The new year, and the new decade, has already provided a number of unexpected headlines, including early spring-like February flooding.
We’ve also had our normal assortment of crime-related stories here in the mountains, including a rash of disturbing animal abuse cases last month. But otherwise it’s been your normal run-of-the-mill drug-related cases and stories. And that is the same unwanted and tiresome scourge that we’ve been dealing with for years now.
In my humble opinion, those who use, abuse and illegally deal with drugs are the greatest threat to society. But until we can get this problem under control once and for all, I suspect we will continue to see headlines about drug deals and drug dealers for the foreseeable future.
But I digress from my primary talking point. It’s still relatively early into the new year and decade, and much remains unresolved. Back in January, instead of making resolutions for the new year, I instead spent some time mulling over what hasn’t been completed or accomplished.
I’ll give you a few work-related examples below:
• I’m still waiting on the public relations folks with the West Virginia Department of Transportation in Charleston to return my phone calls and emails from last summer. I was working on our annual progress edition at the time, and sought information from the W.Va. DOT on when that long-promised section of the Coalfields Expressway in McDowell County will be advertised for construction. I actually spoke with someone in the public relations office in Charleston last summer, who assured me that answers to my questions would be forthcoming and in a timely manner. (I was on a deadline, after all).
To cover all of my bases, I also submitted my questions via e-mail to the DOT. Needless to say, no one ever bothered calling or emailing me back. But I’m still waiting on an answer from the public relations office of the DOT. The good citizens of McDowell County deserve an answer. Will a contract be awarded this year or not on the Coalfields Expressway project? Also, why have a public relations office when those who are paid to answer media questions do not return phone calls and emails?
• Along those same lines, I’m still waiting for the Jim Justice for Governor 2016 campaign team to return my phone calls and emails from four years ago. Yep. The governor’s 2016 campaign staff also never returned my calls. Nor did the 2016 campaign staff of then candidate Carol Miller, a Republican who went on to win the Mountain State’s 3rd District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Apparently, a popular new strategy among politicians is to simply not return media calls.
• I’m also still waiting for tolls to be removed from the West Virginia Turnpike. Now, instead of the tolls being gone, the price of traveling to Charleston and back has more than doubled. It’s always good to see lawmakers in Charleston sticking it to the deep south counties. Now their precious cash cow is intact for the foreseeable future, and at our financial expense.
• Speaking of the state Legislature, I’m also still waiting for the new Democratic majority in Richmond, Va., to do or propose something — anything — that isn’t a direct affront to the deep south coalfield counties of Southwest Virginia. It doesn’t look like that is going to happen anytime soon. The headlines coming out of the General Assembly are troubling to many local residents. Clearly, common sense is no longer in abundant supply in Richmond, Va.
OK. Maybe I’m being a little sarcastic here, but how hard is it to return a phone call? And yes, our elected leaders, in both Charleston and Richmond, are all-too-often out of touch with the coalfield counties. How else can you explain the decision to not only retain turnpike tolls, but also double them?
And for the good folks in Southwest Virginia, there is no easy answer to the current crisis at hand. The population-heavy suburbs of Northern Virginia, including the so-called swamp, tends to vote heavily Democratic.
We have no control over who wins those House and Senate seats in Northern Virginia.
But it is important to remember that the entire state — not just the population centers of Northern Virginia — decides governor races. The same for U.S. Senate and U.S. House seats.
So everyone, and I do mean everyone, should vote in those races. Then, and only then, will the deep south counties have a voice and a vote that actually counts.
But as it stands right now, too many people in Southwest Virginia simply don’t vote. And that’s a huge problem.
There is nothing hard about voting.
Everyone who is eligible to vote should certainly vote in each and every election.
If you don’t vote, you have no grounds to complain, despite how bad things might my get in Richmond or Charleston.
Charles Owens is the Daily Telegraph’s assistant managing editor. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him @BDTOwens.