- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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Feb. 13

Charleston Gazette on the requirement that legal notices for public meetings and other issues appear in the newspaper:

Over the next three years, the heaviest-traveled intersection in all of West Virginia, Jefferson Road and Corridor G in South Charleston, is going to go through major changes. More than $5 million will be spent as the road is widened, an overpass is installed to go over rail tracks and all manner of other developments take shape.



Those developments, project timelines and other issues are discussed at public meetings for anyone who has questions or input. Those public meetings are advertised in the Gazette-Mail, as required by law.

What if one of the largest projects in West Virginia, affecting an area millions of motorists travel through, was completely planned, designed and signed off without informing the public in any way?

Some West Virginia lawmakers may soon introduce a bill to eliminate the requirement for legal notices to appear in the newspaper of record for communities across the state.

Consider all of the aspects of daily life that are impacted by new business developments, changes in government regulations or even decisions about public utility fees. Right now, such proposals must be published in legal notices so the public can remain informed about things that will affect them.

In 2018, there were 160 bills introduced in governments across the country seeking to modify legal notifications in newspapers or end them completely, according to the nonprofit Public Notice Resource Center. Fortunately, few of them passed.

The Gazette-Mail and other West Virginia newspapers, large and small, make money from legal advertisements. The bigger picture, though, is that it makes sense for a neutral third party to publish these notices. Try navigating a state or municipal government website, and see if you can find what you’re looking for quickly. Some are better than others, but many aren’t updated frequently and don’t display prominent information in easy-to-find places.

Now consider that agency had no legal obligation to inform the public about a change via the local newspaper. There’s now nothing on their end binding them to make sure you can find the information you’re looking for, and some entities could be tempted to intentionally make it difficult to find.

The internet is a great tool, but only if properly used. Factor into that West Virginia’s average population age and spotty access to broadband internet in some areas of the state, and the local paper remains the best way to get this information out where citizens can choose to read it or not. Eliminating the requirement would negate that choice in many cases.

If anything, government transparency should be increased. In no circumstances should it be reduced. If such a bill passed in West Virginia, that’s exactly what would happen. Legal notices in newspapers should continue to be required in order to keep citizens well informed.

Online: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/

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Feb. 12

Charleston Daily Mail on education and social issues:

From listening to testimony from members of the education establishment during public hearings on reform Monday in the Legislature, it sounds like educators in West Virginia cannot make a single move to improve schools until everything else in West Virginia is fixed.

Opioid crisis? “Fix that and then we’ll make schools better.”

Poverty at home? “Fix that and then we can adopt ideas to make schools better.”

Kids with little or no parental guidance at home? “Resolve all social issues and then we can really educate students well.”

NEWS FLASH: The Legislature consists of elected men and women, mere mortals, not miracle workers. They can’t magically make social issues disappear.

To the educators’ credit, the issues they bring up are consuming considerable time and energy of teachers and counselors and administrators. Those issues disrupt the ability of educators to teach students who don’t come to school with those issues. And we’d all like to see those social problems fixed to improve many things in our towns, counties, state, nation and world.

But they are as much a fact of modern life as cellphones and the internet, and West Virginia can’t use those issues as excuses for not making strong efforts to innovate with new educational ideas and improve education opportunities and outcomes for all students in West Virginia’s public schools.

In fact, the issues the education establishment brings up to oppose change are all the more reason to adopt concepts new to West Virginia, like charter schools and education savings accounts, that give taxpaying parents more choice in where they send their children to school.

The state’s student body is much more diverse than it was when the current system of county school boards was implemented in the 1930s. The state’s social problems are much different than they were then.

Hence, education choice and innovation is needed now more than ever. But the education establishment wants to force students and parents into the same one-size-fits-all education philosophy that was employed in their parents’ grandparents’ time.

Other states have many of the same social issues as West Virginia, but they are improving their education systems. Why must West Virginia continue to be an outlier and resist innovations to education?

Online: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/

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Feb. 13

Bluefield Daily Telegraph on state lawmaker Eric Porterfield’s comments about the LGBTQ community:

A sideshow spotlighted by venomous words and undercurrents of intolerance has surrounded the West Virginia Legislature this past week. It is a display of disparagement and incivility that must end, and we believe that begins with an immediate apology by Mercer County Delegate Eric Porterfield.

The controversy began after reports were published of Porterfield’s criticisms last week of the LGBTQ community in a House committee meeting, when he referred to them as “bigots” and “socialists.”

Porterfield, the founder of Blind Faith Ministries, supported an amendment that would not have allowed municipalities in the state to give gays and other members of the LGBTQ community anti-discrimination protection as a protected class.

Porterfield later referred to the group as “brutal monsters” and the “modern era Ku Klux Klan” after a caller left a message in his Charleston office that he wanted to fight him, calling him a “f…g coward.”

As a public figure, Porterfield should acknowledge and accept that divisive comments and inflammatory name calling will draw fire. But instead of promptly apologizing for his extremist views rife with belligerence and inappropriate nouns, he stepped even further across the line with a KKK reference.

It’s unbelievable, unacceptable and inexcusable.

Porterfield’s comments have drawn criticism from both political parties.

West Virginia Democratic Party Chairwoman Belinda Biafore has called for Porterfield’s resignation. “West Virginia has no room for someone who expresses such hate. Let alone room for him to hold a public office where he is supposed to represent the people of West Virginia. His hate-filled remarks and actions speak volumes . “

State Republican Party Chairwoman Melody Potter said Monday in a statement that Porterfield’s comments were “hateful, hurtful, and do not reflect the values of our country, our state, and the Republican Party.”

Porterfield’s remarks have also drawn censure from fellow Mercer County Republican delegates John Shott and Joe Ellington.

Shott called Porterfield’s comments “much too extreme,” and said, “I don’t accept his categorization of that group nor do I think it’s productive to call anyone names when you are trying to advance the goals of the party. It’s not a productive approach to solving problems.”

Porterfield has remained unapologetic during this embarrassing display of juvenile verbiage that harkens back to a day of foul-mouthed, high-school bathroom talk.

Instead of owning up to his belligerent backtalk, he has doubled down, and is now using the hate cast in his direction to paint himself as a martyr on the conservative cross.

We aren’t buying it.

Conservative views are not the issue here. Instead, it is Porterfield’s crass and insensitive comments that use a broad brush to insult an entire community with ugly, inflammatory words.

We do not condone the threats made against Porterfield, his family and his church. Violence is never an answer. Instead, we must rise above the hate-filled speech to demonstrate that kinder words can prevail during debate and disagreement.

The role of a lawmaker is one of dignity and distinction. Porterfield’s actions have fallen far below that mark. He has embarrassed his home county and those who elected him to office.

We call on him to immediately apologize to the people of Mercer County and all others across the Mountain State. He owes specific contrition to those in the LGBTQ community.

If Delegate Porterfield refuses to own up to his inexcusable comments with the words “I’m sorry,” then a resignation is in order.

Either way, he needs to take immediate action in a good faith effort to begin making amends.

The clock is ticking. And the people of West Virginia are waiting.

Online: https://www.bdtonline.com/

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