Letters, Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Feb. 19 letters to the editor

Firefighters go above and beyond for dog

On Valentine’s Day evening, my wife and I had the opportunity to witness the Morgantown Fire Department in action and gained a greater respect and appreciation for their bravery, resourcefulness and skills.

Walking along the reservoir trail in White Park about 5 p.m., we came upon two women, Tina and Brandy, who had spotted a dog on the other side of the reservoir. The dog was moving back and forth across a ledge just above the water. A steep cliff, perhaps 100 feet high, trapped him between the water and the cliff.

Not sure what to do, we called 911, which contacted the county dog warden. When two animal control officers arrived, they determined they could not reach the dog and called their supervisor. Soon firefighters Moore, Perry and Close arrived from the South Side Station. A boat from Station No. 3 was brought in, but there was no access to the reservoir.

It had gotten dark, but the firefighters were not deterred. They decided the only way to rescue the dog was to go to the other side of the reservoir and belay down. After a long process of setting up multiple ropes, firefighter Michael Close was lowered down to the ledge. The terrified dog growled at him but Close persevered. He was able to reach the dog, gain its trust and attach him to the ropes. Because of the overhangs on the cliffside, the process of bringing the dog and Close up the cliff was slow and laborious.

A little after 8 p.m., they reached the top. The dog was safe and taken by the animal control officers, who promised him food and a warm bed. The firefighters returned to their station.

Perhaps for firefighters Moore, Perry and Close it was just another day’s work. But for us watching from the opposite shore, it demonstrated that our fire department was ready and able to respond to any emergency for both four- and two-legged residents.

Robert F. Cohen Jr.

End taxpayer rip-offs; invest in real clean energy

West Virginia legislators are adopting one taxpayer rip-off after another. For example, bills to subsidize uncompetitive coal companies or power plants are moving quickly (e.g., HB 3133). Nuclear power, the most expensive way to generate electricity, seems to be targeted for West Virginia. (HB 2896 allows radioactive waste dumps in West Virginia.) Bills to encourage a hydrogen hub are also being adopted. Building carbon capture and sequestration may make sense for biofuels, but it only throws good money after bad when trying to prolong fossil fuels (SB 162).

If any of these had a legitimate role in combating climate change, I might be more supportive, but there is simply no way they will make a meaningful impact.

There are better options. A report last month from Energy Innovation and University of California, Berkeley shows that building renewable energy such as wind or solar will generate electricity more cheaply than operating any existing power plant in West Virginia.

Instead of gouging ratepayers or ripping off taxpayers, our political leaders should invest in the cheapest, cleanest, safest and fastest alternatives first. Why should we continue to subsidize the dirtiest and most expensive alternatives?

If the free market has spoken, why are our political leaders so intent on subsidizing dinosaurs and ripping off the taxpayers?

Jim Kotcon

Don’t make schools gloss over U.S.’s dark history

I was educated in the 1960s and 70s. While I am grateful to every teacher who helped me grow and to think critically, I must acknowledge that the endorsed curriculum of the day left a lot of things out, promoting biases that perpetuate inequities and cause harm.

Thankfully, today’s educators are better informed. Among the many things I did not learn until far into adulthood:

  • Widespread antisemitism and disinformation campaigns in the U.S., preceding and during World War II, led to public policies excluding Jewish refugees during the Holocaust.
  • Thousands of Native children were forcibly removed from their families to have their cultural identity cleansed while being sexually abused in notorious mission schools.
  • Black people did not live in our suburbs because homeowner association policies expressly prohibited it, or Black people were redlined out of neighborhoods.
  • Minority citizens are suspended, arrested and incarcerated at higher rates than white people for the same infractions — creating a pipeline to extended involvement in the justice system.

These truths and countless others continue to have lasting impacts and are relevant to current events in our nation and world. The cynically titled “Anti-Racism Act of 2023” (SB 130) seeks to silence and instill in educators a fear of presenting an authentic and balanced history of all Americans.

West Virginia lawmakers, I call on you to focus your work on positive actions for West Virginia’s future rather than intentionally divisive “culture war” issues we have all grown weary of.

Catherine Whitworth

Of real estate law, litter pick-up and potholes

In the Homes and Real Estate section of the Feb. 12 edition, the “Real estate Q&A” article discussed ways to plan a person’s estate involving their real estate, based on Florida law.

A number of methods of estate transfers of real property were listed, but one more was needed for West Virginians.

Our law authorizes a transfer on death deed that allows the property owner to have such a deed prepared by an attorney and entered into county records. It transfers ownership only at their death.

The special feature of a transfer on death deed is that it is fully revocable until the property owner dies.

Such flexibility is not available with other types of property ownership options (and not yet available in many states).

Also, I’d like to give a shout out to the Morgantown City Ambassadors. I’ve seen them picking up litter in street areas during the past months and thank them for caring.

One more — I have noticed some recent patches on potholes on the Monongalia County side of the Kingwood Pike. Thank you! Some were semi-chasms and seemed to appear in groups overnight.

It was a nice surprise when I saw that I didn’t need to zig and zag as much because the patching crew had been there/done that.

Deb Miller

Campus carry not as bad as it’s made out to be

Once again a “campus carry” bill is up for a vote, and once again there is almost complete failure to understand what the bill does (and does not) accomplish. As a WVU journalism graduate who carried concealed on campus, I’ll explain what you need to know:

1) It is already legal to carry firearms on campus in the state. State law considers universities private property — like a business or home. A student (of legal age) found with a firearm on campus will not be charged with any violation of law, though they can be charged with a misdemeanor if they refuse to leave campus when asked.

2) The bill only affects students who are licensed by the state, which requires a background check and training.

3) It is illegal to purchase handguns in the United States under the age of 21, and individuals aged 18-21 may only own handguns if they are received as a gift, making the number of students affected by this bill vanishingly small.

4) The bill merely prohibits universities from expelling students who are licensed to carry. It asserts that punishing law-abiding students for engaging in constitutionally protected activity on publicly funded property is neither beneficial nor just.

5) Mental health concerns are irrelevant to the bill. The students in question already own the firearms. Who (with a straight face) could suggest that a mentally disturbed student would be willing to spend the rest of their lives in prison for murdering fellow students — unless it means they will also be expelled?

As we learned in 2018, opposition is mostly safety theater. That’s when WVU provost Joyce McConnell opposed campus carry — just before leaving to become president of Colorado State University, where campus carry continues to be the law of the land without issue.

Jason Perkinson

State interfering with WV Public Broadcasting

West Virginia Public Broadcasting has been under siege for some time, apparently because politicians don’t like that network when it’s doing its job to record heritage, focus on West Virginians and shine light where it’s needed.

Many excellent reporters have quit under executive pressure to not upset the people in power (i.e., censoring the content of their stories), and the reporters who tried to stay or thought they were doing what they were hired for — to report — have been fired.

Some of this story has made national news — but not many in West Virginia know. This past week, NPR published an article, “Reporter’s dismissal exposes political pressures on West Virginia Public Broadcasting” (Feb. 13), detailing what’s been going on.

On WVPB’s website, it’s increasingly difficult to find national news from NPR — what others believe is part of a larger plan to completely dismantle this West Virginia institution.  

It’s yet more bad news for anyone considering moving here and, might I suggest, possible reason to no longer reach into our pockets to make donations to WVPB — an extreme action coming from a deeply supportive viewer. In the 1980s, I proudly worked for WNPB, our own local station that was part of the broader network, on Scott Avenue, where now less than a handful of employees remain.

From people who’ve witnessed the entire deevolution of WVPB, the above-mentioned article sadly shines light on only one troubling aspect of the system. What really needs to happen is West Virginia Public Broadcasting should become independent of the state, an operating model in many other states.

A second option would be to mandate by Legislative act to create and support a strong firewall ombudsman between the organization and politicians.

Would you move to a state that has gotten rid of all its public broadcasting? Please make your dissatisfaction known.

Susan Sauter
Bruceton Mills

Tax cuts will make W.Va. the biggest loser

I am writing to explain and express my disagreement with the ongoing cuts to various taxes across the state. The effect of these changes is akin to what would happen if a poor person won the Powerball jackpot.

West Virginia already competes with Mississippi to be last in all public health and education categories; these tax cuts will only serve to secure West Virginia’s place as the biggest loser.

Consider our public education system. Teacher salaries here are, on average, $10,000-$15,000 lower than the salaries of teachers in literally every state that surrounds West Virginia. Schools in our poorer counties rely on the Box Tops 4 Education program to cover their expenses.

Secondly, West Virginia’s police forces are declining as our career officers leave the workforce due to a consistent lack of appropriate pay. Please note — this also includes officers that are seen in correctional facilities instead of guarding our cities. Multiple counties are short on firefighters for the exact same reason.

Finally, the PEIA program, which covers most, if not all, public employees and their families, is fiscally insolvent. It already lacks the funds it needs to provide proper coverage to anyone, and I am certain many people would like to know exactly how it will catch up without additional funds becoming available because taxes were cut.

Now, legislators are suggesting we provide rebates for personal property and real estate taxes. Such an idea, if implemented, would only accomplish these things: It would remove authority from county and municipality levies and give a tax break to large retailers instead of our small, local businesses.

Our state’s government officials need to reconsider their ideas and methods of cutting taxes.

Glenn Walker

Teaching kids about other countries’ sins

Let me get this straight: We want our children to learn about the Holocaust and genocides, but we don’t want them to learn about mass lynchings, the burning down of Black Wall Street in Tulsa, the systematic way neighborhoods were kept segregated through redlining or the inherent inequality of “separate but equal” school systems.

It’s OK to make Jewish people in our classrooms uncomfortable or distressed hearing how 6 million of them were killed, but Lord forbid our own precious white children find out what their forebears wrought in the name of Manifest Destiny, saving the souls of the heathens and protecting white supremacy?

At least that’s what the West Virginia Legislature seems to be telling us with the Senate’s unanimous passage of SB 216 (“Requiring all schools to instruct students on Holocaust, other genocides and financial literacy) and the easy ride so far of SB 130 (the deliberately misnamed “Anti-Racism Act of 2023”).

Would it be because the Holocaust happened in Germany, and genocides are problems in Africa, China and Europe but not in the good ol’ U.S-of-A (although the near-extinction of Native Americans certainly qualifies as genocide)?

Would it be because us white folk are afraid that if more people learn the facts about many of the racial atrocities committed in this country, we might actually begin to acknowledge we have a problem?

It doesn’t take a very astute wizard to see through the chicanery and racist attitudes being perpetuated and protected by many of our current legislators.

And it is everyone’s responsibility to fix it — by getting involved, by voting, by calling it out, by not letting friends and acquaintances get away with it.

It’s time to make the words of the Declaration of Independence true for everyone — “that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

John A. Bolt