Editorial Roundup: West Virginia

Charleston Gazette-Mail. February 13, 2024.

Editorial: Insidious ‘women’s rights’ bill is nothing new

Several of West Virginia’s conservative lawmakers would really like it if they could set back the advancement of LGBTQ rights under the guise of equality toward women.

This is nothing new anywhere conservatives have control, especially in West Virginia, where lawmakers have been trying and, in some instances, succeeding for several years to turn back the clock to some foggy time when all was, apparently, right with the world. It’s a waste of time that could be better spent addressing real problems and, in all honesty, something that is doomed to fail, even if it initially triumphs.

What the “West Virginia Bill of Women’s Rights,” as laid out in House Bill 5243, would really do is codify gender as binary under the eyes of the law in the Mountain State. West Virginia GOP legislators with a supermajority in both chambers have spent the past few years obsessing over marginalizing trans individuals, and this is just the latest permutation of that fixation.

In previous years, the Legislature has made efforts to undo fairness laws passed by West Virginia municipalities, often under deceptive bill titles that invoke concepts like “uniformity in commerce.” Lawmakers also straight-up passed a transgender sports ban and have repeatedly shot down efforts to extend anti-discrimination protection in state code to include sexual preference or gender identity.

Such efforts help entrench the stereotype that West Virginia is a regressive and hostile place.

However, history shows that, while progress isn’t always a straight line, those who embrace such hostility, through deceptive methods or no, eventually lose.

Is this any different from legislative efforts in West Virginia and beyond several years ago to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman? How did that work out? Has anyone checked on Kim Davis lately? Sure, there are people who really don’t like how that has changed. Lawmakers still look for ways to chip away at the freedom and rights for same-sex couples. But, other than prompting one to reckon with the fact that such couples exist, has it really been such a radical shift in people’s daily lives?

What about civil rights and segregation? Few people would willingly say they proudly hurled slurs at Ruby Bridges as she attempted to go into and out of a school building. Perhaps some would admit as much privately, and, again, efforts to chip away at the rights gained for minorities exist in the form of redlining, gerrymandering and raising obstacles to voting. Nothing was solved overnight, but progress continues.

Hate is powerful and it can form alliances and movements, but, ultimately, it is a force of destruction. By its nature, it will eventually fail through its lack of an ability to create or progress. Unfortunately for many in the West Virginia Legislature, and, really, throughout human history, it’s hard to admit to being on the wrong side as these things are happening in the present.

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Parkersburg News and Sentinel. February 13, 2024.

Editorial: Education: Lawmakers must do more to lift West Virginia

For generations, West Virginia has struggled to improve the quality of the education it provides (and, therefore, its prospects for a brighter future). And, for generations, not much has changed. Once again, according to WalletHub’s “Most and Least Educated States in America 2024,” we are dead last.

“Getting a good education doesn’t guarantee high future earnings and better opportunities, but there’s a definite correlation,” said WalletHub analyst Cassandra Happe. “It’s certainly worth living in one of the most educated states, which offer high-quality learning from childhood all the way through the university level. That’s especially true if you plan to raise children.”

We know that — don’t we? Some lawmakers still seem determined to drive our education even further back to the Dark Ages, but the majority of them surely understand how much is riding on doing the best we can for our young people.

Despite knowing we have a significant challenge to overcome, we still seem unable to rise about levels such as 50th for educational attainment and 44th for quality of education. We are 50th for the percentage of associate’s degree holders or college-experienced adults AND for the percentage of bachelor’s degree holders. We are 48th for the number of graduate- or professional-degree holders. We are 47th for average university quality.

That is a pitiful performance from the perspective of those who, as Happe mentioned, are planning where to raise their children. As lawmakers and other public officials continue to pretend their goal is to attract and retain residents, it is mind-boggling to think we’ve done so poorly in reversing this particular trend.

How much more will it take for them to devote their attention to making the changes that will truly lift all West Virginians AND lead to educational quality and attainment that might event attract more.

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The Intelligencer. February 10, 2024.

Editorial: Communication Key for State Projects

What the West Virginia Department of Transportation has here, at least in the eyes of many in the city of Wheeling, is a failure to communicate.

DOT projects can be found throughout the city, from the Downtown Streetscape Project to the repairs at the Wheeling Suspension Bridge. What can’t be found, some claim, is effective communication between the state and city.

That problem was brought up again this past Tuesday. City Councilman Ben Seidler expressed frustration that he learned DOT Secretary Jimmy Wriston believed the time for vehicular traffic on the Suspension Bridge had likely passed from news reports, rather than correspondence from Wriston or the state.

Seidler’s ward includes Wheeling Island. The Suspension Bridge is an important artery connecting the Island to the rest of Wheeling. Having the span open would help cut down on the traffic issues in that area.

“On the topic of communication between the state and the city, we just continue to cry out that we would love some more communication from the state on these types of decisions and have some input on these decisions,” Seidler said. “It’s very disappointing for me as a council member … to find out about this in the news as opposed to some communication directed to us. That’s certainly frustrating. I would hope the DOH would communicate better with us in the future.”

Seidler is correct. The least state officials can do is give city leaders a heads-up on what they’re thinking.

These concerns are nothing new, however. Market Street businesses were frustrated in December and January when sudden road closures forced customers to wind through city side streets to reach their shops. The state failed to communicate the changes properly.

Effective communication is not difficult. It simply takes effort. Have DOT officials learned something that could affect the future of a local road or bridge project? Then they can pick up a phone. They can send an email. They can show local officials the courtesy of keeping them in the loop.

Municipal officials are the ones we trust as point people to have a firm grasp of what’s going on with state-funded projects in their respective cities.

The state needs to keep our city informed. Gov. Jim Justice should remind his department heads to do better.

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