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G-OpEd™: Legislature & Secretary of State

Legislature Addresses Elections, Business Filings and Efficiencies for Secretary of State’s Office
The Free Press WV

The day I took office we began meeting with legislators to swiftly draft proposed bills to deal with the difficulties encountered in this office. I asked our employees to tell me the problems they confront on a daily basis while doing their work for the companies and voters we serve. We reached out to county clerks and business leaders to find solutions to issues they face.

I was astonished by the input we received and the coalitions we ultimately formed to work toward common goals. During the legislative session, we closely monitored and participated in the progress of legislation shaping our state. I would like to specifically highlight key legislation passed to assist in streamlining the office and eliminating waste of taxpayer’s money:


Cutting the red tape for businesses:

The Legislature required the Secretary of State to create a “One-Stop” call center, website and tax collection mechanism for businesses of the state. I am very encouraged to move this project forward.

The Legislature has allowed our office to create uniformity in the fees charged to corporations and limited liability companies. It also enables our office to provide a fee for expedited services rendered through “One-Stop.“ These voluntary fees for expedited services are currently in place in 31 states, and will allow us to move at the speed of business.


Increasing transparency and eliminating waste:

In the first days of taking office, our Business and Licensing experts presented to me a burdensome procedure for repackaging and re-mailing undeliverable Service of Process filings to circuit courts, which resulted in our office spending around $27,000 in added costs to taxpayers. We developed a change in code streamlining the inefficient process.

House Bill 2767 was drafted by our office, introduced by lead sponsor Delegate John O’Neal, and passed the House of Delegates 98-0 and the Senate 34-0 to eliminate this inefficient process. In discussions with parties involved in the June 2017 flood recovery, our office was made aware of issues of sole proprietors operating under “fictitious names” that do not get registered in a searchable public location. This created problems for flood victims that were looking for reliable help in a hurry, but could not verify a business name.

In conjunction with the county Clerks Association, we drafted legislation that would have all sole proprietors file in the Secretary of State’s Office and we would create a uniform database to search all registered sole proprietors in West Virginia. State Senator Craig Blair took the lead on the bill and it passed 34-0 in the Senate and 96-0 in the House of Delegates.


Elections updates:

  • For elections held past the beginning of July in 2017, the electioneering prohibition near a polling location will exist for election day voting locations and now also for early voting locations;
  • Legislators now have additional disclosure requirements on fundraising activities during legislative session;
  • Judicial races will be placed on the ballot along with their respective districts of state and county elections

We accomplished a great deal of work in a 60-day session. Of course, there is much to be done in perfecting a fair elections process, to do the work of our state and to grow our economy by lifting the bureaucracies from business. I am looking forward to taking on these tasks to move West Virginia forward.

Mac Warner
WV Secretary of State

The Long Road to ‘Iowa’

The Free Press WV

At one point during the budget debate last month, Governor Justice recoiled against any budget compromise that included deep budget cuts.  Justice used one of his now famous metaphors to make his point.

“It doesn’t make one hill of beans of sense to me to say ‘you like the desert, and I like Alaska, so we’re going to end up in Iowa.’ Let’s only end up in Iowa if that’s the right place to end up,” he said.

Well, ten days after the end of the regular session of the Legislature (including one additional day to work on the budget), we’re nowhere near a hospitable gathering of the Governor, the Senate and the House in Des Moines.

However, there are at least some road maps that might just lead them there.

The Justice administration and Senate leaders are coalescing around a framework for a budget. The plan, which was unveiled in the final hours of the regular session, includes a lot of what the Governor wants—additional revenue from a sales tax increase, a commercial activities tax and temporary wealth tax, higher fuel taxes and DMV fees to build roads and a pay raise for classroom teachers.

The Senate side of the deal includes a modification of the state income tax, reducing the current five tiers to three and lowering of the rates when certain fiscal benchmarks are met with the possibility of eliminating the tax eventually. Senate supporters believe lowering the income tax will lead to economic growth.

But that route toward a deal doesn’t even show up on the navigation system of House Speaker Tim Armstead. The Kanawha County Republican has told the Justice administration and Senate leaders time and again that higher taxes are a non-starter in the House, even if they are accompanied by possible income tax reductions.

But Justice’s team, while negotiating with Armstead, believes there could be an avenue toward agreement—the House Democrats.  Justice is trying to rally support among the 36 Democrats to get behind the Justice/Senate plan. He’s reportedly going to make his pitch to them today.

The Dems will need some convincing. They don’t want to be out front on tax increases without Republican support, fearing that will be used against them in the next election. The Democrats need assurances of a significant number of Republicans.

So here’s the question: How many House Republicans, if any, would be willing to defy their Speaker and support the Justice/Senate plan?  The Governor said last week that some Republicans called to urge him to veto the Republican-passed budget (he did), suggesting they might be open to another pathway.

We know the House Republican caucus is not unified—the breakdown over medical marijuana demonstrated that—but it’s difficult to predict how many members the Justice administration could pick up by lobbying individuals.

To continue with the Governor’s metaphor, for now Iowa remains a long distance away.  It will be challenging, but not impossible, to get there.

G-OpEd™: Tremendous Victories Require Continued Vigilance

An op-ed by WV Attorney General Patrick Morrisey

The Free Press WV

Over the past few months, West Virginia has experienced a tremendous amount of success in beating back years of federal overreach that have devastated many in our state.

One of the greatest victories involved my office leading a coalition of 27 states and state agencies against the so-called Clean Power Plan, put in place by the Obama Administration to effectively kill coal – the lifeblood of so many families and communities in our state.

Together, we stopped the Power Plan in its tracks with a historic and unprecedented victory at the U.S. Supreme Court. We also mounted a vigorous challenge to the job-killing Obama regulations that attempted to kill new power plants, stymie oil and natural gas production and regulate a property owner’s roadside ditch as a “water of the United States.”

The Constitution and the laws of the United States provide no authority for unelected bureaucrats to enact this type of control over states and citizens. That’s why our office joined with like-minded attorneys general from across the nation. We successfully stopped these regulations and our efforts built a bridge to a better day.

We applaud President Trump’s swift action to unravel this mess of federal overreach, however, now is not the time to rest on our laurels.

I fully expect the opposition to fight back, but this battle won’t be fought any longer by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency – it will be waged by states such as California, New York and Massachusetts.  They will try to replicate our success in suing the federal government and undo the good we have done.

Our batting average taking on federal overreach is strong. My office led the way to stop the Power Plan, which amounted to a radical transformation of the EPA from serving as an environmental regulator into a central energy planning authority aimed at devastating coal communities and those who depend upon coal’s future.

We also stopped the Waters of the United States rule that gave the federal government unprecedented control over small streams, farms and private property in a land grab focused on areas where water may flow once every 100 years. In addition, we forced reconsideration of a methane emissions regulation for natural gas producers, which places oil and natural gas in the federal government’s crosshairs under the guise of environmental protection.

There will continue to be naysayers and people who disagree – people who would call these successes failures or say we are going in the wrong direction, but West Virginians know better.

We are winning, but we need to remain in a position to move forward, aggressively marching on and into the next battle – whatever it may be. At a minimum, we need to stop our opponents from preventing the successful repeal or reconsideration of these onerous rules.

But to continue to prevail, we need adequate funding to fix the mess the Obama Administration left behind. We won’t keep winning unless we are fully equipped and prepared to continue advocating for West Virginia’s interests.

With President Trump in office, I have faith that we can stop the federal bureaucracy from running roughshod over our state as it has in recent years. But that alone is not enough.

We must keep the faith, press forward and continue to do everything in our power to help West Virginia reach her full potential.

G-LtE™: Lesbian Couple Suing Over Harassment While Obtaining Marriage License

The Free Press WV

When marriage equality became law in their hometown in 2014 following the federal court decision in Bostic v. Schaefer, Samantha Brookover and Amanda Abramovich sought out a marriage license in Gilmer County, West Virginia. They were met with derision, harassment and hatred and refused an application by the county clerk’s office. Sixteen months later (following the Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v Hodges that made marriage equality law of the land nationwide), they tried again and were met with the same level of vitriol and harassment.

Despite that discrimination, they successfully filed for a marriage license application. That success didn’t come without long-lasting repercussions. That’s why Brookover and Abramovich just filed a lawsuit against Gilmer County and several officials that either engaged in or condoned the religion-based harassment they endured throughout the process.

The Free Press WV

Writing at Americans United for the Separation of Church and State (AU) – the organization helping file the lawsuit – the couple described the level of harassment they endured at the hands of Gilmer County officials:

Sixteen months later – well after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld marriage equality – we went to the courthouse again for a marriage license. This time, we brought family members with us who were excited to take part in our special day.

When we arrived, the same clerk was on duty. When we asked her for a marriage license, she began shouting at us that we are “an abomination.” She yelled that our desire to marry was wrong and that she believed that God would “deal” with us in time. We asked her to stop, and she told us that she has a religious right to talk this way to us.

In the end, she processed our marriage application – but not before we were left shaking and in tears.

When we complained to the county clerk about this abusive behavior, she defended it and said that any future same-sex couples seeking to marry would receive the same treatment – or worse.

No one should be forced to endure the pain and humiliation Brookover and Abramovich experienced in merely attempting to obtain a government-maintained service in their hometown. Religious proselytization has no place in government services. Moreover, using personal religious belief to deny service and harass taxpayers using a taxpayer-funded government role constitutes a serious breach of constitutional duties.

Discussing the lawsuit against Deputy Clerk Debbie Allen, County Clerk Jean Butcher, and Gilmer County, AU executive director Rev. Barry Lynn argued, “Same-sex couples shouldn’t have to run a gauntlet of harassment, religious condemnation and discrimination in order to realize their dreams of marriage.” Lynn added, “Government officials must apply the law fairly to everyone, regardless of religious beliefs. If these clerks are unable to fulfill their duties, they shouldn’t work in a government office.”

Andrew Schneider, executive director of Fairness West Virginia, echoed that sentiment in a statement saying, “West Virginia is a place that’s known for its hospitality and its adherence to the Golden Rule, to treat others as you’d like to be treated. The behavior of the Gilmer County clerks violates those values by perpetuating fear and intimidation in our community.” Schneider added, “LGBT couples in Gilmer County, and across West Virginia, should be free to be themselves when encountering government officials.”

Fairness West Virginia will be serving as co-counsel with AU presenting Brookover and Abramovich’s lawsuit.

In that lawsuit, the two organizations argue in part:

Here, same-sex couples are not afforded the right to marry on the same terms and conditions as opposite-sex couples because officials at the Gilmer County Clerk’s Office intimidate, humiliate, and harass them when they exercise their legal right to apply for and obtain a marriage license. And when a deputy clerk demeans, insults, or chastises a same-sex couple attempting to obtain a marriage license, County Clerk Jean Butcher defends their behavior because it is consistent with her personal religious convictions.

When Deputy Clerk Debbie Allen saw that a same-sex couple was applying for a marriage license, she did not provide the license on the same terms as for opposite-sex couples. Instead, Allen launched into a tirade of harassment and disparagement. She slammed her paperwork down on her desk, screaming that the couple was an “abomination” to God and that God would “deal” with them. Her rant continued for several minutes. Another clerk joined in, encouraging Allen’s attack on Amanda and Samantha by shouting “it’s [Allen’s] religious right” to harass same-sex couples while performing the official state duties of the Clerk’s office.

Throughout the attack, Amanda remained silent and shaking; Samantha was brought to tears.

When Samantha’s mother later called County Clerk Butcher to report the abusive attack on her daughter and her daughter’s fiancée, Butcher said that the couple deserved it and that the next same-sex couple who attempted to get a marriage license in Gilmer County would get the same or worse.

That’s not all.

After issuing the marriage license, and in a further attempt to deter the couple from marrying, Allen told Amanda and Samantha that officials in Gilmer County had stopped performing marriages after the County had become legally required to recognize same-sex marriages and that no one in Gilmer County would marry the couple.

The lawsuit summarizes the harassment and discrimination concluding:

Amanda and Samantha were made to wait some sixteen months after their initial, lawful application for a marriage license because they were improperly turned away by Defendant Allen. Not only did they suffer emotional distress because of the wrongful denial, but during the intervening period they were denied all the legal (as well as emotional) benefits of marriage, including benefits and privileges under federal and state law; legal rights to make healthcare decisions rights for one’s spouse; legal rights and presumptions concerning the ability to hold real property, bank accounts, and other property in common; important and valuable rights under West Virginia’s estate and intestacy laws; and a host of other privileges under West Virginia family law.

Moreover, the Clerk’s Office is located in the Gilmer County Courthouse, where other government services are provided.

Amanda and Samantha must visit the Courthouse every year to pay property taxes on their automobiles.

Amanda and Samantha are in the process of looking for a house to purchase and, should they do so, will need to visit the Courthouse every year to pay property taxes.

Samantha wishes to register to vote in Gilmer County but fears that she will be harassed once again by Allen at the Courthouse.

Amanda and Samantha reasonably fear that, because of the unconstitutional policies of the Gilmer County Clerk, they will be deprived of equal access to government services in the Gilmer County Courthouse. And they reasonably fear that, when they are forced to enter the Courthouse, they will again be harangued and mistreated by Clerk’s Office personnel.

You can read the full complaint HERE .

Using personal religion to discriminate and harass others using a government position is unconstitutional. It not only violates the Establishment Clause, but also deprives victims their Equal Protection and Due Process rights.

That county officials admitted publicly they would treat all same-sex couples similarly strengthens the case – particularly since federal courts have repeatedly ruled that LGBTQ status cannot be singled out as reasoning for offering differential treatment in government services.

While this should be an open and shut case, given the current federal administration it could become a drawn out affair if the Sessions Justice Department decides to weigh in on the county’s behalf.

~~  Tim Peacock ~~

G-LtE™: WVDEP Requests Comments, Deadline 04.28.17

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Sincerely and Seriously,

Lauren D. Ragland
PO Box 311
Green Bank, WV 24944

304.704.2894

‘ldragland@wvmatters.com’

Trump’s Five Worst Tax Secrets, Revealed

The Free Press WV

Thousands of demonstrators marched on Saturday to demand that Donald Trump release his tax returns. But, barring an unexpected surprise – a W2 form issued by Vladimir Putin, or a 1099 from mafia boss Anthony ‘Fat Tony’ Salerno – we already know Trump’s ugliest tax secrets. We will reveal those secrets…

… right after this break.

Many readers will recognize this reference to Rachel Maddow’s televised release of Trump’s 2005 tax return, The MSNBC host kept her viewers in suspense for a total of 84 minutes before learning that Trump paid an effective federal tax rate of 24 percent that year. That was considered an anticlimax. It even led some observers that Trump might have leaked the return himself, since many people had assumed that Trump hadn’t paid any federal taxes at all for years.

That gets us to Trump’s first terrible tax secret: his tax return for that year was not unusual. Few wealthy individuals pay the official rate, which is currently 39.5 percent, even though the rich have never been richer at any point in this country’s history. Mitt Romney, for instance, released a tax return during his presidential run, which showed he paid just over 14 percent in 2011, and that year may have been chosen because others were even more embarrassing.

Over the years, lobbyists have worked to fill the tax code with giveaways for wealthy individuals and corporations. The resulting loopholes make it very rare for any individual or corporation, no matter how prosperous, to pay anything close to the top rate.

Given the eagerness of the rich to avoid paying their official rate, you might think that rate is excessive. But the top marginal tax rate in this country is much lower than it’s been for most of the last century, despite today’s extreme concentration of wealth at the top:

The Free Press WV
Source: IRS.GOV

Although the official rate is only slightly more than one-third of its highest levels, an entire industry has been formed to help the wealthy avoid paying it. (This story shines a light on one small corner of that industry.)  As James Kwak points out, Warren Buffett – who uses his vast wealth for philanthropic purposes, unlike Trump – takes advantage of today’s tax code on a much larger scale than Trump does.

Trump’s second terrible tax secret is one he shares with the entire Republican Party: Instead of being grateful toward the country that has allowed them to accumulate such wealth, Trump and the GOP are willing to let people die for an additional tax cut.  They were willing to deprive millions of people of health insurance in order to repeal a 3.8 percent tax on investment income and a tax of less than one percent on high wages.

Trump’s third tax secret? The attack on the Affordable Care Act is just the start of tax clawbacks. His tax plan represents a massive tax giveaway to his billionaire friends and associates, and to corporations that are also paying far less than their official tax rate. Americans for Tax Fairness examine the injustice behind Trump’s tax plan, including the fact that it would raise taxes on roughly 9 million families while lowering the top tax rate even more.

The Trump/GOP assault on the estate tax, for instance, is a giveaway to America’s aristocracy>. Trump’s even trying to eliminate the biggest tax he pays personally – the alternative minimum tax.

The fourth secret is this: Trump and his party don’t believe in progressive taxation at all. As I wrote recently, Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney recently suggested that he preferred to let the ultra-wealthy “keep their money” – an extremist and inaccurate framing that is well outside the mainstream of both Republican and Democratic thought over the last century. They especially dislike the idea of taxing billionaires to help people in need.

That’s pretty terrible.

The fifth and final secret is this: Trump and his billionaire friends get away with paying low or no taxes because the rich have far too much influence over our political system. In fact, as political scientists Martin Gilens and Lawrence Page found in a 2014 study, “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.”

In other words, the wealthy in our country almost always get the policies they want.

In a response to their critics, Gilens and Page wrote, “The affluent are, not surprisingly, (even) better at blocking policies they dislike than achieving policy change they desire. When a policy is strongly opposed by the affluent… that policy is adopted only 4 percent of the time.”

That’s why today’s tax code is so excessively favorable to the wealthy and corporations. It’s very difficult to make changes they dislike, and tax increases for the wealthy are certainly among the changes they dislike the most.

But that’s no reason to quit. Americans have overthrown oligarchies before, most notably at the end of the era Mark Twain described as “the Gilded Age.” We are, by any reasonable definition, going through a second Gilded Age today.

You don’t need Donald Trump’s tax returns to know that we need a more just tax system, one that calls upon the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share. What’s more, the fight for fair taxation is inseparable from the fight against oligarchical wealth. That’s more reason to keep fighting.

Donald Trump tweeted that “someone should look into who paid for” the “small” rallies demanding that he release his tax returns.

The real question is, who pays for all the tax breaks that are given to people like Donald Trump?

The answer is, we all do.

~~  Richard Eskow ~~


04.18.2017
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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

The fix could be simple. First, everyone pay 10 percent federal, 3 percent state, and 1 percent local taxes on all income.  Straight forward, no arguments, taken from pay checks and paid to the proper authorities (that is if we can get good ones elected that will use the money properly for education, infrastructure, defense, aid for the true disabled/welfare, etc).  Second, there are no deductions(sorry accountants).  Third, no taxes on corporations so they are free to reinvest into their business and hire more people to work(that is if you can find qualified people not on drugs these days).  Fourth, get people off government support that don’t belong there(sorry again druggies and lazies).  Now if you find someone taking advantage of the current tax laws, don’t blame them for wanting to keep their own money.  That’s correct, their money, not yours. We have elected the people and keep doing that who make these laws.  The Clinton’s and the Bush’s and the Kennedy’s, life long politicians.  If you get rich being a politician, then you need to go.  At least Trump got rich first and then became a politician.  Sort of did it backwards didn’t he.  Each and every person that wants Trump to produce his tax returns, it is time for all of them to produce theirs.  The world is full of them.  Me, I can care less what he makes.  Good for him.  Good for me.  Get over it, the left lost the election, just like the right did 8 years ago.  The reason Trump is president is because the last 8 years the left didn’t get it done and Clinton was a horrible candidate.  Too much baggage and ran a horrible campaign also.  I think she thought she couldn’t lose but she did.  Now the left is acting like babies that they can be at times and it doesn’t look good.  Instead of trying to run Trump(who used to be a democrat) down, why not give him a bit of support so our country will come back stronger.  It seems the media is completely against Trump, all we see is negative articles.  Never positive articles so the media is losing support from the people.  Sorry for the long post but it is what it is.  Thanks.

By RC  on  04.18.2017

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Deplaning of United Passenger Shows Why We Need Corporate Regulation

In a democracy, We the People are in charge. We are the boss of the corporations. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

Apparently, that isn’t so much the way it is anymore. The United States used to regulate corporations to protect people from concentrated power. Now concentrated power has taken over our government, which fights the people for the benefit of corporate profits.

Or, to paraphrase John Kenneth Galbraith: In democracy, We the People regulate corporations. In deregulated America it’s the other way around.


The Face Of Deregulation

This is what can happen to you now in the United States if you get in the way of something a corporation wants:

We’ve all seen the videos. A guy gets beaten and dragged from his paid seat on a United Airlines flight because, in essence, he was interfering with corporate profits just by being in the seat. The airplane was full, the corporation decided it could make more money by moving some employees to another town, and a passenger was in the way.


Airline Deregulation

Airlines used to be regulated in the U.S. as a public utility that served citizens. They competed with each other by offering better service.

Then in 1978, airlines were deregulated and passengers were considered consumers instead of citizens. The airlines argued that more competition would bring benefits. Instead, as time passed, airlines did what corporations tend to do.

They consolidated, reducing competition. They reduced and reduced and reduced service to reduce costs. They cut employee wages and benefits. They changed routes to “hubs” for their convenience, causing passengers to have to wait hours in crowded airports. And they write contracts that said you can’t use their (essential) service without signing away every right you have.

Since deregulation, airlines intentionally overbook many flights. They scrunch as many people into smaller and smaller seats just inches from the next, and sell you more legroom. Instead of serving food, they sell it. They charge you if you travel a suitcase. They charge you to bring a travel bag on the plane.

Soon, they will put a large spike in the seat and charge you to shorten it.

And you can’t do anything about it. You can’t even complain without risking being considered “disruptive” and dragged from the airplane and jailed. And be careful how you dress.


Not Just Airlines

It’s not just airlines. All kinds of corporate deregulation have been harming We the People. There used to be regulations requiring broadcast media to act in the public interest in exchange for use of publicly-owned broadcast frequencies. Now, obviously, there isn’t.

Pollution rules are being deregulated. Pesticides that harm children are being deregulated. The list is long.

“Arbitration clauses” are now used in all kinds of contracts and agreements to keep you from being able to take corporations to court. “Tort reform” laws also restrict access to courts when people are harmed by corporations.

You get the idea.


“Burdensome” Regulations

Corporations complain that regulations are “burdensome.” They complain that regulations cost them money.

Of course, regulations that stop corporations from polluting streams place a “burden” on them to properly dispose of waste. Of course it costs money to require them to not just dump waste into rivers, streams, and the air we breath.

Carmakers used to complain that rules requiring seat belts in cars were a “burden.” Tobacco companies used to complain that stopping them from selling cigarettes to kids “cost money.” So far, government regulation has protected us from these abuses-for-profit. But for how long?


Who Is Our Country FOR?

Americans have lost our understanding of the meaning of democracy and of the powers democracy brings us and duties it places on us. We have become consumers instead of citizens and we think that markets should make decisions for us instead of our votes.

In a democracy, We the People are supposed to be in charge. In a democracy, our government by definition exists to serve us, protect us, and do things for us that make our lives better.

A democracy regulates corporations to protect people from concentrated power. If we let concentrated power make decisions for us, we end up getting dragged off of airplanes because the corporation decided the seat we paid for would make them a bit more profit.

Corporations should be regulated to serve the public interest. Why else would We the People want to allow these things called corporations to exist at all?

~~  Dave Johnson ~~

Living in West Virginia

The Free Press WV
The Free Press WV

Why would millennials come to live in WV?

As the black hole that was the 2017 regular session imploded upon itself last week, I happened to receive a copy of a survey by the WalletHub website ranking the best and worst states for millennials.

Not surprisingly, West Virginia ranked dead last — 51st, behind all other states and Washington, D.C.

Despite ranking seventh in affordability, West Virginia ranked 42nd in education and health, 49th in quality of life, and 51st in economic health. It also ranked 50th in millennials as a percentage of the state population, and 44th in average monthly earnings for millennials.

In other words, according to the survey, there’s not much here to attract or retain young adults.

That led me to envision the state as an apartment, with a landlord trying to pitch it to a millennial:

Here we have a two-bedroom, one bath unit with lovely scenic views. Sorry that the driveway and parking lot are so torn up. We just haven’t had money to repave, but once you’re here awhile, dodging the potholes will become second nature.

Yes, it’s heated with a coal stove. We never upgraded because we kept thinking coal was coming back, but you can use space heaters, just as long as you don’t plug in more than one at a time, because the wiring is antiquated.

No, there’s no broadband, but from the bedroom facing northeast, you can get a pretty decent cellphone signal.

The neighborhood? It used to be pretty good, but now there’s a lot of drug activity and there aren’t as many cops on the streets, so you probably don’t want to be out after dark. We used to have a lot of good restaurants and entertainment venues, and the city used to host concerts and festivals, and that building at the foot of the hill once was a public library.

Our schools aren’t that good, and a lot of good teachers left over the years because of low pay, so if you have kids, you’ll probably want to ship them off to private school, if you can afford it.

Clearly, no millennial in his or her right mind would ever consider renting the place.

Imagine in this scenario that Gov. Jim Justice became a part-owner of the apartment, and being a good businessman, realized he needed to spend some bucks to fix the place up if he ever hoped to attract young professionals as tenants.

Despite Justice’s sound plan for renovating the apartment, applying this scenario, one of the co-owners just wanted to spend the bare minimum to slap a coat of paint on the place, hoping that would disguise its flaws, while the other co-owner was adamant about not spending an additional penny, instead proposing yanking out and selling the kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures to raise some money.

During the session, Justice has focused on one question for all legislation: Will it bring people to the state, or drive more people away?

Likewise, legislative leadership came into the session with a theme of creating jobs and balancing the budget, and it is ending the session with little to show on either account.

Another question might be: Did the 2017 session do anything substantive to improve West Virginia’s ranking as the worst state for millennials?

A second straight year of budget impasse also doesn’t seem like a way to build investor confidence or encourage people to relocate to the state.

It didn’t help that holes got blown back into the budget, with the Senate’s rejection of legislation to eliminate the $9 million Racetrack Modernization Fund — a matching fund that lets out-of-state casino corporations use state money to upgrade their West Virginia casinos, freeing up funds that they can use to make improvements to their casinos in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Maryland that compete directly with West Virginia casinos — and with Justice’s veto of legislation to finally eliminate the $15 million state subsidy of greyhound racing purse funds.

Being that I’m on Twitter as a condition of employment, I’m not in a position to delete my account, although over time, I’ve blocked most annoyances.

That House Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, deleted his Twitter account at the height of the push to get the House to take up the medical marijuana bill (Senate Bill 386) does not speak well for his interest in seeking input from constituents.

Given the lack of couth on social networks, it’s not surprising that some of the many tweets sent to Armstead did not look favorably on what proponents of the measure saw as his attempts to obstruct the bill, or that some of those tweets wished upon him horrible diseases the pain of which he would not be able to ease with medical marijuana.

While we may wish that there were a higher level of public discourse, Armstead must recognize that his party, at the state and national level, and its benefactors have contributed mightily to the toxic environment that exists in politics today.

Finally, I can’t say I get to watch the evolution of a bill from creation to passage very often, but I did have that opportunity with the daily Cardinal passenger rail service compact bill (SB 2856).

Following the Amtrak-sponsored conference in Cincinnati back in September to build a coalition of support for daily Cardinal service, the Friends of the Cardinal organization (in which my participation consists mainly of showing up at meetings) was tasked with pursing legislative support for the concept of operating the Cardinal daily, perhaps through a resolution.

Lawyer, lobbyist and railfan Larry George showed up at the Friends’ November meeting, and suggested that the group pursue legislation as opposed to a resolution. (My two cents’ of input was that simple resolutions aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.)

George worked with Friends co-chairmen Chuck Riecks and Bill Bartley to come up with the draft legislation, and Riecks did the heavy lifting rounding up bill sponsors in the House.

Once Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher and state Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby endorsed the proposal, it breezed through the legislative process. (This after I suggested back in November that Friends members not get their hopes up, because even noncontroversial bills rarely pass on their first try.)

Friends now has a new assignment from Amtrak, to visit the state’s eight stations on the Cardinal route and update information for those facilities — specifications such as platform lengths, waiting area amenities and perhaps, most importantly, availability of parking.

Charleston, for instance, has five long-term parking spaces in what once was the station’s taxi stand — which is inadequate for current demand, let alone the likelihood of increasing ridership by more than double with daily service.

~~  Phil Kabler,  Gazette-Mail ~~


04.10.2017
Arts & EntertainmentMediaNewspaperNewsWest VirginiaOpinions | Commentary | G-LtE™ | G-Comm™ | G-OpEd™(1) Comments

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

Well written, well thought out article.
Content is totally about “us”.

What can we all do to change the trend?

By required reading for WV  on  04.10.2017

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Join The Resistance: Resistance Recess Starts This Weekend

The Free Press WV

After hearing from We the People, the Republican Congress didn’t take away our health care after all! Lesson learned: keep it up.

So many people have been calling their representative and senators, showing up at their offices and especially at their town hall meetings, and it is having an effect. It tells Republicans not to follow through on the destructive Trump agenda, and it tells Democrats they have support when they resist Trump and fight for We the People.


Resistance Recess April 07 to 23

Members of Congress are leaving Washington and heading home for their “spring break” recess from April 7 to 23. Many of them will be holding town halls, where you and others can ask questions, express your views and otherwise do your job of holding your representative and senators accountable face-to-face. Elected officials too chicken to hold town halls still have offices you can visit – you and maybe a few hundred of your best friends, that is.

On top of that, people are organizing their own “constituent town halls” in places where their representative and senators are hiding or only meeting with big-money donors and lobbyists. This lets the local news media and pubic know that their elected officials are hiding from them.

MoveOn.org, People’s Action and other organizations are calling this recess period, when members of Congress come home from April 07 to 23, the Resistance Recess. This is an opportunity to be seen and to make your voice be heard.

Attending local events makes a big, national difference and this is your chance to get involved.

Click here to find a Resistance Recess event near you. You can also organize an event if there isn’t one already planned in your area.

The Indivisible Guide Town Hall Project also has an event list, click here. Take a look at the Indivisible Guide, which goes into detail on town hall best practices and other ways to hold your elected representatives accountable.


Tax March April 15

Right in the middle of the Resistance Recess, on April 15, there will be a big “Tax March” in Washington, DC. And there will also be lots of April 15 Tax March events around the country.

We the People will be demanding that “President” Trump release his tax returns and come clean about his business dealings. He is the first president in four decades to refuse to release his taxes. What is he hiding? How is he making money off of his job as “president?” Is he violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause by receiving foreign payments? What is he hiding behind layers of “shell” companies?

Don’t let him get away with this grift and graft. Go to TaxMarch.org to learn about the big Washington, DC march, or scroll down to see local Tax March activities you can join.


Organizing Call

This Sunday, MoveOn, Indivisible, The Working Families Party, People’s Action, and The Center for Popular Democracy will host a Ready to Resist Emergency Conference Call to get ready for these recess actions. Click here to RSVP for this call.


We Can Make A Difference

We the People can still make a difference — if we show up. We must #resist the takeover of our government by the corporatists, oligarchs and far-right, racist weirdos who have illegitimately seized power. We can win this, we can restore democracy, we can regain control of the levers of power — but only if we get involved, get organized and show up.

~~  Dave Johnson ~~

Lawmakers Want Schools To Teach More About Founding Documents

The Free Press WV

Earlier this session, the West Virginia House of Delegates passed legislation and sent it to the Senate requiring public schools to dedicate a week to the specific study of the concepts of freedom and liberty.

West Virginia already has a requirement in code (18-2-9) that the Constitution be taught in civics class, but HB 3080 includes a more detailed prerequisite.

The bill designates “Celebrate Freedom Week” for early September each year, when social studies classes must include “in-depth study of the intent, meaning and importance of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States with an emphasis on the Bill of Rights.”

The bill also requires high school students to take a test that is “the same as or substantially similar to the civics portion of the naturalization test used by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service” to measure their achievement in civics.

This is a growing trend across the country.  The Associated Press reports “Kentucky last week and Arkansas on March 16 became the latest of more than a dozen states since 2015 that have required the high school studies curriculum to include material covered by the 100 questions asked on the naturalization exam.”

It would be presumptuous to assume what the late Senator Robert Byrd would have said about this trend, but we know he revered the Constitution, carried a well-worn copy in his breast pocket and lamented how little many Americans knew about the document.

In his biography “Child of the Appalachian Coalfields,” Byrd referred to a lecture he gave in Morgantown in 1998 where he cited poll numbers showing “only 66 percent (of Americans) recognized that the first ten amendments to the Constitution constitute the Bill of Rights; 85 percent mistakenly believed that the Constitution says, ‘All men are created equal’.”

“They tell us that while our educational system is good at ingraining feelings of respect and reverence for our Constitution, that same system is apparently very poor at teaching just what is actually in the Constitution and just why it is so important,” Byrd said.

It was Senator Byrd who attached an amendment to an omnibus spending bill in 2004 that designates September 17 as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

It is reasonable, however, to question the extent to which West Virginia’s Legislature should dictate to the public school system what to teach and how to teach it.  The Department of Education maintains considerable autonomy and, in theory at least, is governed by the state Board of Education and local school boards.

If the bill becomes law, there will no doubt be some grousing by civics teachers who already devote considerable time to the founding documents or resent being told by politicians what is best way to teach government and history.

That’s understandable, but the values and principles of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are the bedrock of our country and our culture. Comprehending them is the key to truly knowing what it means to be a citizen of this country.

Local Government Commission Recommends “Neighborhood-Based” Schools

The Free Press WV

In the next few years, America’s school system will have to grow at an unprecedented rate to meet a significant increase in school age population. Enrollment from 2000 to 2006 is expected to increase by one million students, according to U.S. Department of Education estimates. To meet this tremendous enrollment growth, communities across the country will need to both build new schools and renovate or rebuild old, outdated facilities.

There are additional challenges. In many school districts, small maintenance budgets and subsequent deferred maintenance strategies have accelerated the decline of older school facilities and the need for updated and/or new facilities has become critical.

As a result of these various factors, thousands of schools across the country need to be built and renovated. Borne out of necessity, this building boom can provide the opportunity for a “Golden Age of School Design”, according to a 2000 U.S. Department of Education report.

The full potential of this opportunity depends on what kind of schools we build. We can build energy-efficient schools with state-of-the-art technology. We can build schools with materials that require much less maintenance, making them more cost-effective in the long run. We can choose to build schools with interior features that increase brain activity and respiration and reduce muscle tension and blood pressure; healthy features that make our schools better places for students to learn and educators to teach.

As communities look for innovative ways to create these technologically advanced, cost-effective and healthy schools, we also have a golden opportunity to build neighborhood-based schools–schools, which, research shows, provide a better education for our children, nurture their emotional and physical health, and improve the general health of our communities at the same time.

.
The Need for “Neighborhood-Based” Schools
. Over the past 30 years, most new schools have been built in suburban school districts. They are large, one-story facilities on large plots of land located on the fringe of urban development. School districts have been lured by these “mega-schools”, believing that they are more cost effective. However, there is renewed interest in returning to smaller, neighborhood-based schools. There are many reasons for this:

.
Small Schools Are Better

There is mounting evidence that smaller schools provide a better quality education than large ones. “A higher percentage of students, across all socioeconomic levels, are successful when they are part of smaller, more intimate learning communities,” says a recent U.S. Department of Education study. “Security improves and violence decreases, as does student alcohol and drug abuse. Small school size encourages teachers to innovate and students to participate, resulting inŠhigher grades and test scores, improved attendance rates, and lowered dropout rates.” Educators differ on the subject of the optimal size of these small schools but most agree that they should house between 300 and 900 students.

.
Push for Schools to Serve Multiple Purposes

All over the US, educators and community leaders are advocating for community schools–schools that not only educate children, but meet other community needs as well. Neighborhood-based schools are best positioned to serve multiple purposes because they are located in a community.

.
Maximize Public Resources

There is also a push for schools to be more cost effective by utilizing other public/private resources. For example, schools can partner with park districts to use a city park to fulfill their playground requirements or use a YMCA gymnasium instead of having to build one as part of a school campus. Neighborhood-based schools are the best suited to use community resources to their advantage because they are located in a community.

.
Concerns about the Health of Youth

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 5 children and 1 in 3 teens are overweight or at risk for being overweight–a 50-100% increase in just 10 years. Many attribute this increase in overweight children to the lack of physical activity that the built environment offers children today. Public health officials and other walking and bicycling advocates are now pressuring local government and other officials to change the way we design and build our communities to promote more physical activity. One such change they advocate is the expansion of neighborhood-based schools and “safe routes to school.”

.
“Smart Growth”

There is a growing “smart growth” movement in the country. Smart growth advocates are pressuring decision-makers to curb “sprawl” and create less auto-dependent, more walkable communities. Neighborhood-based schools are considered an essential part of these livable communities.

.
Urban Revitalization

More and more community leaders are recognizing the power of schools to attract and keep residents in a neighborhood. Leaders in many urban communities across the country are building or renovating schools as part of broad strategies for revitalizing blighted areas.

.
Nowhere to Grow

Many school districts have no other choice than to build schools in established areas because there is simply no new land in their districts to develop. These school districts are finding atypical places to put schools: in old strip malls, on top of parking garages, in small strangely shaped parcels of land, and even in airports.

.
Barriers To Building In Established Areas

While many circumstances exist that are causing districts to build and/or modernize schools in established areas, there are many barriers to doing this.

.
Building Standards, Codes & Regulations

School building codes and regulations can work against the building and renovating of schools in established neighborhoods. Funding, parking requirements, acreage-to-student ratios and other regulations often make building schools on smaller plots in already established neighborhoods difficult. Many older schools also get slated for demolition rather than renovation because of the difficulty in complying with school and building code regulations.

.
Difficulty in Acquiring Land

Many districts, particularly more urban districts, have trouble finding land that has not been contaminated in some way. In addition, schools are finding it increasingly difficult to condemn commercial and residential sites to acquire land. Private property rights, and the upholding of these rights in courts, make it difficult for a governmental entity to force land from private owners.

.
Districts Have Lost the Skill to Build Schools

Some school districts have not built schools in such a long time that they’ve simply lost the staff expertise needed to manage a new school building project, or even a large project to modernize school facilities.

.
“Greenfield” Schools Are More Familiar

In some school districts, it isn’t that they haven’t built schools in many years, the problem is that they’ve only built “greenfield” schools, making it challenging for them to “change their ways” and build new schools in already established areas.

.
Conclusion: Neighborhood-Based Schools Well-Positioned For The Future

Nationwide, school districts and community leaders are beginning to understand the power that schools have in the life of local communities and are using neighborhood-based schools strategically to revitalize and keep communities healthy. Patrick Leier, Superintendent of the Pomona Unified School District, sees schools as anchors of mixed-use developments that can spur revitalization efforts in surrounding areas. In Chattanooga, local government officials and community leaders are using schools to attract new residents and bring new life to deteriorated downtown neighborhoods. And, in Manitowoc, parents, homeowners, and school district staff worked to keep a school in a neighborhood, to protect homeowners’ investments and to insure that children can walk to school from kindergarten through high school.

Though in many ways communities are dependent on schools for stability and vitality, funding trends are going to make schools more dependent on communities. States will continue to assist schools with funding, but schools are going to have to reach out to their local communities for support to supplement, extend and maximize government funding. For example, in California, school site selection standards ask districts to select new sites that “promote joint use of parks, libraries, museums and other public services.” Others are calling on school districts to make better use of their facilities–renting out classrooms after hours, letting the community have access to school gyms, libraries, and kitchens. Some policy-makers even want such joint-uses to be required for school districts to receive public bond money. Neighborhood-based schools are in the best position to adapt to these circumstances.

Small, neighborhood-based schools can also provide a better learning environment for children. Studies show that small schools foster a greater sense of belonging among children and teachers. Students’ attendance rates, grades and test scores are higher in smaller schools and violence and drug and alcohol abuse rates are lower in small school settings. In fact, the relationship between small-sized schools and positive educational outcomes has been “confirmed with a clarity and at a level of confidence rare in the annals of education research,” according to a 1999 Hofstra University review of school size literature. In addition, children can walk and bike to neighborhood-based schools, giving them more opportunity to get desperately needed physical activity. And neighborhood-based schools give parents more opportunity to participate in the education of their children and the life of a school in general.

Small, neighborhood-based schools are best positioned to respond to the calls for schools to be more accountable, to be more integrated into communities, and to be more resource-efficient. Given the enormous need for new school facilities in the coming decade, we have a golden opportunity to build small, neighborhood-based, schools that can enter into a more symbiotic relationship with their communities, schools that can better educate our children, and schools that are better for the health of our children and communities overall.

~~  Ann Kauth, Local Government Commission ~~

Calvin, Hobbes & Budgetary Bait-and-Switch

A great old Calvin & Hobbes comic strip tells us a lot about the current budget debate. Calvin asks his mom to let him do a succession of ridiculously dangerous things: First he asks if he can set his mattress on fire; his mom says no. Then he asks if he can ride his tricycle on the roof. Again, his mom says no.

Finally, he asks if he can have a cookie.

When she says no to that as well, he grumbles, “I think she’s on to me.”

The Free Press WV

Replace Calvin with Republicans and Calvin’s mom with all of us, and you have an idea what the current budget debate is really all about.

Trump’s “America First” budget blueprint is the most extreme, the most mindlessly cruel budget proposal ever put forward by a U.S. President. With headline-grabbing venality like zeroing out Meals on Wheels, low-income heating aid and PBS, the blueprint has been met with almost universal shock and disgust. It has even been rejected by most Republicans, beyond the most fanatical of frustrated Cato and Heritage Foundation cave dwellers.

This is the mattress fire of budget proposals. It’s not going anywhere, and it wasn’t designed to. So, what’s next?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be seeing more and more detailed spending proposals coming from the White House. By April 28th, Congress and Trump must agree on spending for the rest of the year, or face  a government shutdown. By May, Trump will reveal the rest of his budget for 2018.

Paul Ryan and House Republicans will also put forward their own budget proposal. It will likely also kick people out of subsidized housing, deeply erode public education and eliminate scientific research and the arts – but these are ‘compassionate conservatives,’ so they’ll put Meals on Wheels back in. It will be the riding your tricycle on the roof budget. Stupid and reckless, but, hey, better than a mattress fire, right?

Then finally we’ll get the Senate version. Senate Republicans will likely give you back some of the PBS funding, cut the Environmental Protection agency by 20 percent rather than 30 percent, throw in some tax cuts for the wealthy and ‘reform’ Social Security. Those same Senators will then go to their Democratic colleagues and to the public and say “look, all we’re asking for here is a cookie.”

This is the game. This is the con, to get the cookie.

Ryan, Trump, and the billionaires they serve are trying to set us up. They figure if they start out so extreme as to be horrifying, then the merely shocking no longer registers.

Ryan has been nursing his Ayn Rand fantasies of taking healthcare away from poor children at least since college, so don’t think for a minute that if they thought they could pull it off, they wouldn’t cut every dollar that goes anywhere but to propping up the wealthy and corporations. To put it another way, Calvin wants to set his mattress on fire, he just doesn’t think he can get away with it.

Congress has been underfunding critical services and programs for decades. As more and more people are pushed out of the middle class to send more income and wealth to the top, we have responded by freezing and cutting the programs that help people survive.

Just in the last decade, sequester cuts have done incredible damage at the federal and state level to our ability to ensure the very basics of clean water, enough to eat and adequate shelter.

We have chronically underfunded education, retirement, help with basic living expenses. The Republicans in Congress – and more than a few Democrats – want us to accept that as normal… and then push us to accept even less as the new normal. It’s what Reagan did in the 80s, only on steroids.

The good news is people are waking up to the real story. All over the country people are taking to the streets, to their Congresspeople’s offices and to the phones in unprecedented numbers.

Just like Calvin’s mom, we’re not going to fall for the con. We’re on to them.

Sorry kids, no cookie.

~~  Liz Ryan Murray ~~

Roger Wilkins: A Man of Honor for a Tempestuous Time

The Free Press WV

Roger Wilkins has left us, just after his 85th birthday. A great champion of social justice, proud father and good friend, he will be missed.

Born into an educated middle class family, Roger was raised with high expectations. His father, business manager of the Kansas City Call, a black weekly newspaper, passed away when Roger was eight, but had already impressed upon his son the importance of education and a love of language.

“Great things are expected of you,” he wrote the 2-year-old in a letter, “Never, never forget that.” Roger’s early mentors included his uncle Roy Wilkins and Thurgood Marshall, as both led the NAACP’s fight to end racial segregation.

Educated in public schools in New York City and Grand Rapids, Michigan, Roger attended the University of Michigan, earning BA and law degrees there. In 1960, the excitement of the Kennedy election lured him to Washington and public service.

At a remarkably young age, Roger ascended to the highest circles of government, rising to Assistant Attorney General as Lyndon Johnson was forging the greatest era of liberal reform since FDR. In his autobiography A Man’s Life, Roger wrote of the harsh pressures, the intended and unintended racial slights, and internal struggles and insecurities of that heady position.

In its obituary, the New York Times wrote, “Mr. Wilkins had little personal experience with discrimination.” In fact, Roger bore the scars from making his way in overwhelmingly white circles of power.

As the civil rights movement drove change from the streets, Roger became its advocate and translator on the inside. There he pushed against the arrogance, ignorance and complacency of the powerful. On the streets, he was often scorned as a token or a sellout. The pressures took a toll on him and his family.

In that crucible, Roger learned first hand the truth about social change. As he wrote,

The civil rights progress of the Kennedy and Johnson years was not made because enlightened public officials perceived a need and took the lead. It was made because an energized interracial civil rights movement defined the issues, mobilized public opinion and forced the White House to act.

For a time he ran domestic programs at the Ford Foundation, becoming one of the most powerful African Americans in the philanthropic world. Roger then joined the editorial board of the Washington Post, and found his true calling as a writer and journalist. At the Post, his editorials, the reportage of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and the cartoons of Herbert Block on the Watergate scandal that drove Nixon from office earned the paper the Pulitzer Prize. From the Post, Roger moved to the New York Times writing editorials and opinion pieces.

In these rarified positions, Roger pushed against the conventional limits. He called for bold action when caution was too often the watchword. He mentored and protected younger African Americans trying to navigate their way. He pushed hard to open doors and knock down barriers.

“In a sense,” he wrote, I have been an explorer and I sailed as far out into the white world as a black man of my generation could sail.” “I could not stand white people shutting doors in my face, so I pushed through plenty of them.”

After he left the Ford Foundation, more blacks, some women and some younger people were put on the board. Mac Bundy, its president, said, “I didn’t know one man could change an institution as much as Roger did, but he did it.”

At the Justice Department, he was called the “conscience” of the Department. Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee credited him for helping him to see the need for more racial opening at the Washington Post. At the Times, he joined a successful affirmative action lawsuit that drove change at that institution even as it burned his own bridges there.

He was, in his heart, a man of the left. In 1982, he joined the Institute for Policy Studies that I then directed. During the Reagan years, IPS was like a candle flickering in a harsh wind. In many ways, Roger was more comfortable standing against that gale than he had been in the high offices of government.

He joined the Nation’s editorial board. He contributed his stature and his wisdom to friends and advocates from the Children’s Defense Fund to the NAACP, where he became publisher of its Crisis Magazine. And he served a co-chair of the board of the Institute for America’s Future for two decades, helping to build and guide the institution that now has joined with People’s Action to build a national grassroots populist movement.

He galvanized the Free South Africa Movement, organizing daily civil disobedience before the South African embassy in Washington, inspiring the young and the famous to demonstrate and get arrested. He then helped organize Nelson Mandela’s historic trip to the US after his release from Robben Island. Eager to touch the next generation, he became a prestigious professor at George Mason University, inspiring students with his learning and his humanity.

Few have provided greater insight into how racism has scarred this nation. Few wrestled so fiercely with the contradiction between the nation’s ideals and its flawed reality. In his book, Jefferson’s Pillow, Roger offered a raw-to-the-bone portrait of a black man reckoning with the slave owning founders of our nation, the contradictions of a Jefferson, carried as a young boy on a pillow by a slave, writing that “all men are created equal.”

Roger’s integrity would not allow him to simply whitewash the Founder’s acceptance of slavery. His knowledge was deep enough to understand that blacks had helped build this nation from its beginning, even supplying a good portion of Washington’s troops. His mettle was strong enough to claim for African Americans a place as patriots, not exiles, in their own land.

“In a culture that batters us,” he wrote, “learning the real history is vital in helping blacks feel fully human. It also helps us to understand just how deeply American we are, how richly we have given, how much has been taken from us, and how much has yet to be restored.”

For those blessed to have Roger as a friend, he was a mensch. He was the best man at my wedding, and my best friend for over 30 years. He provided wisdom, guidance and cover for projects we launched together. He brought me into the Jesse Jackson campaign in 1984 and we worked together in the historic 1988 run.

We shared stories and jokes; he had a big and wonderful laugh. Our families traveled and played together. My daughter remembers Uncle Roger as the one who always gave her a kiss on the cheek and told her she was beautiful.

Words fail to give full measure of the man – statesman, journalist, writer, philanthropist, activist, organizer, professor, father, husband, friend. He fought with demons his entire life. “My life wasn’t always neat and tidy,” he wrote, “and I didn’t always do the right thing,” but… there were some good things.”

He met the test that he reported Thurgood Marshall wanted applied to his own life: “I hope they’ll say,” referring to future generations, “he did the best he could with what he had.” Roger Wilkins, a man of honor in tempestuous times, surely did that.

~~  Robert Borosage ~~

“Thorough & Efficient School System & the West Virginia School Building Authority”

The Free Press WV

An Economical, Thorough & Efficient School System & the West Virginia School Building Authority “Economy of Scale” Numbers.

The West Virginia School Building Authority (SBA) was created by the state legislature in 1989 to carry out a mandate of the “Recht Decision,” which found the state’s school financing system to be largely unconstitutional.

The SBA was created to sell bonds for educational facility financing and distribute the money to county school boards based on school construction and maintenance needs. Thus, school facility needs were to get equal attention in poor and rich counties.

The statute empowering the SBA set out seven goals to be used in judging county facility plans for funding, but the SBA consistently emphasized economies of scale over the other goals.

This was accomplished by arbitrarily interpreting economies of scale as required school sizes, and by weighting the economy of scale factor when evaluating projects.

Compared to existing school sizes in West Virginia, the required sizes were very large and resulted in widespread school closings, primarily in rural areas.

This report concludes that the so-called “economy of scale” numbers are actually arbitrary and uneconomical requirements for large-sized schools, requirements neither mandated nor supported by law, and that West Virginia should scrap them.

To reach this conclusion, the report examines research on true economies and diseconomies of scale and reviews the detrimental effects of large schools on poor children, of long travel times on student achievement and quality of life, and of consolidation on poor rural communities.

It considers the constitutional mandate that West Virginia’s school system be thorough and efficient and finds that SBA large-school requirements, disguised as economies of scale, purport with neither directive.

~~  Deirdre H. Purdy ~~


04.02.2017
EducationNewsWest VirginiaOpinions | Commentary | G-LtE™ | G-Comm™ | G-OpEd™Politics | Government | ElectionState-WV(8) Comments

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~~~ Readers' Comments ~~~

How can the full report for the SBA report be accessed?

The SBA has not done its job. Look at what happened in Gilmer County and the so called bi-county school.

The one in Lewis County is too large and the CGES is too small resembling the Goldilocks phenomenon.

By Keep Diggin  on  04.02.2017

TO: Keep Diggin
The SBA is a failure.
The WV Board of Education is a failure.

The former Governor and Legislators are failures as well.

Here is the proof to back up these statements.

West Virginia is ranked 50th in USA education.

By Kanawha Reader  on  04.02.2017

There should be an independent and thorough investigation of where Gilmer County’s school money went for expenses related to building new schools.

Start way back to Leading Creek and go through the other steps to end up with the new County school.

Throw in bid free contracts and waste due to mismanagement. The SBA would not come out clean and of course it would do finger pointing.

That is what bureaucrats do when they are free of accountability and they have guaranteed job security.

By Just Askin  on  04.03.2017

Here is another way the WV School Building Authority is failing Gilmer County by refusing to provide proper oversight.

There could be ways to use available space at the new GCES more efficiently to avoid the necessity of sending students to other locations.

By failing to get involved the SBA is not contributing to solving the crowing problem to eliminate need to use hall ways at the new school for instruction space.

This is a disgrace after spending $14,000,000 of public money, and the complete story of waste, mismanagement, and abuse of authority during intervention and its aftermath would make a great story for the New York Times to print.

By Roger Ames  on  04.03.2017

The money is NOT 14 MILLION.
Its a LOT closer to 18 MILLION! Roger.

Of course Gabe Devano will NOT give the local board that information.
It would show the zombies on the WVBOE for what they are, and expose Gabe-ee boy too?

And remember this.  The WVBOE hired Devano, they own Devano, and they pay him with GILMER COUNTY MONEY!  He’s their man.  Did someone say he is a Manchin cousin?

By Its ALL WVBOE's fault Roger  on  04.04.2017

Financial information has been kept secret.That tells you something right there.

If we could get an accurate accounting of each penny spent leading up to the LCES and the GCES the total sum would exceed $20,000,000 and severe problems still exist.

What an example of the misuse of public money!!!!

By Roger Roger  on  04.05.2017

What is being done about the slip at the GCES?

It is clearly from a contractor’s error the way the site was designed with water running down hill from the school building during rains to end up washing away the bank to cause the slip.

Who is going to pay for this botch and why isn’t the State demanding that a contractor pay for it?

Cozy relationships with contractors and instead of one of them having to pay, public money will be used for botch cover up?

By Who Pays For The GCES Slip Botch?  on  04.05.2017

You say who pays for the slip botch?
Gilmer taxpayers naturally. 

Remember the quote….“I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.“  Compliments WVBE.

The instructions are ‘bend and grab’ Gilmer.
The State could give a good rats butt about you.

I.Stallion has signed off on everything and you own it baby.

By Remember Gayle Manchin emergency overthrow?  on  04.05.2017

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