GSC Criminal Justice Students Take Part in Scenario-Based Training with RJA'.

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Most of America lives in denial of toll the government approved ‘life-style’ that is shortening everyone’s lives.

We are living in an era where the government has been lobbied (think bought) in approval of many, many things that are destructive to life.

This article shows the result of a cumulative toll effect that vaccines, pesticides, GMO foods, chemtrails, and other poisons are taking on the American population.

This is likely the globalists dream of “depopulation” coming true.  Enjoy what time you, your children, and grandchildren have left.

By Your Government Taking Care of You on 10.25.2017

From the entry: 'Americans Are Retiring Later, Dying Sooner and Sicker In-Between'.

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I don’t care Who or What he killed.  He shouldn’t be doing it in a West Virginia Police hat.  It sends a bad message to do it with a Police hat on.

By Hunter on 10.24.2017

From the entry: 'Special Antlerless Deer Season Opens October 21 and December 26-27'.

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Your outrage is misplaced Hunter. He killed Bambi, who will no longer will frolic through the forest.

By Democrats Against Deer Hunting on 10.23.2017

From the entry: 'Special Antlerless Deer Season Opens October 21 and December 26-27'.

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It doesn’t seem like Gilmer County Law Officials seem to care about the murders in the area. In my opinion. We don’t hear anything from the law on Any of the pertinent local situations.  Why IS that?  We know MUCH more about national news that we know about the goings on in Gilmer. Crimes, drug busts, investigations and Answers to those investigations.  Why don’t we Ever hear any news from the Sheriff’s Department??  Still wondering why Deputy Wheeler was reassigned to school patrol officer and who took over his murder investigative duties.  Can’t get anyone to pick up the phone or an answer when I call.  Maybe someone on the Gilmer Free Press can shed some light?

By Where is the Law? on 10.23.2017

From the entry: 'Governor Justice, DOT Sec. Smith Announce First GARVEE Bond Sale for Roads, Bridges'.

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“We should welcome refugees and immigrants to the United States because it’s good for our society, for our economy, and for our nation.“

WRONG - Diversity in populations has been proven to be, not helpful to society, but harmful.  Immigrant groups who refuse to assimilate are a problem not a benefit, and will remain a problem until they do assimilate.

It’s understood that not all Muslims are terrorists, but for practical purposes all terrorists are Muslims.  And please spare me the Timothy McVey arguments.  McVey and his ilk were loners.  Muslim terrorists are part of an organized movement.

I think almost all immigration should cease until the present immigrant population can be dealt with, through assimilation or otherwise.

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 10.22.2017

From the entry: 'Trump’s Muslim Bans Impoverish Us All'.

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Will the persons involved in Poor Fred’s murder ever be held accountable?  Ever?  Yet they walk among us every day?

Did not realize it has been 7 years since poor ol’ Willard met his fate?  There is plenty dirt kicked around there to cover the wrong doings too?

By Poor Fred is Dead on 10.21.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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Hold on Gub’ner Justiss….
The juery stil’ be outs on yer barrering’ game….

Ways to er’ly ta be countin’ hens an roosters….

By no chickens yet... on 10.21.2017

From the entry: 'Governor Justice, DOT Sec. Smith Announce First GARVEE Bond Sale for Roads, Bridges'.

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Wanna get votes for the school levy? Simply get truth out about where the County stands with low reading, math, and science scores and publicize a rational plan for fixing problems.

By Truth Will Win Levy Votes on 10.21.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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I get it that it’s a pose for the camera, but should he Really be wearing a Police hat for hunting?

By Hunter on 10.20.2017

From the entry: 'Special Antlerless Deer Season Opens October 21 and December 26-27'.

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Nice to see the Gilmer County Commission finally reveal their meeting minutes after long lapses of no information.  Can’t help but wonder if this was posted specifically because of the topic -  Sheriff Gerwig being assigned to another estate case before closing out others. Memories of Willard F. Cottrill today. d. 10/20/10 R.I.P.  The minutes should be interesting.  Let freedom ring.

By MC on 10.20.2017

From the entry: 'Did You Know?'.

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From WV Zoom Dash Board. GCES 6th grade student proficiency rate=20% for math and 31% for reading. Gilmer County demands a K-12 improvement plan everyone can understand and promote!!! We have had enough of the everything is just fine claims.

By School Kids Are Cheated on 10.20.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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It is a common occurrence for school administrators to carefully select one small piece of information to purposely give a school a rosy performance rating for student learning and to hide unflattering information from an LSIC and a local BOE. The way to prevent the censorship is for superintendents to routinely provide access to all testing results so performance evaluations for a school can be based on a full set of facts.

By WVDOE Employee For Complete Transparency on 10.19.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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The community has observed that there is an improved way of doing business by the GCBOE and the new superintendent after the State pulled out. One problem to solve after the State’s neglect for six years of intervention is low student success at the GCHS for math and science. There is documentation on the ZoomWV Dashboard kept by the WV Education Department. The pass rate for GCHS students for M & S is in the 30s. What is the HS’s LSIC group doing to improve those scores? Does it have a detailed improvement plan for the school and if it does it should be disclosed. M and S under achievement underscores why it is important to know what the County’s LSICs are doing to improve our schools academically.

By Gilmer Business Executive on 10.19.2017

From the entry: 'New 4-H Office in Glenville'.

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Should not have to get LSIC membership from principals. The information should be published for the public record for all interested citizens including taxpayers to know. Gilmer’s secrecy has been a long time tool used to undermine accountability and it must stop!

By Stop Secrecy! on 10.19.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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Is it true the GC Board of Education sold this to 4H for one dollar?  I should hope so!

This community has always supported our children and their 4H works.

Very good of our Board of Education to do this!
Thank all you board members!
Doing what you were elected to do!
Take care of the kids and community!

By WONDERFULL USE OF TRAILER on 10.17.2017

From the entry: 'New 4-H Office in Glenville'.

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We 4-H supporters wish to express our appreciation to Mrs. Hurley and the other board of Education members with the 100% vote to hold and sell this trailer for 4-H use/utilization.  This new office space for the very nominal fee is much appreciated.

Kudos to Hurley for staying in contact with the past 4-H director and making sure all was well and agenda requirements were met.  We had heard we were not going to get the trailer.  Thanks goodness the fake news was totally wrong.

Moving out of the old infirmary building will be a real blessing.  The group has learned a valuable lesson.

Do not take the word of ANY others about what the Board of Ed tries to do for each and every community in Gilmer County.  Go to the source.

By Thanks Mz. Hurley & Board of Ed ! on 10.17.2017

From the entry: 'New 4-H Office in Glenville'.

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smile It’s no secret that the Gilmer Board of Ed sets up a public meeting with the LSIC of each school presenting every year agenda and all. Always have.
 
If you want to know who’s on it or when it meets call your school Principal.  That’s who sets up this internal governance committee per code and will probably be glad to talk with you about it.

By Just Takes a Phone Call on 10.17.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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Why the secrecy in not disclosing names of those on the County’s LSIC councils and when they meet with published agendas and official meeting minutes?

By Transparency Suffering on 10.16.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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This information is generally unknown in Gilmer County. Google WVDOE LSIC and chick on the item for frequently asked questions about local school improvement councils. Details covers how individuals are selected to serve on councils and what councils are supposed to do to continually improve our schools with keen focus on student learning.

By How Gilmer's LSICs Should Work on 10.16.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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I love the picture of Kenny because that is a true reflection of him.  I never saw him without a smile on his face.  Even when we would speak on the phone sharing our cancer struggles, Kenny would be laughing.  He always brightened my day when times were hard for me.  Linda, God bless you for what wonderful care you took of Kenny.  When we spoke he was always eager to tell me all you had done for him & how loved & cared about that made him feel.  He always said he could never have made it without you.  God bless you & May God bring you the peace, comfort, & happiness Kenny would want you to have.  My prayers are with you.

By Sue Holvey on 10.15.2017

From the entry: 'Kenneth Jackson Foglesong'.

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Still keeping up on Gilmer County after ending of your intervention. Been reading your test score information too. Your Local School Improvement Councils are responsible for defining specific approaches for improving student performances. The WV Statute covering roles of councils is 18-5a-2. The Department of Eduction has details on its web site for how councils are selected, their responsibilities, and how elected school boards fit in. Too often the problem has been that detailed results for student performance testing were withheld from councils and their members do not know that there are student performance problems in critical need of correcting. The solution is to ensure that all council members are fully advised of testing results and the full range of their official responsibilities.

By WVDOE Observer on 10.14.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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Look at the WVDOE’s Zoom Dashboard. The State’s official results for 2017 testing are alarming. Eleventh graders tested out to be 37% proficient in math compared to 36% in science for 10th graders. Our kids can do much better than this. When will an improvement plan for the high school be developed for application with meaningful built in accountability?

By Fix GCHS' Science And Math Problems on 10.14.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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Don’t believe all the Liberal propaganda being printed as facts….fake news from the left is an epidemic…if we cared so much about pollution and respiratory illnesses, we’d have outlawed cigarettes decades ago…don’t kill West Virginia’s economy over a few objectors.

By Truth?? on 10.13.2017

From the entry: 'Health Consequences from Carbon Pollution Rollback'.

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My child graduated from the GCHS with a high GPA and an ACT exceeding 30. Sounded good at first. At WVU the child was deficient in science and math and dual credit classes taken at the HS didn’t measure up. What is the GCBOE doing to make academic improvements at the HS and when will parents and taxpayers in general be informed of the details?

By GCHS Science and Math Programs Suffering on 10.12.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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Here’s a prediction for you:

Half the money will be wasted on environmental impact statements, feasibility studies and the like.

Of the remaining half, most will go to wages and salaries, and damned few roads or bridges will be repaired.

Anyone want to dispute that?

Sincerely

Pat McGroyne

By Pat McGroyne on 10.10.2017

From the entry: 'Politics Aside, Voters Say, They Want WV’s Roads Fixed'.

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What a scoop!  One county gets 18% of pie!

Mon County wins!  Everyone else looses.

By nepotism will rule the day! on 10.09.2017

From the entry: 'Governor Justice Issues Statement on Passage of Roads to Prosperity Bond Referendum'.

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There have been repeated pleas for a detailed accounting for all the County’s education money spent on facilities and everything associated with them during State control. Why has nothing been done to verify how public money was spent? With use of modern computer records it should be relatively simple to do detailed accounting. Without one and the continuing secrecy lid suspicions are worsened. Didn’t the County have a seizable surplus before intervention and now we face going into the red?

By Where Did Gilmer's School Money Go? on 10.07.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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Positive press out of GSC is always good for the community and the College.

What is not good for the community and GSC is the ongoing telephone scam GSC has nothing to do with.

The phone will ring, there is a GSC entry on caller ID, and a 304-462 number is given. If you answer thinking that it is a legitimate GSC call you get surprised.

The caller, usually with a strange accent, will make a pitch for money and it is obviously a scam.

It is common for the caller to try to convince a person that a grand child or another relative is in bad trouble and thousands of dollars are needed quickly for a lawyer or some other expense.

When the 304 number is called back there is nothing there. It would help if GSC officials would alert the public to the cruel scam and to involve high level law enforcement to stop the nuisance calls.

By Fed Up Glenville Resident on 10.05.2017

From the entry: 'GSC History Book Authors to be on hand for Signing'.

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So sorry.  You and your family have my thoughts and prayers. Butch, you may not remember me but you did such a wonderful job at my farm in Lewis County, dozing, ditching, etc. etc.  a few years ago.  I so appreciated your work. God Bless you and your family during this difficult time.

By Betty Woofter on 10.03.2017

From the entry: 'Florence Marie Hall'.

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West Virginia has 55 counties.

Mon County will get almost 20% of the highway money.  Actually about 1/8th.

Does that seem lop-sided to anyone? 

One county gets one-fifth.  Who gets the ‘payola’ ?

By watcher on 10.01.2017

From the entry: 'Latest Numbers on Road Bond Vote'.

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Nice letter and thought Senator Manchin.

Maybe now a letter to Milan corp, requesting Heather Bresch requesting a epi-pen price roll back?

By How About it Mr. Manchin? on 09.29.2017

From the entry: 'Manchin Letter Urges for Patient Access to Non-Opioid Painkillers'.

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That is the standard operating procedure for the Charleston Board of Ed and their mismanagement style. 

Is it any wonder the state has financial issues?

By truth seeker's answer on 09.28.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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Apparently the 5 year, GC school news embargo, by the West Virginia Board of Education has been lifted ?  Hope so.

By will we get more news? on 09.28.2017

From the entry: 'Gilmer County Board of Education Regular Meeting Minutes'.

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We want investigative accounting for all the County’s school money spent on facilities during intervention. We are entitled to details for planning money, money paid out to architects, all money sent on Leading Creek, everything spent on the Arbuckle land plan and Cedar Creek, what was spent to get us at the new GCES, and a complete list for all money paid out for no bid work from start to where we are today.

By Citizens Deserve Facts on 09.28.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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Can someone explain to me why in Gilmer County schools projects were given to certain companies without any bid? Even when these companies kept screwing up, they kept getting paid for fixing their own screw ups? A good example is our supposed to be brand new elementary school. I hear these all the time. What is the real truth?

By truth seeker on 09.27.2017

From the entry: 'ICYMI™: Former Boone County Board of Education Members Indicted'.

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Where are all the Obama and Clinton haters now? Why aren’t they comment about the state of the country and the world now?

By wondering on 09.27.2017

From the entry: 'National News'.

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