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Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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May 15, 2013     Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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May 15, 2013
 

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pirit of JEFFERSON and FARMER'S ADVOCATE Opinion Wednesday, May 15, 2013 AT This year's Jefferson County's Relay Charles Town Middle School. AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY For Life event is set for June 22 at HNDA HART Two emotional activities will be the middle school's cafeteria to honor part of Jefferson County's Relay For each survivor. Life event next month at Charles June 8 is the deadline since a head Town Middle School football field: count is needed for the meal and for the Survivors Lap and the Luminaria the Relay shirts. Each registered can- Ceremony. cer survivor gets a free T-shirt to wear On June 22 at 2 p.m., cancer survi- while walking the track. Each survivor vors from the Jefferson County area - may also invite a guest to attend the anyone who has ever been diagnosed luncheon at no cost. Please call Susie with cancer - are invited to walk the Mechanick at 304-876-9179 to regis- first lap of the American Cancer Soci- ter. ety's Relay For Life to celebrate their The Relay's luminaria event begins victory over cancer, at about 9:30 p.m. The ceremony rec- At noon, a luncheon will be held in ognizes those touched by cancer in Jef- Ray Walls, the honorary co-chair of the 2012 Relay For Life, leads the Survivors Middle School. The ceremony was moved inside after heavy rains hit the area. ROBERT SNYDER Lap inside the gym at Charles Town ferson County. Individuals or compa- one touched by cancer. A $20 donation Spirit each week. nies can make contributions in mem- brings a gold-bag luminaria. Another option: Attend Relay on the ory of those who have lost their fight If you would like to honor or re- evening of June 22 and m~e your dona- with cancer and in honor of those who member someone with a luminaria to tion for a luminaria in person before 8 pan. have survived. Each loved one will be be displayed during the Relay For Life For more information on these or recognized by a lighted luminaria dis- Luminaria Ceremony, you can make a any other Relay event, contact me or played at the football field. For a $10 donation for a iuminaria by logging on publicity co-chair Dan Hart at 304- donation, a white bag will be used to to relayforlife.org/jeffersonwv or using 279-4309 or by email at djhard1947@ create a luminaria to honor your loved the order form that's appearing in the frontiernet.net. i One of the important issues re- commuting long distances. As gaso- could be severe. garding the revision of the Jefferson line prices go up, more commuters Further, our local economy is de- County Comprehensive Plan has to are tempted to move closer to where pendent on government spending. do with growth. The Plan includes they work. This is already happen- At his recent Jobs Summit town hall proposals to address how to accom- ing across the country according to meeting, Attorney General Patrick modate future growth, or as some anecdotal reports in the media. Morrisey noted that 37 percent of suggest, how to control it. One of The economic outlook for Jeffer-the revenue for the state budget is the recurring themes ! kept hearing son County, particularly with regard supplied by the federal government. at meetings is that we need to man- to job creation, is not very pretty. He questioned the ability of the f~d- age future growth. I would suggest Surprisingly, the U.S. Census re- eral government to be able to man- that future growth is not assured, ports that in the decade that ended tain that level of funding. He's na nor should we take it for granted, in 2010-- a decade in which Ief- the only one asking this question In At an "Envision 2035" meeting ferson County, experienced booming Texas, Representative James Whte the county Planning Department population growth-- non-farm pri- introduced HB 568 back in February provided an excellent presentation vate employment in Jefferson Coun- that would create a committee to 'e- that contained important informa- ty actually declined by 8.7 percent, view whether Texas could keep o- tion that included a forecast sourced In other words, economic growth erating, as White put it, "if the Fd- from the Bureau of Business and has not kept pace with population eral Government couldn't meet it Economic Research at West Virginia growth, obligations." University. It estimated that by 2035 Hollywood Casino is the No. 1 Coincidentally, it just so happes Jefferson County would have a pop- employer in the county. It took over that the temporary suspension of ulation of 75,035, an increase from the top spot from the Departmentthe federal debt ceiling created b' the current population of 53,498 that of Education in 2011. Completingan act of Congress back in Febru- amounts to a compounded annual the top five are Shepherd Univer- ary expires this Saturday. The dot growth rate of just over 1.5 percent, sity, American Public Universitythat is currently subject to that lin- That rate of growth would be about and Royal Vendors. The rest of the it has exceeded it by $363.5 billi(n 40 percent greater than that of the top 10 includes Jefferson Memo- as of May 7. The federal fiscal cr- United States at .9 percent, rial Hospital, Walmart, the National sis might soon be back. With a si,- Jefferson County experienced a Park Service, the Jefferson Coun- nificant number of county residelts surge in population growth of 26 ty Commission and the Departmentemployed by the federal governrcent percent during the previous decade. . of Agriculture. There are only four and with most of the top employers The WVU forecast calls for addi- " profit-making enterprises on the list in the county dependent on the fed- tional growth of 17 percent this de- and one of those is a university. If eral government either directly or cade, but that doesn't appear to be you remove education, health care indirectly for a significant portion of holding up. According to the U.S. and government, only three majortheir revenues, there is real cause for Census Bureau, in 2011 the popula- private employers remain, concern. tion of Jefferson County only grew For those who are assuming ro- We need to come to grips with by 724 and last year it only grew by bust economic growth for Jefferson the "new normal" with regard to 279. Wow. The growth rate has sud- County over the near to midterm, it growth. There are more vacant hous- denly decelerated to well below the may be necessary to rethink that as- es in Jefferson County than most WVU forecast and there are factors sumption. The economy of Jefferson folks realize and property values are that could cause it to go negative. County is vulnerable because it is at 2001 levels or beyond. Population According to the Planning Depart- not diversified. The tourism indus- growth is in danger of turning nega- ment presentation, only 30.6 percent try, which includes the Hollywood tive. Hopefully, we can adjust our of the people who live in Jefferson Casino, accounts for more than 30 thinking, but the first step toward County work here. That means that percen[ of all employment in tile economic recovery is to realize that more than two thirds of the county county. If that industry should fal- we have a problem. work force leaves every day to go to ter due to changes in market condi- -- Elliot Simon writes from work, with a significant percentage tions the impact on Jefferson County Harpers Ferry Despite surging by 26 percent in the last decade, Jefferson County's growth rate has dropped precipitously in the last few years. Last year, the county grew by just 279 residents. SEAN O;LE A} IY on Mas 'S A few days ago Laurence Leamer, author of the new book "The Price of Justice: A True Story of Greed and Cor- ruption," tweeted, "Why hasn't the West Virginia (press) asked why Don Blankenship has not been indicted for his role in the Upper Big Branch disas- ter?" Learner's question is rhetorical and in the haiku of Twitter might be read sim- ply as an attempt to shame journalists and prosecutors into action. But, Learn- er knows West Virginia too well - its publishers, lawyers, judges, and people -- to expect so simple and righteous a reaction. He understands our political culture of accommodation and the ten- dency of an economically and culturally deprived people to slip into unknowing acquiescence. Thus Leamer's tweet is a provocation, but one tinged with de- spair, because he grasps the human toll taken by our lassitude - the lives im- poverished, stunted, and lost. "The Price of Justice" is a nearly up-to-the-present account of Hugh M. Caperton's lawsuit against the former Massey Energy Company and its chair- man Blankenship for using deceptive business practices to drive Caperton's firm, Harman Mining Company, into bankruptcy presumably so that, rather than purchase the mine directly from Caperton, Massey could buy it out of bankruptcy for a fraction of its actual value. The case, Caperton v. Massey, fa- mously landed before the U.S. Su- preme Court over the question of whether West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Justice Brent Benjamin, whose election was bankrolled by Blankenship, should have recused himself when the court considered a lower court verdict that awarded Ca- perton $50 million in damages. The case became the inspiration for John Grisham's novel, "The Appeal," about a company that attempts to buy a state supreme court decision. But, Massey, unlike Grisham's fictional company, succeeded when Benjamin cast the de- ciding vote in a 3-2 decision. The judicial scandal didn't end with Benjamin, who was rebuked by the U.S. Supreme Court and had to recuse himself from further involvement in the case. Also joining the rogues gal- lery was former Justice Elliot "Spike" Maynard, whose impartiality was com- when he was photographed .vacationing on the French Riviera with Blankenship. Fellow Justice Larry Starcher had to recuse himself for preju- dicial remarks he made about Blanken- ship. But most disturbing was Justice Robin Jean Davis, who, as portrayed by Leamer, connived to throw the case Massey's way. During oral arguments Davis mis- characterized the lower court record. Following oral arguments she pre-empt- ed any discussion of the case by the jus- tices and proceeded directly to a vote. And, in rejecting the appeal, she and her allies did so "with prejudice," meaning the case could not be retried or reheard. Finally, in finding for Massey, Davis's majority did so On apparently specious 9 legal grounds. Why did they do it'? Why have West Virginia politicians historically accom- modated coal interests even when they run counter to the interests of Citizens and, as Leamer shows was the case in Caperton, when they destroy lives? Does Leamer fully prove these charg- es? No. But, he makes a compelling cir- cumstantial case that warrants - nay, screams for - intensive scrutiny by re- porters and politicians. This is why. In attacking Harman Mining Company, Blankenship and Massey reneged on a contract to purchase coal at a speci- fied price because it saw the possibility of driving Harman out of business and then acquire it for a song. That doing so would bankrupt Cape on, stiff credi- tors, and throw hundreds of workers out of jobs was unimportaut. Contractual obligations were simi- larly unimportant when Massey short- ed Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel on coal deliveries so the coal could be sold at higher prices elsewhere. Wheeling-Pitt sued and won a $220 million award, but the victory proved to be pyrrhic since the damage done to Wheeling-Pitt drove the company into bankruptcy, de- stroying hundreds of jobs and putting a nail in the coffin of a finn that once was "the an chbr of the upper Ohio Vall ey's ~. economy. Then, of course, there were Massey's thousands of violations of safety rules that produced the deaths of dozens of miners culminating in the tragedy at Upper Big Branch. It's important to remember that all of these tragedies resolve themselves in people. Leamer shares with us the an- guish of the widows of dead Massey miners, the shattered life of a young man who became collateral damage in Blankenship's drive to elect Brent Ben- jamin, and the Candide-esque tribula- tions of Caperton, whose continuing search for justice and financial solvency is now in its 15th year. These tragedies are only partially offset by the inspiring perseverance of two attorneys, David Fawcett and Bruce Stanley, who strive to stop Blaukenship. The suffering and efforts of all of these people are neces- sary because businessmen such as Blan- kenship are predators. With customers and suppliers alike, Blankenship seized on any weakness to wring out maximum return. In doing so, adherence to the law and to human de- cency was seen not as a matter of prin- ciple, but as an option to be weighed on the scale of profit and loss, leaving con- cerns about legality and ethics to those who are charged with enforcing such naive concepts. Btankenship reminds us that, try as we might to make the cost of illegality and injustice greater than the gain, we can never anticipate all the means andrewards of malefaction. That's why the relative silence of journalists and politicians about Massey is deafening and why Leamer's tweet and its implied question are so impor- tant. Where's the outrage? -- Sean O'Leary writes from Harpers Ferry