- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

Jan. 24

News and Sentinel, Parkersburg, W.Va., on road funding woes in need of a solution:

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin knows West Virginia roads and bridges need attention, but he and legislators are also well aware that funding for the purpose could be hard to come by.

Tomblin mentioned design-build highway contracts and public/private partnerships for road construction in his recent State of the State address, but he is also waiting for a report from the Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways that may identify other long-term funding sources.

Lawmakers will not be able to please everyone, and may have to look to other states for inspiration. For example, a driver who enters the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Pittsburgh and exits in Harrisburg will pay $20.75. A driver who takes the entire length of the West Virginia Turnpike and even manages to swing through the North Beckley toll plaza on U.S. 19 will pay $6.40.

Meanwhile, according to a national transportation research organization, one-third of West Virginia’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. One-third of bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards. The report noted West Virginia has the second highest traffic fatality rate in the country - though it is unclear how many of those deaths can be attributed to road conditions. Even if crumbling roads and bridges cause only one death, it is too many.

Financial damage to our drivers is more easily measurable. Tire wear, increased fuel consumption and other repairs cost $400 million total statewide.

Imagine if drivers understood the problem in terms of funding bond issues now, instead of paying hundreds of millions in maintenance and repairs later. Such a bond could be financed, at least in part, by retaining the W.Va. Turnpike toll that is scheduled to be lifted during the next few years.

Already this fall and winter our roads and bridges have seen saturating rains, deep freezes, tons of salt and cinders, and another year of heavier truck traffic brought by the natural gas industry. Road crews will be faced with quite a mess in the spring.

Debate over road funding has made it clear there is no easy way out of the dilemma. But the longer it remains simmering on a back burner, the more deterioration occurs on West Virginia roads and bridges. Sometime soon, then, Tomblin should bite the bullet and propose a way to address the problem.




Jan. 25

The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, W.Va., on program to help children exposed to violence:

About 25 percent of West Virginia’s children live below the poverty line, and another 26 percent are a part of households that are considered low income — really just above poverty level.

Those difficult economic situations can take quite a toll on children in countless ways, from their health and home environment to the stability of their family and what they see in their day-to-day life.

That is not only a challenge for our communities, but also for our schools.

Teachers and administrators often play a key role in helping children deal with the stresses of their lives, but it helps to know what a child is going through — especially if it is a traumatic experience such as witnessing a crime, seeing abuse or watching a caregiver be arrested.

Last week local law enforcement and school officials unveiled an innovative effort to work together on behalf of children in such situations.

Called the “West Virginia Children Exposed to Violence Initiative,” the local pilot program will involve the Huntington Police Department and Spring Hill and Central City elementary schools.

When police officers respond to a crime or incident, there will be an extra effort to make note of any children or signs of children in the household. Officers will find out the names and ages of children, determine their relationship to adults involved in the incident and assess their well being.

There also will be training for officers on how to talk with the children about the incident, as well as subduing adults and interviewing witnesses in the presence of children.

Officers will then forward information about what occurred to HPD victim’s advocate, who will send a confidential “handle with care notice” to the schools involved, letting teachers know what their student has experienced. The program also includes training for educators about how to help traumatized children in school and provisions to refer students for other assessments or additional services.

Hopefully, that extra care can help children deal with these difficult situations, which are so often obstacles to learning and success in school. For too many, these pressures and a lack of support can mean falling behind in class, dropping out of school and back into the cycle of poverty.

We applaud these extra efforts to help children in school, because ultimately, it is that education that gives them the best chance to build a better life for themselves and our community.




Jan. 27

Charleston (W.Va.) Gazette on no labels:

Millions of Americans are disgusted by the bitter Washington deadlock caused by Tea Party Republicans who repeatedly block government processes, even forcing government shutdowns. No wonder huge numbers of adults ignore politics and don’t vote.

An attempt to break this impasse is led by a citizen group called “No Labels,” which advocates middle-of-the-road compromises between the two major parties. Top leaders of this effort are moderate Democrat Joe Manchin from West Virginia and liberal Republican Jon Huntsman from Utah.

The group just published a full-page New York Times ad urging the warring sides to build “consensus around common goals.” During tonight’s State of the Union address, it said, “dozens of Democrats and Republicans will be wearing orange No Labels problem-solving pins … to signal their support for creating a national strategic agenda.”

The organization released a book outlining a four-part middle-of-the-road vision: create 25 million U.S. jobs in the next decade, balance the federal budget by 2030, make America energy-independent by 2035, and make Social Security and Medicare secure for another 75 years.

Nobody could argue with any of those noble goals. And nobody doubts the need to end vicious stalemates in Washington. But there’s a problem with middle-of-the-roadism, as follows:

Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. pointed out that finding common ground between the two parties assumes that each side is equally extreme — but, in reality, Tea Party Republicans have veered far, far to the right of America’s mainstream, while Democrats generally take moderate stands.

“When a president of the United States is attacked simultaneously as an ‘extreme liberal liar’ and a ‘Nazi,’ there is a sick irrationality at work in our discourse,” he wrote in 2010 as No Labels steamrolled.

Dionne said compromisers shouldn’t make a “false equivalence between our current ‘left’ and our current ‘right.’ The truth is that the American right is much farther from anything that can fairly be described as ‘the center’ than is the left. Indeed, there is no ‘far left’ to speak of anymore.”

He said Americans must “reject a cult of the center that defines as good anything that can be called bipartisan.”

Right-wing extremism has driven many honorable Republicans out of their party. Tea Party zealots who remain seem rigidly opposed to any compromise. We doubt that the No Labels group led by Sen. Manchin and thoughtful Republican Huntsman will have much luck at persuading them to move back to the middle. However, we wish them success.



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