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West Virginia editorial roundup

November 8, 2017
Associated Press

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:

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Nov. 2

The Charleston Gazette on the opioid crisis as a public health emergency:

So the opioid crisis is a public health emergency now. What does that mean?

When a governor declares a state of emergency, it's not just political theater. It means emergency crews can work around the clock. It has implications for qualifying for federal help.

What does President Trump's recent announcement do for regions like West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, where overdose deaths are killing a generation and running emergency responders off their feet?

It lets states use some federal money they already have and maybe take money from other important public health needs, if you call that a solution.

Also, it lets states tap the federal government's Public Health Emergency Fund.

All $57,000 of it, says Forbes magazine contributor Bruce Y. Lee.

That's all there is in the Public Health Emergency Fund, because Congress stopped putting money in it in 1993.

It's entirely possible that Trump is as horrified as every person who discovers the devastating extent of prescription and illegal drug dependence and death around the country. It is possible that the announcement is a first step of a slow and not particularly adept administration to deal with a real problem. Certainly first lady Melania Trump's recent visit to Huntington is a signal of some kind of concern.

But if anything, so far, the administration and its Congressional enablers have been too eager to exacerbate suffering and death by cutting or disrupting the very things communities depend on to do as well as they are — health care funding, for example.

So, there was a big announcement. Now, where is the substance?

Of course, Congress doesn't need the president to recognize a public health emergency among its own constituents. Congress decides how much money is raised and how it is spent. If members of Congress wanted to give Ohio Valley communities or anyone else the resources needed to get ahead of and begin to shrink this problem, they could do it in a day.

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

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Nov. 2

Charleston Daily Mail on the state Tourism Office obtaining the rights to use the song "Take Me Home, Country Roads" in its marketing efforts:

The loveable hit song that became the unofficial anthem of West Virginia, created a tourism slogan and does wonders for state pride, has come home to the place it belongs — West Virginia.

The state Tourism Office announced last week it obtained the rights to use "Take Me Home, Country Roads" in its marketing efforts.

Without intending to, singer John Denver created a new state motto — Almost Heaven — and an exceptional state marketing tool when he recorded the song, co-written by him, Bill Danoff and Taffy Nivert, in 1971.

West Virginians have claimed the song their own since its release on Denver's fourth album, "Poems, Prayers and Promises."

It's a song that sends warm chills down the backs of West Virginians, and causes joyous singing when heard around the world. Many West Virginians tell stories of trips to far away countries where someone they talk to in that country breaks into the song when they learn the visitor is from our state.

"'Country Roads' has become synonymous with West Virginia all over the world," state Tourism Commissioner Chelsea Ruby said in a news release. "It highlights everything we love about our state: scenic beauty, majestic mountains, a timeless way of life, and most of all, the warmth of a place that feels like home whether you've lived here forever or are just coming to visit.

"When there's a song that millions of people already love and associate with your state, it's an obvious way to promote your tourism industry," Ruby added.

It's a great idea, and a bit of a surprise that no one in the state Tourism office had done it before. The $95,000 cost for the rights wasn't cheap, but can be considered a bargain when you look at the emotional appeal the song can bring and how it can be used in the state's marketing efforts.

Alabama's tourism office is effectively using Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama" in its marketing efforts. Alabama paid $75,000 for the rights in 2014.

"We're looking forward to using 'Country Roads' to remind people of their most positive images of West Virginia and persuade them to give us another look as a travel destination," Ruby said.

The Tourism Office expects to use "Take Me Home, Country Roads" as a centerpiece of a major new ad campaign to be unveiled early next year.

But the Tourism Office and the many state businesses that offer services shouldn't be the only ones who promote tourism, and there is no need to wait for the new campaign next year.

Every West Virginian — Mountain mammas and daddies and kids — who are proud of the state's beauty, uniqueness, and simplicity can get into the act and help bring in visitors — and potential new residents and businesses.

Post pictures of the state's beauty on social media using a hashtag and the song's first two words; #AlmostHeaven.

Make use of the state's investment by sending a link to the new music video that Tourism has created using the song and its emotional appeal. Find it at the state's tourism website: gotowv.com/CountryRoads17.

West Virginia has much to offer. And the state's purchase of the rights to the popular melody, possibly the state's best marketing tool, is a good investment that all West Virginians can use to encourage more people to take our country roads.

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

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Nov. 6

The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register on conflicts of interest involving public officials:

West Virginia is full of small towns and counties in which it can be difficult for public officials to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest.

Sometimes, the best person for a local government job may be related to a municipal or county official. Sometimes, the best, cheapest way to obtain a good or service is from a store owned by a mayor, city council member or county commissioner.

But Mountain State residents have seen too many times bid requests rigged to favor officials' friends or relatives. We have watched too often as nepotism ruled the hiring process, while better qualified people were passed over.

We are rightly suspicious of any appearance of conflicting interests.

Good for the state Ethics Commission for taking firm stands on two recent questions about conflicts, one of which involved a local county.

One case involved Hancock County, where the sheriff's office had requested permission to have its cruisers cleaned at a car wash owned by County Commissioner Jeff Davis.

It was pointed out that the only other car wash in the county required 30 minutes' more in travel time to have cruisers washed. That would make using it more expensive because of gasoline, wear and tear on cruisers and travel time, it was noted.

Ethics commissioners were having none of it. They pointed out that sheriff's cruisers patrol the entire county — meaning they often are in close proximity to the other car wash. So, they ruled, there will be no exemption from the conflict of interest ban on using the commissioner's car wash.

In another case, from Hardy County, the sheriff there wanted to purchase some emergency lights from a business operated by one of his deputies. The deputy's business submitted the low bid, of $4,869.

But the next lowest bid was just $365 more, Ethics Commission staffers pointed out. Commission members refused to provide the conflict of interest exemption sought by the sheriff, because of the deputy's ability to influence the process.

In both situations, local sheriffs appear to have been trying to save their counties a few dollars. There appears to be no reason to suspect anyone involved was attempting to pull a fast one.

Still, the Ethics Commission was right to take a strict view of the situations. Our long, sordid history of corruption in West Virginia requires that to bolster trust in local officials.

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

 
 
 

 

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