- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

May 11

The Register-Herald, Bleckley, West Virginia, on the United Way:

The United Way of Southern West Virginia does not have the reputation of backing away from challenges.

From easing the plight of people in our pockets of poverty, to helping children, to aiding the elderly, the charity has done so much to make our lives and our community better.

For many people, the funding and the volunteer work the United Way provides often goes mostly unseen - except by those in need who are direct beneficiaries of the organization’s spirit.

But this year, the challenge may be the biggest the organization has faced in some time.

Just off a successful campaign that met a goal of raising $525,000, next year’s ambitious target will be $825,000, a 57-percent increase.

Much of the funding target’s increase is due to the greater area that United Way of Southern West Virginia will be covering.

Following the removal of the tax-exempt status of United Way of the Virginias, United Way Worldwide withdrew its membership last December as financial irregularities were revealed within that chapter. United Way of Southern West Virginia quickly volunteered to expand its reach into Mercer and McDowell counties, and into Bluefield, Va.

Because the needs of the 50 non-profit agencies United Way serves in those areas remain.

The area of coverage expanded, but the United Way of Southern West Virginia is prepared to expand its fundraising into those areas, also.

We have no reason to believe that deserving organizations serving local needs in its traditional areas of operation will have to go without in order for the charity to serve its new charity.

Still, the major increase in its funding goals is an ambitious, and even daunting, undertaking.

A call to serve the needy not just in its traditional areas of operation, but the poor, the sick, the elderly, the children and others in Mercer and McDowell, and in Bluefield, Va.

It’s the right thing.




May 6

The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, threats of school violence:

We’ve heard the reports of those student pranks that go too far. Some shattered windows at one school. The chopping down of trees on another campus.

Harmless fun? Hardly. Both those examples resulted in real damage to school property, and students were punished.

But what about a threat of violence written on a school wall? Perhaps it was meant as a joke, intended only to disrupt school for a day. But if that was the case in two incidents in Cabell County high schools last week, the perpetrators miscalculated badly.

To school officials and law enforcement agencies, such threats simply cannot be viewed as harmless. In this era, after numerous high-profile killings in schools across the country, they must be taken seriously.

That’s what local authorities did last week.

A student at Huntington High School and another at Cabell Midland High School now face felony charges of making terroristic threats.

Some might view the level of charges against these two students as extreme. But threatening violence at a school — where students should be focused on learning rather than worrying about their safety — is indeed worthy of a serious charge, certainly more than a 10-day suspension. While some may view Columbine and Sandy Hook as isolated instances, they are not.

A recent report by the Washington Post spelled out that since the Connecticut killings, 33 shootings have occurred on public school or college campuses, with 12 of those resulting in at least homicide. The context of what’s happened across the nation cannot be ignored, and the consequences for threatening violence in schools should be serious, including the involvement of law enforcement agencies.

In regard to the two Cabell County incidents, we credit both school officials and police for reacting appropriately.

Cabell County Schools officials no doubt have informed their students about the potential consequences of violent threats, whether real or just a lark. However, they may want to review how that message can be reinforced in the future. Students, and their parents, should take note of what has happened in these two cases. Two students face potentially serious black marks on their records — blemishes that could have repercussions for years to come.




May 12

Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail on state taxes, tolls:

One benefit of the worst winter in 35 years is it shined the spotlight on the long neglected problem of maintaining 37,000 miles of state highways.

West Virginia has the sixth-largest such system in the country, and given the terrain and four-season climate, maintenance is very expensive.

Gasoline taxes provide the bulk of the state’s money for roads. The rate of those taxes have not kept pace with inflation.

“There are demographic changes in West Virginia that are lowering the average number of miles driven annually. Nationally, we know the vehicle miles traveled per motorist is down about ten percent. We have these alternative-fueled vehicles that don’t contribute motor fuel excise taxes,” Tom Witt, professor of economics emeritus at West Virginia University, told Metronews.

Witt is a member of the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Highways, which suggested paying for road maintenance with increases in fees at the Department of Motor Vehicles, sales taxes from vehicle repairs and auto parts, continuing tolls on the West Virginia Turnpike, better efficiencies in the road department, and passage of a road bond. The blue-ribbon panel has not issued its final report to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.

These ideas are worthy of discussion, as is increasing the 54 cents per gallon in federal and state taxes on gasoline.

Each idea also has its flaws. After 60 years, residents want to end the Turnpike tolls. Also, raising an already high gasoline tax will lose more sales to neighboring states. And issuing a bond — borrowing money — in the long run diverts money from road construction and maintenance to interest on the bonds.

Still, officials must find a way for the third-oldest and second-poorest people in the nation to finance the care of the sixth-largest network of roads. Perhaps increases in road taxes can be offset by reductions in other taxes.

Everything needs to be on the table in discussing this.



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