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Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
Charles Town, West Virginia
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November 5, 2014     Spirit of Jefferson Farmers Advocate
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November 5, 2014
 

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PAGE A6 SPIRIT of JEFFERSON and FARMER'S ADVOCATE ADVOCATE Wednesday, November 5, 2014 i "'No government ought to be without censors and where the press is free, no one ever will.'" -- Thomas Jefferson OUR VIEW Election's over but there's still work to do Did you vote yesterday (or during the early voting period)? More important, did you first take time to research Candidates' backgrounds, their various financial backers, the positions they've taken on important issues and their stated intentions for the future? When citizens neglect those duties, there's no question that our democracy suffers. But simply being an informed voter isn't enough. Though the election is behind us, there's no shortage of work for citizens to tackle to ensure that our community functions best. In fact, two opportunities to play a part in important decisions before our county come this very week and another is set for Nov. 16. Tonight, the Jefferson County Board of Education holds a special meeting to discuss the process for replacing Susan K. Wall, who announced last month she'll retire as superintendent on Dec. 31. Board President Scott Sudduth invited a representative from the West Virginia School Board Association to present an overview of issues, criteria and best practices for conducting a national search for a new schools chief. The workshop, beginning at 6 p.m. at the board's central office at 110 Mordington Ave. in Charles Town, is open to the public. Then on Thursday, the Jefferson County Commission hosts a public hearing on the draft of the Envision Jefferson 2035 Comprehensive Plan. The public hearing starts at 7 p.m. in the downstairs meeting room of the Charles Town Library at 200 E. Washington St. Those who aren't aware of what's proposed in the comprehensive plan may review the document at county libraries or the county's planning and zoning department. Easier still, anyone may download the plan at jeffersoncountywv. org. A half hour before the meeting, staff members will be available to answer citizens' questions and go over relevant maps. County officials also are available to take citizens' questions by email (info@jeffersoncountywv.org) or phone (304-728-3284). So many citizens who flew into a blind rage this fall over the commission's decision to establish an ambulance fee acted as if the commission had enacted the measure in secret when actually it was just that they hadn't been paying attention. The commissioners sat through a very non-public public hearing that lasted all of about 10 minutes because nobody from the public came to hear, to learn, to voice their opinions. We'd hate to see a repeat of that - with the public hearing unfolding in front of rows of empty chairs and then an uproar months and years down the road when the decisions in the draft become reality. Later this month, citizens are invited to help with the creation of a Jefferson County Diversity Council, a group that could lend insights and make recommendations to the Jefferson County Commission and other government entities. Organizers are hoping to connect with Jefferson Countians whose needs and views too often get overlooked by decision-makers. In particular, leaders hope the diversity council better represents women, senior citizens, young people, persons of color, those living below the poverty level, renters and those who don't hold a college degree. Anyone interested is asked to meet at 3 p.m. Nov. 16 at Fisherman Hall in Charles Town. It may be difficult to find time for such work, but becoming involved in the long-term decisions facing our community to ensure the best decisions get made absolutely is a worthy endeavor. To quote famed novelist Louis L'Amour: "To make democracy work, we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers." LETrER TO THE EDITt )R TOM MILLER NPLEx defenders claim success in eliminating W.Va. meth labs A company that operates this state's pseudoephedrine tracking system claims its software is helping to drive down sales of the drug. And a company representative along with a detective from Louisiana told members of the West Virginia news media that the National Precursor Log Exchange is also helping law enforcement track and prosecute people who are using pseudoephedrine for the manufacture of methamphetamine instead of using it to treat the sniffles. "It has proven itself to be effective," said Bridget lambert, president of the West V'lrginia Retailers Association, which hosted a media event for the NPLEx system last week. NPLEx, which was first brought on line in West Virginia in January of 2013, allows law enforcement and retailers to track purchases and block sales to individuals who exceed purchase limits. In this state, individuals may purchase no more than 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine per day, 7.2 grams in 30 days or 48 grams per year. NPLEx is used in 30 states including all of West Virginia's neighbors except Maryland. The software is produced by Appriss, a company based in Louisville, Ky. And the NPLEx system is supported by the West Virginia Retailers Association and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the same pharmaceutical lobbying group that fought heavily this year against a state proposal to make to make pseudoephedrine prescription-only except for the tamper-resistant forms like Nexafed and Zephrex-D. According to data provided by Appriss, sales of pseudoephedrine have declined from 2013 to 2014. Here in West Virginia, the NPLEx system tracked 728,825 grams of pseudoephedrine sold in January through September of 2013 but only 456,883 grams during the same period this year, a decrease of about 37 percent. The number of pseudoephedrine purchases blocked by the NPLEx system and the number of individual purchases also fell. Krista McConnick, an Appriss account manager, said she believes , the drop is attributable to the NPLEx system. A detective in the St. Tammary Parish Sheriff's Office in Louisana said the system has helped law enforcement in that state track and prosecute manufactures of meth. He said in his practice, the system was helpful in allowing tracking of suspects. In Kanawha County, the number of meth labs located annually from 2006 through 2013 by the Kanawha County Sheriff's Office has ranged from a high of 73 in 2008 to a low of 22 in 2010. There were 30 located in 2013 and as of Oct. 8 the sheriff's office has located 17 labs. "The world of work," as seen and indeed created by this modem metaphysics, is -- alas -- a dreary place. Can higher education prepare people for it? How do you prepare people for a kind of serfdom? What human qualities are required for becoming efficient servants, machines, "systems," and bureaucracies? The world of work of today is the product of a hundred years of"de-skilling" -- why take the trouble and incur the cost of letting people acquire the skills of a craftsman, when all that is wanted is a machine winder? The only skills worth acquiring are those which the system demands, and they are worthless outside the system. They have no survival value outside the Worth system and therefore do not even confer the no"n"t,00; spirit of self-reliance. What does a machine winder do when (let us say) energy shortage stops the machine? Or a computer programmer without a computer? Maybe higher education could be designed to lead to a different world of work -- different from the one we have today ... But how could this be as long as higher education clings to the metaphysics of materialistic scientism and its doctrine of mindless evolution? It cannot be. Figs cannot grow on thistles. -- E Jr. Schumacher, "Education for Good Work," 1979 ISIS lr'ecRuffS West Virginia is not a judicial 'hellhole' I agree with Elliot Simon that West Virginia needs to work hard to continue to improve our economic climate and make our state more attractive to business investors. West Virginia needs to be "open for business." A good place for Simon and others to start would be to stop bad mouthing West Virginia by citing the American Tort Reform Association's Judicial Hellhole report. It has been widely discredited by both academics and the media for years. The New York Times reported in 2007 that the report was not a valid analysis--and the report's authors admitted it. "The question is whether the report's arguments make sense, are supported by evidence and are applied evenhandedly. Here the report falls short... It has no apparent methodology." In response, ATRA admitted that "we have never claimed to be an empirical study" (New York Times, December 24, 2007). Independent data compiled by the National Center for State Courts, however, found that in 2010, the last year for which comprehensive comparative data is available, West Virginia ranked 40th among the 50 states and Washington, D. C. in the number of lawsuits filed per capita. The Future of the West Virginia Judiciary: Problems and Policy Options found that "since the 1980s West Virginia courts -- the trial court of general jurisdiction-- have not experienced a massive upsurge in non-family law civil litigation." We are not a "hellhole." Indeed, the West Virginia Court System 2013 Annual Report states that case filings in West Virginia continue to decline and are now at the lowest level since 1985 (p. 14)! Many of the civil cases that are filed are businesses suing other businesses. It is estimated that nearly one-third of all tort cases are business vs. business cases. In West Virginia those cases are now swiftly handled by the Business Court Division. The six judges assigned to handle those cases, including our own Judge Christopher C. Wilkes who serves as the chairman of the Business Court, have done an exceptional job. I personally invite Mr. Simon to observe the Business Court in operation and report back to us whether he thinks Judge Wilkes runs a judicial "hellhole" - because I can assure you that he does notl Is it an issue for business owners? No. For more than 30 years the National Federation of Independent Business, the nation's leading advocacy organization for small businesses, has surveyed its members and issued its Small Business Problems and Priorities study. "Cost and frequency of lawsuits" ranked 71 st of the 75 concerns--and dead last among those problems associated with the cost of doing business. Instead, the state should focus on areas that business owners have identified as primary concerns such as tax relief. Here West Virginia has excelled in recent years. Moody's reports that the cost of doing business in West Virginia is 14 percent below the national average. It's the fourth best rate in the country -- a success attributable to the fact that our state political leaders have reduced the business tax burden by more than $450 million over the last six years. It has helped West Virginia attract new business investment to the state, including more than $6.2 billion since 2010. (West Virginia Development Office.) That being the case, I am shocked and dismayed as both a business owner, taxpayer, and, yes, an attorney that the West Virginia Chamber continues to oppose legislation that would help the state recoup millions in tax dollars stolen through fraud against our government. Indeed five of the seven votes included on the Chamber's 2014 legislative scorecard were on this anti-fraud bill. Under the proposed legislation, businesses who knowingly submitted false claims to state government would have been liable for three times the government's damages plus penalties. Its whistleblower provision would have allowed citizens with evidence of fraud to sue on behalf of the government. The whistleblowers would report the fraud to private attorneys, who would then use their time and money to build the case for the state. Once filed, the Attorney General Patrick Morrissey would review it and determine whether to join the private claim. This would have helped the state uncover fraud and increase its ability to recover monies taken, all at minimal cost to taxpayers. In other states, the bill has received bipartisan support because it works. A fiscal note on North Carolina's bill estimated it would recover more than $3 million annually. A recent federal claim against JPMorgan Chase over bad loans led the U. S. government to recoup more than $500 million. Another claim against a home-health company had a recovery of more than $120 million. It is estimated that it has saved billions in federal tax dollars. Why would West Virginia not want to do the same? It would have provided critical revenue for road and bridge repairs, emergency services and other critical state-supported programs. The Chamber claims that the bill would lead to more lawsuits. The only way this would lead to a flood of lawsuits would be if hundreds of West Virginia businesses were defrauding the state and cheating taxpayers. Unless the business is committing fraud, there is no case. Unless fraud is rampant, it's a non-issue. If it is rampant, the bigger questions are why does the Chamber support businesses committing fraud against the state, and why does it believe that the rest of us should bear the financial burden for the crime? Didn't the financial crisis already cost us enough in bailouts? Why should we now subsidize the fraudsters? Why should honest businesses be at a competitive disadvantage because of those businesses that cheat? If we plan to grow our economy, West Virginia needs to look at real solutions like infrastructure improvements and training our work force for 21st-century jobs -- not propaganda. It is just as important that businesses who cheat, cut comers and defraud our government should be held accountable in our courts. If you harm state consumers, workers or other businesses or steal from taxpayers, you pay the price. That's how the Constitution and the free market works. David M. Hammer Martinsburg -- David Hammer is an attorney with the law firm Hammer, Ferretti & Schiavoni ,iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii'iiii!iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii  i( ,i! ,iiiiiiliiiiiii!iiiii!iiiiiii!iiii iiiiiiiiiii!i!ii!!iiiiiiiiii!ii!iiiill iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii