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Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
Charles Town, West Virginia
May 21, 2014     Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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May 21, 2014

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PAGE A7 ,perspectives pirit of JEFFERSON and VAP.!R'S ADVOCATE Wednesday, May 21,2014 TOM MILLER Young West Virginians show modest gains in math The good news is that high school se- niors in West Virginia have made some modest progress in their math scores while nationwide the average scores for high school seniors in both math and reading have not changed since 2009. This alarming report released earlier this month from the National Assess- ment of Educational Progress (NAEP) concludes that the average math score remains at 153 on a scale of 300 while the average reading score was un- changed at 288 out of 500. According to these results, only one of every four students scored at or above proficiency in math and only 37 percent met the same standing when it comes to reading. Former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, who is now president of the Alliance for Excellent Education, said the Nation's Report Card results reflect a "desperate" need for aggressive implementation of Common Core standards. The latest numbers indicate that about 14 percent of high school seniors in West Virginia demonstrate proficiency in math and reading respectively, com- pared to 24 percent and 36 percent of seniors nationwide. But proficiency in math in this state has improved by only one percent since 2009 while test scores have increased four points. Administering the NAEP tests to fourth and fifth graders is a require- ment to receive federal aid under the No Child Left Behind Act, but states can volunteer to have additional testing of high school seniors. West Virginia participated in volun- tary in 2009 and was one of 11 sates to do so this year. Only four of those states-Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho and West Virginia-showed improve- ment in math while only Arkansas and Connecticut also made improvements in reading. Test scores have also remained un- changed when broken down into gender and race subcategories. White students have tested higher than black students by about 30 points both in 2009 and 2013. In 2013, 33 percent of the white students scored proficient or above in math compared to only seven percent of black students. The same gap is pres- ent in reading test scores with 47 per- cent of white students scoring proficient or above compared to only 16 percent of black students. In West Virginia, where 92 percent of the students are white, minority stu- dents also have lower test scores in math and reading. The current trends are that black students have average math and reading scores that are 12 and 11 points lower than white students. But that gap has been reduced since 2009. That year, black students scored 21 fewer points on the math test than white students did. And reading scores for black students in West Virginia have dropped by six points, even though the gap in reading proficiency is more closer than the na- tional average. So not all of the present statistics are as promising in this state just as they are not so promising nation- wide... MEANWHILE, while more than 90 percent of Kanawha County residents who responded to a Kanawha-Charles- ton Health Department survey back on April 3-8 said they were using West Vir- ginia American Water--three months af- ter the Jan. 9 spill--only 36 percent were using it for drinking and just 28 percent said they believed the water was "safe". Most important was the fact that four of every five respondents said they found out about the "do not use" or- der on the day of the incident in Janu- ary. Yet, nearly one in four of those re- sponding said they used the water any- way when the do-not-use order was in effect. More than three of every four respondents said they used the water to take showers while only 37 percent used the water for drinking. While the do-not-use order was in ef- fect, nearly one of every four respon- dents to the survey said they used the water anyway. More than three-fourths of those responding said they used the water to take showers while only 37 per- cent said they used the water for drink- ing. The majority of respondents relied on alternative drinking water, most ei- ther going to a large retailer or to an un- affected commtmity. According to information received in the April survey, about one of every three respondents said they had less than one gallon of purchased water on hand at the time of the spill. And about one in ten admitted to collecting rain water for a water source, something that Health Department Director Rahul Gupta said "intrigued" him because of the national media stories on the subject... FINALLY, Congressman Nick Ra- hall, D-WV, easily won his 20th race in last week's primary election to represent West Virginia's 3rd District by defeating political newcomer Richard Ojeda. But now he must prepare for a general elec- tion battle in November with Republi- can challenger Evan Jenkins of Hun- tington. Jenkins recently switched political parties while serving in the West Virgin- ia State Senate from the 5th Senatorial District of Cabell and Wayne counties, moving from the lopsided Democratic majority in the 34-member upper house of the Legislature to a back-row seat in the Republican minority there. Rahall said he wants to challenge Jenkins to several debates during the months lead- ing up to the November general elec- tion... [)ON B U.RGE S Hilltop Hotc,1 study scales new heights of incredulity About three weeks ago, on April 29, the Harpers Ferry Planning Commission held a "Special Pub- lic Workshop" where a group called the "Harpers Ferry Residents Group" presented a report from an expert planning consultant they hired to as- sess a concept plan for redevelop- ment of the Hilltop House Hotel. This plan was submitted in 2009 by SWAN, the hotel developer, and withdrawn in 2010 when SWaN walked away "for now" because of a "local political firestorm that re- sulted in ethical and criminal accu- sations against multiple parties." The expert consultant's report said that 1,147 parking spaces are required for a 160-room hotel with a restaurant and a ballroom. That makes about seven parking spaces per room. At two people per car, ap- parently he believes the hotel could be packed to the gills with 2,300 people. Total nonsense. According to the Urban Land Institute guidelines, the proposed hotel with 160 rooms, dining for 180 and ballroom for 300 would require about 390 parking spaces while the consultant claims a parking requirement about three times higher. The expert consultant said the cur- rent traffic on Washington Street is at capacity with 1,500 vehicles a day. That makes about one vehicle a minute. Apparently he considers this gridlock. Total nonsense. The 2009 traffic impact study done by Gordon Associates of Charles Town showed about 130 peak-hour trips on Satur- day for the proposed hotel which is only 40 percent of the level of ser- vice of 330 vehicles per hour where the Transportation Research Board Highway Capacity Manual says traf- fic on a Class III urban arterial like Washington Street is "freely flow- ing." The Highway Capacity Manual also says traffic would be "at capaci- ty" when the traffic is 1,350 vehicles "The expert consultant said redevelopment of Hilltop House would create impervious surfaces making the nearby Ridge Street Valley Stream unsafe for human contact and that children who swim in it could con- tract diseases. Say what? Where did the consultant find a deep swimming hole in this itty bitty stream? .... the expert consul- tant did not realize that the "headwaters" of this stream is actually a storm drain on Washington Street and the stream is fed by two other storm drains. " per hour, which is about 10 times higher than implied by the consul- tant. The expert consultant said rede- velopment of Hilltop House would create impervious surfaces mak- ing the nearby Ridge Street Valley Stream unsafe for human contact and that children who swim in it could contract diseases. Say what? Where did the consultant find a deep swim- ming hole in this itty bitty stream? The consultant was also totally un- aware the town will require a storm water management plan that meets state guidelines that will require a reduction of pollutant discharges. He also failed to look at the topogra- phy and see that runoff from the ho- tel discharges down the hillside to- wards the Potomac River not into the stream. Even worse, the expert consultant did not realize that the "headwaters" of this stream is actually a storm drain on Washington Street and the stream is fed by two other storm drains. If he had simply inspected the stream he would have easily seen it is es- sentially a drainage ditch filled with gravel, blacktop, and grime from runoff from Washington Street. The expert consultant also recom- mended the size of the hotel be re- duced to provide more parking for visitors to Lower Town Harpers Fer- ry. He estimated that 356 more park- ing spaces were needed. Say what? This is totally bizarre. The Harpers Ferry Residents Group complains about traffic from a 160-room hotel, then proposes the hotel be reduced to 80 rooms in order to construct a huge parking lot/garage with cars coming and going all the time. Almost four years ago in Septem- ber 2010, SWaN walked from discus- sions about the hotel, which had be- come quite a circus. Currently, SWaN is not engaging the town and likely will not do so until the town stops putting up with shenanigans involv- ing feeble, inaccurate and mislead- ing information by this small group. -- Don Burgess writes from Bolivar EH.3.0T SI[MON Government creates the problem, not. the jobs I would like to thank Alyson Cle- ments of the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy for setting the re- cord straight in her April 30 letter to the editor. The legislation passed by the state Legislature raises the state minimum wage to $8.75, not $10.10. It is the proposed federal legislation that would raise the national minimum wage to $10.10 per hour if passed. That said, the recently passed state legislation goes beyond current feder- al minimum wage law in very impor- tant ways and the wage portion isn't even the most concerning. Federal law contains exemptions that are currently relied upon by small businesses, hos- pitals and municipalities in West Vir- ginia. The new state law would nullify those exemptions. Almost everyone, including my- self, wants to see everyone, especially those at the bottom of the pay scale, do better. Doing so by government decree may not be the most effective way to go about it. To those who claim that raising the minimum wage will create a boom in the West Virginia economy I ask the obvious question: the mini- mum wage has been raised in West Virginia before - has that ever caused an economic boom? In Australia, the minimum wage is over $16 per hour. However, if you go to a Subway in.Sydney and order what we here in the U.S. would call a "$5 foot long" it will cost you 11 Auss- ie dollars (the equivalent of approxi- mately $10.25 in U.S. dollars). Pric- es Market forces cannot be leg- islated away without consequences - unintended or otherwise. Unless you want a completely planned economy where the government dictates wag- es and prices, you're spinning your wheels. And we all know how well those planned economies perform. Check out Cuba and Venezuela. Here in West Virginia, in addition to minimum wage, we have something called "prevailing wage." State gov- ernment contractors must pay their employees a prevailing wage, fixed by the state, for work done for the state of West Virginia. This obviously severe- ly limits the ability of contractors to bid competitively. If there isn't much wiggle room to differentiate on price that leaves the door open to other dif- ferentiators, such as cronyism. There is much debate as to whether or not prevailing wage is really that. Why not let the free market calculate the price? Even many supporters of prevailing wage acknowledge that it needs to be "recalculated," meaning that prevailing wage costs taxpayers plenty. As Delegate John Overington of Berkeley County has said on nu- merous occasions, because of prevail- ing wage, when West Virginia taxpay- ers pay for 10 miles of road, they are only getting seven. Some estimates put the cost to taxpayers at $300 mil- lion a year. I remember a meeting in Charles- ton concerning prevailing wage that included members of the Legislature, officials from the West Virginia De- partment of Labor and representatives of then-Gov. Manchin's office. One commented that West Virginia peren- nially ranks at or near the bottom in per capita income and that prevail- ing wage is designed to help mitigate that. The problem with that argument is that prevailing wage was implement- ed in West Virginia in 1937. In 1934, West Virginia ranked 30 th in per capi- ta income -' not near the top, but con- siderably closer to the middle than the bottom. We now rock back and forth between 49 th and 50 th - near or at the bottom. Clearly prevailing wage is not working as intended. No matter how well-intentioned, government interventions in the mar- ket rarely if ever work. So, how do we achieve our goal to raise worker pay, especially those at or near the bottom? First we need to understand where jobs come from - where they are cre- ated. Businesses and only businesses create jobs (no, the government does not create jobs - but that's a subject for another day) and small business- es, especially startups, are the engine of economic growth and job creation in America. If the economic climate is healthy, entrepreneurs start businesses and hire workers. As economic activi- ty increases, the demand for labor cre- ates competition for workers leading to higher wages. When you artificial- ly legislate the increase in wages you decrease demand. Even Warren Buf- fet acknowledges that minimum wage laws increase unemployment. A recent Washington Post article re- ported that a Brookings Institute study shows that for the first time in decades businesses are being destroyed faster than they are being created. The study covers the years 1978 through 2011. Only the last three years in the study, 2009 - 2011, showed more business- es dying than being created. (Coinci- dentally, recent government data show that the work force participation rate in America currently is back to 1978 lev- els). The Brookings study also showed that teen employment has dropped by a shocking 42 percent since 2000. While every state showed a negative differential in the percentage of new businesses to established business- es, West Virginia ranked in the bot- tom fifth of all states in that regard. In other words, in America, we're losing "businesses faster than we're creating them, and inWest Virginia faster still. We all want a vibrafit economy where businesses flourish, jobs are plentiful and employers have to com- pete for workers. How do we achieve this? Here's a hint. You can ask exist- ing business owners, but in some cas- es it just might be that the status quo works for them, particularly the real- ly big guys. Regulations and bureau- cratic red tape have a tendency to act as barriers to entry for many entre- preneurs. Existing businesses may in some cases consider regulation to be a protection against upstart competi- tion. Instead, go ask an entrepreneur, if you can find one. The Post article sug- gested that America may be losing its entrepreneurial spirit. With all the hur- dles and obstacles they face, many en- trepreneurs have come to the conclu- sion that going into business for one- self isn't worth the risk. A shortage of entrepreneurs leads to a shortage of jobs and a shortage of economic op- portunity. For all the people out there that need a job or better pay - that's a shame. -- Elliot Simon writes from Harpers Ferry