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September 18, 2013     Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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September 18, 2013
 

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PAGE A6 "No government ought to be without censors and where the press is free, no one ever will." -- Thomas Jefferson Spirit of JEFFERSON and FARMER'S ADVOCATE Wednesday, September 18, 2013 , EDITORIAL TOM MILLER I It's tempting to wonder if state GOP lawmakers would only be satisfied once West Virginia is crisscrossed by a network of deer and Indian trails, such an anathema to them is the sug- gestion that more public funding might be needed for the state to mainta'm the upkeep on its more than 38,000 miles of high- ways and byways. Indeed, whether it be the suggestion by area lawmaker Lar- ry Kump that the work recently completed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's 31-member Blue Ribbon Commission on High- ways amounted to nothing more than a "dog and pony show" or the most recent accusation, this by Mercer County Delegate Marty Gearhart, that the commission's recommendations -- to increase Department of Motor Vehicle fees to raise $77 mil- lion, add an annual $200 registration fee" for alternative fuel vehicles, shift $25 million in sales tax revenue to the state road fund and float a $1 billion bond to be paid off by continuing to collect tolls on 88 miles of the West Virginia Turnpike -- are a "colossal failure" in support of a "contrived crisis" to "heap additional costs on the backs of West Virginians," Republicans appear only too quick to critique the work of the commission but remain notably slow in offering any alternatives, save for repeating that tired old saw about eliminating inefficiencies. Shaving $100 million from personnel costs might grant the Division of Highways enough to patch up some bridges -- ac- cording to the Federal Highway Administration, 13 percent, or nearly 1,000, of the state's bridges rate as "structurally defi- cient," -- but it hardly serves as a long-term plan for resolving what has been a decade-long operational inability to maintain and repair our underperforming roads system. Besides, these lawmakers' protests that there is no support for raising additional funds for road improvements don't have the ring of truth to them. According to Blue Ribbon Highways Commission Chairman Jason Pizatella, "significant" public support" exists for continuing tolls on the West Virginia Turn- pike beyond 2019 when they are slated to be eliminated. As Pizatella notes, about 75 percent of the traffic on the turnpike is from out-of-state vehicles, meaning West Virginia residents would largely get a pass if repayment of the bond was funded with higher tolls. But, as Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall noted, if efforts to secure more road funding or the commission's recommen- dations don't survive the Legislature, the blame is not just the minority party's. In 2011, a special election year, Gov. Tom- blin couldn't bring himself to tell West Virginians their roads and bridges were fast deteriorating and vetoed a bill passed with great support among lawmakers of both houses that would have raised more than $40 million in increased motor vehicle fees, which remain one of the few mechanisms the Di- vision of Highways has for funding improvements. Tomblin's also on record in support of ending the turnpike toll, which might explain his wishy-washiness on the commission's rec- ommendations. To be sure, Republican lawmakers have tapped a vein of dis- content, that being the suspicion that government has grown fat on the backs of its own citizens. Couple the distrust with gov- ernment with what historian Brace Seely has called a grow- ing trend toward the politicization of transportation spending, a skeptical attitude toward technical expertise and stagnant household wealth and it should be no surprise that politicians and policymakers can't muster the stomach to lecture the rest of us on such fiotions as the "common good." Coming off the worst economic crisis of a generation, West Virginians are hardly prepared to be told they need to pony up more money for infrastructural upkeep that has too long lain neglected. But these same lawmakers do a great disservice to the very folks who voted them into office if they think doing nothing more than fomenting suspicion and distrust qualifies as public service. LETTERS TO THE EDITIIR 9 9 Ron Gregory stumbled badly on two counts in his Spirit commentary last Week ("Moore-Manchin alliance shutting door on Democrat run for Senate"). He propounded a theory that Sen. Joe Manchin ( a Democrat) has been keeping a strong Democrat out of the race for U.S. Senate tb help his supposed buddy Shel- ley Moore Capito (a Republican) win the seat. With the recent entry of Secretary of State Natalie Tennant into the race Greg- ory's theory is shot to smithereens. Tennant is a top-notch public official. More to the point, Tennant is a champion vote-getter who will prove to be at least Congresswoman Capito's equal in the race, and I think her superior. Gregory several times referred to the political party to which I belong as the "Democrat" Party. My old foe Elliot Si- mon often uses this term, as do many oth- er Republicans. Is there something about Republicans that causes many of them to not have paid attention when they were in grammar class? The term "Republican" is both a noun and an adjective. The term "Demo- crat" is a noun, but its adjective is "Dem- ocratic." Therefore, by the rules of Amer- ican English the party to which "Demo- crats" belong is the "Democratic" Party. I've heard many Republicans grouse that recent immigrants to our country "don't speak English well enough." Re- publicans, throw not stones, for thy house is glass. Actually, there may be something more sinister afoot than mere lack of grarmnar skills. Back in the 1940s a young Republi- can governor of Minnesota named Har- old Stassen told a group of fellow party members they should not concede that members of the Demoeratic Party really believed in "democracy." The Grand Old Party was in the midst of a 30-year cam- paign to repeal Social Security, which they were convinced had recently (1935) been foisted on an unwary public by that tyrant Franklin D. Roosevelt. (Does this sound familiar?) Stassen argued that Republicans should begin referring to the Democratic Party as the "Democrat" Party. How that un- grammatical term might make a Demo- crat seem less supportive of democracy than the grammatically correct one es- capes me. However, many Republican lemmings went along. The cause was advanced most notably by the notorious Joe Mc- Carthy ("Tail-gurmer Joe"). He was a Re- publican U.S. Senator from Wisconsin who claimed he had a list of 254 "card- carrying communists" working for the U.S. State Department. He never found a single one he could prove was a com- munist, but he was so adept at character assassination that the term "McCarthy- ism" stil/means a vicious and dishonest attempt to rain a person's reputation. He also succeeded in persuading many Republicans to demonstrate their incom- prehension of language by joining his at- tempt to turn a noun into an adjective. A friend of mine (as strong a Demo- crat as I) once told me he would tell any Republicans who attempted political in- suit via this particular language distortion that he would refer to their party as the "Publican" Party. I thought about this for. awhile but I'd rather not be as ungram- matical as Gregory or Simon. This goes to show us that we'd all be better off in more ways than one if we could learn to respectfully disagree with our policy opponents, rather than suc- cumb to the temptation to insult them. John Doyle Shepherdstown Ambulance fee vote was reasonable In both your editorial "Still Not Ready For 'Prime Time and Mr. Clark's above-the- fold article "Ambulance Fee 'Too Low," "padding" in the Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency bud- get is alluded to but in neither the editorial nor the article is the "padding" explained. The JCESA budget .request for $1,066,011 covered the nine full-time dual qualified EMT/firefighters (salary, training, equip- ment, etc.) and two clerks to collect and manage the ambulance fee as well as a "chase vehicle." Holding the requested budget level at $1,066,011, the JCESA presented seven options ranging from a residential fee of $85.00 to $45.00. However, if the fee was set at $85.00 (Option 1) JCESA would re- alize $1,831,645 or $775,634 above their requested budget. If the fee was set at $45.00 (Option 7) the JCESA would re- alize $1,150,524 or $84,513 above their requested budget. These are their figures. This is the "padding" that the majority of the County Commission rightly rejected. The JCESA has not explained what it would do with the extra funds and if they had, they might have gotten a sympathetic hearing. The nine EMT/firefighters is jus- liftedexpansion of government while the two requested clerks to collect the fee is not. There is a tax collection mechanism within the county govemment to handle that sort of thing. Just last week the Spirit featured an above-the- fold article entitled, "County prepares for budget ax." Given declining revenues, the County Commis- sion can't start on the path of trimming the budget one week and approve expanding the bureaucracy the next and still be taken seriously. Peter Onoszko Charles Town I The most difficult decision that rou-the "alternative methods" could gain tinely confronts our elected officials some support. in state government -- whether they The commission received 1,400 re- be legislators or members of the ex- sponses to a public opinion survey and ecutive branch -- is how to convince less than half of those responses fa-" voters to accept sufficient tax levels to voted tax increases. But 78 percent of support the degree of financial support those responding did support continu- needed to maintain necessary services ing tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike i to West Virginia residents, past the current date of 2019 when the' Currently, the critical issue is how tolls are supposed to be eliminated -- much existing taxes and fees need to a move that would continue to have be increased to provide the funding out-of-state drivers using the turnpike' needed, pay 75 percent of those toll receipts. Surprisingly, members of Gov. Earl Meanwhile, one of the more inge- Ray Tomblin's Blue Ribbon Com- nious efforts to combat the every in- mission on Highways, after weeks of creasing proliferation of illegal drug meetings around the state during the labs occurred in Lincoln County ear- summer, believe they have found a lier this month when law enforcement way to come up with $1.1 billion in officers used a borrowed church bus funding for state roads without raising to descend on operators of a metham- taxes~ phetamine lab on Little Harts Road, Members of the Blue Ribbon Com- located about two miles off W.Va. 10 mission have endorsed increased fees in Harts. in the Division of Motor Vehicles by J.J. Napier, chief deputy for the $77.4 million a year and the creation Lincoln County Sheriff's Department, of a $200 annual registration fee for told a reporter for the Charleston Dai- alternative fuel vehicles along with ly Mail that he "orchestrated the whole higher tolls on the turnpike. Current thing." He said law enforcement of-' plans for tolls on the turnpike to end ficials had been receiving tips about' in 2019 would also be extended, drug activity in that area' for some If it sounds too good to be true, it time but "when we went in cruisers' probably is. Republican leaders in they knew we were coming." both houses of the Legislature made So he decided to borrow a church it clear last week they find little sup- bus from Chris Wilkerson, chief of port for increases in various fees along police for the Hamlin Police Depart- i with higher tolls on the West Virgin- ment and also mayor of Hamlin. More i ia Turnpike. Senate Minority Leader importantly, Wilkerson is also pastor~ Mike Hall, R-Putnam, and House Mi- of Morning Star Church which has a nority Leader Tim Armstead, R-Ka- church bus. Wilkerson agreed to let, nawha, both said they don't believe law enforcement officials use that, West Virginia residents are likely to bus. , accept new fees and increased tolls on A total of nine law enforcement of-. ," the 88-mile turnpike, ricers were on the bus including state Armstead said it makes no differ- police, Hamlin city officers and mem- ence whether it is an increased fee or bers of the Lincoln County Sheriff's a higher tax because either way "it's Department. They totally surprised in- money they don't have to put food on dividuals operating two active meth their table, labs and three people were arrested I think there are ways we can do that and taken to the Western regional jail. without placing a new tax burden on Finally, it seems silly but the city of our citizens." He also noted that the Sistersville, located in Tyler County, Legislature passed a bill in 2011 to still has a city charter that prohibits increase DMV fees by $43 million a women from vpting in the municipal year. elections there. But Gov. Tomblin vetoed that leg- But the new mayor of this town that islation, arguing that it would place boasts a population of less than 2,000 too much of a burden on West Virginia people is a woman. Needless to say, taxpayers. Mayor Ann Doig, who was just ap- Sen. Hall said that veto "left a bad pointed last week to succeed former taste in many lawmakers' mouths" be- Mayor Davis Fox after he resigned cause they had taken a political risk by midway through his fourth term, said passing those increases only to have one of her first tasks will be to change the governor "strike it down" so they the charter -- even though it will be would unlikely be willing to support expensive. similar legislation again. Both he and Former Mayor Fox gave up the job Armstead believe the commission's to move to Wheeling to be closer to recommendations will probably face a his wife's place of employment. May- difficult time surviving the legislative or Doig told the Parkersburg newspa- process, per that the city's current charter has But Jason Pizatella, chairman of the "some silly stuff." She also said the Blue Ribbon Highways Commission, city's attorney has told the members claims the recommendations have re- of City Council that it can't go against ceived "significant" public support, the Constitution. based on the meetings the Commis- So she is certain she will be able to sion conducted throughout the state, continue to serve until the next munic- He said speakers made it clear they ipal election there in March of 2014. had no appetite for tax increases but Her efforts to change the city charter there were indications that some of may take a little longer. Worth "I believe in free- dom with the same noting burning delight, the same faith, the same intense aban- don which attended its birth on this continent more than a century and a half ago Events abroad give a man a feeling of being pressed for time. Ac- tually I do not believe I am pressed for time, and I apologize to the reader for a false impression that may be created. I just want to tell, before I get slowed down, that I am in love with freedom and that it is an affair of long standing and that it is a fine state to be in, and that I am deeply suspicious of people who are beginning to adjust to fascism and dictators merely because they are succeeding in war. From such adapt- able matures a smell rises. I pinch my nose. For as long as I can remember I have had a sense of living somewhat free- ly in the natural world. I don't mean I enjoyed freedom of action, but my ex- istence seemed to have the quality of free-ness. I traveled with secret papers pertaining to a divine conspiracy. Intu- itively I've always been aware of the vitally important pact which a man has with himself, to be all things to himself, and to be identified with all things, to stand self-reliant, taking advantage of his haphazard connection with a planet, tiding his luck, and following his bent with the tenacity of a hound. My first and greatest love affair was with this thing we call freedom, this lady of in- finite allure, this dangerous and beauti- " ful and'sublime being who restores and supplies us all But a man's freedom is of two parts: ; the instinctive free-ness he experiences as an animal dweller on a planet, and the practical liberties he enjoys as a privileged member of human society. The latter is, of the two, more gener- ally understood, more widely admired, more violently challenged and dis- cussed. It is the practical and apparent side of freedom. The United States, al- most alone today, offers the liberties and thew privileges and the tools of freedom. In this land the citizens are still invited to write plays and books, to paint their Pictures, to meet for discus- : sion, to dissent as well as to agree, to mount soapboxes in the public square, to enjoy education in all subjects with- out censorship, to hold court and judge " one another, to compose music, to talk politics with their neighbors without wondering whether the secret police are listening, to exchange ideas as well as goods, to kid the government when it needs kidding, and to read real news of real events instead of phony news manufactured by a paid agent of the state. This is a fact and should give ev- ery person pause. -- E J3. White, "Freedom," 1940 !