- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


Feb. 27

The Intelligencer advocates for cutting waste instead of increasing taxes to fund teachers’ pay raises:

There they go again, talking in terms of a tax increase being the only way to provide more money to meet a pressing need in West Virginia.

Actually, there he goes again. “He” is Gov. Jim Justice, who tried unsuccessfully on Monday to convince striking school personnel to go back to work.

Justice held mass meetings in three cities - Wheeling, Martinsburg and Morgantown - on Monday, inviting school teachers and service personnel to discuss the work stoppage that began last Thursday morning.

“You need to be back in the classroom. The kids need to be back in the classroom,” the governor told teachers gathered Monday morning at Wheeling Park High School.

It didn’t work. By mid-afternoon, officials of the state’s two teachers’ unions had announced the strike would continue today. It was uncertain whether the service personnel organization walkout would continue.

During his stop in Wheeling, the governor attempted to hold out a carrot to the unions. He said he would be willing to call a special session of the Legislature to consider increasing severance taxes on natural gas and oil. The unions have pushed for such an increase to provide money for salary increases in excess of the 4 percent over three years already approved.

To his credit, Justice pointed out to the teachers and service personnel that lawmakers have shown no interest in higher severance taxes. Still, he held out the prospect of a special session on the matter.

Why not a special session on reducing waste and inefficiency in state government? Why not use that avenue to provide money for a better pay raise?

Why, when the state needs money, is the answer almost always higher taxes and/or fees?

Because the bureaucrats in Charleston have found that if they use the kicking and screaming approach to any attempt to make them more efficient and less wasteful, it will go away. Governors and legislators don’t want to annoy the bureaucrats.

Perhaps taxpayers - along with the many West Virginia parents upset their children have missed school because of the strike - should adopt the same strategy.

Online: http://www.theintelligencer.net/


Feb. 27

The Parkersburg News and Sentinel on the lack of novelty in the Appalachian Regional Commission’s findings on coal:

It is a good thing taxpayer money goes toward funding the Appalachian Regional Commission. Why, what would we do without a federal agency that, in January 2018, finally lets us know coal production has fallen in Appalachia by 45 percent, since 2005; and - brace yourselves - other Appalachian industries are affected both directly and indirectly by the decline in coal production and employment.

But the ARC is not done.

“We’re really excited about this study because it’s one of the first comprehensive ones that we’ve seen that looks at the impact of the changing coal economy along the supply chain,” Wendy Wasserman, communication and media relations director, said.

In fact, according to the report, “Displaced workers will need to seek alternative employment opportunities that may entail investments in formal education and training, and this takes both time and resources.”

But, “As the economic base suffers, state and local governments will see their capacity to fund education weaken as well.”

Among factors contributing to this state of affairs are a shift away from the use of coal, caused by “the decline in natural gas prices and increasing environmental concerns, along with the age of the capital stock .”

Note its use, being a federal agency, of the word “concerns,” rather than “regulations.” But the point is the same.

No one actually living in Appalachia has been unaware of these and many other points in the report for more than a decade now. We have been shouting it all from the hilltops, as it were.

And, by the way, to be fair the report is actually a collection of work done by West Virginia University and The University of Tennessee, for which the ARC paid handsomely. At least, in this case, those taxpayer dollars made their way back . to two more public institutions.

Is it too much to hope that the slapping of the name of a federal agency onto this document might bend a few more ears in Washington, D.C., that have not been bent by the wailing of those living through this; or that someone, somewhere might do more than simply shake their heads and say “What a shame?” Is it too much to hope, now that the ARC appears to be aware of the problem, someone outside our beautiful states might start looking for solutions?

Online: http://www.newsandsentinel.com/


Feb. 25

The Journal of Martinsburg calls for a conversation on suicide and mental health:

The suicide rate in Jefferson County is 11.9 per 100,000 people; in Berkeley County, 18.8 and in Morgan County, 20.3, according to statistics reported last week in a Journal article.

One suicide is too many.

Although numbers can reveal important relationships and realities, it’s important to look beyond the statistics.

“We can’t get caught up in statistics - it’s not about a number,” said Barrie Faucett, director of Prevent Suicide West Virginia, in a Journal article published Tuesday. “It’s about people who are saved. That’s what keeps me going.”

Faucett’s right. Suicide is preventable. We’re not talking about individuals who should magically be able to cure themselves. We’re talking about communities that need to be smarter about mental health.

Though strides have been made toward better understanding the underlying causes of mental health - it’s not enough.

Ninety percent of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder at the time of their deaths, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. There is treatment available to help those suffering from the underlying health issues that put many at risk for suicide.

But many people never seek help.


Mental health is less taboo than it was 10 or 20 years ago, but no one wants to admit they have a problem. The stigma associated with mental health, unfortunately deters many from coming forward or seeking help.

Many may try to “will” themselves better. But depression is more than feeling sad, and a person battling depression or other mental health issues cannot “fix” themselves. No one would expect a person with a heart condition to treat themselves. Illnesses of the brain - though much more difficult to understand and explain - are no different.

Suicide most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering a mental health condition, AFSP reports. So, finding ways to help those suffering should be at the top of our list. That includes reducing the stigma surrounding mental health.

Talking about mental health, though awkward, should be easier. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. For every suicide, there are 25 attempts, according to AFSP.

While those battling depression and mental health issues may feel alone, these statistics show they are anything but.

As a society, we need to talk more openly about mental health.

The conversation is long overdue.

Online: http://www.journal-news.net/

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