West Virginia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Charleston Gazette on Democrats’ wins in the midterm elections:
When listing takeaways from the 2018 midterm elections, satirical publication The Onion mentioned “Liberal enthusiasm was completely misguided, as the Democrats failed to win every race.”
It’s funny because there’s a lot of truth to it. There were plenty of people who seemed to think liberals should be dejected after the Nov. 6 elections because the blue wave that has been discussed ever since Donald Trump took office didn’t turn into a blue tsunami that granted Democrats control of both chambers of Congress and every gubernatorial chair up for election.
Taking control of the U.S. House is a big deal. Knocking off a GOP governor like Wisconsin’s Scott Walker is a big deal. Maybe it felt less exciting for some because the polls predicted a House takeover but not a Senate takeover, or the House flip wasn’t by as wide a margin as some would like. It’s still a huge accomplishment, especially considering Democrats had to overcome obstacles like GOP voter-ID laws and gerrymandered districts.
Look at it this way: The Republicans becoming the party of bucking political norms and locking the people out of participating in broad swaths of government didn’t happen with Donald Trump descending a golden escalator. It started with the midterms in 1994, when political figures like Newt Gingrich came to power. ...
Big changes don’t always start with getting everything you want right away. Americans tend to think like that sometimes, but it’s usually not the case. Bonus: In this instance, a big change actually occurred.
Does it mean Trump will suddenly become presidential, treat opponents with dignity, no longer engage in dangerous foreign policy and stop trying to get Mueller off his back? His infantile news conference the day after the elections, followed by the firing of Jeff Sessions, indicate that’s a firm “no.” The world’s slowest train wreck will continue. Fresh indignities will be suffered, sometimes multiple times a day before lunch. But, at least in January, a House will be seated that doesn’t throw up its hands or look the other way when these things happen.
Huge national strides were made on Election Day. That’s something to build on, which is so much more than what was there before.
The Register-Herald on guns and gun violence:
The numbers, like the bodies, keep piling up. Mass shootings in the United States are so frequent, now, that we have a difficult time keeping track, of remembering the details of any specific murderous rampage, of separating the tragic stories of one city from another. Was the downtown shooting in Cincinnati at a yoga studio? Or was that Tallahassee? Was it in South Carolina where all the police officers were shot? Yes. Seven. Florence County.
We have read the troubling news bulletins to a string of recent terror. Late last month, there was the Pittsburgh synagogue slaughter in which a gunman, shouting, “I just want to kill Jews,” did just that - 11 worshippers on the Sabbath. And this past Wednesday, in the 12th mass shooting since Pittsburgh, 12 people - mostly kids in their 20s - were killed at a bar in California.
These numbers, these incidents, have now claimed their pages in the ignominious and expanding tome of American gun violence along with the stories out of Las Vegas, 59 dead, 422 injured from gunfire; Orlando, 50 dead, 53 injured; Virginia Tech, 33 dead, 23 injured; Sandy Hook Elementary, 28 dead, 2 injured; Sutherland Springs, 27 dead, 20 injured. Do you remember how many were killed at the San Ysidro MacDonald’s? At Stoneman Douglas? Columbine?
Mostly, it is all a blur. But in total, that this is happening is a sad and dispiriting commentary on our collective lack of gumption to write law that targets access to weapons.
Gun Violence Archive tracks gun violence in the U.S. Here is how it defines a mass shooting: an event in which four or more people - excluding the shooter - are shot in any one location. By those standards, there have been 311 mass shootings in America in 2018. The human toll: 314 killed, 1,270 wounded.
There is a ton of guns in America - far more than any other country. In an analysis by the Small Arms Survey for 2017, the U.S. had 120.5 guns per 100 residents. The math is easy - more firearms than people.
Why is that? Well, Americans like guns and the freedom to own. And, because of that, U.S. laws are uniquely weak. Other developed nations require - at the very least - one or more background checks along with training courses and rules for locking up firearms. Licensing is strict, as are justifications for owning.
The result of a gun-loving population and laws that allow easy access? Research, compiled by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center, is clear: Places with more guns have more gun deaths. The U.S. has nearly six times the gun homicide rate of Canada and nearly 16 times that of Germany, according to United Nations data for 2012.
The living victims of these mass shootings - the moms and dads, the brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors, others who were in the bar when shots rang out - are asking for action. And if America is truly a compassionate country, as we often tell ourselves, we should listen and then we should act.
We believe in the Second Amendment. And we are not coming for anyone’s guns. But we believe we can do better in providing for the general welfare and safety of all by restricting access to weapons. Until we accept the facts, until we examine the stats, until we acknowledge the reality, then history has proven the mass shootings will continue apace.
Bluefield Daily Telegraph on the closing of the all-terrain vehicle Pocahontas Trail system:
So just how significant is the looming “temporary closure” of the Hatfield McCoy Trail system on Mercer County? Consider this. Hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in business and tax revenue are on the line. Spending in Mercer County by trail visitors totaled at least $106 million in 2017 in lodging, gas, food and shopping. That brought in $8.7 million in local and state taxes.
Mercer County currently has 1,500 tourism jobs with earnings topping $26 million a year, according to Jamie Null, executive director of the Mercer County Visitors and Convention Bureau. The agency collects data regarding tourism in the county, including from the state’s department of tourism. Furthermore, a recent Bluefield College study found that ATV riders spend an average of 3.2 days in the county and each person spends about $150 a day. Many of those visitors are in large groups, and they often bring family and friends with them who also spend money in the area.
Also complicating matters is the immediate impact on local businesses with accommodations for ATV riders. Some of those establishments are already seeing reservations canceled as a result of the scheduled Dec. 3 closure of the Pocahontas Trail system.
This is a crisis for Mercer County. Now that officials have had about three weeks to mull over the circumstances surrounding this temporary closure, it is imperative that they take steps to protect all of the jobs, businesses and tourism revenue that is now at risk.
The good news is that officials are starting to work toward that cause. A meeting was held last week where county commissioners and state lawmakers were in attendance, along with local ATV resort owners, tourism officials and other individuals.
“How can we keep this trail open?” County Commission President Gene Buckner asked the group. “We need to get all of our heads together before we do anything else.”
Buckner says the still unidentified coal company that will begin operations near the trail system is leasing the land near the trail from Pocahontas Land Company and can basically do what it wants.
The coal company has requested that the trail be closed because the proximity of the trail presents a safety issue as it expands its operations near Windmill Gap Road. A new trail will be built in Mercer County, according to Hatfield-McCoy Trail officials, who are already working to map out the new system. But it could take at least three months, or possibly longer, to get that new trail ready.
Skip Crane, president of the Bluewell Improvement Association, wants the Hatfield-McCoy Trail to work with the mining company. “Present the facts to them,” Crane said. “Take a calm approach with facts to see what you can work out.”
Del. John Shott, R-Mercer, will be part of a meeting planned with Hatfield-McCoy personnel and says a plan needs to be formulated and presented to the coal company. “Phasing it (the closure) over time is possible,” Shott said, which could leave much of the trail open.
There are still many questions that need to be answered.
Everyone needs to be talking, and the trail authority should be actively communicating with local leaders and business owners. In the meantime, it is our hope that the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority can get a new trail system up and running in Mercer County as quickly as possible. A new trail will help to preserve jobs, tax revenue and six years of impressive tourism growth for Mercer County.