West Virginia editorial roundup - InfoNews

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West Virginia editorial roundup

April 11, 2018 - 9:47 AM

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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April 6

The Charleston Gazette on Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's criticism of Washington:

Republicans on the national level campaigned for so long as the party of "no," offering roadblock after roadblock instead of actually working to govern the country. Now that they're in charge, they don't know how to campaign otherwise.

The latest example is the online advertisement released this week by Patrick Morrisey, West Virginia attorney general and U.S. Senate candidate. The ad shows Seneca Rocks being lifted off the ground, levitating to Washington and literally crushing the U.S. Capitol — the very place where Morrisey wants voters to send him.

If Morrisey doesn't like the direction of the country, he can join other Republican officeholders and take a look in the mirror.

When Morrisey campaigns against "Washington," who does he mean? Does he not like Donald Trump? Or Shelley Moore Capito? Or Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan?

The only politician's face in the ad besides Morrisey is Barack Obama, who hasn't been in Washington for more than a year. But apparently, that's the only song Morrisey knows how to play.

The truth is, Morrisey and those like him have no real philosophy of government, other than they want to use it for their own ends when possible, and dismantle it otherwise.

If that means big companies are able to take advantage of their workers, or polluters can contaminate the air that West Virginians breathe and the water that they drink, or giant pharmaceutical companies can ship millions of painkillers to small towns, well, so be it.

This ad reeks of desperation from Morrisey, who is fighting a tough GOP Senate primary against current congressman Evan Jenkins and former Massey Energy CEO and convicted criminal Don Blankenship.

It's clearly designed to shock. "Let's blow up Washington," Morrisey says.

Does he need to be reminded that Washington, D.C., was a target of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001? Or that the Capitol may have been the target of the one hijacked plane that failed to complete the terrorists' mission? Apparently, he does; it seems unlikely he would have destroyed the Capitol, even in hyperbolic jest, if he remembered it.

To be fair, though, blowing up Washington would at least mean a financial hit for the Morrisey household — since his wife works there as a high-priced lobbyist, just as Morrisey himself used to do.

To top things off, Morrisey misspelled "West Virginia" in the ad. (And no, he didn't misspell it as "New Jersey.")

Morrisey and the people running his campaign clearly believe this type of scorched-earth advertising works, or they wouldn't do it. West Virginia voters should show him they're better than he thinks.

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

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April 6

The Register-Herald on Amtrak's decision to end involvement with privately owned charter trains:

Last week, Amtrak President Richard Anderson announced a policy change that - no way to sugarcoat this - spells trouble for Hinton's Railroad Days. Without warning or notice to affected parties, the railroad chief ordered the immediate end of Amtrak's involvement with privately owned charter trains.

Those charters - in Hinton's case, running round-trip from Huntington during the four-day festival over two weekends in October - are instrumental to the success of the annual celebration, bringing tourists to town to the tune of an estimated $2 million economic impact.

Anderson, given the challenge of balancing the books at Amtrak, needs to rescind his own decree and give the issue a fair and open public hearing. Acting by fiat is easy, of course, and effective in authoritative regimes, but works less well in democracies where the concerns of taxpayers and stakeholders up and down the line ought to be heard.

Let the record show that Rep. Evan Jenkins - to his credit - is on board with the interests in his 3rd Congressional District. Stating the obvious, that Anderson's decision would hurt the state's tourism industry, Jenkins penned a letter to Anderson, asking the Amtrak boss to reverse his decision.

According to the Collis P. Huntington Railroad Historical Society, the New River Train - based in Huntington - brings an estimated $5 million in tourism revenue to the state including what Hinton sees.

Additionally, proceeds from the train trips help pay for about $5,000 in scholarships for Hinton area students.

A million dollars here, a million dollars there, may not seem like a windfall for a bureaucrat stuck in an air-conditioned office in D.C., but out here in The Mountain State, the dollars have a meaningful impact - for the town and for students eager to further their education.

On top of that, the festival is just flat-out enjoyable, a welcome distraction from daily routines and nagging problems.

For two weekends in the fall, the streets of Hinton fill with a variety of food vendors, live entertainment and carriage rides through the town's Historic District. The Railroad Museum gets a chance to shine, showcasing model railroad and John Henry exhibits.

The festival is a piece of Americana, a connection to a glorious railroad past in the Summers County town that has seen its population decline by about half since 1960. An estimated 5,000 people - twice the population of the town - visit each day of the festival, strolling up and down Temple Street and spending money as they go.

If state officials are as dead serious as they say they are about supporting tourism and attracting outsiders to show off our state's good side, they need to be all in on twisting the federal government's arm on this matter.

We understand the financial challenge in operating Amtrak. Despite President Donald Trump's plan to trim expenditures to $630 million, Congress stepped up and allocated $1.3 billion.

But we also know that Amtrak enjoyed a ridership record in 2016 and posted the lowest operating loss in its history. We know, too, that private charters around the country make money for the company - about $10 million a year for minimal effort on Amtrak's part.

So why the hurry all of a sudden?

Just when you think West Virginia is capturing some wind in its economic sails, the federal government seems intent on poking holes in the sheets and burying any ounce of optimism.

At the very least, Amtrak needs to show some common courtesy - and give taxpayers a chance to weigh in.

Online: http://www.register-herald.com/

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April 9

The Exponent Telegram on the economy of the state's capital region:

For generations, Charleston and the Kanawha Valley have been somewhat of an economic oasis in West Virginia. While much of the state suffered during the boom and bust cycles of coal during the '60s and '70s, our capital city was always somewhat immune to the worst of the economic downturns.

Certainly, part of the reason has been that Charleston is the state capital and, therefore, the centre of state government. As a result, thousands of state workers are employed in the capital. Add in all the various state agencies with employees and offices located across the state that are tied to various departments (Commerce, Education, Transportation, Health and Human Resources, etc.) and the economic impact is multiplied even more.

In addition, during the annual legislative session, elected officials from all across the state call Charleston their home away from home. Add in lobbyists and citizens groups and it seems at one time or another everyone is making the trek to the state capital.

But government is just the foundation for Charleston and the Kanawha Valley's economy.

Certainly energy — coal and natural gas — have played a huge role in shaping the region's economy. The abundance of power led to the development of a robust chemical industry that led to the Kanawha Valley being known as "The Chemical Valley of the World."

Today, the chemical industry in Kanawha County is a shadow of its former self. There is hope that downstream industries from Marcellus Shale gas development may reignite chemical and plastics manufacturing in the Kanawha Valley. And there is plenty of room to restore the industry's growth.

Charleston has also long been a retail hub for much of the state. Many of West Virginia's leading department store chain's (Stone & Thomas and Heck's) called Charleston home. And what was once a bustling downtown fell on hard times with the advent of shopping malls.

But once again, Charleston persevered with the construction of the three-story Charleston Town Center Mall located in the heart of downtown Charleston. Like the rest of the nation, online shopping led by Amazon has taken its toll.

Tourism and entertainment have also been central to the city's economy. With the Charleston Civic Center serving as the featured venue for sporting events, concerts and trade shows, the facility lured visitors, which serves to support scores of hotels and restaurants in the city.

Add in the arts via the Clay Center and the amenities that the Kanawha River and outdoor recreation provides and Charleston continues to be a destination location. All of which makes the multi-million dollar expansion and renovation of the Charleston Civic Center so important to the economic recovery of the region.

Perhaps one of the more troubling signs is the poor financial health of Charleston's two largest health-care providers — CAMC and Thomas Healthcare. As the payer mix moves to more Medicaid, Medicare and PEIA — each with lower reimbursement rates than private insurance pays, it presents a challenge to both hospital systems' bottom lines. That has triggered layoffs despite the increased demand for quality health care needed by an aging population.

Contrast this with WVU Medicine, which operates in North Central West Virginia, Parkersburg and the Eastern Panhandle, where economic growth and prosperity result in more private insurance and higher reimbursements paid for services rendered. It's a key indicator that the economy in Charleston and the Kanawha Valley has taken a turn for the worse.

Add in the fact that Class A office space in Charleston has a decreasing occupancy rate that has been trending downward for the better part of a decade and the challenges continue to add up — lawyers, accountants, architects, engineering firms and corporate offices and branches have all seen a reduced presence in Charleston in recent years.

What is ailing Charleston is also hurting much of the rest of the state — we are simply losing population. It is difficult to attract investment and growth when the market is declining and there is a lack of a qualified workforce that can pass a drug test willing and able to work.

Fortunately, many dedicated community, business and government leaders are working hand-in-hand to make Charleston "Great Again."

Regardless of political affiliation or personal agendas, that must be a focal point moving forward.

As the state's capital, Charleston is the city non-residents think of when in West Virginia — that and Morgantown.

Right now, the northern city is booming, but the capital isn't. That needs to change.

Online: https://www.wvnews.com/

News from © The Associated Press, 2018
The Associated Press

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