Letters, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Nov. 14 letters to the editor

New text campaign feeds conspiracies

Warning! Do not be fooled by the doublespeak in Secretary of State Mac Warner’s announcement of his office’s new “See Something, Text Something” campaign, using a slogan stolen from the “See Something, Say Something”  appropriately used after the 9/11 attacks.

Republicans, as well as Democrats, in official positions throughout our country have debunked the accusations of fraud in the last presidential election; those who still hang on to those false accusations are more likely to be people who stormed our Capitol, and not fellow West Virginians — or most other Americans going to the polls.

Make no mistake. Under the promise of “election security” — encouraging residents to report “allegations of wrongdoing” to the WVSOS Investigations Division via text — Mr. Warner is promoting surveillance to rob of us the very well-placed trust we have in our system of voting.

Mr. Warner should be ashamed of himself. Instead of being grateful for the impeccable oversight of our trained poll workers and hard-working officials, he is encouraging individuals to troll our sacred voting places. This is disgraceful — as is the fact that none of these confidential complaints will be subject to review for their own legitimacy. Who’s being protected here?

Secretary Warner’s unwarranted and unsubstantiated attack on our election system will not make us secure. It will create division and encourage distrust among us.

Judith Gold Stitzel

Get dead trees off power lines before storms hit

In anticipation of snow, ice and the other joys of winter, it would be wise of the various entities using overhead lines to do a little preventive maintenance along the lower end of Tyrone Road.

Trees — both dead and alive — are lying on the lines on both sides of the road. It would seem wise to take care of this now rather than in the middle of a storm.

Colleen Mallory

UATX board has acclaimed members, too

Wednesday morning’s editorial attack on President Gordon Gee for agreeing to serve on the advisory board of the University of Austin is both unfair and yet another slanted editorial attack by the paper. While I might question the editorial’s criticism of some of the board members listed, there are a few who deserve special note.

○  Nadine Strossen, the first woman and the youngest person to ever lead the American Civil Liberties Union. A graduate of Harvard Law, she now teaches law at New York Law School. If you know anything about the ACLU (or most American law school faculties today), it would be difficult to brand Strossen as a conservative fanatic who espouses “flawed ideas.”

○  Robert Zimmer, former chancellor and president of the University of Chicago, whose administration adopted a policy permitting undergraduate students to graduate debt-free. In 2014, he formed a committee that adopted the “Chicago Principles” — a set of guidelines intended to demonstrate the university’s commitment to freedom of speech. These principles have been adopted by Princeton University, Purdue, Johns Hopkins and American University, to name just a few.

○  Caitlin Flanagan, writer for The Atlantic. Flanagan’s writing and social criticism frequently explore the intersection of public and private life. She has been severely criticized for writing about finding joy in motherhood and social value in domesticity. But such beliefs should hardly be considered “flawed ideas.” Flanagan has referred to herself as a Democrat and a liberal.

The advisory board of the University of Austin clearly includes individuals occupying positions across the political and social spectrum. To condemn WVU’s president for being willing to share thoughts on how “higher education can, and must, improve,” simply because you do not agree with the board or the concept behind the University of Austin is outrageous.

Forest J. Bowman

Legislation critical to protect reproductive care

While people around the country brace themselves for the Supreme Court ruling on a Mississippi case that could render Roe v. Wade meaningless, Congress has an opportunity to pass the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) and protect the right to abortion throughout the Unites States.

This critical legislation would not only protect the right to abortion, but would guard against medically unnecessary restrictions like mandatory waiting periods and biased counseling, which are currently required in West Virginia.

According to recent polls, 79% of Americans support the right to safe, legal abortion as protected under Roe v. Wade. Passing the WHPA would not immediately grant all people equitable access to abortion services and other essential reproductive health care,  but it would be a critical step to protecting and advancing abortion access nationwide.

Recent abortion restrictions, including Texas’ SB 8, are not something new — they are part of a coordinated attack at the state level to restrict access to safe, legal abortion care. West Virginia is one of only five states with a single abortion provider. This means that many West Virginians are already facing barriers to this essential health care in our state.

Systemic barriers to health care make attacks on abortion even more harmful to Black, Latino, Ingenious, the LGBTQ+ community, young people, people with disabilities and rural and low-income communities. A person’s access to essential reproductive health care should never be determined by their ZIP code, income level or ability to travel for care.

West Virginians know all too well the challenges our neighbors face when it comes to access to affordable health care, and we deserve unrestricted access to safe and legal abortions in the Mountain State. The House already passed the Women’s Health Protection Act, and it is vital that the Senate follow suit and pass this critical legislation.

Rachel Byrne

Manchin should vote for slimmed down BBB Act

My wife and I are proud West Virginians and enjoy showing off our state to visitors. I’ve also been proud of many things that Sen. Manchin has accomplished both in state government and at the federal level. It is time, however, to be proud of the concessions obtained in the Build Back Better initiative and support the current version of the bill.

West Virginia desperately needs the bill, flawed though it may be. Please stop the delays and vote for this bill. I don’t support some of the original provisions, for instance, free community college (if it were coupled with service to the country — military, domestic Peace Corp or equivalent — I would be very supportive). I think we would see an explosion of for-profit “schools” (Trump University?), and it would simply serve as a means to delay growing up for too many young adults. Perhaps free trade schools where marketable skills (plumber, electrician, truck driver, etc.) are learned would be a much better investment. There are other items I’m not enthralled with  but can live with.

Both of my grandfathers were coal miners. Both of my parents grew up in coal mining camps (I’m not young). My father left high school in 10th grade to work in the mines. Most of my relatives earned/earn their incomes from some aspect of coal mining. I understand (and appreciate) the culture, but that culture, as my parents knew it, is never coming back. Mechanization and increased production of relatively cheap natural gas, not to mention green energy, ensure it won’t return.

We need to invest in items that will allow West Virginians to move forward without dependence on coal. Sen. Manchin, please support the reconciliation bill for the future of West Virginia.

If Sen. Manchin fails to support this bill and it doesn’t pass, this will be Manchin’s legacy. Nothing positive Sen. Manchin has otherwise done will be remembered — only the failure to support a bill that West Virginians desperately need.

Clifton Bishop

W.Va. needs to reverse law restricting SSPs

This year in West Virginia’s capital city, a law was signed by Gov. Jim Justice in the middle of an HIV outbreak linked to injection drug use. Senate Bill 334 forces harm reduction syringe exchange programs to establish a license to continue and requires participants to have a valid West Virginia I.D. According to Charleston Gazette-Mail, harm reduction operators in the state say that the bill will make it nearly impossible for services to continue operating.

Harm reduction syringe service programs (SSPs) are proven to be effective community-based prevention programs. These programs provide a wide variety of services, such as access to and disposal of sterile needles and injection equipment, vaccinations, testing and substance use treatment. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, SSPs serve as a tool that helps participants eventually find treatment as well as prevent infectious diseases, and they do not encourage individuals to continue substance use.

With West Virginia signing this bill into law, the community is jeopardized by the spread of diseases like HIV or hepatitis C if many syringe programs must close.

Research has already shown us that restricting syringe service programs can contribute to an HIV outbreak and can be prevented by participants using clean needles from syringe exchange programs.

Due to West Virginia’s capital city already being in the middle of an HIV outbreak, it will likely get worse if individuals who inject drugs are unable to access clean needles, according to officials.

In conclusion, it is not only unconstitutional for West Virginia to pass this bill, but it also goes against the community as a whole by failing to protect individual health and safety.

West Virginia doctors, nurses, social workers, counselors, recovery coaches and more must continue to urge legislators and officials to undo SB 334 to protect both ourselves and our neighbors. Evidence-based harm reduction programs in West Virginia can continue to save lives only if they are able to fully operate with the help of individuals in this state.

Atlee Houser

Ordinances governing cats need updated

From the Airport cats (DP Aug. 2011) to the Credit Union cats (DP Sept. 2013) to the cat that died because of a heartless landlord (DP Aug. 2014) to numerous neighborhood conflicts involving commercial trapping of free-roaming cats, cats have been treated like third-class citizens. I wrote this in 2014, and it remains true today.

Cats don’t share the protection given to dogs. They are not considered property, so a tag will not provide a safe ticket home. Dog owners are fined for letting their dog defecate on private property or for running-at-large — not so for cat owners.

Every cat that becomes a statistic at the county shelter was delivered there by a  resident. Sadly, the only time animal control can “officially” protect a cat is when they are a carcass along a roadway, or when the health department discovers a hoarding situation, or when police request its assistance in a cruelty case.

Monongalia County employs compassionate animal control officers who are paid to obey our laws. The Monongalia County Canine Adoption Center provides animal control for dogs — but its director defends its decision to convert space so it can also save a few cats, rather than practice wholesale euthanasia. The alternative would be hundreds more homeless cats because unaltered cats are allowed to roam free.

MCCAC is an open-access facility which means it cannot turn animals away. Without empty cages for new arrivals or rescuers standing by to take them, homeless animals are humanely euthanized.

It is righteous to be outraged when homeless pets are killed, but we need to turn our energy toward finding solutions. Animal advocates must educate themselves and change laws, ordinances and policies that govern cats. Even more important, dogs and cats should be spayed or neutered so they are not contributing to overpopulation that costs innocent lives, wastes thousands of taxpayer dollars and takes an emotional toll on animal welfare groups that work so hard to save lives as well as MCCAC staff that suffer in silence as they enforce existing laws.

Nancy Young

Political games have real world consequences

The op-ed “Turnabout is fair play, Sen. Manchin” (DP-11-04-21) is a brilliant explanation of the games politicians play and the consequences thereof. It reminds me of the 1964 book by Eric Berne, “Games People Play.” Games are about strategy — employing some of the hardest logic we face, with endless parry and counter-parry.

In the current Congress, Democrats are in tenuous control, and this exposes the gap between moderates and progressives. The familiar war we’ve seen between Republicans and Democrats has been replaced with internecine conflict among Democrats worthy of Machiavelli, whose book “The Prince” advocated war over negotiated peace.

Progressives held up the broad infrastructure bill settled in early 2021 until the Senate agreed on the Build Back Better Plan so they could be voted on together. If they moved each bill separately, the BBB would never become law. The crux of the editorial is that Manchin is reluctant to support BBB, so progressives have to remind him of the possibility that the infrastructure bill is dead. This is where Machiavelli comes in, with progressives forced to engage in all-out war with fellow Democrats.

Games aside, there are real consequences to these decisions. The climate provisions in BBB can move our country toward fulfilling the promise of the Paris agreement, which was the best news on climate we’d heard in a while. In the U.S., a carbon tax proposal with a dividend is proposed by Sheldon Whitehouse and Brian Schatz; their Save Our Future Act  sets aside 70% of the fees collected for return to American households below a certain income level and would designate the rest for Energy Veterans and support for environmental justice in polluted communities. This Save Our Future Act shows a way to transform our energy economy while reducing economic inequality.

In the end, although games are often necessary, the effect of political games on people are real. We must succeed in protecting our environment while narrowing the inequalities driving political division among us. That would be good for all of us.

Steven Knudsen