The City Pays More Than Its Fair Share

The residents and the businesses of the City of Morgantown pay more than their fair share for the greater Morgantown area, as they have for decades.

The City of Morgantown pays for the bulk of the greater Morgantown area park system. There is no county park (that is, non-city park) remotely close to the tens of thousands of non-city residents (let alone city residents) concentrated along and around the City of Morgantown. Nor is there a single county (non-city) park near any of the area cities (Granville, Star City, Westover). And there is certainly no nearby county (non-city) park for the city-size population clusters of Cheat Lake and Brookhaven. Nor is there any county (non-city) park next to most of the many smaller settlements throughout the county. It’s a scandal. A scandalous lack throughout the county.

(Annexation aside, it’s a particularly cruel crime that there is no park of any sort, certainly not a county (non-city) park, next to the thousands of people in and around crowded Brookhaven. Annexing or self-incorporating (and how about with some county encouragement and help this time?) of Brookhaven, also Cheat Lake, are next needed steps during or after initial rounds of City of Morgantown annexations.)

Of course the City of Morgantown pays for far more than the bulk of the greater Morgantown area park system.

The City of Morgantown pays also for the bulk of the area library system.

The City of Morgantown also pays for the largest area professional fire fighting force, and the largest area professional police force.

The City pays for many cultural activities and quality of life services and safety features (including zoning not least that benefits anyone who comes into the city, or even the general area) and for many area social services. Guess who heavily uses or otherwise benefits from all of this that the city pays for? City residents of course, but also “county” non-city residents, especially the concentrated populations of “county” non-city residents who live along or not far outside the City borders.

Should non-city residents be banned from frequenting and using the City of Morgantown parks? and libraries? and cultural events: parades, festivals, childrens’ events? Of course not. Should nearby non-city residents and businesses contribute to the upkeep of these city qualities since they are essentially urban residents and urban businesses benefiting from City services, amenities, infrastructure, and quality of life that the City pays to create, maintain, and improve? Of course they should. Of course the adjacent non-city concentrations of residents and businesses should be annexed. Forward thinking cities go so far as to annex even miles of farmland and forest around them, and for good reason.

Near-city “county” non-city residents benefit from the parks, the library, the public services and events, all the various public infrastructure, including roads, and the professional city police and fire services when in city (and indirectly when not). All these features, amenities, and public structure help make the City as livable as it is, including temporarily for visitors from far away, but especially for both the city and the non-city residents and businesses who live and profit in close proximity.

People living in concentrated urban areas along and around the city are a de facto, indivisible part of the City already, but no portion of their property taxes goes to the city, no fire fee, and none of these essentially urban but technically non-city businesses pay any B&O tax to the City (nor to anyone else). B&O (Business and Occupation) taxes make up about half the city budget, along with the much smaller portion of property tax. It’s crucial to area, county, and regional quality of life, often directly, often indirectly.

These essentially urban but technically non-city residents and businesses fail to support the City that they profit off of and benefit from, unlike, unfairly, the residents and businesses who happen to fall within the crazy crooked county controlled city boundary. It’s unfair. It’s destructive. It’s unhealthy. Lack of annexation financially and socially guts the city and the larger area. It’s wrong. People and businesses in the City already pay everything that “county” non-city residents pay, because City residents are County residents too. But the residents and businesses – the owners – of greater Morgantown who happen to live (barely) outside the City boundaries don’t pay to upkeep what they already benefit from, and what they use, and wear and tear on, and are an indivisible part of already.

Business interests cry “Wolf!” in saying that the City is acting unfairly to annex, when in fact it is these non-city “county” business interests who have a wolf-like unfair advantage over city businesses who already pay the B&O tax that helps the city be much more livable and prosperous than it would otherwise be.

Opposing annexation deprives both the greater Morgantown area and the entire County of the tremendous economic stimulus that would be created by improved City spending on area infrastructure, police, fire, parks, libraries, and social services. Annexation creates good jobs and improves wages, including among city workers. Opposing annexation reduces job growth and depresses wages, limits quality of life zoning, along with many other measures of quality of life, for the city and the county both.

Opposing annexation has for decades starved the public of badly needed improved funding, and has also for decades maintained the unjust status quo of unfair competition by non-city businesses who pay no B&O tax to the City nor to anyone at all, not even to the County or to the State. At least with City B&O taxes, the funds are largely spent locally, on local people, including local businesses, for local infrastructure and services that benefit everyone, businesses and business interests included.

Asking if someone is in in favor of “forced annexation” – especially given the crazy crooked borders between Morgantown and non-city Monongalia County – is like asking if someone is in favor of forced desegregation.

It’s fair annexation. Fair and just. A fair boundary adjustment.

Asking if someone is in favor of “forced annexation” – especially given the crazy crooked borders between Morgantown and non-city Monongalia County – is like asking if someone is in favor of forcing businesses to pay at least minimum wage.

It’s fair annexation. Fair and just. A fair boundary adjustment.

The sudden cries for direct participation – led mostly by the wealthy and their media and fellow travelers, claiming that anything else would be wrong – are comical because the business class has lost in the last dozen or so years some of its domination of local government (the City Council), and so now is trying to go around the government they for so long controlled to brainwash people once again into siding with the interests of wealth (they own the area media and also through advertising sustain and have plenty of power to control it, so they have a big megaphone). The wealthy would pay the vast majority of annexation taxes, after all. (Business and wealth taxes also pay for the majority of any levies, thus the frothing opposition to otherwise publicly popular levies, which are limited duration extra property taxes for public needs. Well, who owns most of the property of value that is taxed in city or county for any levy?: the wealthy, whether businesses or otherwise.) So the ideologues of wealth and their fellow travelers are trying to stop annexation by calling it unfair and calling for what they oppose to be decided outside of the City Council, which is a popular body close to the people and public needs that was recently yet again overwhelmingly elected and re-elected.

The City Council, unlike the County Commission, is much closer to neighborhoods, to communities, to people in general, literally, politically, socially, and economically, and is much more responsive to the people, not least given the mere two year terms. The wealthy interests of the area are desperately trying to protect their lapdogs on the County Commission from having to face a vote so plainly against the public of Morgantown and the City of Morgantown’s potential annexation requests, a vote that would also be plainly against the interests of the county – in fact against the entire region – as a whole. The wealthy owners of the area – and their fellow travelers – can take comfort in the fact that they apparently still almost totally dominate the mindset of the three County Commissioners, who have final say over the annexation decisions, and who therefore should all be swept out of office at the earliest opportunity, over the issue of annexation not least but not solely.

Good, strong, and popular governments build thriving communities, economies, and societies. The public should continue working to build good and strong government, and not allow it to be torn down, not allow it to be stopped from progressing, not allow it to continue to be cut off at the knees by those who would profiteer. The City Council is moving forward, while the County Commission too often goes backward, or nowhere fast.

The City of Morgantown can apparently also take credit for the people of the so-called “no man’s land” recently asking to be annexed into Star City. Morgantown’s annexation efforts seemingly functioned to get them moving. They should be in a city, long since. It doesn’t matter which one. Being in a city gives them much stronger representation and power in local government and allows them to be like their neighbors and fairly support the city infrastructure and services that benefit them and their area. City annexation makes the entire county stronger, more fair, and more prosperous too.

Does MUB Know What It’s Doing?

Even by its own admissions of late, MUB does not know what it is doing. MUB never should have worked along Mississippi Street for the new reservoir pipeline it now may abandon there. MUB should never have decided to plow through witness trees and a main trail in White Park. MUB never should have forgotten (how?) that it no longer owns the land of White Park and must seek explicit city permission to dig and cut there.

Furthermore, MUB has yet to admit (and may never) that it should not have planned to dig its new pipeline through a couple old oil tank sites on the edge of the White Park reservoir, the water of which MUB says it intends to continue to use periodically for area drinking water. The hazardous waste underground in White Park should remain there undisturbed unless dug up specifically for remediation purposes, not for pipeline routes or anything else.

White Park is an active CERCLA (hazardous waste) site, underground. It sits across the Monongahela River from the Industrial Park which itself contains a Superfund (hazardous waste) site, plus gas fracking wells, and other industrial activity. Between all this permanent potential contamination is MUB’s drinking water intake in the river, supplying everyone in the Greater Morgantown, Monongalia County area. Why?

Why does MUB’s drinking water intake remain situated between the active CERCLA site of White Park and the Superfund site across the river of the Industrial Park with fracking and other industrial activity, potential contamination sources all? Why has MUB’s intake not long since been moved well up the Monongahela River? And why has the MUB reservoir been allowed to remain in White Park, a (barely underground) hazardous waste site, former oil storage depot and toxic waste dump, still partly unremediated? Why does MUB intend to continue using this reservoir in the hazardous waste site even after the new reservoir upstream is completed? Read the rest of this entry »

How Secure Is Morgantown Area Water?

An investigation of MUB is in order, or at least an independent review of MUB’s decision-making regarding area water supply, past, present and future.

MUB is spending about $50 million to build a new reservoir system, including placing part of the large pipe by digging into an “active” CERCLA (hazardous waste) site (White Park), which was once part of an oil tank storage depot that experienced massive spills never fully remediated. (Are there no federal inspections and permits required for CERCLA excavations?) MUB’s original and newly considered lines of dig all run next to the existing drinking water reservoir that MUB intends to continue to use in the CERCLA site. Furthermore, MUB either did not know or, worse, did not see as problematic that it had plotted its new pipeline to be dug through two former oil tank locations – not to mention through cherished witness trees and trail – in the active CERCLA site.

Furthermore, MUB has never moved its Mon River water intake away from either the CERCLA site or the cross-river Superfund site, or the Industrial Park, or the new gas fracking pads, also in the Industrial Park, which were fracked at the same time that cancerous bromide was tested for and found in the river, a disturbing correlation if not causation. (Bromide is cancerous when mixed with chlorine, in drinking water.)

So all-in-all, how safe and secure can Morgantown area water actually be considered to be? The river water intake siting is terrible. The threats around it are permanent. Why hasn’t the intake location long since been moved? Read the rest of this entry »

Highway Robbery in Monongalia County

These 15 posts, written between December 2012 and July 2013, give a strong sense of the local politics pushing against the City of Morgantown, and provide context for many other local public issues covered on this blog, and otherwise. What happened as detailed in these posts, regarding University Town Center and Scott’s Run, etc, is to some degree analogous to what continues to happen between Mylan Park and many neglected neighborhoods and areas whether in city or county. 

The public needs to organize and better know itself and the local issues to move forward. (The first and last posts were written in 2012 and 2014 but the rest fall into mainly the first half of 2013.)

WVU Thieving Again


Annex, Annex, Annex


The Great Swindle – Part One


The Great Swindle – Part Two


The Ill Mice And The Fat Cats


The Great Swindle – Part Three


The Great Swindle – Part Four


Own It And Operate It Expansively – The TIF Ballpark And Other Parts Of The TIF District


Name That Stadium!


The Great Swindle – Part Five


Scotts Run Pillaged Yet Again – Part One




Scotts Run Pillaged Yet Again – Part Two


Scotts Run Pillaged – Part Three






Scotts Run Pillaged – Part Four


 On Bullshit




Derelict WVU

WVU administration must forcefully ally with WVU faculty and students to act decisively to stop the campus carry bill: WVU should move to curtail the nationally renowned football and basketball seasons until loaded lethal weapons – killing machines – are banned from college classrooms, dining halls, residence halls, and all campus.

WVU admin possesses big weapons. It needs to use them to stop the insanity of loaded lethal weapons in classrooms.

It remains disgusting and derelict that the full force of WVU has not been summoned to quash the obscenity of loaded lethal weapons – killing machines – in classrooms.

WVU Vice President Alsop foolishly and wrongly publicly states that WVU is not united on this issue, and that it would be a “disaster” if WVU could not host NCAA sports events, which his exemptions in the bill are protecting, the “most sensitive” areas, as Alsop calls them. Yes, sensitive to the Athletic Department’s budget. The real disaster is putting killing machines in college classrooms. In dining halls. In residence halls. Anywhere on campus.

The leadership of WVU in regard to this bill has been atrocious, to put it mildly. It’s a shit show.

French great Victor Hugo once wrote that (the French equivalent of) “shit” is “the finest word in the French language.” It is also the finest word in the English language. And WVU admin is covered in it right now.

VP Alsop’s resignation should be demanded, as a matter of course. And not his alone. The lethargy, incompetence, and basic acquiescence of WVU admin remains appalling and inexcusable. It stands in stark contrast to the energy, the integrity, and the actions of the WVU faculty and students in opposing the legalization of loaded lethal weapons in classrooms and all across campus.

Top 10 reasons Morgantown should secede from West Virginia to form its own land, and West Virginia University should rename itself Allegheny Mountain University

Victor Rip (special to NWCS)

10. This should encourage The Monongalia County Commission (current captor of Morgantown and WVU) to accurately rename itself as: The Cabal of Urban Sprawl.

9. The Monongalia County Commission could then vote to build a wall around Morgantown to keep the city folks out, but upon realizing that the insane borders zigzag seemingly forever and that no one else will pay for it, the miserly Commission would be forced to build a wall so short that people would hop right over it … on their way to and from Pennsylvania.

8. The trigger-happy Republicans in the West Virginia state government pushing guns onto West Virginia college campuses would be stopped cold, thus preventing faculty and student flight, outrageous expense, and deadly danger.

7. The roads would actually be well paved, unlike the awful “country roads” long celebrated but also long abandoned and destroyed by West Virginia and the One Percent which has the state by the throat, making it look like there is no real pride at all in the country roads of West Virginia.

6. The schools would no longer be nationally ranked in the cellar: only those in the “old country” would be.

5. The Monongalia County Commission, aka, The Cabal of Urban Sprawl, might at long last see that it needs to do what the adults do in Morgantown and WVU, that is, fund and oversee substantial library, park, wifi, and road systems, etc and so on (professional police, professional fire department, curbside recycling…) for the people.

4. The Cabal of Urban Sprawl would be forced to create and operate its own Utility Board to complain about and run into the ground however it sees fit.

3. WVU, in becoming the new AMU, Allegheny Mountain University, could get rid of its trigger-happy gun-blasting Mountaineer mascot for a more meaningful one, such as the Wood Bison, a great beast bigger than even the Plains Bison, the last few killed in West Virginia almost two centuries ago, blasted by guns.

2. With the population continuing to decline in West Virginia, choked by One Percent rule, and its lands pillaged so as to be increasingly uninhabitable, Morgantown and WVU might as well get the hell out too.

1. To change all the slogans: from “Wild and Wonderful West Virginia!” to “No Longer Warped and Wacked-Out-Of-Our-White-Supremacist-Minds West Virginia!” / from “Wherever you may be, it’s a great day to be a Mountaineer” to “Wood Bison Forever! Remember! Forever!” / from “Coal is West Virginia!” to “Theft was West Virginia!” / from “Country Roads Take Me Home!” to “County Roads Wrecked Me Out!” / from “Mountain Mama!” to “Blasted Mama!”

7-11 is not heaven, West Virginia. Big business, including the pimps of corporate media, and their lackeys in the state government, continue to ruin the mountain state, profiteering and pillaging all the way, till the end. Surely things are long past the point of striking over. It’s time to secede from the state, Morgantown and WVU. This Top Ten is merely the tip of the blown up mountains of reasons to go, move forward, progress as a new land, in a new day.

(Don’t worry, ancient white-blood WV, Morgantown and WVU have some doozies you can keep. You’re welcome to them.)

In West Virginia the fabled country roads get no respect and are most useful for fleeing the state

It’s time for teachers and other school workers to strike for the roads too, and DOH worker pay and benefits. Buses, bus drivers, students, teachers, parents use the roads all the time of course. If they can. A key lesson that should have been learned from last year’s school strike, the only substantial way forward for education – and apparently for the rest of society in WV – is for educators to expand their push for improvement beyond education.

The rest of the population in all other areas needs to join in. Teacher pay should be higher, class sizes should be smaller, campuses should be better resourced etc. But/and so too should DOT/DOH workers pay be higher so enough workers can be found to fix the damn roads (for school buses not least, as for everyone). The same applies to other fields and situations. It’s clear that a general strike is needed every year, for the foreseeable future. Services and assistance for low income families should be much more advanced (including to improve the abilities of impoverished children at school). That means striking for better wage laws and work conditions and better health care for the population in general. Read the rest of this entry »

Indoor Year-Round Recreation & Wellness Centers for the City of Morgantown

This map diagram shows a possible community recreation and wellness center site that has been suggested, with forested parkland acquisition, below South Hills, adjacent to Marilla Park, linking directly into a Haymaker Forest connector trail. 

Y or other wellness center

This could well be a great site for the city, and larger area. The site is on a slope, though one that has been partly flattened and cleared. The site sits above Green Bag Road, which is slated for near-term upgrades. A good, if very short, access trail to Marilla Park and Decker’s Creek Trail would need to be built, which would readily fit longstanding city planning.

The location would be extremely functional for many local residents, including via existing city green space parks and trails access and extension. Public purchase of the large forested tracts there along Green Bag Road would expand the city’s forested parks and green space in such a way as to advance the trail connection between White Park (and Mon River Trail), Haymaker Forest, Marilla Park, and Decker’s Creek Trail.

The possibility has long since been suggested of putting a Y or other rec and wellness center in the existing forest at Marilla Park. However that forested area is smaller and serves as a vital greenbelt of its own. And another new facility there could congest the existing park. Better to expand the park, or park system. So, instead a Marilla Park adjacent site below South Hills neighborhood and above Green Bag Road in a larger forest that is already partly knocked down, and the terrain leveled, could be extremely functional, while not overwhelming the local ecology. This location could bring a very important additional forest and trailway into the city to help complete a connector trail from White Park (and the Mon River Trail) to Haymaker Forest and to Marilla Park and to Decker’s Creek Trail and beyond (possibly per the map diagram above).

Not only is this site for a recreation and wellness facility a central and nearby location to the downtown neighborhoods, including via Deckers Creek Trail and a future connector trail between the parks, forest, creek, and river, this location would also give good car/bus access to Green Bag Road urban sprawl residents, as has been pointed out, as well as, at not much more of a stretch, the 8,000+ people of Brookhaven via Sabraton and Route 7.

In addition to this, a year-round indoor community recreation and wellness water center is very much needed on the Woodburn schoolgrounds, in that great space. Two such facilities could be well designed on these sites to complement one another, to meet the needs of the residents and neighborhoods of the four south and central wards in Morgantown: 1st, 2nd, 5th, and 6th. In this way, the green space and wellness community resources and benefits for the neighborhoods of the City of Morgantown, as well as for the intertwined nearby urban sprawl county areas and populations, would be greatly improved. Read the rest of this entry »

Doubleblind: The Menace of Route 119 Thruway Traffic on Spruce and High

Great editorial by Liana Krissoff on possibilities for revitalizing downtown (“A Walkable Downtown is a Sittable One,” Dominion Post, July 15).

The major structural problem with downtown Morgantown is that it is a cement gully of thruways, with nearly no tree shade and virtually no pedestrian malls or parklets. “Downtown” is a harried narrow traffic corridor, practically an industrial zone. Even the sidewalks are narrow and have the feel more of heavy machinery operations in an industrial park than of a stream of urban parklets and pedestrian plazas for shopping and obtaining public services, and for public congregating for walkabout exercise, entertainment, and socializing. The all-consuming traffic corridors of downtown – let alone the heavy trucks – gut the public social and economic nature and possibilities of Morgantown.

Why? Blame Route 119, which runs along basically 16 blocks of downtown, coming and going mainly on Spruce and High streets. Route 119 should cover only 4 blocks and not run along Spruce or High at all, only cross them. If this structural change were made, then the equivalent of at least half a dozen street blocks, mainly on Spruce and High, could be converted to tree shaded pedestrian malls or parklets, with adjacent tree-covered non-thruway parking and access drives.

Plaza & Parklet Downtown

This would provide the public much more relief from the sun in summer, much more space, much more leisure and exercise opportunities, much more room for pleasant outdoor social and public activities, and access to public services, while providing local businesses with the crowds they need to thrive. This would greatly transform – structurally and socially, environmentally and economically, the cement gully thruway that is currently downtown Morgantown.

Structurally, it’s an efficient if somewhat costly fix. The engineering would be impressive, possibly a swooping S shaped configuration south on (new) Route 119 from Willey Street to Beechhurst Avenue to manage the approximate 50 foot change in elevation over about 650 feet, as compared to the 40+ foot change in elevation over about 550 feet going north on Route 119, from University Avenue up Pleasant Street to High Street. This change would be less steep and more robust but otherwise similar to Campus Drive where it curves and changes 80 feet of elevation over 850 feet between Beechhurst Avenue and University Avenue. 

Route 119, which comes south from PA near UHS, then up Easton Hill and across the Mileground should not run across the Mileground into downtown. It should instead be diverted at the airport to run down Hartman Run Road (Route 857) to Route 7 and Green Bag Road, and then continue on up past Dorsey’s Knob, skirting downtown Morgantown entirely.

Route 119 traffic that actually needs to get to downtown would continue across the Mileground with interstate traffic and go through the roundabout onto Willey Street (while picking up traffic from Route 705). All this traffic would continue to follow Willey Street downhill, crossing Spruce Street to High Street, and instead of turning onto High Street, cross it to continue on Willey for an additional block. Then two new blocks of streets would need to be constructed by the state downhill through parking lots at that point to connect immediately with Beechhurst Avenue, at the existing intersection but reconfigured there on Beechhurst.

This simple realignment would remove ALL traffic of Route 119, the Mileground, Route 705, Wiley Street, and Richwood Avenue, etc, from the downtown main streets of Spruce and High, which could then be converted largely to tree-covered pedestrian malls, with some non-thruway parking and some limited-access non-thruway drives. 

Route 7 with its heavy trucks could and should also be diverted from downtown (including the bit of Spruce Street that it destroys each year) and onto Green Bag Road, with forthcoming improvements there. Even without a Route 7 diversion, a serious Route 119 realignment would greatly transform downtown, create it anew.

It’s time to get rid of the menace that is Route 119, and all of its conjoined traffic on Spruce and High, which is largely to blame for the existing cement gully of downtown Morgantown that is the cause of many of downtown’s business, social, health, structural, and environmental problems.

Meanwhile, the end of Green Bag Road should be aligned into a single intersection with the end of Smithtown Road to get rid of the insanity of that deadly double-blind intersection there. The City, County, and State all have known financial mechanisms that could fund that studied and known fix there, at any time they feel so inclined to get it done. The public should actively press for these badly needed changes and improvements.

Satellite maps show that not only is downtown a cement gully (traffic corridors) with no tree canopy but basically a sprawling paved parking wasteland with no tree canopy. Both conditions are destructive of public, social, and economic life (not to mention health, environment, ecology).

Because of the local geography, downtown will always be a hub of traffic. An engulfing web of roads feeds to and through it. That will always be the case. The question is to what extreme. Everything will continue to feed toward downtown but much less should feed through the very center of downtown.

That any US or state route runs through central downtown Morgantown main streets at this point – let alone for dozens of downtown blocks (Spruce, High, Pleasant, Walnut, Brockway) – is an abomination for city life. Long ago it was necessary. Now it is a menace, including for drivers just trying to get through.

Downtown Morgantown needs the shock to the system that blocking off Spruce and High would bring, in my view. Readily re-locating Routes 119 and 7 is imperative. A third parking garage could enable the city to begin to cover the remaining downtown lots and areas with tree canopy.

It is also conceivable, maybe more conceivable, that central Spruce and High could be well converted to combos of pedestrian mall and essentially single lane, one way semi-thru-parking lots with angle parking, not parallel parking, and the sidewalk greatly expanded along one side of each street into a green mall.

Any way you go, you have to get the nearly two dozen blocks of US/state routes entirely out of that downtown area/corridor. This is the only way to eliminate thru traffic and create enough space (while maintaining parking) to get a significant tree cover into downtown. Instead, you could try to take out or reduce the parking lots and plant trees but that won’t be supported enough to matter, especially with the high amount of thru traffic and big events that sometimes occupy all the spots. Not to mention lunch hour, in some locations. In any case, the tree canopy is needed for pedestrians, and crowds, and pedestrian activities (like shopping, residing, servicing, exercising), not for the existing enormous amount of commuters and thru traffic.

Downtown is a chaotic mess because it is primarily a drivethru zone and not primarily a destination zone. It will always be a hub of driving, transportation. Now it needs to take the next step to not be the sliced and diced gully and paved wasteland of a commuter corridor and industrial cut-through that it currently is.

In the meantime, getting a really green parklet into downtown would be a great accomplishment (as significant or more significant than the farmer’s market area, in my opinion) and potentially give much impetus and vision to Liana Krissoff’s larger green web idea. It would better show the need, benefit, and possibilities for rerouting the arterial roads too.


Cement Gully Downtown

Or this?:

Plaza & Parklet Downtown

Morgantown City Council Town Hall & The Future Of City Issues

So at the Morgantown City Council Town Hall today, Saturday, 9-noon, there were by my count at its high point, 33 people in the Met Theater audience seats and 11 support personnel for the city, including 6 Councilors, 1 City Manager, 1 moderator, 2 police officers, and 1 lighting technician. The people in attendance were more or less evenly split on their views, and there were only about three dozen or less.

This shows that the City Council basically has a clear mandate to do as it sees fit on the main issues of the day, especially in accord with the interests and needs of their constituents who elected them.

This Town Hall shows that City Council should move forward with all possible speed in deliberating and deciding to a) purchase Haymaker Forest, b) provide referendums for levies for community needs for the public to vote on in November, and c) further pursue annexation of the urban sprawl county areas that are overwhelming the city’s borders, infrastructure, and services.

The scheduled moderator, the “President and CEO of the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce,” arrived late, after the first question had been asked and partly answered, and he offered no apology for being late. Even if his excuse was a good one – traffic accident? – he offered no explanation.

No one seemed surprised, let alone asked for an explanation or apology from the “President and CEO of the Morgantown Area Chamber of Commerce.” Does he work more for the “Area” than for the “City of Morgantown”? Did he have an “Area” meeting that he had to attend prior to the Town Hall put on by the Morgantown City Council? One can only wonder.

In any event, one thing is clear. The Morgantown City Councilors evidently have retained their mandate to act as they see fit on the public’s behalf, throughout the second year of their two year term. Let’s hope the Councilors take that mandate ever more seriously and act on it ever more strongly over the course of the remaining year, for the public good, both near and long term.

History of the Battle for Haymaker Forest (Part Two)

The battle for Haymaker Forest is now entering its fourth year, here in the second half of summer, 2018.

On August 7, 2015, Doug Warden, representing Cheat Road Engineering, submitted a request for an estimate from MUB for water/sewer/storm service for a highly detailed proposed new subdivision.…/06…

The planned development spanned the entire breadth of Haymaker Forest.…/mu…

The plans for this proposed new development had been accidentally discovered earlier in the summer by a local resident who found an engineering map of the design on the edge of the woods.…/su…

Over the course of months, MUB drew up and released the plans to the developer. None of this was known or reported publicly except by concerned residents who filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests of MUB, the city, and elsewhere in a determined effort to find out what was going on, and who knew what.

By late spring the following year, May 2016, Mr. Warden appeared before the Morgantown City Planning Commission to request street access for the new subdivision into the city on a dangerous steep curve of Buckhannon Ave. The Planning Commission refused to approve the request in the face of dozens of residents from multiple neighborhoods who spoke out against any new subdivision’s access to Buckhannon Ave. No one other than Mr. Warden spoke for access.

Eight months earlier, three Neighborhood Associations of communities adjacent to Haymaker Forest had presented a formal position paper to City Council and County Commission opposing the proposed new development’s access at Buckhannon and calling for the “public purchase and stewardship” of as much of Haymaker Forest as possible to preserve the environment, the wildlife, the ecology, and to preserve the health, well-being, and the quality of life of the many residents in the adjacent neighborhoods and in the city and county in general.

This was a big victory for the effort to save Haymaker Forest, when a wide variety of residents turned out at the city’s Planning Commission meeting causing the Commission to block the developer’s proposal by tabling it. Then in August 2016, Cheat Road Engineering withdrew its development proposal entirely from the Planning Commission agenda. Another victory. However, as the Dominion Post reported, city engineer Chris Fletcher stated his expectation that plans for a new subdivision were likely to be drawn up.

And this is exactly what happened. By February of 2017, a new development design was created by Cheat Road Engineering again across all of Haymaker Forest.

This time, street access to the redesigned development was plotted primarily via Dorsey Avenue, which is state controlled, and in the County at that juncture, with no City control, though very close to the boundary line between the City of Morgantown’s First and Second wards. The developer’s bulldozers could plow through at any moment in this large county portion of the Forest. The City could not stop anything. And roll in a bulldozer did, without any public warning, in April 2018 to clear ground for the taking of bore samples, presumably to determine road and building foundation requirements.

Fortunately, the next major victory in the battle for Haymaker Forest had culminated almost exactly one year prior to the first bulldozer grinding into the forest: Morgantown city election day in April 2017, when two of the three City Councilors representing city wards bordering Haymaker Forest, who had moved ineffectively or not at all on saving the forest, were handed two huge defeats. Councilor Redmond and Councilor Bane lost in a landslide to Mark Brazaitis and Rachel Fetty, who gathered the second highest and the highest number of votes of all the candidates. The battle for Haymaker Forest fueled that entire city election. People from many backgrounds did a lot of work, in particular Bernie Sanders supporters. And the people who had been working and turning out to help save Haymaker were as actively involved as anyone. Mark Brazaitis had made a centerpiece of his campaign the preservation of Haymaker Forest – the only way to protect the wildlife, ecology, and environment and to preserve the quality of life of the adjacent neighborhoods and of the city and county in general. He called upon any and all entities, private and public, to act to preserve this local community forest facing imminent destruction.

Many basically fruitless efforts had been made to secure funds for saving Haymaker Forest. Even a reluctant Councilor Redmond had been enlisted, and he noted the varied organizational and individual efforts being made to protect Haymaker Forest and the adjacent neighborhoods as early as October 2015, per his email response to concerned citizens of that month and year.

Local area residents across 3 of the 7 City Wards bordering the forest, along with residents citywide and in the county, had since the summer of 2015 considered every possible funding and preservation option for Haymaker Forest that anyone could think of, and tried to pursue whatever seemed most feasible. These efforts spanned possible city, state, federal, environmental, university, and private funding sources. Further efforts and appeals were made to the County as well, to no funding effect. Plainly, multi-million dollars were needed, and no entity with the resources was willing to step up. Many were called. None answered, with anything by way of even a partial solution. (The one entity that came closest to helping was the West Virginia Land Trust, which offered some valuable ideas but had no dollars to spare.)

During one effort to secure funding, in fall of 2015, concerned residents proposed that the City Council dedicate a portion of the soon-to-be-voted-on User Fee to permanently fund both green space acquisition, such as Haymaker Forest, and ongoing BOPARC activities and infrastructure. This made some minimal progress with the City Council at that time, before being entirely dismissed. Not so much as a cent would go to green space. Much else was considered and explored from then on, with no funds ever being secured.

That’s why the City Council elections of April 2017 were such a huge victory in the long battle toward saving Haymaker Forest. Council has subsequently proven willing to consider a referendum and other funding mechanisms, which are more progressive than the User Fee, to save Haymaker Forest. The three Councilors known to be most opposed to spending city money on protecting the forest were resoundingly defeated, while the vocal proponent for preserving the forest, Mark Brazaitis, was overwhelmingly elected, as was every single one of his allies at the time, with no losses.…/morgantown-city-council-wi…

From the unsuccessful but strong public requests and proposals to City Council (and other public agencies) to buy and protect the Haymaker Forest for the public in the fall of 2015, to the great public turnout at the city’s Planning Commission meeting in May of 2016 that successfully blocked temporarily the proposed new development, to the sweeping success of the April 2017 City Council elections that removed the 3 councilors most opposed to any forest purchase and brought in at least several strong advocates for its purchase, to the remarkable summer of 2018 City Council plans and proposals for a green space acquisition referendum and City purchase of the forest for the public, to the ongoing negotiations between the City and the current forest owners to save the community forest for the public once and for all, the battle for Haymaker Forest has proven to be the proverbial long and winding road.

Why This Matters: The Battle for Haymaker Forest

Why this matters

If we can’t save the forest, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save our parks, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save our neighborhoods, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save our libraries, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save our sidewalks, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save Woodburn schoolgrounds, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save Krepps pool, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save our roads, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save our trails, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save our public services, we can’t save ourselves.

If we lose a car dealership, because it doesn’t like to be annexed into the city to pay city taxes like every other business in the city, who cares? We haven’t lost anything. We can go to another car dealership. Or another car dealership will move in.

If we lose a car dealership, we haven’t lost anything. More importantly, we haven’t lost ourselves.

If we lose a restaurant, because is doesn’t like to be annexed into the city, who cares? Another restaurant will move in. Probably a better one!

If we lose a restaurant, we haven’t lost anything. More importantly, we haven’t lost ourselves.

If we can’t annex, we can’t save ourselves, we can’t know ourselves, we can’t grow ourselves.

If we can’t save the trees, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save our wildlife, our ecology, our environment, we can’t save ourselves.

The air in Morgantown is polluted enough already. Why would we want to make it more polluted downtown by removing the great pollution filter that is Haymaker Forest?

If we can’t save Haymaker Forest, we can’t breath as well. We can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save the community park that is the forest, if we can’t save the pure West Virginia hollow that is Haymaker Forest, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save our neighborhood services and structures and parks, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t win the Battle for Haymaker Forest, we can’t save ourselves.

That’s why all this matters. If we can’t save our communities, no one else will.

If we can’t save the forest, we can’t save our communities.

If we can’t save our communities, we can’t save ourselves.

If we can’t save the trees, if we can’t save Haymaker, if we can’t save this wild and wonderful little piece of the planet, then we can’t save ourselves.

That’s why all this matters.

We are trying to save ourselves here, folks. Here and now.

Let’s bring Haymaker Forest back to a vote. Let’s get Haymaker Forest back. Let’s end the postponement. Let’s vote!

If we can’t save Haymaker Forest, we can’t save ourselves.

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History of the Battle for Haymaker Forest (Part One)

The local historical and political magnitude of the ongoing battle for Haymaker Forest is probably still too little understood. It began in the summer of 2015 when a local resident found a map on the edge of the woods dropped by a land surveyor. The engineering map depicted a massive new development located mostly in the county but also in the city that was designed to stretch from Dorsey Avenue at the boundary of Morgantown’s 1st Ward, running along a thruway with multiple spokes past the entire top of Morgantown’s 2nd Ward, over to Morgantown’s 6th Ward, with the thruway exiting in the city on Buckhannon Avenue where upper South Park neighborhood meets South Hills neighborhood, not far from Southpoint Circle neighborhood. Again, this was summer 2015, three full years ago.

As far as is known, everyone in the surrounding neighborhoods was appalled. Appalled that the impending development was discovered accidentally with no public notification, appalled at the consequence of a major influx of pollution and new traffic on substandard roads in long-established neighborhoods, appalled at the impending destruction of the forest, its ecology, environment, and wildlife. Almost immediately, a tri-neighborhood committee was formed consisting of neighborhood officials and residents. Within a few months, the committee drafted a tri-neighborhood position paper soon presented in October 2015 to Morgantown City Council and to Monongalia County Commission calling for the “public purchase and stewardship of as much of [Haymaker Forest] as possible.”

Prior to being presented to City Council, three Neighborhood Association Presidents signed the Position Paper, and two attended the City Council presentation: Bill Wasson, President of Southpoint Circle Neighborhood Association, and Paul Steel, President of South Park Neighborhood Association. The third President, Dave Harshbarger of South Hills Neighborhood Association could not attend and eventually appeared at a subsequent City Council meeting where he appealed to the Council to preserve Haymaker Forest.

The three neighborhoods’ Position Paper of 2015 noted that longstanding city planning bore directly on the matter, in many ways:

“In firm alignment with the vision and blueprint of Morgantown’s Comprehensive Plan, these several city neighborhoods are committed to protecting and promoting: 1) the local ecology, its environment, wildlife, woods, and green space; 2) the safety and quality of life of the local neighborhoods; 3) and the overall well-being of the city and county. /// The development project would grossly impact adjacent neighborhoods and the city as a whole. We are committed to maintaining and improving city livability: by minimizing neighborhood through traffic, by maximizing safety and walkability, by preserving the environment, by protecting wildlife, by providing open space for healthy exercise and enjoyment, by boosting social and economic well-being in alignment with Morgantown’s vision and blueprint. Such commitment has the potential to raise the bar for maintaining and improving quality of life in both longstanding neighborhoods and in new areas of the city.”

It soon became increasingly well understood that while the land remained privately held, by all appearances it had been abandoned by its owners. Haymaker Forest had long since been outfitted with complex trails and had long since become a community park, a community forest, of the residents of the multiple surrounding city neighborhoods and city wards and nearby urban county pockets. In fact, nearly half of the city wards, 3 of the 7, border or contain Haymaker Forest to a significant degree, as do the homes of nearby county residents. People from all these neighborhoods had been using the forest as a community park for decades.

Despite the public appeals (both formal and informal of the three city neighborhoods and other residents) to protect this cross-border forest in accord with popular concerns and quality of life values large and larger – and very much in accord with the highly detailed land management and conservation maps in both the City and County Comprehensive Plans – nothing was attempted by the County, and the efforts and achievements of the City were limited, at first, to protect Haymaker Forest. Until things changed. Remarkably, after the multiple communities’ self-generated initial strong efforts in the summer/fall of 2015, the public managed a series of impressive achievements over the course of the next two and half years, with three major turning points: the first in the spring/summer of 2016, and then again in 2017, and finally another huge push in 2018 during recent months. These further historical moments will be detailed in a subsequent post, to bring the long road and the ongoing history of the battle for Haymaker Forest to its current point.

See:  History of the Battle for Haymaker Forest (Part Two)

Report for the City of Morgantown on the Value of Haymaker Forest…/Vi…/2116/Haymaker_forest_qualities

Some highlights from “Haymaker Forest” by Rick Landenberger and WV Land Trust:

Once protected, the property will forever function as an effective pollution and runoff filter (Figure 2) for lower Aaron’s Creek and the growing communities along its lower reaches and in Sabraton, saving millions of dollars over time in stormwater damages. …

In a study published by the U.S. Forest Service (Nowak et al. 2004), seven researchers, including a WVU faculty member, calculated specific economic benefits of Morgantown’s forested areas. Although the study focused on the entire city, the monetary benefits it highlighted apply to Haymaker Forest. Morgantown’s forests, the study’s abstract concludes, store “about 93,000 tons of carbon valued at $1.9 million. In addition, these trees remove about 2,900 tons of carbon per year ($60,000 per year), with trees and shrubs removing about 104 tons of air pollution per year ($711,000 per year). Trees in Morgantown are estimated to reduce annual residential energy costs by $380,000 per year. The structural, or compensatory, value is estimated at $488 million.” …

In summary, the total value to the Morgantown and Monongalia County community of an undeveloped, protected Haymaker Forest greatly outweighs the value of development. Not only is this clear today, when Morgantown is growing rapidly and losing much of its natural qualities, but it will be even more obvious in coming years, when population and environmental pressures will be magnified due to climate change and human migration to water-rich areas. Securing the Haymaker Forest for public use and protection makes both short-term and long-term economic sense. Likewise, Morgantown and Mon County residents and visitors will enjoy its incalculable benefits—as a recreation area, as a place of refuge within a busy city—today, tomorrow, and forever.

The Value of a Forest

These folks know the value of a forest: “America’s tree sitters risk lives on the front line.”

Support for Haymaker Forest

You didn’t see this much reported in the news: On June 5, the morning of the 6-1 City Council vote in favor of purchasing Haymaker Forest for $5.2 million, the right-wing, big business morning talk show on WAJR conducted a poll about whether or not the 40 acres of Haymaker Forest should be purchased for $5.2 million dollars. The two hosts sounded totally depressed and defeated by the end of the show when their own poll of their right-wing, don’t-tax-me audience showed that nearly 40 percent supported buying the Haymaker Forest for $5.2 million.

The forest actually spans about 42 acres rather than the 40 noted in the poll, making the buy an even better deal.

Then, after two weeks of WAJR demonizing the forest buy, and after a politically motivated and politically orchestrated turnout effort, an extremely misleading public presence showed up at City Council on June 19 that opposed the forest buy.

However, one week later, at City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting, the public presence at Council was flipped back to being overwhelmingly in favor of support to buy the forest: many more people spoke in favor of buying the forest than the very few who spoke against it.

Morgantown City Council needs to realize that as far as anyone knows, as far as anyone can tell, and as far as seems likely, the Council retains the overwhelming popular and public support for the issues that they campaigned on and won on, to get elected to Council, including the idea of preserving Haymaker Forest for all time. Therefore, the City Council would be both foolish and irresponsible if it were to decide not to vote to buy Haymaker Forest, even at the $5.2 million price, let alone at a lower price, should it be brought back up for a vote.

Yes, the city hired an appraiser who appraised the property at $2.5 million, far under the seller’s asking price of $5.2 million. However, sellers are far more likely to sell their property at or near their own price, rather than at or near the price offered by the buyer, whether appraised or not.

The Haymaker Forest should be brought back to a revote as soon as possible, with the price lowered as much as possible. However, even at $5.2 million, Haymaker Forest is a steal. What if another interested buyer comes in at any moment, a developer, for example, and causes the price to go up? By its delay, the City is risking losing the forest forever.

The forest could have been owned by the City by now. It’s worth it. There is little to no reason to think that buying Haymaker Forest even now at $5.2 million would not be a popular vote. Saving the forest for the communities is a very popular and a very valuable thing. The price is worth it. The City must act before it is too late.

Making Morgantown Poor

Today on WAJR, the morning show hosts expressed if anything a surprised reaction (“hmm”) to a caller telling them that the hockey team helped build and pay for the BOPARC ice rink, and that WVU contributed to a room in it, and that donations came from Jack Roberts’ sister, and that Jack Roberts donated the park to BOPARC and the public in 1st ward neighborhood. Surely the hosts did not miss that all such funding now is flooding out of the neighborhoods and out of the city park system into Mylan Park where no one lives.

Another caller stated that WVU originally said its rec center would be open to the public but then had to disallow that when it feared losing its non-profit status.

This is how to make Morgantown poor. This is how Mylan Park makes Morgantown poor. Major private donations and WVU funding and grants that previously went to the area’s major city park system, spread widely through all of Morgantown’s neighborhoods and near densely populated urban county developments, all those millions and tens of millions of dollars now go primarily to Mylan Park where virtually no one lives, far from the many neighborhoods.

This is a recipe for further city blight of infrastructure, lack of green space and wellness activities, increased social and community decay, and the collapse of urban livability.

Where is a YMCA or other rec and wellness center for any of the city neighborhoods? Fairplay, Colorado, a crossroads town of 760 people, using two bonds, built a remarkable multi-million dollar year-round indoor water facility, community and wellness center on a scant few acres. Where is a similar center for the Woodburn schoolgrounds?

No, you can’t have it. Not the neighborhoods, not the communities. But Mylan Park can have it, a private entity, funded by wealthy donors. The city where tens of thousands of people live is instead gutted, made poor.

Monongalia County doesn’t even have a park system, not one single facility, for its tens of thousands of urban county residents around the fringes of Morgantown, Star City, and Westover. It has three parks for its many rural residents but nothing nearby for its urban residents in the many crowded housing developments of greater Morgantown. And the county pays virtually nothing ($50,000 this year) of the several million dollar budget of Morgantown’s city park system, BOPARC, even though half of BOPARC users are from outside the city. (Yes, there is a $2.5 million county levy to repair the BOPARC ice rink, but city residents are taxed for that levy too, just like any non-city resident).

This is how the city of Morgantown is made poor. Mylan Park makes BOPARC poor. Private, state, and county dollars that formerly would go to the many BOPARC green spaces and facilities and trails throughout the city neighborhoods, including near densely populated county areas, now go into the no-man’s-land of Mylan Park.

Monongalia County has committed $150,000 to Mylan Park – a private entity – while supporting BOPARC to the tune of a mere $50,000 – a public entity. All the while, Monongalia County has no urban county resident park system, at all.

This is how Morgantown and the greater Morgantown area is made poor.

And then there is annexation and the longstanding record of wealthy entities and the County Commission’s open hostility to the City of Morgantown expanding to encompass all the urban residences and urban commerce surrounding its borders. These people and business benefit from city-based consumption and from city structures and planning and services while not paying any of the taxes (B&O and property taxes) to the city that actually sustain the conditions off of which the businesses profit and the urban county residents use and enjoy.

This is how Morgantown is made poor. This is how the city Park System, BOPARC, is made poor. And urban county residents suffer too. The whole region suffers.

WVU has its own rec center for its students and faculty, and some shared public green space and facilities, if you can afford them, but this does not remotely compensate for what Morgantown’s BOPARC system and rail trails and neighborhood parks offer – largely free – to virtually all WVU employees, families, and also students, often right in the communities where they live. How much does WVU support BOPARC compared to the use of the system by its employees and students and its value to them? How much does Westover and Star City support BOPARC compared to the use of the system by its residents? How much does the county support BOPARC compared to the extremely heavy use of the system by the non-city residents, especially its urban county residents who have no neighborhood park system of their own?

The park systems of Star City and Granville and even Westover and the Brookhaven and Cheat Lake urban populations (let alone the non-existent park system of the other urban county residents flooding all around Morgantown’s borders), these systems or facilities do not remotely compare to the amenities offered by Morgantown’s BOPARC system with its pools, skate park, rail trails, tennis courts, ice rink, and so on, even in their currently impoverished state. And what do these population bases pay into the BOPARC system that they use heavily? The County should correct this inequity. $50,000 doesn’t cut it. Chump change.

It’s scandalous. This is how Morgantown is made poor.

This is why a county BOPARC levy is needed immediately this November, and not at the next opportunity two years from now during the next election.

Otherwise, we’ve all been cheated of our chance to decide for ourselves, yet again. And the County – which should provide a dedicated funding stream for BOPARC independent of any levy – would be derelict again. Does the County want to see that the City gets what it needs? Even has a chance, via a referendum for a levy, to get what it needs?

Or not. You can almost see the Commissioners thinking, if we can just wait the Council out, then we won’t have to allow a levy for another two years, if at all! How inspiring.

The WAJR morning show hosts, under the orders of their One Percent bosses, can whine and moan all they want about Morgantown City Council rushing – valiantly – to do what should have been done decades ago, making up for lost time. City Council is only elected on two year terms. Five of the members are new and more forward-thinking than in years past, in general. They’ve had a lot to take in and a lot to learn, and they are beginning to see, some of them, how the city has been shafted for years. And they are beginning to see, some of them, the need for urgency in the moment.

The hosts of the WAJR morning show don’t live in the city. Do they even live in the county? The state? Doesn’t one live in Pennsylvania? A former host lived in Preston County, let alone in the city of Morgantown. Does the other host even live in Monongalia County? And yet they sit there and blather as the One Percent’s judge and jury on the city of Morgantown because they don’t want the wealthy business community that they sing the praises of day in and day out to pay city property taxes or the levy taxes to support city infrastructure and services and planning that those businesses draw wealth off of in the first place. They don’t want their One Percent heroes’ property taxes to go toward making the many urban neighborhoods more livable than they would be otherwise. Let WVU and the wealthy businesses give their money now to Mylan Park! Let them be free to build their paradise apart! And let the people be free to wander the dilapidated parks. To hell with BOPARC and the urban neighborhoods! Where the people actually live. To hell with them.

Hey, don’t move to fund BOPARC! Let Mylan Park thrive! Let WVU glisten! To hell with Morgantown. Who cares about those tens of thousands of people, and the many more all around the perimeter?

Let the outrage and the scandal and the city and social decay continue. Let all the crowded people in their crowded conditions rot to the ground.

Let the people pilgrimage to Mylan Park! To pay their respects. And their dues. That’s what the County Commissioners do. Everyone follow!

And let them eat cake along the way. Let the people eat cake in their neighborhoods too. Give them cake, a few crumbs here and there. Because there is no bread. Not nearly enough bread for their communities. It went to Mylan Park. The loaves pass from one deep pocket to another. If you’re lucky, you can drive to Mylan’s Park, the One Percent Park, or pay a bus pass for the tedious ride there, and then you can pay to get in.

That’s how you make Morgantown poor.

What is a “fiscal conservative”?

“Fiscal conservatism is a political-economic philosophy regarding fiscal policy and fiscal responsibility advocating low taxes, reduced government spending and minimal government debt. Free trade, deregulation of the economy, lower taxes, and privatization are the defining qualities of fiscal conservatism.” -Wikipedia

A “fiscal conservative” is an apologist for the profiteering One Percent. Anyone on City Council who calls themselves a “fiscal conservative” should be voted off, because they are not working on behalf of the people, the public, they are working on behalf of the profiteers, the One Percent, against the public.

Local talk and news host Hoppy Kercheval is a fiscal conservative, a cheerleader for profiteering. He is basically a lobbyist for the One Percent, which employs him to propagandize for the interests of the big owners and big business against everyone else, against the public.

Fiscal conservatives are WAJR and WV Metro News. Fiscal conservatives oppose government generation of revenue to meet public needs as much as possible. Why? Because fiscal conservatives don’t want the wealthy owners of land and businesses to be taxed by levies, property taxes (or by income taxes).

Fiscal conservatives like Hoppy Kercheval function as the enemies of strong cities and strong public governments that try to generate the badly needed revenue to meet public needs, like revenue for the building and repair of public structures and services like roads and sidewalks and parks and libraries. Fiscal conservatives, the profiteering One Percent, are fighting the city’s acquisition of Haymaker Forest tooth and nail. Fiscal conservatives are battling the neighborhoods, the communities, the people.

That’s why any Councilor who calls him or herself a fiscal conservative should be voted out at the first opportunity. Which side are you on? If you are not on the side of the people, the 99 percent, then you should not represent them, because you don’t.

Save Lives: Light the Trails

Why isn’t Deckers Creek Trail lit up like a string of Christmas lights around a Christmas tree from Sabraton to downtown Morgantown? Did Divante Coles die because Deckers Creek Trail is not a well lit, active night trail, welcoming to bicyclists? Wouldn’t bicyclists choose a well lit park trail over the extremely dangerous route 7 which the wide, paved rail trail parallels all the way from Sabraton to downtown Morgantown? Reportedly, Divonte Coles was fatally struck on route 7 near the Dominion Post offices, going toward Morgantown after getting off work in Sabraton. Why not make this rail trail readily usable 24/7, if for no other reason than to keep bicyclists safe from route 7? Possibly even simply installed solar panels would create sufficient and safe lighting.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Police are still sorting through surveillance footage in an effort to find the person responsible in the death of a bicyclist in…

This Land Is Your Land

As the battle for Haymaker Forest rolls on, Woody Guthrie’s great song seems more than appropriate: This Land is Your Land.

You Can See It From The Moon

The City of Morgantown park system, BOPARC, needs additional funding that a direct democracy referendum levy should bring.

You can see it from the moon.

Neighborhood infrastructure needs more funding.

You can see it from the moon.

Neighborhood services need more funding.

You can see it from the moon.

The Woodburn schoolgrounds community center needs more funding.

You can see it from the moon.

A Morgantown green space acquisition agency needs to be founded and funded in an area booming in population and haphazard development: unzoned, unchecked, largely unregulated near-county lands.

You can see it from the moon.

The Morgantown fire department has been calling for more money.

You can hear it from the moon.

The Morgantown library system needs more funding, bigger and better services and resources.

These needs can be seen from the moon.

This covers a lot of longstanding, neglected public needs. Money in all these areas could be well spent immediately, well tracked, and well accounted for.

You could see it from the moon.

The public has a profound right to directly consider and to vote for taxes that would meet their public needs. The Morgantown City Council should cease blocking that right of the people to vote directly on their funding solutions.

You can see it from the moon.

Even Monongalia County – the County! – the supposedly “Don’t tax me!” county passed 4 of 6 levied taxes by popular referendum in 2016, two years ago. Even the 2 levies that failed received more than 50 percent of the vote, barely missing the 60 percent needed to pass. These direct vote taxes passed for parks and rec, mass transit, fire protection, and the library system, and narrowly missed passing for the fairs, and youth baseball combined with the botanic garden.

Even if Morgantown puts up a raft of levies that all miss the 60 percent mark needed to pass, the city would at least benefit from seeing a tangible guage of popular concern and interest, and thus be more informed in how to proceed. And a failed levy in the November election doesn’t mean a revote wouldn’t pass in the April city election.

The City of Morgantown has pretended for too long, to not be able to see what most anyone can see from the moon.

The inadequate public funding for the city has been visible from the moon for decades.

And the solutions to inadequate funding have also been visible from the moon for decades.

And the city has not acted. The city needs to act now. Things have changed. Shall we recount the ways?

In elections: a sweep of Council.

Things have changed.

In urgency: badly degraded conditions, especially compared to other cities.

Things have changed. 

In public involvement: on the sharp rise, in large part due to social media.

Things have changed.

In public awareness: also on the sharp rise, due to the information and resources provided by broadband internet access (and social media).

Things have changed.

In public maturity (yes) and consciousness: on the significant upswing, due largely to social media and broadband internet access.

Things have changed. 

In the public ability to act and influence officials and each other: see the public teachers strike here in West Virginia and nationwide, and, again, this is due to a more knowing and active public.

Things have changed. You can see it from the moon.

You don’t do a study on how to proceed, when the ways forward can be seen clear and bright from the moon, and beyond. You act based on what is clear now, and you study the effects of what you are doing as you go.

That’s the way forward. 

It can be seen from the moon.

For a brief moment, 2 months, say, we can even set aside the long-strangled need of the City of Morgantown to extend its borders, and to the grossly delayed process of submitting simultaneous annexation petitions.

The gaping need for annexation is no small thing. That can be seen from the moon too. In fact, this problem of the public can be seen from Jupiter.

Those who cannot see before them in the City of Morgantown what can be seen from the moon have no business sitting in Council chambers. They may as well take their dysfunctional eyes and go sit somewhere else. Three Councilors definitively received that message in the previous city election. Maybe more should receive it definitively in the next one. It’s time to do something of size. Things have changed. Look back, if you want, but you shouldn’t bother, and better not to ask why. Looking forward and moving forward, as elected to do, as badly needed to do, and now, is the only way to progress. You study as you go, and you correct course as need be.

That can be seen from the moon.

It is certainly easy to criticize City Council, or the County Commission, or the state or federal government or any governing body. So it should be recognized that a criticism of an elected governing body is also criticism of everyone, of the public at large. Though individual people and individual officials bear responsibility to varying degrees for the conditions of the public, the fact is that governing bodies like a city council are an extension of the public at large. And so the Morgantown City Council’s failure to move forward is everyone’s failure, to one degree or another.

That too can be seen from the moon.

Any efforts and success of City Council in moving forward can only be the public’s efforts and success. And in that vein, there is zero indication that City Council has lost any of its popularity from the previous election. As far as anyone knows, or can know, the Council remains as popular now as then. So there’s no reason to not act decisively, by now.

That can be seen from the moon. 

Let’s pick it up, let’s not revert to old ways, to the old slow-down to nowhere, to the conscious and unconscious screech of the brakes at the first little bump in the road. There’s nothing for the public in that. There never was, and there never will be.

You can see it from the moon.

There’s one more thing that should be mentioned:

Buying Haymaker Forest for $5.2 million is a steal.

You can see it from the moon.

A mature forest virtually the size of Marilla Park, connecting multiple neighborhoods, parks, and trail systems for little more than the price of an area elementary school’s vacant lot? You take that deal. Vacant lots are a dime a dozen. A mature forest, a park and trail system, a refuge for the wild, a green buffer for multiple neighborhoods and the south side of the city, for the near county and beyond? You take that deal. The Haymaker Forest, at price, was, is, and remains a steal. You would be adding another entire Marilla park to the community, of far greater ecological and environmental value. It would be both a travesty and a tragedy not to secure the forest, for all time.

You can see it from the moon.

This City Council has proven that it can be wonderfully responsive to public needs, to a point. What a ridiculous and outrageous missed opportunity a lost forest would be. The opportunity to establish an eternal legacy and a permanent public good the size and value of a vibrant wilderness does not come around to the City every day. If we continue to treat Earth as a garbage can, then we might as well shoot ourselves to the moon to try to live on that barren, lifeless, and noxious rock. In that case, the City Council might as well preside on the moon.

Slow gear is no gear, at this point, long since.

You can see it from the moon.

Annexation Benefits City and County Residents Both

The City of Morgantown and Monongalia County both would benefit greatly by the City of Morgantown’s annexation of the Green Bag Road corridor, the Mileground corridor, the Route 705 corridor, the Morgantown Industrial Park, and other commercial and urban pockets of the greater Morgantown area that technically are located in the County but that by and large are engulfed by the City and depend greatly on the well-being of the City and surrounds for quality of conditions and prosperity in general. These technically County businesses and residents, though basically engulfed by the City, do not contribute the Business & Occupation taxes and property taxes to the City that are paid by the area residents and businesses located technically within the City boundaries, thus gutting the public budget of the City of Morgantown and surrounds.

These two types of taxes (B&O and property) make up over half the budget of the City of Morgantown. These are the taxes that are in effect taken out of what should be a much larger City budget: these taxes are essentially stripped out of the public budget by not being allowed in, in the first place. The technically county businesses keep (don’t pay) the B&O taxes, which is the type of revenue that accounts for nearly half the city budget every year. And the City receives no portion of the property tax from the technically county residences even though they have a Morgantown address and are often nearly encircled by City borders. Instead, those property taxes go entirely to the County Commission.

This is how the public budget of the City of Morgantown is basically robbed of tens of millions of dollars per year, every year, and has been for decades, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars by now that should have been used to meet the pressing public needs of Morgantown and surrounds. And so it is that annexation is the main way to fund and expand and improve public services and infrastructure and quality of life many times over in the City of Morgantown and beyond.

Of course no one ever said that the City of Morgantown did petition (the legal procedure) the County Commission for annexation in recent memory, even though the City Council has been repeatedly urged to do so over the years by concerned citizens. The reason that City Council members have given, in the past, for their unwillingness to petition the County Commission is that the Commission was strongly opposed to annexation, and thus that the process would be expensive and fruitless. And the evidence bears that out, to a very large degree.

For example, the Monongalia County Commission for years actively opposed and blocked the City of Westover’s repeated attempts to annex the Morgantown Mall and surrounds. However, the City of Westover recently finally won annexation of the Mall and area, extending Westover city boundaries significantly. And now an overwhelmingly new group of Morgantown City Councilors has been elected who understand the vital importance of annexation to the City of Morgantown’s well-being, as well as to the quality of life and prosperity of the larger Morgantown area.

By now a majority of City Councilors have indicated that they understand the tremendous importance of extending the City borders via annexation. In particular, this can be accomplished by way of the legal form of annexation written into state code (that is, state law) as Minor Boundary Adjustment, which provides the City Council the opportunity to petition the County Commission for annexation of adjacent and often city-engulfed, commercial and residential pockets and corridors.

However, as far as anyone knows, and by all appearances, and to the extensive harm and disservice to the public, the Monongalia County Commission remains staunchly opposed to such annexation. Nevertheless, the City of Morgantown has a deep obligation to its residents to vigorously pursue the badly needed annexation that would greatly improve the size of the City budget, the size of the revenue streams, and therefore finally allow for the funding of long neglected public needs – both infrastructure and services – in the City neighborhoods, streets, parks, and beyond.

Annexation is key. It is central to addressing public concerns and the basic problems of the public in Morgantown and surrounds. Given the serious public needs, the City of Morgantown’s budget of about $38 million is puny. Proper extension of the city’s borders by way of Minor Boundary Adjustment annexation could improve the City’s budget by tens of millions of dollar per year, and begin to make up for the hundreds of millions of dollars that past Morgantown City Councils and Monongalia County Commissions failed to work together to collect and to use for the public good.

The time to fully fund the pressing needs of the area public is now. The Monongalia County Commission has fought this type of badly needed annexation for far too long. Annexation is the fundamental public issue in the area, and it is long since time for the officials and the public to act to get it done. Thanks to last years’ City Council election, the City of Morgantown appears at long last to be ready and willing to move forward in this regard. And the County Commission? Unfortunately, the City Council should expect to be opposed by the County Commission in any substantial annexation requests. Denial of City annexation petitions by the County Commission would continue the ongoing gutting of the City public budget to meet public needs in the City of Morgantown and surrounds.

The time is now. Annexation is the fundamental public issue of this area. As City Council and the City of Morgantown move forward, the Monongalia County Commission needs to do its responsible part for the public and not block the City of Morgantown from extending its borders to where the public badly needs them to be, and needed them to be decades ago, already. In the meantime, the City is forced to turn to other ways to generate revenue to meet public needs, including: raising the fire fee, implementing the user fee, and proposing referendums to address many public problems and concerns.

The City of Morgantown, also Westover, could have and should have moved forward long ago in meeting its many public needs, especially if the Monongalia County Commission had not been so terribly opposed to such badly needed growth and progress of the City of Westover and the City of Morgantown. Such irresponsible opposition to annexation by the County Commission hurts local county residents as well and the county in general, in addition to the pain and damage it inflicts on the area cities and city residents.

The Monongalia County Commission Has A Lot To Answer For, An Awful Lot

Annexation is the answer.

Want to know why the streets in the City of Morgantown and in the greater Morgantown area are so full of potholes? Blame the Monongalia County Commission.

Annexation is the answer.

Want to know why the sidewalks in the City of Morgantown and in the greater Morgantown area are so often crumbled or non-existent? Blame the County Commission.

Annexation is the answer.

Want to know why there isn’t an abundance of money for the City of Morgantown to purchase the fast-disappearing green space? Want to know why the City of Morgantown’s park system, BOPARC, is so underfunded and stagnant? Want to know why the City of Morgantown Library is so cramped, under-resourced, and under-serviced? Blame the Monongalia County Commission. And blame it again. And again.

Annexation is the answer.

Want to know why the City of Morgantown neighborhoods lack grates on their drains? Want to know why there is so little funding for the community center of the Woodburn schoolgrounds, its services and infrastructure, buildings, grounds, and Boys and Girls Club? And so little or non-existent funding for other community centers throughout the City of Morgantown and surrounds? Blame the Monongalia County Commission. And blame it again. And again.

Annexation is the answer.

Want to know why every City of Morgantown park does not provide free access public wifi for your phone or computer? Blame the County Commission.

Want to know why there are not free access public wifi spots in every neighborhood, including near businesses, along streets, in parking lots, and all along the trails of the City of Morgantown and surrounds? Blame the Monongalia County Commission.

Want to know why there are not more services for Seniors and Youth in the City of Morgantown? Blame the County Commission. For the homeless? Blame the County Commission.

Annexation is the answer.

Want to know why there are not more opportunities and resources for low-income and at-risk residents in the City of Morgantown and surrounds? Blame the County Commission.

Want to know why there are not more resources for reducing and resolving drug abuse in the City of Morgantown and surrounds? Blame the County Commission.

Want to know why there are not city funded day care centers or more senior care workers and services throughout the neighborhoods of the City of Morgantown and surrounds? Blame the County Commission.

Annexation is the answer.

Want to know why the City of Morgantown public safety and fire departments run out of money? Blame the County Commission.

Want to know why abandoned houses and lots are not adequately remedied in the City of Morgantown and surrounds? Blame the County Commission.

Want to know why there are not more pockets parks and better equipped neighborhood parks in the City of Morgantown and surrounds? Blame the Monongalia County Commission.

Annexation is the answer.

Want to know why the City of Morgantown fire fee is as high as it is? Blame the County Commission.

Want to know why the City of Morgantown had to put in place a user fee to fund city services and employees, and to begin to rebuild the roads? Blame the Monongalia County Commission.

Annexation is the answer.

You got it. If the Monongalia County Commission would grant approval to City of Morgantown annexation petitions to extend the City of Morgantown’s borders to the far more proper bounds, to the interstates and beyond, or to the bounds detailed in the Morgantown Comprehensive Plan, then the pathetic, tiny City of Morgantown budget could quickly double or triple and thereby fund the many pressing needs that have been starved for revenue by the Monongalia County Commission which has been utterly destructive by way of its opposition to annexation. By its active opposition to annexation, the Monongalia County Commission has robbed the public of the City of Morgantown and surrounds of hundreds of millions of dollars over the decades that should have been invested in area quality of life, in services and infrastructure, in green space and community care. The County Commission has smashed and continues to smash the quality of life of the entire public in the greater Morgantown area, which includes the City of Morgantown itself.

The County Commission fought for years against the City of Westover’s mighty, and eventually successful, effort to annex the Morgantown Mall and surrounds. The Monongalia County Commission has thereby demonstrated a terrible and unjust and crushing opposition to the profound annexation needs of the City of Morgantown.

By its destructive power-clutching, power-hungry opposition to annexation, the Monongalia County Commission has denied tens of thousands of greater Morgantown area residents political representation in the very city that already marks the addresses of where those tens of thousands of county residents live. Tens of thousands of county residents have a Morgantown address but no City of Morgantown political representation, no city snow removal, no city curbside recycling, no city police, no city fire protection, no city street repair, no city anything, lighting, sidewalks, or other infrastructure and services. 

Annexation is the answer to greatly improve the conditions of life for the people of the City of Morgantown and surrounds. In the meantime, the Monongalia County Commission has an awful lot to answer for. An awful, awful lot.

Further Reading:

Bernie Sanders Comes to Morgantown?

Mark Brazaitis leading many tours through Haymaker Forest, and leading Morgantown City Council to move Haymaker Forest from private hands to public hands for continued and expanded public use, to hook Haymaker Forest (the size of Marilla Park) into the existing Morgantown area park and trail system – what kind of leadership is that? What other political leader might that remind anyone of? How about Bernie Sanders as Mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Morgantown City Councilor, Deputy Mayor, Mark Brazaitis leading Morgantown City Council – especially on this issue, and as one of very many transplant residents in this area, and in a greener age here today – is a lot like transplant Bernie Sanders leading Burlington Vermont City Council decades ago: 

Things were contentious then and there too in local politics. It’s basically unavoidable. You do the best you can and move on from discussion to discussion, issue to issue. Change can be unsettling for everyone. There can be growing pains all around, caused by changes that people are not used to. It takes time to work through. The fact that more people have finally sat up and taken notice of City Council is a sign that substantial change is in the works, a real move forward toward finally addressing the many concerns of the public that have been so long neglected, overlooked, ignored, or underfunded. Badly underfunded. Substantial progress for the city of Morgantown and larger area, for the public, is coming along, at last. The public, like the area infrastructure and services, is experiencing growing pains. It can never be entirely harmonious. The Council is doing what it can and is learning as it goes. So should we all.

One of the first achievements of the new City Council this past year was to raise the minimum wage for city employees to $15 per hour. The entire greater Morgantown area has a huge wage problem. There is relatively low unemployment in the Morgantown area, quite a few jobs, but wages are far too low. The City Council did what it could toward this end. In my view, the national minimum wage should be $20 per hour (the City could and I think should bump up the wage on its own), subsidized by the federal government as necessary, and that may come with Bernie Sanders’ push for a federal job guarantee with a living wage. In the meantime, the Morgantown City Council has at least moved in the appropriate direction to raise the wages of its lowest paid employees.

And now it is moving forward on other fronts, attempting to preserve green space in a city area where field and forest is rapidly being destroyed for all time. The victorious City Council members ran on other progressive policy planks as well: improving public funding, infrastructure, and services for the library system, for BOPARC, for a community health and wellness center, for neighborhood concerns large and small, and annexation: extending the city borders. For decades the Monongalia County Commission has been openly hostile to annexation. As a consequence, over the past decades, literally hundreds of millions of dollars of B&O and property taxes have been blocked from going to the City of Morgantown (also Westover) that would otherwise be funding many additional public services and infrastructure. Instead, Morgantown was forced to raise the fire fee, and also put in place a user fee to fund police, staff, and road work, and now is forced to consider levies by referendum to purchase park and trail land, and fund other public infrastructure and public services. Annexation could have eliminated the need for those tax increases. Thus Morgantown’s necessary push for annexation. The County Commission should stop choking Morgantown, should approve annexation, and in this way help the public fund its many pressing needs.

Toward this end, Morgantown requires progressive leadership. Like Bernie Sanders in Burlington, Vermont decades ago – Bernie Sanders who won every single county in West Virginia in the Democratic Primary against Hillary Clinton – Deputy Mayor Mark Brazaitis is leading Morgantown forward, through the Haymaker Forest, to an increasingly more green, healthy, and prosperous future. As in Burlington, Vermont, the path ahead won’t always be smooth and easy to venture forward on. The trail will wind and rise and dip and loop around and be sometimes more clear and sometimes more confusing, but at least there is a path forward if there is a strong enough City Council and a forward looking County Commission and an active and engaged public willing to help get it done. And then get it done again. And again through time. It’s time to move forward. It’s time to get it done. No one, no neighborhoods, no city, no urban or rural county pocket or expanse must be left behind. The public well-being depends on it, from the local to the national level.

The City of Morgantown and the Way Forward Through the Haymaker Forest

Sooner rather than later, thanks to the mighty efforts of Morgantown’s most forward looking City Council and the public that vigorously supports progress, Morgantown seems more poised than ever to benefit from a new forest, new green spaces, a new library, a new Boparc, public access wifi, improving roads and walks and trails, improving and expanding city services in general, a new ice rink and a Y or similar centers, and city borders that extend to far more proper bounds, interstate to interstate (providing tens of thousands of orphaned urban county residents a local political voice via city representation), a vastly improved City budget (should be over $100 million by now rather than the measly $38 million), and more.

Already the city employee bottom wage has been bumped up to $15/hr though $20/hr would be more appropriate. Annexation funds and levies could cap, reduce, or eliminate user fees and cap the fire fee. Past City Councils and an active public should have accomplished all of this and more by now, long since. Be that as it may, the time is now to move forward on this and much more, including the various other ecological, education, health, addiction, transportation, housing, livelihood and economic pressures and needs that must be addressed. The City Council can’t achieve this without a strong active public pushing for it, but for the first time in a long time, the public might have much of the City Council it needs to make a lot of progress quick toward these very achievable goals, many of which were part of the campaign platforms and visions of the winning Council members in the last election. Now to organize and push to see it through. The Council can’t do it without the public’s vigorous involvement, in pushing forward, and in organizing to do so.

The main political heat in this area should be on the County Commission, where it belongs, since the County Commission is well known to be outright hostile to annexation, thus strangling the city in its tracks, which has cost Morgantown and the greater Morgantown area hundreds of millions of dollars over the past decades, a tremendous amount of revenue desperately needed to meet public needs in the city and near county both, gutting the City’s budget by tens of millions of dollars every year, harming both city and county residents (also businesses) enormously in economic, social, and environmental costs and more. It’s transformation time. It needs to be. Long since.

It’s transformation time in an area, greater Morgantown, that has grown in population more in the last 20 years than it grew in the previous 50. There is no end in sight to the by now decades-long rapid growth growth in population, but the badly needed social and political transformation in the area can only just now be glimpsed as beginning to form and take shape in the funding of additional city employees, and in the new city representatives, in the fixing of the streets, in the higher city wages at the bottom end, and in the terrific new forest and the green space acquisition plan city-wide that is just now at the City’s fingertips.

Haymaker Forest is West Virginia, and there is nothing more West Virginia than Haymaker Forest. One walk inside it, and you know. It may be ironic that the past heralds the future in this needed transformation forward but it is wholly fitting and absolutely necessary too. Sometimes progress is made at a glacial pace, sometimes in fits and starts, and sometimes by leaps and bounds. The three year sustained effort to secure Haymaker Forest for all time moved at each of these paces at different times. Now is the time to get it done and to move with even more determined pace onward to the next, and the next, and the next, and now.

Save the Haymaker Forest

Haymaker Forest

Morgantown City Council votes on the purchase of Haymaker Forest in a few days. See the tremendous report on the Haymaker Forest by Rick Landenberger of the WV Land Trust and Green Space Coalition: Haymaker Forest report

Join more than 700 members at Save the Haymaker Forest Facebook group forum page: Save the Haymaker Forest.

See some history of the three year struggle of area residents to preserve Haymaker Forest, here and here.

See a few photos of Haymaker Forest: photos

See maps and overview of Haymaker Forest: Who Will Save the Forest?

Another map of local green space, trails, and potential trails, including through Haymaker Forest, from Morgantown’s Comprehensive Plan: Greenspace-Connections.

Early History on the Battle for Haymaker Forest

Local area residents across 3 of the 7 City Wards bordering the forest, along with residents citywide and in the county, considered every possible funding and preservation option for Haymaker Forest that anyone could think of, and tried to pursue whatever seemed most feasible. To give you an idea of how long and to what extent this effort has been ongoing, I’ll post here an email in this effort dating back to October 15, 2015 from City Ward 6 representative at the time, Jay Redmond, to at that time President Bill Wasson of the Southpoint Circle Neighbor Association. This is one early bit, not the earliest, of three years worth of correspondence and effort involving many residents, organizations, agencies, officials. This single email gives some insight into the breadth and depth of the effort from early on, spanning possible city, state, federal, environmental, and university funding sources as noted in this email. Further efforts and appeals were made to the County as well, to no funding effect. Also, in fall of 2015, residents proposed to the City dedicating a portion of the new Service/User fee to permanently fund both green space acquisition, such as Haymaker Forest, and ongoing Boparc activities and infrastructure. This made some minimal progress with that different City Council before being dismissed. Much else was considered and explored from then on, with to my knowledge no funds ever being secured. Since Jay R and Bill W are no longer serving in their official capacities, I’ve deleted their email addresses from their correspondence here:

From: “Jay Redmond” 
To: “wasson b” 
Sent: Thursday, October 15, 2015 7:59:21 AM
Subject: development update


Here’s an update on issues related to the development. Please pass along to the committee and others as you see fit. Thanks.

The city has investigated the conservation easements that would provide tax breaks to the property owner or developer and preserve the forest. The WV Land Trust would be interested in administering a small conservation easement (they typically look for larger tracts of land). The city has discussed other options with the WVU Law School Land sustainability Clinic, but nothing beyond easements were identified. The city manager will continue to pursue these potential opportunities and discuss available options with the developer.

The city is reviewing the Westover annexation by minor boundary adjustment (case is getting appealed to the Supreme court) and the seven points of consideration that are required for the County Commission to approve. Many of the points that were seen in that annexation do not apply with undeveloped property. As for the potential thoughts of the commissioners, Eldon Callen voted against the Westover annexation and Ed Hawkins has often mentioned the same concerns as Mr. Callen.

The city is reviewing the Forestry Grant that became available October 8th ($200,000 grant with 50% match). The city manager has dealt with the Land and Water Conservation Fund federal grant for land purchase (Dorsey’s Knob) for outdoor recreation and will speak to Bob Hannah, State Forester about other ideas. The city manager will discuss any options that are identified with the developer.

The access application from the developer has been received by the city and discussed internally. A public forum will be scheduled in the near future to air the request and allow the developer to make the case for access and allow the public to express their concerns, etc. Once a date, time and location is identified, this public forum will be promoted to encourage attendance. Within their MUB request for a cost estimate, the developer has identified a couple of other streets that they want to access. The city and the developer will be discussing all the requested accesses in their draft design, and possible bring all into the public forum.

Let me know if there’s any other information I can provide at this time. I’ll send any other information I receive or learn your way for distribution.


Democracy and West Virginia

Great interview by Russell Mokhiber with Stephen Smith, Director of Healthy Kids and Family Coalition:

The Corporate Domination of West Virginia



West Virginia has the highest rate of obesity in the country.

The highest rate of smoking.

The highest rate of drug overdose deaths.


Corporate domination of the state.

That’s the take of Stephen Smith. He is director of the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Family Coalition.

“We didn’t do this to ourselves,” Smith told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last week. “We sometimes believe the stereotypes and hype that gets lobbed against us. For generations, corporations, often with the help of the federal government, have done a really good job of systematically robbing our people and our communities of our economic wealth. That had consequences. The consequences include substance abuse. And it’s not just opioids. Opioids are the latest. But we have been in a crisis of mental health and suicide for a generation or two now. Corporate control has led to the defamation of unions and worker power. It’s a pattern of abuse.”

“If anything, my experience is that West Virginians have become more resilient, more creative, in part because of what we had to suffer through. I have had the opportunity to organize in communities across the country and in my experience, West Virginia is one of the more fun and energizing places to organize because people have seen real pain and have worked to find ways to fight against it. It doesn’t mean we always win. It does mean we can win in the long run.”

What is your group doing on the obesity crisis?

“We know strategies that help address obesity,” Smith said. “The Centers for Disease Control knows about them. And we know what works at the local level. But there is a view that those strategies are only going to come from and be implemented by health professionals. In fact, we need the local knowledge and grit to get it done.”

“Every year, we bring together 500 to 550 rural community leaders from across the state, low income people, social service agencies, small business and union people, church people. And we do a conference where West Virginians trade ideas about what is working in our own backyard and what local citizens are doing around it. And then we offer mini-grants and coaching and organizing training for groups of people to take on one of the these projects locally. It could be a community garden, a walking trail, a farmers market or a youth sports program. And we see that as a stepping stone for organizing around issues as well. We find it’s a good way to approach the obesity issue. We ask –  what can we do in our own backyard that we know works but is normally the purview of some health professional? And how can we put that expertise in the hands of everyday people?”

What about public policy?

“Change the economics of obesity. Look at the cost of food over the last couple of generations. The price of food overall hasn’t changed that much. But the price of healthy food has gone up significantly. The price of unhealthy food has gone down. There are people who have learned to make lots of money off of our pain. And that includes the food we eat. It’s not rocket science to figure out if unhealthy foods are cheaper, people are going to buy them and gain weight and get sick.”

“We could make it harder for people to produce corn syrup and encourage producers to make organic foods and healthy foods less expensive. That’s the most valuable thing we could do. We can connect SNAP dollars to farmers markets. Providing double bucks programs at farmers markets. That helps a bit. But a broader effort is going to be needed if we are going to change the economics of food.”

“The other thing we can do is make the food available in schools and more healthy.”

Corporations have a lock on West Virginia. Where is the ray of hope?

“I see it all over the place. We are at a breaking point, where the defining competition in West Virginia politics is not between left and right but between the people and the establishment. Over the next years, we are going to play out the most important moment in American history for at least the last couple of decades. West Virginia and places like West Virginia are going to choose whether or not we are going to have a right populist response to the establishment or whether we are going to have an open left populist response to that pain and exploitation. I’m hoping we can have a left populist response – a response that says – let’s put the power in the hands of all of the people.”

“A poll was done last year showing that 46 percent of likely West Virginia voters would support Bernie Sanders in a run against President Trump. The success that Bernie has had in West Virginia is emblematic that we are not resigned to a nationalist approach.”

“I also see it in some of the candidates that won in yesterday’s primary. Richard Ojeda smoked his opponents. And he was by far the most anti-corporate candidate. This is a guy who ran for state Senate unapologetically against the coal industry. And he was running in Logan County in the middle of coal country. And this year, he was one of the leaders of the teachers’ strike.”

“Yesterday, he won the Democratic primary for Congress in the third Congressional district. More impressively, in the first Congressional district, there were two candidates, one was a traditional Congressional candidate – Ralph Baxter – who had all of the endorsements, including labor, and outraised his opponents. But Baxter was defeated by a candidate who favored Medicare for All. Her name is Kendra Fershee in the first district.”

“Richard Ojeda spent most of his adult life in the military. He talks about being shipped overseas and seeing the poverty and crisis faced by kids in Afghanistan and Iraq and then coming back home only to find that much of the same poverty and despair could be found in his own backyard in Logan County West Virginia. He started a nonprofit. He taught. He did ROTC at Chapmanville High School in Logan County. He thought that was good start, but not enough.”

“He first ran for Congress against Nick Joe Rahall in 2014. He ran a good campaign but got beat. He came back and ran for State Senate in 2016. He was outspent ten to one in the primary against an incumbent Democrat. He won. That story made national news, because days before the primary, a man surprised him in a parking lot and beat him up.”

“He survived the attack and was elected in the Democratic primary. In a district that Trump won with more than 80 percent of the vote, Ojeda also won that general election against the Republican challenger in 2016. Then he gained some recognition for his successful maneuvering for medical cannabis legislation in his first year in the legislature. And he rose to prominence this year as the lawmaker who gave the most blood, sweat and tears during the teachers’ strike, both on the floor of the Senate and traveling around the state, meeting with teachers, communicating with them on a day to day basis.”

“He is just an old school populist. He has no qualms about naming the bad guys. He likes to say –  Follow the Money Dot Org. Go out and find who is paying their campaign donations and don’t let them get away with it. He knows who he is. He knows what side he is on. He is unapologetically pro-union and pro-labor. And it’s working. He won more than a majority of the votes in a three person primary. He has a good shot at winning the whole thing in November in an area that has been written off as an obviously Republican district.”

The primary was yesterday. Ojeda and Fershee. Any others?

“Yes. In Charleston, our state capitol, Amy Goodwin, an unapologetic progressive, soundly beat a more experienced, more conservative Democrat in the primary for Mayor of Charleston. She beat him by 66 to 34. And she did so by running a grassroots progressive campaign. She knocked on more than 5,000 doors personally. And she had a field operation that many of us helped with. She is set up to potentially turn around one of the biggest cities in the state.”

“Rich Lindsay in State Senate 8 – he beat Mark Hunt, a more conservative Democrat. Rich is a young guy and an unapologetic progressive. Bill Hamilton is a pro-union Republican. He ran and beat Robert Karnes in a Republican primary. Karnes was one of the villains of the teachers’ strike. It was a gambit for Hamilton to challenge an incumbent in a Republican primary and run a pro-union campaign. And he beat Karnes 60 to 40. That was the State’s 11th Senatorial District in Upshur County.”

Are you saying those candidates are going to be the building blocks to turn the state around?

“That will be part of it. Electoral strategies are never enough by themselves. If you rely just on electoral strategies, you are in trouble. You need the mass movement on the ground. You need slow and steady organizing in neighborhoods. And you need the electoral strategies.”

“But we are at a point where we have all three. With the organizing that many groups have done, including ours, over the last few years, plus the  movement power with the teachers’ strike, the election was a sign that we can also do the electoral strategy. You put all of those things together, and that gives me hope.”

Smith says “the question we all need to be asking right now is – who do you serve?”

“Most West Virginians are busy serving their neighbors, their friends, their church, their country, people in need. And the people in power are serving Wall Street, and Washington, D.C, and lobbyists.”

The PEIA Show in West Virginia

The PEIA smoke and mirrors show trundles on. This isn’t rocket science, folks. This is put enough money into an account to pay for people’s reeds. Any willing and competent government would have long since done so. Instead, they are stalling for time, and maximizing their show-our-deep-concern propaganda tour. Public workers, teachers in Colorado and Arizona, initially inspired by West Virginia, are already acting far beyond any pathetic “education” tour.

In Colorado, educators are moving on their own to lock in an additional $1.6 billion annually for public education: “A ballot petition is circulating that could raise significant dollars for public education. All that money would fund full-day kindergarten, pay down the budget stabilization factor and pour even more money into public education. Initiative 93 would raise the state income tax on the top 8 percent of earners; Coloradans making under $150,000 won’t be affected by the change. Depending on what income bracket the earners fall in, they could see a tax rate increase of 0.37 percent to 3.62 percent, and certain domestic and foreign corporations would also see a tax increase. Altogether, those tax dollars would raise $1.6 billion annually.”

In Arizona, educators are acting to lock in another $690 million annually to public education: “The Invest in Education Act gives Arizona voters the chance to restore investments in public schools and to ensure a dedicated funding source. The proposition is expected to raise $690 million which will be deposited into the Classroom Site Fund with 60% of the dedicated revenue directed to teacher salary increases and employment-related expenses and 40% directed to maintenance and operations of public schools… Our solution is to ask those families with incomes over $500,000 to pay more in their state income taxes. And once passed by the voters, this funding cannot be taken away by the legislature … and will apply to less than 1% of Arizona households.”

In West Virginia, the official PEIA task force trundles on. All those suits and ties pretending not to know what to do! Plenty of other people know what to do. And in Arizona and Colorado, so far, they are the ones now moving to get it done. Meanwhile in the WV, the officials go on tour, put on a show, handout pittance raises.

Public Educators Strike Back

Very impressive, and badly needed; every state should initiate something like it, ballot initiative for $1.6 billion annually for public education in Colorado, tax on the haves: Colorado goes all West Virginia, and then some.

Progressive for West Virginia

Paula Jean Swearengin. Candidate for US Senate. Vote for Paula Jean Swearengin or vote for the same old death by a million cuts. If you are going to vote for death, please stay home. Do everyone a favor.

Why Did the WV School Workers Strike Not Achieve More in the Near Term?

This is an important question that many people are asking but no one is directly and specifically answering. Unlike in a traditional strike, the striking school workers lost no pay, because each county school system closed the schools, as on snow days, with the intent of making them up in June. Plus, the teachers raised over $300,000 in 2 weeks with various fundraising efforts to help cover various extra strike expenses. So, the teachers could have held out much longer. Unfortunately, the teachers misjudged how big and how specific their demands and the solutions to their demands needed to be, and this weakness was seen immediately and constantly attacked by the corporate state officials, including the corporate media.

Consequently, when the officials (including union officials) rushed to end the strike with very marginal measures of appeasement (minor salary raise and an insurance task force, mainly), the teachers had no clear idea what could be further gained upon continuing the strike. I go into more detail on this at “Next Steps from the West Virginia School Workers’ Strike. Not difficult to anticipate: I did so at “WV Public School Workers’ Demands Need To Go Up.”

These issues need to be addressed prior to strikes, however, not on the fly, which would be extremely difficult or impossible in the great flux of things. The strike was limited but good as far as it went. The demands ultimately weren’t focused well enough and the organizing seemed to have sort of tapered off too much to be able to sustain things much beyond where they went.

Yes, the PEIA public workers insurance could certainly be “fixed” overnight, if the political will were there, and in the sense that plenty of money is available in the state to restore benefits to what they once were, including going forward. But public pressure was neither strong enough nor well-focused enough to force it. Can it get there via the promised task force? I think it would probably take another strike, one even more well organized, and more imaginative of possible solutions.

Marijuana legalization money should definitely be one of those possible contributing solutions proposed. But mainly: reinstating the temporary severance tax on coal and gas ($125 million annually, more than was doled out with the 5 percent salary raise), and increasing the severance tax otherwise, and rolling the rainy day fund and possibly the state pensions (as the state of Pennsylvania has been considering) into the creation of a state bank, a public bank, like the State Bank of North Dakota (and perhaps somewhat the State Investment Council of South Dakota) which helps greatly to cut financial costs and increase local, state, and community investments and revenues, and on and on.

The political will needs to be found, creatively, determinedly, and with great ongoing organization. The vital public banking movement is on a roll nationally, including in nearby states. West Virginia should join in, rather than go the other way, the wrong way, but it will require striking public workers who go in with big enough demands in the first place and the detailed fiscal solutions (mainly various sorts of corporate taxation) – of which there are many – that don’t split the working class. Because the workers failed to come up with or emphasize these focused and detailed demands for specific gains as well as for specific solutions to bring about these gains this time, the corporate state officials immediately recognized this great weakness and pounced, and the strikers could not recover.

Ultimately, the only thing that will truly “fix” PEIA insurance for WV public workers is when it is thrown into the trash and replaced with national, universal, single payer (free) health care; that is, vastly improved Medicare for all. Short of that, the only thing that the state of WV can do to “fix” PEIA (that is, restore to earlier benefit levels) is to find major new revenue sources to pay for the restoration of good benefits. In WV, that can only come from additional severance taxes on coal and gas and other corporate taxes and otherwise taxing wealth. Now, how on earth is that going to happen, since wealth funds the election campaigns?

Only a new massive strike, probably a general strike, with specific revenue sourcing demands could generate the force necessary, the public pressure to achieve it. In other words, public school workers and all state workers will need to be even much better organized and even more effective in striking than they were this time. 

In Canada, decades ago, unions demanded free, universal, single payer health care for the whole country, everyone, not just for themselves. That’s how that country made that huge advance. WV workers should broaden their demands to cover and include more people, while also pushing for demands strictly particular to their own groups. The workers need to set the terms of debate very precisely, otherwise, they will always be given a pitiful limited offer that they will find themselves trapped into accepting. That is exactly what happened this time, and that is exactly why the WV workers strike did not achieve more in the near term. The money to achieve much more was there and remains there, the public support also, but the workers failed to adequately demand it, and they were mercilessly attacked for showing this weakness.

Next Steps from the West Virginia School Workers’ Strike

Lessons of the West Virginia Teachers’ Strikeis a very strong article at the World Socialist Website, though its practical use would be enhanced by a few additions and qualifications.

The article omits one of the very crucial factors that caused the school workers to “acquiesce” to the state’s desperate, and successful, gambit to end the strike: the workers lack of specific demands for ending the strike. The workers demanded a “fix” – far too vague – for PEIA health insurance. This left the state free to decide what a “fix” would be (a merciless one year fee hike freeze – the fees are already painful – and a task force creation – an empty promise).

The school workers might well have demanded additionally several thousand dollars per year of salary increase not for one year but every year for the next five years or more, but they failed to be as specific, detailed and focused as they need to be. The workers didn’t make demands for workplace and salary gains big enough or specific enough, let alone detail any demands for the exact solutions, funding mechanisms (specific corporate taxes), available and necessary. Fiscal demands necessitate fiscal solutions as part of those demands to prevent the state from dividing various worker funds to conquer all workers, all the while sparing corporate, One Percent funds. This failure of the workers to insist on specific and sizable worker-detailed gains along with worker-friendly solutions basically gutted the ability of the workers to clearly understand what they would be voting for if they would vote to extend the strike.

With their far too-limited and far too-vague initial and ongoing demands, the workers ultimately left themselves nothing clear and specific to vote for. And the corporate state (and union) officials attacked that weakness. And as those weaknesses were attacked relentlessly, including by the corporate media, the workers were unable to adjust into any clear or strong defensive let alone proactive position. The World Socialist Website article misses this crucial analysis regarding the importance of effective demands in time-limited actions such as strikes.

And while “Lessons of the West Virginia Teachers’ Strike” seems to me generally well observed, it badly undercuts itself at the end where it asserts that “The critical question, not only for teachers, but all sections of the working class, is the building of a socialist leadership, which will encourage the independent organization and initiative of the workers.” In a sense, this gets the situation precisely backwards and largely contradicts everything the article previously analyzed and put forth. Good, effective leadership is important but this can only arise, in any sustainable sense, if the workers themselves collectively, mutually, grow and cohere into healthy, knowledgeable, and self-directing groups. Only then can any effective leadership (ideological or otherwise) appear to become prominent, and only because the workers are doing all of the growing and the work – the physical, intellectual, emotional, and social growth and work – in the struggle for social change.

The widespread flowering of social media has made any notion of “the building” of a “leadership … of the workers” less and less useful or needed, or even possible, which is a very fortunate social development. It has been shown time and again that workers have to grow and build themselves in groups. Any overarching leadership or leaders that workers come up with (must very much … come up with) are important but should be almost an indistinguishable part of the groups and the growth and building they have already achieved.

Possibly the best thing to come out of the WV workers strike is the utter lack of any real, distinct, prominent individual leaders. Leadership, though limited, was clear and present and remains; distinct leaders, not so much. Good prominent leaders can make a difference, but their roles seem historically always fleeting (that is, non-sustainable) and in any case of limited use and effectiveness.

What will matter going forward is what happens in the various types of groups, by the groups, of the groups, for the groups and by and for the public in general. Any leaders should be almost an afterthought, for a wide variety of reasons, though much group leadership must continue to come to be, as an inherent, inescapable part of the growth of the groups, small groups and larger groupings.

What is needed beyond the organic growth of worker groups is for those groups to increasingly reach out and be reached out to by other public groups, for those groups to grow and come together to form larger healthy and strong public organisms that can restructure and renew the life of the public and vastly improve living conditions for all.

The State Lies for the One Percent

The state of West Virginia continues to lie to the public school workers and to the public in general. Where did the money come from to end the public school workers strike? The state said for months that no money was available. It was a lie. The state constantly lies about money on behalf of the One Percent who fund their election campaigns. All states lie to benefit their One Percent campaign donors and against the public.

The state can easily afford these marginal payouts of 5 percent to the public school employees and other state workers, and in fact the state can easily afford much more than that. Simply reinstating the temporary severance tax would have more than covered the 5 percent raises, with an additional $25 million left over. Yes, the state could have easily afforded even more than a 10 percent pay raise. The officials have simply been lying all along when claiming otherwise. They are professionals at it. Professional liars. The school workers finally pushed forcefully back a bit against some of the lies. Many more lies remain to be pushed back against and are to be increasingly overcome.

This is the Time for a General Strike

All public school workers are out on strike in the state of West Virginia, tens of thousands of workers. 

It’s time to move toward a General Strike, nationwide, all workers.

About 1,400 workers of Frontier Communications have now gone on strike in West Virginia and Virginia.

It’s time to move toward a General Strike.

Tens of thousands of Oklahoma public school teachers are preparing to go out on strike.

It’s time to move toward a General Strike.

Thousands of teachers in the Pittsburgh Public Schools District are planning to go on strike.

It’s time to move toward a General Strike.

Tens of thousands of Chicago teachers are planning a strike.

It’s time to move toward a General Strike.

University of Illinois graduate student workers are in the second week of their strike.

It’s time to move toward a General Strike.

Arizona teachers are considering a strike.

It’s time to move toward a General Strike.

Teachers in New Jersey reportedly have voted to authorize a strike.

And on and on and on.

It’s time to move toward a General Strike. A demand for a $20 nationwide minimum wage would be reasonable, along with a 10 percent across the board wage hike for others. A demand for single payer, free, universal health care is urgent. A demand for free college tuition is necessary. A demand for increased taxation of the wealthy and big corporations is urgent. Demands for race and gender equity are urgent. Demands for sweeping prison reform are urgent. Demands for immigration reform are urgent. Demands for ecological laws to halt and reverse climate change are urgent. Demands to end US militarism worldwide are urgent. Demands to abolish nuclear weapons worldwide are urgent. And on and on and on.

It’s time to move toward a General Strike. It’s time to set the date. It’s time to move to Strike.






WV Public School Workers’ Demands Need To Go Up

WV public school workers are being backed into a corner and must increase their demands. The WV Senate is trying to divide them from all state workers, and from workers everywhere. Anyone who knows history knows this. If the Senate counters with a 5 percent raise for school workers and lowers some state workers raise to 3 percent, then school workers should hold out for everyone receiving the same 5 percent raise, for obvious and far-reaching reasons. This is at a minimum. School workers are not demanding enough before returning to work. The WV Governor, the WV House, and the WV Senate are trying to buy them off for peanuts, while coal and gas companies, mostly out-of-state, continue to get hundreds of millions of dollars in tax cuts.

A demand for reinstating the temporary severance tax to generate $125 million per year indefinitely, for a 5 percent raise for all EVERY YEAR (plus a funding start to a PEIA fix) is possibly the biggest missed opportunity in failing to put forth a few potent and crucial demands. The whole movement needs to grow with more pointed demands, bigger demands, both urgent and far-reaching. There is zero union leadership on this (to say the least). It will have to come from organic teacher leaders, other school worker leaders, and possibly from other strong leaders like Ojeda.

Lots of Money for the Strike

There’s lots of money available for striking school workers, but the state won’t give it to them. The WV State Journal reports that the state killed “the temporary severance tax that was used to pay off the state’s workers compensation debt” which was paid down. That’s “more than $125 million” per year that could be reinstated to fund PEIA and raise wages. Simple. But instead that money is now going to coal and gas companies and not to public workers: Reinstating Severance Tax Could Provide Much Needed Revenue.

Even an extra $125 million per year to the public schools is a fraction of the funds the state could raise to direct to public education and public employment in West Virginia, but starting with $125 million would be a good stimulus to local economies and households statewide, instead of directing that money to the bank accounts of out-of-state coal and gas companies.

Also see: “How Tax Cuts Led to West Virginia’s Massive Strike“. The rich got richer and the public got poorer. Big time. Funny how that works. Government of, for, and by the One Percent.



Strike! Public Workers Show Strength in West Virginia

Saving West Virginia” is a great article by Kathy Kunkel, WV Working Families Party, by far the best report on the so-called “work stoppage” become wildcat strike in the West Virginia public schools.

Kunkel calls this a wildcat strike, and so does WV MetroNews corporate cheerleader Hoppy Kercheval now, which it basically is, especially by now, going against the wishes of the school employees’ labor organizations so-called “leaders,” Dale Lee and the other two complicit bumblers.

But this could also be called a Social Media strike, given the crucial secret and private Facebook organizing that went on in recent months, noted in this article. This sharing of independent news and information among school workers statewide allowed even the employees and people in rural counties in West Virginia to be as informed as anywhere else, and helped lead to great unity and strength going far beyond what the state legislature and governor and even the labor groups’ “leaders” could understand, and the first ever 55 county walkout. Even in the 11 day West Virginia public schools strike of 1990, 8 counties did not strike. Those days are gone.
This is yet another sign that things are different now, as if Trump and Bernie Sanders’ rise didn’t make that clear two years ago. It’s Social Media politics and culture ever increasingly. Thus the recent frenzy among corporate media about the fear of “fake news.” They are the fake news generators as often as not, along with the officials whom they de facto lie for, not least in this instance where virtually all national corporate media reported that the strike was ended by the officials’ deal. False news. Even to this point there have been few prominent corrections, let alone retractions. 
Great and informative article by Kathy Kunkel: “Saving West Virginia.”

…when you compare teachers to other people with similar credentials, they are paid a whole lot less. Public school teachers make 17 percent less than other comparable college graduates. The more experienced teachers have it the worst, facing even larger pay gaps. And things have been getting worse, not better: teachers only suffered a 1.8 percent pay differential two decades ago. But while college graduates overall saw their pay increase between 1996 and 2015, teachers saw theirs decline.

The gap can’t be explained by educators having fewer credentials or doing valueless work. So what can explain it? One big reason we pay teachers at a discount is that we think of their work not so much as work, but as service.

Specifically, their jobs have come to be seen as an extension of women’s unpaid work. Elementary and secondary schools are teeming with women: Three-quarters of public school teachers are female. But in the more male-dominated field of academia, where women make up less than a third of professors, median pay is over $75,000 a year. On the other end, teachers in pre-kindergarten are paid far less than those who teach in K-12 education despite usually facing the same training and education requirements — and they are nearly 98 percent female.

In fact, teaching used to be a high-paid, high-status job when men held it. Then when women entered the field, the pay and prestige dropped. This is a phenomenon that has repeated over and over again — women push their way into a particular job, then the job starts to pay less — but it’s pronounced in work that requires taking care of other people. Such jobs are seen as “women’s work,” which both lowers its status because women are simply valued less, and also connects it closely to the work women are expected to do at home for free.

A Progressive Wave

Long overdue, a progressive wave in the state and nation. Rolling Stone reports:

A Progressive Revolt Is Brewing in West Virginia

There is a revolt brewing in West Virginia politics. Last Friday Lissa Lucas, an author and celebrated backyard chicken farmer from Cairo, in the northwestern part of the state, brought the fight to the floor of the state capitol. The House of Delegates Judiciary Committee was hearing comments on House Bill 4268, legislation that would enable oil and gas companies to drill on private property as long as three-quarters of the mineral rights owners okayed the operation. The bill, which critics like Lucas have called an effort by “our government…to allow corporations to steal our property and trespass on it without our permission,” also grants the oil and gas industry a number of other measures its lobbyists have long sought from the legislature.

“I’d…like to point out that the people who are going to be speaking in favor of this bill are all going to be paid by the industry, and the people who are going to be voting on this bill are also often paid by the industry,” Lucas said from the podium on the house floor last Friday. “I have to keep it short simply because the public only gets a minute 45 [seconds] while lobbyists can throw a gala at the Marriott with whiskey and wine and talk for hours to the delegates.”

Lucas then listed the publicly-available oil and gas-related campaign contributions for Representative Charlotte Lane and Judiciary Committee Chair John Shott: “First Energy, $2,000, Appalachian Power, $2,000, Steptoe & Johnson – that’s a gas and oil law firm – $2,000, Consol Energy, $1,000, EQT, $1,000, and I could go on…” As Lucas began to list campaign contributions to Jason Harshbarger, a Republican delegate, Shott interrupted her and asked that “no personal comments be made.” She attempted to finish her remarks, as a pair of security guards approached the podium and explained that she could not continue talking. “Drag me out, then,” said Lucas. As the men hauled her from the chamber, she cried “Montani Semper Liberi!” – Mountaineers are always free.

The episode is all the more significant because Lissa Lucas is running for West Virginia House of Delegate’s in the state’s seventh district, which is currently held by Harshbarger, and lists property rights and getting money out of politics as two pillars of her campaign. While national pundits continuously play on the state’s historic shift from blue to red, the populist call of the Bernie Sanders’ movement – that concerned citizens can and should get more involved in politics – has struck a major nerve. The goal for many of West Virginia’s progressives is not even beating Republicans like Harshbarger; it is to reform a Democratic Party they see as corrupt and out-of-touch.  

“I remember knowing for a long time that the underlying problem to everything is how money in politics is used to manipulate people,” said Selena Vickers, a West Virginia educator and social worker who is running for the West Virginia House of Delegates in District 32. “Lissa is a friend of mine,” she added. “We are both committed to fixing the [Democratic National Committee], which we know is broken.”

Vickers says she was electrified by the Bernie Sanders movement, and spent much of 2016 organizing for his campaign. “Bernie invited me to a revolution, and I showed up,” said Vickers, in a video she made about the experience. She provided a list of some 31 progressive democrats running for congress at the state or national level this year in West Virginia, including Richard Ojeda, a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, Kendra Fershee, a law professor, Sammi Brown, a former AFL-CIO field organizer, James Cameron Elam an openly gay candidate running for House of Delegates and Paula Jean Swearengin, a passionate West Virginia social justice and environmental organizer who is running to unseat the state’s powerful, and notoriously unreliable Democratic senator, Joe Manchin. “We’ve ended up with politicians like Joe Manchin in West Virginia because we’ve been told that’s the best Democrat we can have, and we vote for them out of fear,” says Chris Pennington, a father of three from Oak Hill, West Virginia, who also campaigned for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and is presently running for the state’s Democratic Executive Committee. “People here in West Virginia just didn’t have the inspiration to run before,” says Pennington. “Now a lot of them do.”

House Bill 4268 is expected to pass in both West Virginia’s House of Delegates and Senate, and be signed into law by the Republican governor, Jim Justice. The bill would take effect this July. Lucas plans to keep calling out legislators on their campaign finances till Election Day. “I won’t be taking money from SuperPACs,” reads a flier promoting her campaign. “I don’t care if I offend the people who are working for those interests by telling them” and “I’m not abandoning my neighbors just so you can line your pockets.”


A Wave Election and Annexation

At his City of Morgantown blog, Sam Wilkinson asks if to win local elections, “Is it important to have been born in Morgantown?” and he answers “No.”


In fact, it appeared important to NOT have been born in Morgantown to win the recent Morgantown City Council election. That’s what the results showed: Don’t be born in Morgantown if you want to get many votes from current Morgantown residents. Yes, patriotism (outsiders are evil!) is the last refuge of the landlords (the One Percent and their fellow travelers). Though not much refuge after all in a city and surrounds now full of “outsiders”! So who really are the “outsiders”…? The old-guard “insiders” with their skimpy ideas and baseless politics are inside what after all, other than the ideology of the One Percent?

Wilkinson adds, “…there are functionally two Morgantowns: the place we understand Morgantown to be, and the place the lines actually define. It is an absurdly stupid thing, and almost impossible to fix.”

Except that things have changed. It’s obvious now that the only way forward is to fix the broken city boundaries. Fix-minded representatives just swept the City Council. Fix-minded representatives can sweep the County Commission too. It will be more difficult but with work is possible. A corner has been turned.

Charles Town, WV is currently annexing sections of Jefferson County such that the city of Charles Town will grow in one fell swoop by 70 percent, and increase in population by 27 percent. Charles Town is adding over 4 square miles to its current 5.8 square miles and upping its population from 5,889 to 8,063. The city of Charles Town explains how and why it is expanding in clear detail at its city website. In comparison, Morgantown’s neighbor city Westover, in its recent and supposedly impossible annexation of the Morgantown Mall and surrounds, added only about 10 percent to the size of Westover, and very little population. Charles Town, with crazy borders like Morgantown, is on the verge of going far beyond Westover’s example, and both examples make a good model for Morgantown.

Charles Town has the advantage of having had Jefferson County in 2003 approve urban growth boundaries (UGBs), allowing the city to annex at will in the future within those boundaries. The future is now in Charles Town. These are the conversations that responsible, forward-looking leaders are having now in West Virginia. These are the good, even great, actions they are achieving. This will be among their most impressive of public legacies. A legacy that greatly benefits city, county, region, and state all.

For Morgantown to model exactly after Charles Town, by state law Monongalia County would first have to establish county-wide zoning, a county zoning ordinance. Then UGBs could be established by the County, perhaps based on the good “Conceptual Urban Growth Boundary” detailed in Morgantown’s state mandated Comprehensive Plan, Appendix A, page 19.

However, there is no need at all to wait for county-wide zoning, that is, a county-wide zoning ordinance (currently lacking in Monongalia County – a gross negligence). Though UGBs fall within the rubric of state code “minor boundary adjustments” (MBAs), MBAs can be enacted by city/county cooperation without UGB designations – just as in Westover’s annexation of the Morgantown Mall and surrounds. Westover’s annexation was necessarily approved (per state code) by the Monongalia County Commission, in a 2-1 vote. The lone County Commissioner who voted against the Westover annexation, Eldon Callen, has been since voted out of office and also lost in his recent attempt to win a City Council seat.

There is every reason for Morgantown to pursue an MBA or a series of MBAs immediately (no legal reason not to), for immediate implementation. Just as Westover is now collecting city sustaining B&O taxes from the Morgantown Mall annexation, so too should the city of Morgantown expand and collect and bring public representation to the masses of unrepresented citizens who currently go without a voice in the city even though they live in urban pockets well within Morgantown’s functional, if not legal, boundary.

It is not asking too much for the city of Morgantown and the county of Monongalia to catch up to Westover locally, and to catch up to Charles Town in the eastern part of the state. Such responsible action would be hugely beneficial to quality of life and to much greater economic activity and prosperity (at the local, regional, and even state level). But the Morgantown City Council and the Monongalia County Commission will have to stop sitting on their hands, or stop clamping their mouths, and start leading vocally and by acting on this. Failing this, they should be replaced come election one by one in favor of those who are willing to do what is so greatly beneficial to the public in the local cities, counties, and state. Things have changed. So must the leadership.

Morgantown should expand its boundaries to bring political representation to the tens of thousands of people who live in urban pockets in the county (technically) and who currently go unrepresented by the city that they realistically live within. The vast bulk of the businesses in the county along the city’s crazy borders would not be here otherwise, would not exist without the city, and yet they do not pay B&O tax like the city businesses that support the city all the while. The result is unfair and a gutting of the local economy which would boom with the stimulus of a city budget that is double, triple, or quadruple its current size. A great economic stimulus would result if the city boundaries were properly fleshed out and newly enabled city initiatives were undertaken. The recently implemented city worker user fee could then be cut or reduced or redirected to, say, parks and rec which would also improve the economy, along with quality of life.

The current County Commissioners and other holdbacks too often appear willing only to point to the airport/business park and riverfront development as the main new efforts of economic stimulus to be pushed in the area. This amounts to basically a con job, a great little con, one that couples with their blaming of WVU and the state for assorted problems. This is often done to divert from their own County negligence. The City Council has done this too. These are negligent and derelict positions compared to pursuing the great public benefits of annexation, which the County Commission is de facto blocking and which the City Council has not remotely led on. Airport business park and riverfront efforts are important, as are equity from WVU and the state, but compared to city and regional benefits from serious annexation…benefits including boosted revenue, jobs, economy, quality of life (zoning, representation, parks, services, utilities, infrastructure, etc)…those 4 diversionary issues are mere tiddlywinks, a pittance. Serious border expansion approximating Morgantown’s Conceptual Urban Growth Boundary, at least, is the minimum that responsible City and County leadership should call for and act toward. Further great initiative is readily at hand.

It is long since time for the conversation to grow up among the elected leaders. Otherwise, the County Commission and the City Council will continue to pose as begging wards of mighty WVU and the state. The City Council is moving forward. The County Commissioners will need to join City Councilors in leading on annexation – or be swept out. Patriotism may be the last refuge of the landlords, but after that last refuge, as we’ve seen with the recent City Council election, the landlord mindset figureheads are simply removed from office, when positions that are vacuous, damaging, or otherwise unpopular are revealed for what they are.

Political power consists of opinions and ideas, also money. The money hasn’t gotten out from under the boots of the landlords much, but a lot of opinions and ideas have, and thus so has the power at the city level at least. We’ll see about the county level next. And the state, and beyond.

Is it asking too much of the local leaders of the city of Morgantown and in the county of Monongalia to try to catch up to the leaders of Westover, Charles Town, and Jefferson County? Far from it. A corner has been turned. The voters now seem intent on making certain that local officials get up to speed, just as the recent impressive election results have shown.

Further Reading:

Landlords Versus The People: Morgantown City Council Elections, 2017

Sam Wilkinson writes at thecityofmorgantown blog: 

Confirmed: Local Landlords Trying To Buy Morgantown’s City Council

Also: Some Local Landlords Appear To Be Especially Interested In Buying Morgantown’s City Council

Sam Wilkinson’s articles should be front page stories in the Dominion Post and also lead on WBOY.

This month’s Morgantown City Council Election has come down to this: the Landlords versus the People.

Candidates supported by individual donors:
Ward 1 – Rachel Fetty
Ward 2 – Bill Kawecki
Ward 3 – Ryan Wallace
Ward 4 – Jenny Selin
Ward 5 – Ron Dulaney Jr.
Ward 6 – Mark Brazaitis
Ward 7 – Barry Wendell

Candidates supported by a special interest landlord PAC:
Ward 1 – Ron Bane
Ward 2 – Al Bonner
Ward 3 – Wes Nugent
Ward 4 – Eldon Callen
Ward 5 – Kyle McAvoy
Ward 6 – Jay Redmond
Ward 7 – Bill Graham

The needs, priorities, and preferences of the public will be represented by Rachel Fetty, Bill Kawecki, Ryan Wallace, Jenny Selin, Ron Dulaney Jr., Mark Brazaitis, and Barry Wendell far moreso than by any other candidates.

Those other candidates have the financial backing of the NCWVBO landlord political action committee, showing where their allegiance lies.

Early voting is ongoing now through the end of voting on April 25.


Who Will Save The Forest?

Two wealthy owners in Morgantown have plans to destroy the Haymaker forest and fill it with houses and roads and other buildings, a lot of buildings and roads:

Haymaker Forest

Haymaker Forest is on the south side of Morgantown. It is a former steep sloped dairy farm with a brushy stream and the headwaters of a tributary of Aaron Creek, which flows into Deckers Creek very close to Marilla Park. Though privately owned, there are hiking trails already throughout Haymaker Forest. Beautiful hiking and biking trails could be expanded through Haymaker Forest extending from nearly-adjacent White Park (and its Cobun Creek connectors with the Mon Rail Trail) to Marilla Park, both at its upper and lower ends. Not, however, if this forest is destroyed for development.

[update: see Save the Haymaker Forest (facebook group) for more recent and current information on efforts to save Haymaker Forest, and there join 600+ members currently.]

Both the city of Morgantown and Monongalia County have state mandated (though nonbinding) Comprehensive Plans with land use maps designating the Haymaker Forest as a sensitive area prioritized for preservation. While very many areas in the city and county are designated for development by the Comprehensive Plans’ land use maps, this forest is not one of them. And with good reason. Some of the slopes are steep, and much of the forest remains designated as “farmland of statewide importance,” now become prime forest, potentially sheltering multiple protected species, including bats and clover.

Below are the developer/owners’ plans for the forest instead, the first diagram submitted to MUB and the second diagram submitted to the Morgantown Planning Commission:

subdivision plans (2)

planning commision subdivision

The owner developers intend to put in a lot of buildings and roads, despite the city and county comprehensive land use plans prioritizing the opposite. Below, a map in the Monongalia County Comprehensive Plan shows the area to consist entirely of severe slopes and “farmland of statewide importance” now forested that is not marked for any “development potential” despite very much of the map being marked for development (in yellow) – (Haymaker Forest is in the added red oval):

Conservation map county marked red circle

Similarly, the City of Morgantown’s Comprehensive Plan’s Land Management map prioritizes the Haymaker Forest for “reserve” and not for growth or development, in an almost totally developed city already:

Morgantown Comprehensive Plan Land Management map (2)

Unfortunately, though both the county and city Comprehensive Plans are mandated by the state to exist, they are not binding, even when there is overwhelming public support for those plans or portions of those plans, as in the case of preserving Haymaker Forest, and potentially incorporating it into the city and county parks system. It is the responsibility of local public officials and offices to make these plans reality. The city and county so far have refused to take such action though it has been urged and available. The Morgantown City Council refused to vote on and pass a user fee for park land acquisition (direct or indirect), and the Monongalia County Commission has not been receptive to any action for park land acquisition there. The city and county are refusing to live up to their Comprehensive Plans. In doing so, they are refusing to enhance and protect the ecological and social quality of life in the area. And for what? So that two wealthy owners can profit off of Haymaker Forest in wholesale disregard for public planning and public will? That is government for the One Percent, not government for the public and people in general.

Here is what government for the people would have long since been actively working to create out of Haymaker Forest, not the currently privately planned entirely inappropriate development and anti-public-planning mayhem but parks and trails for the public and for wildlife and ecology, for health and quality of life, a park and greenbelt initiative, from White Park to Marilla Park:

South Loop Morgantown Parks & Trails 1 (2)

This could be and should be part of a greater greenbelt initiative establishing the first major outer loop bike trails connecting Deckers Creek and the Monongahela River to trails through the surrounding city and county, possibly via the potential loops illustrated here:greater greenbelt initiative

Such a sweeping expansion of the park and trail system would greatly improve quality of life, health, and the reputation of the city and county, thereby attracting further investment financial and social. Saving the Haymaker Forest by various city and county initiatives should be a key part of area revitalization, preservation, and improvement. Enough with anti-public-planning. Enough with sitting on hands by local government officials, failing to do what should have been done decades ago, and could be done at virtually any time now. It is time to move forward in and around Haymaker Forest, and not backward into the chaos and destruction of similar previous inappropriate private development.

There is a much bigger picture to be considered in and around Haymaker Forest:

Mon_Valley_Green_Space (2)

Haymaker Forest, though largely in county jurisdiction, is partly in city of Morgantown jurisdiction and is engulfed on three sides by three of the city’s seven wards (1st, 2nd, and 6th wards – Councilors Bane, Kawecki, and Redmond). In other words, nearly a majority of the City Council wards border and engulf Haymaker Forest and yet Council has done essentially nothing to attempt to save it. Furthermore, Councilor Kawecki’s Ward partly contains Haymaker Forest. And yet where has a single Councilor even spoken up publicly on behalf of preserving Haymaker Forest? Why do they pass up opportunities to marshal funds for it? And the County Commissioners? Deafening silence, no action. Suddenly bond proposals for many things, but not this. Do they all side with the One Percent against the public on this matter of area and even regional importance? Representatives of multiple neighborhoods and Neighborhood Associations have appeared before City Council and County Commission and appealed for quality of life relief from the privately planned development by two wealthy owner developers, a private development that opposes both the city and the county’s thoughtful and publicly vetted Comprehensive Plans. Do the local government officials think they are elected to represent the interests of the One Percent over the interests and needs of the public, quality of life be damned? What can one reasonably conclude?

haymaker forest and wards labeled (3)

Haymaker Forest

forest header

forest superimpose

Developer’s map of Phase 1 and Phase 2 of Haymaker Village and original submission to MUB – note the proposed thruway extending from Dorsey Avenue to Buckhannon Avenue:

subdivision plans (2)

MUB map of Phase 1 and Phase 2 of Haymaker Village:

MUB mockup of Haymaker Village phases



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Morgantown Monongalia Annexation Plans?

Obviously the city’s main revenue problem is the vast amount of B&O tax, also property tax and now service fee tax, uncollected just outside the city boundaries yet within the concentrated urban population.

Where is the city’s annexation policy that the city’s Comprehensive Plan slates for immediate creation by the city council? (See LM 10.4 on page 106 of the Comprehensive Plan) (Also see LM 10.5 on page 106 and ED 6.2 on page 115).

Where are even the attempts at cooperative efforts of city-county annexation planning? Cooperative city-county annexation would 

1) stimulate the local/regional economy; 
2) vastly improve local/regional public revenue generation, for services and infrastructure;
3) provide zoning to manage growth; 
4) provide urban county residents with political representation where they lack it currently; 
5) improve city-county relations;
6) possibly prevent the large Haymaker Forest bordering 3 of the city’s 7 Wards from being destroyed by reckless growth entirely counter to the Plans;
7) greatly improve local/regional quality of life, in many ways. 

The alternative?: worsening local/regional chaos and crumbled conditions, greater ecological destruction and continued public poverty. 

Now that the local/regional population continues to boom, having grown more in the past 10-15 years in the immediate Morgantown area than it grew in the previous 50, while city and county budgets both remain at 2008 levels, there is no turning away from an organized series of cooperative city-county annexations, unless gross government dysfunction and continued public poverty is the goal. Remember: wide latitude is given to County Commission annexation decisions.

The city and the county lack money due largely to their own failings, and only in part due to the failings of the state. This financial void breaks down in part as follows, from local to state, immediate to longer term:

  • Morgantown’s lack of a dedicated revenue stream to parks and recreation, allowed by state code but non-existent locally (see Charleston County’s fantastic greenbelt example);
  • Morgantown’s lack of annexation of several commercial corridors and residential areas and more, which would generate tremendous revenue, especially B&O and property taxes but now also multi-million dollar service fees given the recent passage of the streets and police fee;
  • failure to incorporate Brookhaven (pop. 5000+) and Cheat Lake (pop 8000) as cities, or to annex into Morgantown;
  • lack of public banking (at the city, county, and/or state level) – the absence of a public bank bleeds away bank fees and bank profits from the public and undercuts community investment in multiple ways;
  • lack of progressive taxation, not least in regard to income and the severance tax. (This is the main state issue.)

Remedy the above, and the end result should mean a doubling or more of local/regional public revenue for services and infrastructure, coupled with the badly needed expansion of zoning that would greatly improve the public’s capacity to manage development and to protect green space and to better quality of life.

The city and county have no financial plan – nor zoning plan for managed development – remotely as promising or effective as the measures above.

The city and county need to act now to meet the growing pressures.

In a vast and woefully incomplete understatement, WVU’s College of Business and Economics notes at the very end of its 2014 report, “Morgantown, West Virginia: How Does the City’s Economy Compare to Other College Towns?”:

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Public Banks for Morgantown Monongalia West Virginia

An economist could analyze Morgantown’s CAFR statement (or as the city labels it, YEFR), possibly via the review process suggested by the Public Banking Institute, below, to determine what funds the city could use to capitalize a public bank, and then to come up with a brief cost/benefit analysis showing the impact a public bank could have. Same for county and state where a public bank might make more or less or equal sense.

Largely due to the 2008 economic crisis, there’s a movement toward public banks in the US spear-headed in part by the Public Banking Institute founded in 2011

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Unprecedented Morgantown Monongalia Population Growth

There is a planning and demographic crisis that is smashing the greater Morgantown area, at the same time that the state is being swept up in an intensification of the economic crisis.

Compared to the state economic crisis, which is mostly hitting southern West Virginia, the crisis pounding Monongalia County and Morgantown is unprecedented, and it’s as complex, newer, and less well known and less understood than the state crisis. This new and local crisis is being driven by a recent unprecedented population surge in Monongalia County, virtually all of it in the greater Morgantown area.

In the past 15 years (2000-2014), Monongalia County – in fact, the greater Morgantown area – grew by more than 22,000 people, which is more than it grew in the previous 50 years (1950-2000). During those previous 50 years the county grew by less than 21,000 people. Since 2000, the county has grown by more than that 22,000 people, and most of this massive population growth has occurred in the past 10 years, and virtually all of this unprecedented population growth has occurred in the greater Morgantown area.

And yet, amazingly, in the past 6 years, since 2008, throughout the peak of the population boom, the budgets of both the City and the County have essentially flat-lined, despite the area being in the throes of an unprecedented population explosion.

Furthermore, WVU College of Business and Economics predicts that this population boom will continue at nearly the same rate, while merely cheering it. Additionally, nearby Preston County has been growing its population nearly as fast as Monongalia County, adding further pressure on the Morgantown area. (Also, WVU student body enrollment essentially doubled to 29,000 between 1970 and 2014.) Morgantown’s population finally climbed about 5 percent between 2010 and 2014 to 31,073 people, while the county population continued to climb at a higher rate (to a total by 2014, as noted, of 103,463). Because Morgantown’s annexation efforts remain anemic, almost non-existent, the city is starved for funds and the chaotic, congested, degraded results in the city and adjacent county areas are plain to see, though there is much unnecessary invisible suffering too. Read the rest of this entry »

Straight to Worse


Take a close look at what your elected officials have achieved compared to what they could have or should have achieved. West Virginia is a resource rich state made poor by corporate state exploitation.

Then take a look at the political parties who have aided and abetted in this disaster. In general, what you will find is that the Democrats are bad and the Republicans  are worse, all the while progressive voices and candidates are stifled and ignored – by corporate media, by the schools, and by many other social mechanisms.

The recent election all across the state has seen a shift from bad to worse. Desperate  and deceived people have made desperate and false choices. Bad wasn’t good enough, clearly. Unfortunately, the change has now been made for the worse. Russell Mokhiber’s look at politics in Morgan County WV makes this clear why:

When Decent Family People Push Cruel Anti-Family Policies


The one thing you hear about Charles Trump, Daryl Cowles and Saira Blair — Morgan County’s elected representatives to Charleston — is that they are decent family people.

And who could argue?

From all indications, they are just that.

A campaign mailer sent to Morgan County residents last month shows each surrounded by their family members — and promoting “conservative family values.”

But Trump, Cowles and Blair are all advocates of cruel policies that will hurt working West Virginia families.

All oppose raising the minimum wage.

And all favor union busting legislation that will reduce wages and income, increase poverty and infant mortality rates, and lead to higher rates of death on the job.

The union busting legislation — known by it’s corporate propaganda term — right to work laws — will be pushed by the new regime in Charleston early next year.

In the past, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has come out against this legislation, but given the new political dynamics in Charleston, the inside betting is that Tomblin will buckle and go with the flow. (In West Virginia, it’s not about Democrat or Republican. It’s about corporate power. For more on this, see Ken Ward Jr.’s recent piece at his blog Coal Tattoo.)

The union busting legislation that Trump, Cowles and Blair all support creates what is known as a free rider problem.

It would allow West Virginia workers to opt out of paying union dues — while at the same time benefiting from union negotiating power that delivers higher wages and safer workplaces.

The non paying workers in effect get a free ride.

True conservatives are opposed to right to work laws. They argue that the legislation represents government interference with corporations’ ability to freely negotiate contracts with workers.

Even Milton Friedman, the father of the conservative Chicago School of Economics and author of the classic Capitalism and Freedomopposed right to work laws.

Liberals argue that the legislation allows bosses to fire workers without cause.

“‘Right to work’ sounds like a law guaranteeing you a job, or at least protecting your job once you’ve got it,” Michael Kinsley wrote in a piece in Bloomberg News titled The Liberal Case Against Right to Work Laws. “A lot of the propaganda by the Chamber of Commerce and similar business groups is about so-called forced unionism. In fact, it’s almost the opposite. The main effect of right-to-work laws is to outlaw regulations of employment and allow your boss to fire you without cause.”

Kinsley makes the point that under the union busting legislation, “people could enjoy the benefits of union membership, including negotiation of wages, without sharing in the cost.”

“Not only was this unfair to those who did pay their share, but it made organizing a union significantly harder,” Kinsley writes. “Why should I pay union dues if my fellow workers don’t?”

“Right to work” sounds so pleasing — you have a right to work.

But there’s an iron fist in that velvet glove.

Right wing politicians use the laws to weaken worker power.

By weakening unions, these laws — currently in 24 states — lower wages and living standards for all workers in those states.

Workers in these 24 states earn on average $5,680 less year than workers in other states.

So, take another look at that mailer received.

It is punctuated with a quote from Ronald Reagan, who, as an actor, served as president of Hollywood’s most powerful union, the Screen Actors Guild, from 1947 to 1951.

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” Reagan is quoted as saying. “We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

Free from the corporate state, that is — the corporate state which Trump, Cowles and Blair represent.

Nice family people.

Cruel anti-family policies.

Russell Mokhiber edits Morgan County, USA.

So what’s next, West Virginia, now that you’ve gone from bad to worse?

An all too predictable forthcoming shock of reality.

If the Democratic Party wants to have a future in West Virginia, it will have to stop acting bad and worse. It will have to adopt policies that far better impact West Virginians.

So, what is to be done?

For one thing, the state of WV needs to create its own bank, modeled after North Dakota’s; locally, the city (of Morgantown) needs to push for major annexation; and Monongalia County needs to stop handing large gifts to WVU and big business. Same old story. Many other possibilities exist, including doing what other cities and counties do: taking further control of the utilities and communications, thereby creating good local jobs while saving consumers money.

Economist Ellen Brown does great work on public banks. The City of Morgantown should start its own bank too but look for hell to freeze first. The city ought to go ahead and found one though if for no other reason than to push the state to found its own bank in an effort to head off any wave of municipalities from doing so. States and municipalities need money. There is no more reasonable place to get it than through starting their own banks. North Dakota is a tremendous example.

West Virginia’s massive Rainy Day fund is a complete and total waste. It could be used to rebuild the infrastructure of the state and fund many great social needs. If the state established a bank, it would not need any Rainy Day fund at all, because it could rely on the bank in case of any emergency or shortfall. Just like the state of North Dakota does, though only North Dakota, for now.

Nearly two dozen states have introduced bills to establish a state owned bank like North Dakota’s bank. West Virginia should both introduce and pass such a bill to begin genuinely turning the state around. Notice that this is a way to help lift people up by using the people’s own bootstraps (bankstraps). Now how can even a Democrat or a Republican object to that?

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The Acts Of Violence On Gameday In Morgantown West Virginia


Who is responsible for the violence and mayhem on WVU football game days?:

1) West Virginia University: the football game itself is a huge West Virginia University event that is violent and that spawns multiple forms of violence

2) the corporate media: the thug talk in the media — the sports shows and the sports reporters with their violent metaphors lavishly praising WVU players who “punch them [the opponents] in the mouth” dramatically contribute to the culture of violence in and around football games

3) the state of West Virginia — the state forcibly bans mellowing marijuana while allowing the far more dangerous and unhealthy and belligerent-making alcohol, “the 800 pound gorilla in the room,” which facilitates the atmosphere and culture of football game day violence

4) WVU students, fans, others — the post-game arsonists, vandals, and rioters embody the violent strains of football game day culture

5) the City of Morgantown / police — multiple reports of uncontrolled and inappropriate police violence on football game day are a surprise to no one

Notice that without the WVU football game itself, there would be no game day violence. Therefore the primary responsibility for the violence lies with West Virginia University, the institution. WVU holds myriad events that neither perpetuate nor spawn violence. Football games are a different story. To get rid of the violence, WVU could get rid of football. Short of eliminating football game days, the football fan (fanatic) culture needs to be changed, and that won’t be changed without changing in significant degrees football and university, social and media culture. West Virginia University, the state of West Virginia, and the corporate media bear heavy responsibility for the game day violence, a responsibility that they all fail to acknowledge, let alone act on. In fact, WVU, the state, and the dominant media busy themselves pointing the finger elsewhere. And once again, who gets the finger? WVU students mostly. WVU students are easy targets who have been set-up to explode: the students are as a group deeply and wrongfully debt-laden, too often slum-housed, primed by an especially violent and lengthy sports event, and outrageously subject to pot criminalization, all of which contributes to an explosive concoction of frenzied excitement, stress, tension, and lunacy – painfully illuminated everywhere now on social media.

Literally for decades, West Virginia University, the dominant (corporate) media, and the state, which are in large part responsible for the football game day violence, have combined to accept no responsibility for causing and perpetuating this culture of violence that they hypocritically bemoan. Until that absurd reality changes, no meaningful talk about solutions can begin, nor can fundamental solutions be reached — solutions such as the following:

The media: Sports shows and sports reporters should eliminate their cruddy rhetoric glorifying violence. All the war talk, the battle talk, the fight talk, the weapons talk – get rid of that giddy toxic babble. “Why are some WVU students so mindlessly violent?” moan the news talk show hosts, and then they and their media colleagues turn around and mindlessly glamorize WVU “smashmouth football” and the like. Reference to violence in football should be used in honest and responsible reporting, rather than in irresponsible thug-speak. Football is clearly too often a brutal thing. Call it for what it is but don’t laud it. In fact, the violence in football ought to be condemned. Badly needed changes in the sport will then begin to better suggest themselves and be sooner accepted. The media reports are utterly hypocritical and destructive in decrying one form of violence while glorifying another. The media needs to change.

The state: West Virginia state legislators should immediately do what has been done in states such as Colorado and Washington and elsewhere: decriminalize and legalize marijuana use. Better that there be relaxed and mellow crowds than pugnacious and crazy rioters. By now, legalization of marijuana is favored by the majority of people nationwide. Big alcohol and big tobacco – the big-monied killers – have long been the primary opponents of pot legalization. Anyone serious about reducing violence among revelers during party time knows this: better high than drunk. Marijuana use is not an ideal form of recreation but compared to “the 800 pound gorilla in the room,” as WVU Dean of Students Corey Farris calls alcohol, marijuana is safer and less unhealthy – yet harshly criminalized, pushing students toward the more dangerous and violence inducing alcohol. The state needs to change.

West Virginia University:  Where to begin? The university bears the biggest responsibility and the most complex responsibility for game day violence. After all, no game, no game day violence. The university is the entity hosting and hyping the orgy of violence that is a college football game. So make no mistake, the game day fires and violence downtown is the responsibility of West Virginia University, the institution. The WVU administration gets a flaming F for fostering the chaos. The WVU administration can no longer sweep the insanity under the rug by blaming a few bad apples, because the reality of thousands of students with nothing to do and nowhere to go on game day is all too visible on social media. The reality is that WVU game day culture is bankrupt and destructive. Meanwhile, the bankers sit in their blue and gold offices evidently twiddling their thumbs and promising – extremely counterproductively, thanks – to get tough. WVU toughness has caused the problem in the first place. Football is a lost day in an academic environment during which masses of excited students have nowhere to go but the streets. What might be a day of creative carnival becomes instead one of violent confrontation – in keeping with the brutal spectacle that is football.

You know what people say: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Or more like a ton. To help minimize the damage of football game days, there should be university subsidized concerts and other events – before and after and during all games, home and away – at the Coliseum, at the Creative Arts Center, in the Mountainlair, in the Student Rec Center, on the streets, and wherever necessary to help students relax, release steam, express their exuberance. It is long since time to do something for the students at large with all that blood money derived from TV sports contracts and game ticket sales. West Virginia University creates the bare and dry woods conditions set to burn and then puffs out its chest and blames the students who fling matches that result in conflagration. Sorry, ultimate fault lies with WVU administration for fostering a dangerous, mindless, and pointless game day culture. WVU administration has proven for decades to be either too ignorant, too heartless, or too incompetent to make the changes that need to be made. What will change that sorry condition? Not the equally inept WVU Board of Governors, surely. The 800 million pound gorilla in the room is the WVU administration which has been failing the WVU students miserably for decades. The WVU administration needs to change. Otherwise, it’s worthy of expulsion. Or maybe, instead of expelling the negligent WVU administrators and the WVU student rioters, those two hapless groups should get together and start doing some badly needed community service, before it is too late again.

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On Bullshit


So many callers phoned WAJR’s morning talk show Tuesday morning that co-host Jim Stallings said he had to stop taking calls. The callers were upset at the horrible conditions of the roads around their homes. Co-host Kay Murray, picking up on the many callers’ outrage at the “unconscionable” road conditions, finally complained and asked WV state Senator Bob Beach in studio, why the new $30 million highway interchange for the taxpayer funded WVU ballpark and adjacent businesses could be built by the WV DOT while the DOT wouldn’t even return the phone calls of people suffering from crumbled roads around their homes, let alone fix those roads. Senator Beach bullshitted instantly something along these lines: “You have to remember, Kay, that interchange is already paid for; it’s funded.” Senator Beach may even believe his own bullshit. It happens.

Kay immediately backtracked, saying that she wasn’t against the interchange. But she should have said – never did – that that was exactly her point. In other words, why has legislation been pushed and passed to fund an incredibly expensive highway interchange (let alone hugely expensive ballpark and much additional infrastructure), that is, why use local tax dollars for the benefit of wealthy entities – WVU and the adjacent businesses, already surrounded by good roads – instead of for the benefit of the endless string of local residents calling in about the “unconscionable” crumbled roads around them. After all, it is those local people’s sales tax dollars that are harvested in that WVU/business TIF district that are then siphoned away from them by the legislation spearheaded by WV state Senator Bob Beach. And it is the patronage of the local people shopping at those businesses that create the property value taxes that are being siphoned away from them by the legislation spearheaded by WV state Senator Bob Beach.

That’s right, folks. Senator Beach pushed hard for that legislation that mandates that for the next 30 years the tax dollars of the surrounding area’s people will be forcibly spent building tens of millions of dollars worth of roads and sanitation infrastructure, in addition to the approximately $30 million highway exchange and the approximately $20 million ballpark, not for the people where they live but for WVU and for the wealthy businesses who play hardball and reap crushing profit. Senator Beach could have pushed to have that money spent on the roads around people’s houses, not through TIF legislation but through other tax legislation. He punted but that is to be expected. After all, WVU and the local owners (developers) are stronger than all the rest of the area people combined, currently. But there’s no excuse to go bullshitting about the issue.

Without Bob Beach’s TIF legislation, those tax dollars would have gone to the state (sales tax) and to the county at large (property tax). Legislation could have been pushed to bring those sales tax dollars back to the residential communities and commuter corridors for fixing up the roads, especially if the County Commission agreed to use the property tax dollars as matching revenue for the roadwork. But the wealthy entities got served instead. Senator Beach pushed for those tax dollars to benefit the roads and other infrastructure around local wealthy entities for the next 30 years instead of pushing for legislation to benefit the far less wealthy residents of the county and city in general. Cut through the crap and that’s the reality.

“Ya gotta remember, Kay, that highway interchange has already been paid for.” Yes, by your TIF legislation, Senator Beach, legislation that for the next 30 years locks those tens of million of dollars away from road repair projects in the communities and areas where the vast majority of people actually live and spend most of their time and have the greatest needs. These are people who go to that TIF area to spend their money, and now for 3 decades have all the new state tax dollars and new county property tax dollars there locked away from their communities and locked into that wealthy sports and business park.

It would be further bullshit on Senator Beach’s part to claim that a lot, or even all, of the new tax dollars at issue would not come into existence if not for the forthcoming highway exchange and ballpark. Commerce and construction in that district has been booming and would grow and increase greatly in value regardless of any TIF projects over the next 30 years, and WVU has to build a baseball park somewhere. That is, it would have needed to build a ballpark somewhere but now the taxpayers are building it for them! thanks to Senator Bob Beach’s legislation. Hey! it’s already paid for! Yes, it will be, by taxes from local taxpayers that in all likelihood would have been generated regardless of the TIF projects and that could and should go to much greater and more pressing needs.

Senator Beach’s TIF legislation robs the people to pay the price extracted by the power of big business and big sports.

Of course, it’s unfair to solely blame Senator Beach for this highway robbery legislation. After all, it might not even have been his idea, and the wealthy entities of big commerce and big sports are the main drivers and beneficiaries of the Ballpark TIF. Beach is merely the front man and legislative string puller doing the bidding of wealthy entities and owners (“developers”) using the tax money of the people and the tax money that should be coming back much closer to them in their communities and around their homes.

So, the people should know. The Senator Beach – WVU – Big Business – and – Large Land Owners highway interchange and ballpark and other road and sanitation infrastructure, it has all been heisted and locked down in advance – by TIF-lifted local taxes that will be going toward those deep pockets and not toward the residents who will be paying away those local taxes, by law, for the next 30 years.

To pretend that the TIF projects pay for themselves is pure bullshit. That’s the spin, that’s the PR, that’s the Newspeak. The Shinola. No one says that Senator Beach, WVU admin, big business, and rich realty don’t have skills. Too bad those skills involve fleecing the public and talking phony to cover it up.

“Remember, Kay…” you and your neighbors have been robbed.

On and on it plays on rich man’s radio, Raese radio, WAJR, another episode in that ongoing advertisers’ bonanza: Robbing The People and Pulling The Purse Strings

Is all the bullshit more commercial bonanza or more national pastime? Would there be good jobs and good products, good bridges and good baseball without all the bull? Probably better baseball and better products, along with better jobs and better bridges, and plenty else much more badly needed than the stinking pileups that are currently shat about.

So, let’s remember this for a change: It’s long since time to cut the crap.

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BOE In La La Land


After the recent Dominion Post article about traffic at Eastwood Elementary (DP summary: “School officials say…“), I received the following comment via email, which basically agreed with the opinion of Monongalia County Board of Education member Ron Lytle:

It really irritates me that I pay taxes to provide an efficient public transit system for schools (school buses), yet parents cave to their children’s demands for a separate ride.  The traffic problem is because each child is getting a separate car ride to school, instead of riding the bus.  That traffic problem is one the parents create, and the taxpayers have already provided an efficient, environmentally friendly solution.

My response:

The traffic [delay] problem is the least of the issues with the location of Eastwood Elementary. That’s the Dominion Post’s issue not mine (maybe because many of their workers go through that roundabout to get to work). It’s unhealthy and unsafe – and otherwise callous – to site a big school for small children at a major highway intersection, entirely violating state school siting safety regulations, also state school signage laws, in the process.

The Dominion Post contacted me. I didn’t contact them. I haven’t even read the article other than the online summary available free online, which was ridiculous. I imagine the article was worse.

However, it should be noted that the BOE knows that every single elementary school has many car riders, especially since pre-k classes were mandated to be made available for 3 or 4 year old children by the state. Some of the bus service is bad or otherwise too long and arguably dangerous for 3, 4, and 5 year olds to use. Parents and grandparents understandably are more protective of these young ones than they would be or need to be of middle and high school students. Regardless, the BOE knows that these car riders exist, has done nothing to try to reduce the car ridership, and has screwed up bus routes and bus delivery for years. It’s no perfect world in this regard and still the BOE insisted on this site.

Furthermore, your point is completely irrelevant when considering school events, concerts, meetings, open house, and so on. The school site and approach is complete chaos at those times due to the school’s major intersection location and cramped campus. This also really pisses off commuters to and from work too who have nothing to do with the school.

Finally, note that board member Lytle tacitly admitted the obvious that there is a problem with traffic (and blamed the parents solely, at least in the article summary), while the Superintendent insisted that there is no traffic problem. This is the kind of dissembling and solution-less, responsibility-shucking pronouncements that parents have come to expect from the BOE. No surprise then that the BOE stuck the school in a shitty location, especially for little kids, an unsafe location, and had to violate state student safety rules and laws to do so, all the while operating frequently in a deceitful and covert manner in face of deep and widespread parent and community opposition to the lousy site. I share your concerns about the overuse of cars and its environmental fallout. I can’t be held responsible for any moronic Dominion Post article, unless I suppose it was my mistake to return their call in the first place.

It should further be noted that there are additional very good reasons that parents drive their children to and from school, especially elementary school, rather then put them on the bus:

There are many cases in which driving students to school in cars is more efficient than putting them on buses and about as environmentally sound. For example, many parents drive directly past or nearby their child’s school on the way to and from work and town each day. It makes no efficiency or environmental sense not to drive the student in car. Buses are unreliable – early, late, not showing at all – and bus stops are often not located at or even near students’ houses. Thus why waste fuel and time sheltering the student in a car in rainy or freezing weather waiting for a bus that may or may not arrive on time, when one has to drive near or past the school to get to work anyway? Waiting and hoping for the school bus would be inefficient, and even potentially excessively polluting. Parents who work strict shifts often cannot be held hostage to uncertain bus pickups, and do not want to be faced with the prospect of leaving their young children alone by the side of the road, or alone at home hoping for a bus pickup, while they have to get work, or to an appointment.

Similarly after school. Because school lets out in early afternoon, often no one is home to receive the child off a bus. Parents reasonably make arrangements with grandparents, aunts, and friends’ parents, sometimes on a rotating or irregular basis, to care for their child, which often requires car pickup. Elementary school children are not adults using a city bus line who can simply use a ticket on their own to take them various places. Life is more complicated than that. Young children are more dependent than that.

So is it any wonder that about 20 percent of Eastwood Elementary students are car riders? The wonder is that more students are not car riders. We haven’t even mentioned the problem of bullying on school buses and the utter lack of bus monitors. Is school bus ridership likely to increase much? It could decrease. Should bus ridership increase very much? Given the existing realities, how? In recent years the BOE hasn’t even been able to get enough buses running to cover all the routes all the time, never mind the problems with the system when it is minimally functioning.

Sure, the schools should make efforts to understand how bus ridership might be increased. Despite the school bus related death of a student today in Monongalia County, school bus ridership – especially when well done – is safer than car ridership.

Either way, it remains wholly irresponsible of the BOE to build and operate too big schools in too tight places. BOE member Ron Lytle and the rest of the school board simply shuck their responsibility for the problems while Superintendent Devono pretends the problems don’t exist. And isn’t that why the BOE refuses to video record or even to audio record their public meetings in their tiny room? Too much to keep covered up, too much to bury out of sight of the public. That local taxpayers would vote for this type of representation…. It’s a shame.

Again, the basic issue is that when a big school for small children is sited at a major highways intersection, traffic delays are the least of the problems at and around the high risk and pathetic site. To that, Superintendent Devono and the school board say, La la la la la la la.

See one of many related earlier posts:

Superintendent “Traffic” Says: Trust Me! — DOUBLING DOWN ON DANGEROUS

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Traffic Chaos At Cheat Lake Elementary


More than once this year, traffic has been backed up from the Eastwood Elementary campus in Morgantown into the state highways roundabout on the city’s edge. What a shock: when you build schools at the intersection of major highways over the objections of the parents and the community, you are creating built-in problems of your own making, such as unnecessary congestion and pollution and a variety of unsafe conditions, including tractor trailers carrying who-knows-what pulling into the school grounds during rush hour and getting stuck, thinking they are on state highways. Ever worsening the problem, the BOE has approved a six classroom/150 student expansion of Eastwood to bring the total on-campus enrollment to 670 students, at the least. Now ground has been broken on the expansion, further fouling up the parking lot and traffic. “It will still be a small school with 450 students,” the BOE had promised parents scant years before. No one believed them then, but the BOE could not be stopped and so parents continue to wrestle with the mess. It’s a safety hazard any way you look at it.**

Another Monongalia County elementary school campus is currently causing headaches for parents, students, and drivers. At nearby Cheat Lake Elementary, enrollment has boomed, up to 834 students last year as compared to 644 students three years prior. Now enrollment has apparently reached 850 students or more, so guess what? Morning drop-off hours are chaos. Buses can’t get in, parents can’t get in, students can’t get in and get to breakfast on time. The traffic jam is a food issue and a safety issue at the least. The doors open too late and the school continues to fail to make the badly needed accommodations. The parents are moving on the issue and should not only petition the school but jam the Principal and Superintendent’s office with phone calls until they see some some responsible action. Large schools in tights spaces are problems that create additional problems. Mon Schools should think twice before making these mistakes over and over again.


Cheat Lake Elementary parents are working overtime on this issue – details at their Facebook site – trying to fill the void where the BOE has failed.
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