We’ve all heard the expression: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Well, certain members of the West Virginia legislature need to realize—“it is broken,”— so, fix it.
This year’s legislative session, which has been described by the Charleston Gazette as the “Worst Session in 27 Years,” has accomplished very little in regard to the real problems our state is facing—jobs, education and funding for highway repairs; not to mention a huge budget deficit. This republican led bunch concentrated on the passage of such things as the sale of raw milk, which defeats the reason for pasteurization, and trying to keep our school children from knowing about what scientists are saying about climate change and global warming. Of course, if things go as planned by our leaders, anybody 21 years-old or older can legally hide their pistol in their underwear as they stop to pick up a six-pack of beer on their way to Sunday morning church services. Now, there’s real progress for you. Just watch out for those “tire bursting” holes on your drive to your favorite house of worship.
Seriously, folks, I’m normally an optimist by nature, and I always try to look at the bright side of the picture. But, damn, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m almost certain it is an oncoming train. Gridlock in our government—at both the state and federal levels—is getting us nowhere fast. I believe it is all of this gridlock that is leading frustrated voters to rebel; Donald Trump’s huge popularity being a prime example of voters willing to take a chance on anything. Mostly anger has fueled the political fires that keep him a “hot” commodity as a presidential possibility. Who knows? Maybe he really can turn this country around. Admittedly, some of his ideas sound great, except the wall building thing. That, to me, is just ridiculous. But if it gets built, we will probably use immigrant workers to do it. Heck, they already are being used to build just about everything else; examples being Wal-Mart stores and just about every new hotel, etc. at places like Myrtle Beach and other areas all across the nation. Union jobs are being rapidly done away with in far too many places.
I’m not blaming our local delegation for our current problems. And I’m certainly not saying that Governor Tomblin hasn’t tried to reel some of these hard-headed mostly up-state legislators back into reality. It’s just that some of these folks in other areas don’t seem to care what happens to the rest of us in southern West Virginia. And we are hurting profusely. I mean, for years, the “zillions” of tax dollars created from coal mining has funded the roads, bridges and schools of all of West Virginia. What would Logan County look like if the tax dollars generated here were all used here, instead of being spread throughout our mountain state?
Sometimes it is not the passage of bills that hurts our people. In many instances, it is the lack of passing bills that frustrates us. Consider this example. The State Auditor’s office decided last year it was necessary to change the way state employees get paid. Instead of getting paid the last day of the month and the middle of the month, employees will be paid bi-weekly, which will affect those many people who have automatic electronic bank deductions to pay certain bills. It also means that state employees will see a 7.69% decrease in their pay checks, although this supposedly will be made up with the final paycheck of each year.
Well, a bill was introduced in the legislature to require state employees’ pay to stay semi-monthly, and even though the West Virginia Supreme Court supported this bill with a letter of endorsement, it did not pass. There were a host of bills too numerous to list that went absolutely nowhere, and that left many of us in “nowhere” land. I plan on looking into every bill and at each and every vote that was cast for or against any measure. I feel voters need to know what’s going on in Charleston, as well as in Washington. I mean, heck, there were some bills and laws which directly affect the three magistrates of Logan County, but nobody bothered to ask any one of us what our thoughts were, although I made numerous state senators aware of one bill that I believe all magistrates were in favor of because it would stop the abuse of the Department of Motor Vehicles. As the law stands, people’s constitutional rights following certain trials were being violated, even when they were found not guilty in a jury trial. I’ve yet to hear about what happened there, but I understand the DMV showed up to plea its case.
The failure to provide funding for roadwork by raising some needed taxes means our roads, which are already in pretty bad shape, will probably get nothing more than patchwork for the coming summer, and that’s not exactly an enticing factor to bring visitors to the state.
Like others, it is easy for me to sit here and complain. And, although I wouldn’t want to be a part of the legislative mess we have, I appreciate our local elected officials, many of whom have fought an uphill battle in Charleston. I’m just afraid that southern West Virginia counties like Logan are rapidly becoming the “orphan” counties of the state. And we deserve so much better. Since the early 1900’s our rugged coal miners have paid the price to help preserve America’s freedom in many different ways, including death. We cannot abandon our miners of the past, or the present, and I really don’t believe we have. Perhaps, though, people just need reminded. Please consider the following.
From 1931 throughout World War II and beyond, West Virginia bituminous coal production led the nation. In fact, nine counties, better described as the “throne of the inland empire of fuel and power” consisted of Logan, Mingo, Boone, Wyoming, McDowell, Raleigh, Kanawha, Fayette and Mercer. Together these counties produced 18.6 % of national production during the height of the nation’s war in 1942. Coal from this area at that time paid $165,000,000 wages to 80,000 coal miners. Think about it: 80,000. And that was with most of the qualifying men fighting in the war itself.
In 1942—to give you an idea of the amount of coal produced—a train pulling 100 loaded cars ran every 15 minutes during that year in the coal fields, with Sundays being the only exceptions.
The 2016 forecast for coal production in West Virginia is projected to be half of the 2008 levels. Obviously, we truly face unparalleled challenges in our ravaged county. But our history tells us that we wore born out of a fiercely independent and hard fighting people, who are willing to work just as hard as we live. Because of this, I have enormous respect for our history and even more hope for our future.
We will endure and most certainly survive—even this year’s legislative session.
As one Democrat legislator put it, “I’ve been there for close to 30 years, and I’ve never seen us leave without balancing the budget. This is unbelievable.”
Call them all back in Earl Ray. It’s special session time.
BITS and PIECES
Anybody find it ironic that five of the state’s best coal producing counties of the past also have been found to be the least healthy?…..a recent national County Health Rankings report says McDowell, Wyoming, Mingo, Logan and Mercer round out the bottom of this year’s state list…..the report looks at factors that influence health, and is done for people in all counties of America…..the report also showed that two-thirds of people who lived in rural areas tend to live shorter lives than residents of urban and suburban areas…..while speaking of life and death, I sadly report the very recent deaths of some fine people I knew…..Carrie (Williamson) Browning, 95, is the mother of one of the finest neighbors one could have, Virgil Browning…..Mrs. Browning lived a long and beneficial life…..another longtime friend, Belva Napier, also passed, and I send my condolences to her family members, all of whom, I consider as good friends of mine…..another friend and old softball playing buddy, Johnny Meade of Whitman, also left us way too early just the other day…..Johnny was a slick fielding outfielder on various talented Whitman League teams during the 70’s and 80’s, and is a brother to another softball talent, Bob Meade…..of course, most everyone is aware of the passing of Logan County Board of Education member, Jim Frye…..at Jim’s visitation last Friday, there were long lines of people there to pay respects and to console his wife, Melissa, and family…..Jim once took the time to visit me at my home about a situation the School Board was facing, and I always appreciated him for that…..he and his wife seemed to be everywhere I went four years ago when we were on the campaign trail…..the county has lost a very multi-talented individual in Jim, who will be greatly missed…..while at the West Logan church for services that evening, Logan Middle School principal, Ernestine Sutherland, said she enjoyed reading my ramblings, and wanted me to know that in a recent listing of top Logan High School basketball players of the past, I should have mentioned the late Toddy Porter, who was a big star at LHS during his playing days…..I was far too young to have seen him play, but I’m told he was one of the best ever for the ‘Cats….I’ve also read microfilm files on the talents of former LHS star Jerry Hainer, another big name I somehow forgot to mention a few weeks back…..speaking of basketball, I also ran into former WV State Trooper Glen Ables at Jim Frye’s wake…..Glen, a rather talented basketball star in the old ABA league many years ago, wanted me to know that he too was present at the Rolling Stones concert in Columbus that my wife and I attended about a year ago…..Ables said he has always been a “huge” Stones fan…..I wonder how many other Logan County people were there…..I do know that Dr. Ed White told me, after he saw the story I wrote about the concert, that he had traveled to see the group on their American tour when the Stones were in Pittsburgh not long after the Ohio concert…..one place I’ve got to recommend music lovers to visit as a relatively inexpensive trip or vacation is the Rock ‘ n Roll Museum in Cleveland…..of course, one should get there before the Republican Convention this summer because it will be a dangerous place to be at that time…..DID YOU KNOW that the last date to register to vote is April 19th, or that back in the days of the old Monitor Drive-In theatre “buck night” was every Thursday night when for $1 as many people as could get into a vehicle all got in to see the movie for just a buck…..still, some of us got in by hiding in the trunk of a car….those were the days, my friend…..FINAL NOTE: Having gone through many elections before, I can tell you that this one is already very interesting. There are a bunch of really impressive candidates in the field, and it will be interesting how voters look at each candidate to decide the issue of whom to cast their ballot for. I tell people this who decides to run for office: “You will find out some people you thought were real friends are really just acquaintances, while some people you thought were mere acquaintances—and maybe you took for granted—are really “true” friends. Good luck to all.
Dwight Williamson is a contributing writer and a former reporter for The Logan Banner. He currently serves as a Logan County Magistrate.