The Voice of West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Despite critics of the project, former West Virginia Governor Gaston Caperton went through on an idea of a statewide artisan center along the West Virginia Turnpike 25 years ago. With that idea came the Tamarack Marketplace along Interstate-77 in Beckley, which celebrates 25 years on Saturday.
David Dickirson, former member of the Parkways Authority’s Board of Director and chair of the Economic, Development & Tourism committee under Caperton, told MetroNews when he looks back at the past 25 years and the facility today, it was all worth it.
“We eventually came up with the idea of a large artisan center situated along the Parkway that we hoped could capture a number of people, most of which would be out of state. It turned out we did. As many as half a million a year go through Tamarack now,” Dickirson said.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Caperton and his staff began to upgrade rest areas along the turnpike with a small percentage of a $143 million bond which was issued by the Parkways Authority. During the grand opening of the Princeton Center, which included food, music and crafts, Caperton told Dickirson that it was then the idea for the Tamarack was born.
“Gov. Caperton came in for that opening and he made the comment to me and Ms. (Cela) Burge that the atmosphere with the sights, sounds, smells. He said ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we had something like this every day in West Virginia, not just one day or three-day festival.”
According to the Tamarack’s website, Burge, the then director of Economic Development and Tourism, and officials began to meet with craftspeople from around the state to develop a marketing strategy and how this could be accomplished. Dickirson said the governor’s staff even traveled to other states who had similar craft centers.
In May 1993, the project was awarded to Clint Bryan and his associates, Doug Bastian and John Harris. A Beckley firm, Radford and Radford, won the construction contract, according to Tamarack.
Along came the official groundbreaking on August 8, 1994, where visitors sampled food from The Greenbrier, including the fried green tomatoes that have become a signature of Tamarack.
The Tamarack, which currently features thousands of West Virginia-made products and a fine arts gallery, opened in May 1996. COVID-19 forced a delay of the anniversary celebration in the spring.
Dickirson said after the first weekend it was open, he knew it was a success.
“I called the governor about 9:30 in the morning on a Monday morning because we opened on the weekend, and gave him the sales total for the weekend, Saturday and Sunday. Both of us were a little bit stunned,” he remembered.
Dickirson said the controversy came from the Parkways Authority being a quasi-government agency. He said the authority created its own income, own revenue and own expenses, not under the umbrella of West Virginia’s budget. Dickirson said that upset the state legislature to know that the authority was doing a project of that scale without its oversight.
Dickirson said another misconception was that tax and toll dollars were spent on building the Tamarack, which he said is untrue.
The Tamarack website states in October 1989 the Parkways Authority issued that $143 million bond with a small percentage set aside to upgrade rest areas along the turnpike, and concession revenues from these – not toll revenues or tax dollars – were to fund tourism and economic development projects.
“I think people didn’t understand what the output, the result could be. It was a lot of money,” Dickirson said.
Dickirson said Caperton knew the perception was the Tamarack was not working based on the measurements of the cash registers inside but looked at a larger scale. Dickirson pointed to an early economic study of the facility to the large impact it has had on the state.
Caperton had a legislative audit done and found it has more than $18 million in the state in its first handful of years in business.
“We felt very justified in the investment and what it was doing for West Virginians,” Dickirson said.
According to the Tamarack, by the end of its first year in 1996, more than 1,300 West Virginia artisans were selling their wares at Tamarack, over 450,000 people had visited, and sales had topped $3.3 million. In December of that year, the one-millionth visitor walked through the doors.
In June 2003, a conference center on the grounds opened which was sparked by the partnership with The Greenbrier.
According to the Tamarack, gross revenues have topped $78 million and purchases for goods and services have exceeded $65 million. More than 2,800 artisans from all fifty-five counties have become part of the Tamarack family.
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State lawmakers are getting starting on the tedious and controversial task of redrawing political boundaries in West Virginia. PEIA is looking solid for another year although some fear for the future. West Virginia State installs an interim president as the search begins for the next campus leader. Greenbrier East has a new boys basketball coach, and it’s NOT Governor Jim Justice. The Governor and Babydog travel again to deliver goodness in the vaccination sweepstakes. A chilling murder case results in a Kanawha County teenager headed to prison and the second suspect in a McDowell County murder heads to Prison. It’s football Friday and Fred Persinger runs down key games in high school sports, Marshall falls on the road in Thursday night football and WVU is headed to Oklahoma for a Saturday night showdown. Those stories and more on today’s MetroNews This Morning podcast.
— By David Walsh
BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State’s Chandler Staton booted a go-ahead field goal from 45 yards with 5:45 left, and the defense made a key stand before Nate Noel’s open-field running clinched a 31-30 victory over Marshall on Thursday night in front of 28,377 fans at Kidd Brewer Stadium.
Following Staton’s field goal, Marshall moved into App State territory, but D’Marco Jackson and Jalen McLeod forced a 6-yard loss by Thundering Herd freshman Rasheen Ali. Caleb Spurlin got second-down pressure on quarterback Grant Wells and forced a throwaway, and a third-down incompletion led to a punt that gave the Mountaineers possession at their 8-yard line with 4 minutes to play.
Marshall needed a stop, but Noel and the Mountaineers’ offensive line had other thoughts. Noel ripped off runs of 11, 14, 41 and 22 yards on the final drive alone, wisely going down intentionally at the 5-yard line with 50 seconds left to prevent Marshall from regaining possession with an eight-point deficit.
“Made some mistakes at the end,” first-year Herd coach Charles Huff said on the radio post-game show. “Too many at the end to beat a good team. The kids fought. This is a tough place to play. We’ve got to get a way to make a few more plays at the end.”
Noel finished with 187 yards on 20 carries.
Quarterback Chase Brice then took a knee three times to run out the clock and the thriller came to an end, allowing Appalachian State (3-1) to atone for last year’s 17-7 loss in Huntington.
Ali reeled off a 97-yard kickoff return on a fake reverse to give Marshall a 20-14 lead. It was Marshall’s first kickoff return for a score since Keion Davis in 2017 against Miami (Ohio).
“He’s continuously growing up,” Huff said of Ali, who has 10 touchdowns rushing.
But App State got a 2-yard run by Camerun Peoples 4 seconds before halftime to go back in front 21-20 on what marked Peoples’ third first-half rushing score.
Ali’s 8-yard touchdown run gave Marshall (2-2) a 30-21 lead entering the fourth quarter. A week ago, the Herd led East Carolina 38-21 in the fourth, only to see the Pirates rally for a 42-38 win.
Corey Sutton and Thomas Hennigan led the App State receivers. Sutton grabbed 10 receptions for 127 yards, including a 24-yard TD pass early in the fourth period that survived a review call. Hennigan caught nine balls for 123. Brice threw for 283 yards and the Mountaineers had 283 rushing yards for 566 total yards.
Jackson, a linebacker, racked up 14 tackles.
Wells completed 18-of-32 passes for 270 yards. Ali carried 17 times for 89 yards. Tight end Xavier Gaines led the pass catchers with five grabs for 104 yards, including a 56-yard TD to give the Herd a 13-7 lead with 12:36 left in the second period.
“We’ve wanted to do that all year,” Huff said about taking advantage of mismatches created by Gaines.
The Herd finished with 397 total yards.
App State had the ball for 37:22 to 22:38 for the Herd. The Mountaineers got off 93 plays to 60 for the visitors and led in first downs 39-20.
“We’ve got to tackle better,” Huff said. “Those two guys are really hard runners. We’ve got to get guys on the ground.”
Huff turned to left-footed Shane Ciucci to handle placekicks. A regular last year, Ciucci was behind Andrew Sanders, who was 2-of-4 on field goals through the first three games. One miss was a 31-yarder early in the fourth period against East Carolina.
Ciucci made three boots, one a career-best 46-yarder for a 23-21 Herd lead. He missed a 32-yard try wide right in the fourth period that would’ve given Marshall a 33-28 lead.
“We’re still figuring it out,” Huff said. “We have to get a lot more consistency.”
Marshall next plays October 2 when it opens the Conference USA schedule at Middle Tennessee State. The Herd was the preseason favorite to win the East Division.
“This was our litmus test, our foundation,” Huff said. “Not a failure, a learning experience.”
Notes: Marshall had six first-half penalties, four of which were pass interference calls. The Herd had eight total infractions for 70 yards … App State and Marshall played every year from 1977-1996 as Southern Conference rivals … On Sutton’s TD catch, officials reviewed the play and confirmed that Sutton dragged his back foot on the black end-zone turf just before his lead foot hit the turf out of bounds … Sutton knew immediately, sprinting roughly 50 yards to celebrate … App State leads the overall series 15-9. Mountaineers’ coach Shawn Clark is a native of Charleston.
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America has an immigration problem, and the definition of that problem depends on an individual’s political views. Those views have been hardened by Republicans and Democrats who see immigration as the perfect wedge issue.
Democrats accuse Republicans of being anti-immigrant and racist, while sprinkling their arguments with anecdotes and images of migrant children separated from their parents and held in cages.
Republicans accuse Democrats of supporting open borders and amnesty for illegals. They pepper their arguments with stories of violent, law-breaking illegals.
These are poll-tested stereotype positions that appeal to the base of each party, thus protecting politicians from a primary challenge while filling campaign coffers with donations from like-minded constituents.
But what makes for good politics makes for lousy policy. As conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg has said, “When people ask me what my preferred immigration policy would be, my standard answer is: ‘To have one’.”
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, “The last comprehensive (immigration) legislation to make it through Congress was under President Ronald Regan in 1986.” Since then, the country has endured a whipsaw of rules and policies that vary from administration to administration and from court to court.
I have a fantasy about how the country could tackle immigration and it starts with a story I covered years ago.
I got a tip that surgeries at WVU Hospital—the original old building—were canceled because dust and dirt were coming through the ventilation system into the operating rooms. Hospital administrator David Fine called the press to the hospital.
Instead of downplaying the story, Fine brought reporters into an operating room with all the instruments laid out and a dummy on the table. A thin layer of black dust covered everything. Fine then said something like, “See, this is why we need a new hospital!”
Who could disagree with that? The dirty operating room from a fouled air handling system served as a launch point for the new J.W. Ruby Hospital. That was Fine’s version of never wasting a good crisis.
And now there is a crisis at the border.
What if President Biden, instead of dodging the border, gathered up as many Democrat and Republican lawmakers as he could persuade and headed to Del Rio, Texas, where several thousand Haitians who have entered the country illegally are camping in squalid conditions under a bridge.
Once there, Biden and his group could stand in sweltering Texas sun, the makeshift camp behind them, and call on Congress and the American people to support real immigration reform, a plan that secures the border, updates the policies for who gets into the country and provides a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 12-million people in the country illegally.
Immigration should be a natural for our representatives. Except for Native Americans, we are a country of people whose ancestors came here from somewhere else, and they are still coming. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show 17 percent of the civilian workforce in the country are immigrants. One in five persons in the service industry was born in another country.
Given our history and the importance of immigration, it is shameful that we treat the issue as a political wedge tool rather than a public policy priority.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. Congress remains at a standstill about funding the federal government and preventing a breach of its borrowing limit as the legislative body approaches pressing deadlines and Democrats simultaneously work on achieving their policy goals.
Lawmakers face a Sept. 30 deadline to approve the necessary funding and avert a shutdown when the new fiscal year begins in October. The U.S. Treasury Department is expected to run out of available cash in mid-October, which would have a tremendous impact on the country.
Republicans and Democrats are at odds because of the Democrats’ legislative goals. Democratic lawmakers are trying to pass a sweeping $3.5 trillion package as part of President Joe Biden’s “build back better” agenda, which includes actions addressing health care, education and climate change. Democrats are not united on the proposal’s final cost and whether to pass the measure with the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill. Biden has met with legislators this week in hopes of building consensus.
The federal government is expected to run out of funding on Sept. 30 if Congress does not act, resulting in federal employees being furloughed or not getting paid as well as certain services being stopped.
If Congress does not raise the debt ceiling by mid-October, there could be significant economic consequences. Mark Zandi and Bernard Yaros with Moody Analytics published an analysis Tuesday noting a recession is possible if Congress does not act. Zandi and Yaros warned the effects could include nearly 6 million jobs lost, a 9% unemployment rate and a reduction of $15 trillion in household wealth.
“Based on simulations of the Moody’s Analytics model of the U.S. economy, the downturn would be comparable to that suffered during the financial crisis,” they said.
Republicans and Democrats do not want the United States to default but remain unwavering in their positions. Forty-six Republican senators — including West Virginia’s Shelley Moore Capito — published a letter in August opposing an increase to the debt ceiling as Democrats continued pursuing their goals.
“We should not default on our debts under any circumstances. If Democrats threaten a default, it will only be because they refuse to vote for the debt ceiling increase necessitated by their own irresponsible spending,” they wrote.
Capito, speaking to reporters Thursday, said it is difficult to support increasing the debt limit as Democrats push their domestic policy proposal.
“I’m saying to them we need to have some negotiation here,” she said. “We cannot spend all of this money and then you ask us to help you raise the debt ceiling so then you can spend this money.”
Republicans have suggested Democrats increase the debt ceiling through reconciliation, an approach involving the Senate passing legislation without the typically necessary 60 votes.
“The Democrats have the majorities in the House, the Senate and the presidency. They have it within their caucus the ability to pass this, and I think what this is doing is highlighting to the American people how much money these new programs are going to cost and how much they are willing to spend,” Capito said.
The last government shutdown began in December 2018 and lasted 35 days; then-President Donald Trump and lawmakers could not reach a deal on immigration and border security. Around 800,000 federal workers were placed on furlough into the early weeks of 2019.
Capito said she believes Congress will be able to prevent a government shutdown.
“I think the more important thing is to do the continuing resolution that continues the government past Sept. 30,” she said.
As for increasing the debt ceiling, Capito said there needs to be room for compromise. Republicans and Democrats have supported raising the debt limit multiple times following negotiations.
“What we might say is what we said in 2010, I believe. We’ll help raise the debt ceiling, but we are not going to spend like this,” Capito stated.
“You got to pull the spending down, and there is no appetite for them to do this.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., is among the lawmakers concerned about the $3.5 trillion proposal; he has cited increased spending amid the coronavirus pandemic and inflation as reasons for pausing the plan.
Manchin spokesperson Sam Runyon told MetroNews the senator supports raising the debt ceiling.
“The debt limit is a result of spending Congress has already authorized and defaulting on our bills in the middle of a pandemic would have devastating impacts on American workers and the economy,” Runyon said. “Senator Manchin will vote to raise the debt ceiling because Congress has a responsibility to pay our bills and prevent economic catastrophe for the American people.”
The House of Representatives on Tuesday approved a resolution to fund the federal government through Dec. 3 and suspend the debt ceiling through mid-December 2022. The bill would also appropriate funds for addressing natural disasters and assisting Afghan refugees.
The 220-211 vote was along party lines; Reps. David McKinley, Alex Mooney and Carol Miller joined Republican colleagues in opposing the measure.
“The Democrats are the ones trying to spend trillions of dollars and they can raise their own debt ceiling,” Miller told MetroNews. “I’m not going to do it.”
The House also faces a Monday deadline to vote on the Senate’s $1 trillion infrastructure bill. The Senate passed the measure in August with a 69-30 vote, in which Manchin and Capito supported the bill.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A teenage girl has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for her role in the deaths of an Elkview family in December of last year.
Kanawha County Circuit Court Judge Kenneth Ballard sentenced Rebecca Walker, 17, Thursday morning in an in-person sentencing. In July, she had pleaded guilty to 4 counts of accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. Ballard sentenced each count, 2 and 1/2 years, to run consecutively.
“Honestly I do not have the words. I don’t think anyone has the words to try to explain or give comfort to the families here today (Thursday),” Ballard said before sentencing Walker.
The charges stem from the murders of Daniel Dale Long, 37, Risa Mae Saunders, 39, Gage Ripley, 12, and Jameson Long, 3, all of Elkview. Investigators said they all died of gunshot wounds.
A family member discovered the bodies at a Cemetery Hill Drive residence in Kanawha County on Dec. 13, 2020. The family member, Timothy Saunders, father of Risa Saunders and grandfather of the boys killed, had tried to get in touch with the family a day before the discovery and found the front door of the home unlocked.
Saunders gave a victim’s impact statement to the courtroom while holding photos of those killed.
“When I close my eyes and I try to sleep now, all I see is the nightmare I walked into. Gage laying on the floor, looking up at me, ice-cold and blue. Risa and Dan still in bed, ice-cold and blue. Couldn’t get anybody to wake up, blood everywhere,” Saunders said.
A 16-year-old boy who was previously charged with the murders as a juvenile is awaiting a transfer to adult status. His identity has not been officially released but Walker was identified as his girlfriend. He is referred to as “G.S.” in court documents.
Saunders claimed that Walker knew of the boy’s plan to murder his family. He said it could have all been prevented.
“She knew about it, as I was told, a month before it happened. One phone call could have prevented a senseless act. She could have told anyone or notified the police of Gavin’s plan,” Saunders said emotionally, identifying the teenager as Gavin.
Instead, Saunders now says all he was left is memories of his daughter and her children. He said Walker’s actions and the teenage boy have made him an empty and hopeless man.
“She was 39-years old,” Saunders said of his late daughter. “She was daddy’s girl and she always will be. Her boys were her life. She always made sure they had anything they wanted or needed.”
Robbie Long, the attorney for Walker, stated it was difficult to quantify her responsibility in this case. He said she had no criminal record, no juvenile record and her school officials have positive sentiments towards her.
Long said she has had a tough life as a teenager, losing all of her belongings in the Elkview flooding of 2016. According to Long, Walker then lost her mother and she was close to her.
Long called Walker meeting her boyfriend ‘a perfect storm’ for something to happen. According to Long, Walker was told by the boy that he was being abused at home.
“She wanted desperately to help him. She also told the doctors she did not know how to help him. And that is where I think this story took a tragic turn,” Long said.
“The two of them became delusional about their futures together. Unfortunately, her boyfriend acted on that delusion.”
Don Morris, chief deputy Kanawha County Prosecuting Attorney, said Walker’s acts were not delusional but selfish.
“When you look at the conduct of both the individuals involved, it’s more of selfishness instead of delusion. It’s wanting to spend time together at the expense of four lives,” Morris said.
Morris said the state believed the defendant was manipulated to an extent and that is why there was a plea agreement.
Court documents stated that Walker knowingly, unlawfully and feloniously harbored, concealed, and assisted the teenage boy in the committing the murders. Documents further stated that the crimes took place between Dec. 9 and Dec. 13.
Morris said Walker will go to a juvenile facility and return to the courtroom when she turns 18.
Walker was overwhelmed with emotion while trying to read a statement to the court on Thursday. Her letter was read by Judge Ballard silently.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State workers who get their health insurance through PEIA will find out next month what changes will be proposed in their coverage plan that will begin next July.
The PEIA Finance Board met Thursday in Charleston and received a report on the insurance program’s finances.
PEIA finished its budget year $47 million ahead of projections, mainly because its investment income came in at $40.6 million, which was $29 million ahead of estimates. The boost was able to cover ongoing increases in medical expenses.
The insurance program also benefits from a premium deficiency reserve fund of $83 million. That’s helped keep monthly premiums the same for workers for several years. It remains to be seen if the better-than-expected investment income will keep premiums the same next year.
PEIA’s Chief Financial Officer Jason Haught said the financial picture could have been much worse considering what’s happened with 2019.
“This is pretty good news,” Haught told the board. “I was actually preparing myself for an unmanageable spike in health care utilization that was going to hit us too hard and impact our financial position. Luckily, what we have seen has been sustainable.”
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee urged the finance board to work with Gov. Jim Justice and the legislature to come up with a long-term funding plan for PEIA.
“The news is good for this year but we are facing a challenge coming up,” Lee predicted.
PEIA has previously projected a 7.5% increase in costs in 2023, a 7.9% cost increase in 2024 and 8.2% in 2025.
Lee said you can only live off good investment news for so long.
“It has been a big help for this year and maybe even into next year but at some point the market is going to adjust,” Lee said.
The teacher union leader lamented again Thursday about the work of the PEIA task force from 2018 has yet to be acted on by state leaders.
“We knew in 2018 that just a band-aid wasn’t going to work. Unfortunately the task force has been neglected, our recommendations, by the legislature,” Lee said.
After the proposed plan for 2022-23 is rolled at next month’s meeting, PEIA will hold public hearings in Martinsburg, Morgantown, Wheeling, Charleston and Beckley in Novembers to give those covered by the PEIA to comment.
The PEIA Finance Board will vote on the new plan in December.
The board also learned Thursday the PEIA Trust Fund has a balance of $1.581 billion.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Oklahoma has long had one of college football’s most feared offenses.
For proof, look no further than the Sooners’ seven Heisman Trophy winners, a list that includes four OU quarterbacks since 2003.
Since joining the Big 12 Conference, West Virginia has lost all eight matchups with Oklahoma, which has 381 points over that stretch. OU has at least 44 points in seven of the eight meetings and 50-plus in five, including each of the last four.
There’s no question a tough challenge awaits the WVU defense Saturday, but the offense will also have its work cut out in search of its best performance this season against a quality OU defense.
“They do a great job recruiting personnel,” West Virginia head coach Neal Brown said. “They’re disruptive up front in all ways you can be disruptive — pass rush and run stunts, the movement they put together. Their back end guys are talented, gifted and can run.“
The Sooners have strong national rankings in several important defensive categories, including No. 31 in scoring by allowing 17 points per game, 13th in turnovers forced (7), 12th in tackles for loss (25) and sixth in sacks (13).
After some season-opening struggles in a 40-35 win over Tulane, Oklahoma’s defense has shown improvement. The Sooners blanked Western Carolina and last week limited Nebraska to 16 points, allowing OU to knock off a rival despite its lowest point total over the last six seasons.
“They play really, really hard,” Brown said. “I’ve said it before — what better compliment can you give a group that’s well wired up and sound in what they do by scheme? It’s is a compliment to their coaching staff and how hard they play.”
The Sooners rank 46th allowing slightly more than 319 yards per game, though the Green Wave and Cornhuskers both gained close to 400 yards. Even when opposing times have moved the ball well against OU, they’ve struggled to protect it. Tulane’s three turnovers were costly, while a one-handed interception from D.J. Graham helped the Sooners hold off Nebraska.
It’s a trend that’s carried over from last season, when OU forced 19 turnovers and was third in college football with 16 interceptions.
West Virginia, meanwhile, has struggled with turnovers and its seven to this point are more than all but six Football Bowl Subdivision teams.
“Turnovers has kind of been our Achilles’ heel this year,” Brown said. “We’re minus-six in turnover margin on the year. Haven’t done a very good job defensively taking it away, and then offensively, we have to do a better job. It’s hard to overcome and we just barely did on Saturday.”
The Sooners pride themselves on pressuring quarterbacks to help create those turnovers. Their 39 sacks last season were more than every team outside of Clemson and Pittsburgh.
Already this season, seven OU players have at least one sack, led by 2.5 apiece from defensive linemen Isaiah Thomas and Perrion Winfrey and outside linebacker Nik Bonitto.
Brown credits third-year OU defensive coordinator Alex Grinch for the unit’s ability to get into opposing backfields.
“He’s done a really good job of stabilizing that side of the ball,” Brown said. “They’re playing at a high level. Schematically, he gives you some issues. “There’s a lot of similarities how they operate their front six and how we operate our front six.
“Their defensive linemen are difference makers across the board. Winfrey plays inside, you look at Thomas and Bonitto, they’re all high-round NFL draft picks and we’re going to have to really compete hard on the interior part of our offensive line and at tackle.”
WVU will be out to duplicate the rushing success it had last week in a 27-21 over Virginia Tech when Leddie Brown took his first carry for an 80-yard touchdown en route to a season-high 161-yard performance.
But the Mountaineers have struggled offensively after halftime and against Maryland and the Hokies, they failed to score a second-half touchdown and combined for six points.
“We know we have a job to do to keep ourselves in the game to where we find a way to score one more than them,” Parker said. “It’s a huge deal and a great challenge for us as a football team. Statistics are proof of future and past outcomes, but at the same time, what do we have to do to put ourselves in the best position to be in this game and find a way to finish it in the fourth? That’s been our biggest push in game planning.”
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West Virginia lawmakers are diving into the nitty-gritty of redistricting.
The state Senate’s redistricting committee met today, getting organized and laying out a basic schedule for considering district maps.
The redistricting committee for the House of Delegates announced it will kick off with a similar meeting a week from today.
Their work over the next couple of weeks will lead into a special session to consider the redistricting that must be done every 10 years, following the new census.
The big issue on the table is U.S. congressional districts. Because West Virginia lost population over the past decade, it will lose one of its three congressional seats.
How lawmakers decide to split the state into two congressional districts will balance combinations of growth regions or places losing population, local cultures, regional economies — and it will affect which congressional incumbent remains in a relatively safe seat and which two would have to square off against each other in a primary.
There are other redistricting decisions ahead too. The House of Delegates is going from 67 single and multi-member districts to 100 single member districts.
And the Senate may make changes to the boundaries of its current 17 districts, based in part on population flow.
Senator Charles Trump, chairman of the redistricting committee, raised a discussion point today about considering whether each of those 17 districts should remain. He said the only constitutional limitation is the Senate must have at least 12 districts.
“It’s not mandated by the Constitution that the number be set at 17,” he said. “We could have 16 or 15 districts.”
The Senate’s redistricting committee met for about an hour today and plans to get back together starting next Thursday. After that, members expect several days of steady work.
The meetings are being streamed so the public can watch. And because of the covid-19 pandemic, some members may participate virtually. But Senator Trump warned that it would be easier to see maps by being there in person.
The committee established a rule that before it votes or acts on any map, it has to be publicly-available for 24 hours. “We’ll get feedback,” said Trump, R-Morgan. “That’s the idea behind this, to have stuff out there for people to look at, think about and comment on before we take action.”
Trump said the next meeting will be Sept. 30, a week from today. “And at that meeting, I’m hoping we’ll get to start looking at some maps,” Trump said, adding that more meetings will take place the next day, Oct. 1, and into the following week. “I would not be surprised to see this committee meeting on every one of those days as we work through this process.”
He noted that legislative interim meetings are scheduled already for Oct. 10, 11 and 12. “And we’ll meet throughout those. We can expect this committee will meet throughout those interims,” Trump said.
Trump suggested state leaders are anticipating a special session that week for official votes on redistricting and possibly some other matters.
“What I’m saying is, the week before our special session this committee could be working every day,” Trump said. “And we probably need to.”
Trump asked committee members to discuss what order would make sense to consider district maps.
Senator Eric Tarr, R-Putnam, said the two districts for Congress would be a fairly limited question compared to the multiple Senate districts. So he proposed considering the congressional districts first.
“Given that we’re only doing two districts congressionally and potentially greater than 12 on the Senate districts — and the technology involved, I would like to see us do congressional first and kind of go through what should be an easier process I would expect,” Tarr said.
“So I would suggest that we do the congressional districts first.”
Where is the legislative redistricting committee at when drawing the lines for redistricting? @CharlesTrumpWV explains where the committee is at to @HoppyKercheval. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/OUJy5ZLOXi
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) September 23, 2021
The House Redistricting Committee will have an organizational meeting at 9 a.m. Sept. 30 in the House Chamber.
The agenda will be posted in advance of the meeting, and discussion will include sharing draft maps of proposals for new House districts and new congressional districts.
Video and audio of the meeting will be streamed live at the West Virginia Legislature’s website, http://www.wvlegislature.gov/live.cfm
For questions about the redistricting process, visit https://www.wvlegislature.gov/redistricting.cfm.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Voters go to the polls Saturday in Monongalia County to vote for or against the county’s school excess levy.
Monongalia County has had additional funding for its school system through an excess levy since 1973. If approved, the renewed levy will generate about $30 million in annual tax revenue.
“It supports facilities improvements, things that make our schools more secure, renovations to playgrounds, extra-curricular activities, art and music, counselors and psychologists. honors courses and technology,” Excess Levy Committee member Mark Nesselroad said Thursday on WAJR’s ‘Talk of the Town.’
The levy makes up about 25% of the school system’s overall budget. The five-year renewal would begin next year and last through 2027. It will not increase current taxes.
Nesselroad said the Monongalia County school system is one of the top districts in the state and are many times the first thing people look at when considering a move to a community. Additionally, local businesses look to competitive schools to provide a pipeline of people to support the local economy in entry level positions and prepare them for post secondary education.
“It attracts employers and employees, it attracts business and recreation,” Nesselroad said. “It’s important to our quality of life in Monongalia County.”
Both Nesselroad and fellow committee member Ashley Martucci have children in the system and believe the levy funding is key in maintaining the quality of education parents, families and the community has grown to expect.
“I’m grateful for the impact of the excess levy and what it has done for the children in our community,” Martucci said.
According to Nesselroad, the levy funding allows local schools to meet the needs of families without navigating state government or waiting on the cycle to accomplish important items that enhance growth and quality.
“Without it our schools might look like our roads,” Nesselroad said. “We rely on the state for funding and they support 73-percent of the budget, but that extra 23-percent is local-based and really what sets our county apart.”
The 10-day early voting period wrapped up Wednesday. Monongalia County Clerk Carye Blaney said 2,059 people cast ballots.
Polls will be open Saturday from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
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