Bob-n-Along, March 12, 1999

So you think you've lived through it all? Think about it

I suppose that since I've somehow been in the poetry mode in some of my most recent columns, I should include another one. This one's from Russ Allevato of North View.
The title of his verse is "Number 1 -Think About It." It follows:
"When you're very young and pretty,
Think about it.
Then you get older and older,
Think about it.
Were you the same before?
Think about it.
Does your memory think of the past?
Think about it.
The future moves pretty fast,
Think about it.
Would you do the same thing over?
Think about it.
Your life has a mind of its own.
Think about it.
Does someone talk about you?
Think about it.
Do they say bad or is it good?
Think about it.
Are you blessed when you're awake?
Think about it.
Do you love your life?
Think about it.
You are not in depression.
Think about it.
When you grew up, were your school days fun?
Think about it.
Did you have everything that you wanted?
Think about it.
Your loved ones were dear to you.
Think about it.
Love was not as easy as we think.
Think about it.
Do we really believe how life goes on?
Think about it.
You're growing up now to be your best.
Think about it.
Is this world treating you better?
Think about it.
Everything seems to turn your way.
Think about it.
Now that you're (happy) and not so sure,
Think about it.
Enjoy these true words:
Think about it."
A big tip o' the hat to Mr. Allevato for sending that verse to us.

    While on the subject of life, a friend recently e-mailed me some one-liners about what we discover about ourselves now that we're older:
    I started out with nothing.  I still have most of it.
    I wish the buck stopped here. I could use a few.
    If God wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
    All reports are in. Life is officially unfair.
    When did my wild oats turn to prunes and All-Bran?
    It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere.
    When you're finally holding all the cards, why does everyone else decide to play chess?
    Nostalgia just isn't what it used to be.

    Laura Goff Davis, president of the Harrison County Historical Society, has informed me that at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, March 21, "The History of the Town of Gypsy" will be discussed by Mrs. Terry Schulte, director of the Harrison County Planning Commission and the Harrison County Landmarks Commission. The meeting will be at the Amy Roberts Vance House, 123 W. Main St., Clarksburg.
    She'll speak on the process of being nominated to the National Register of Historic Places and what it means for a structure or place to gain this honor.
    Also, Mrs. D. Gifford, a Gypsy historian, will discuss the history of the community, which will soon be nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Public Places.

Have an enjoyable weekend. Another column Sunday.



Exponent Editorial, March 12, 1999

There are bigger issues at stake in
mountaintop ruling

    We sympathize with the 300 or so Arch Coal Inc. employees who stand to lose their jobs because the firm has decided to shut down its Dal-Tex mountaintop mining operation in Logan County.
    We know that it's not easy to find solid, well-paying jobs in West Virginia. And we realize that opportunities in the coal industry  (a workplace and lifestyle so many West Virginians know so well) are dwindling with each passing day.
    We also know that Arch employees don't want our sympathy, they want jobs. And they don't want to hear that there are bigger issues at stake in connection with the closing.
But there are.
    Arch announced the shutdown earlier this week on the heels of a federal court ruling blocking the start of work on Spruce No. 1 Mine, a 3,100-acre strip mine that would have been the largest in the state. U.S. District Judge Charles Haden issued a preliminary injunction blocking development of the mine after hearing weeks of testimony over whether the mine should be allowed to open.
    Environmental groups filed suit to block the opening of the mine, claiming further study is needed to determine potential environmental hazards of such an operation. They also questioned the legality of mountaintop removal mining.
Judge Haden, for now at least, has decided that the anti-mine activists are right.
    In his 47-page ruling on the injunction, Haden said the plaintiffs had raised "serious, substantial and difficult questions" about the legality of mountaintop mining. He also wrote that the potential, permanent destruction of Pigeonroost Hollow outweighed any "temporary economic harms" that Arch Coal and its employees might suffer.
Haden is right.
    There is only one Pigeonroost Hollow. If work is allowed to start at the mine site before all the legal and environmental questions are settled, and if allowing the mining turns out to be the wrong thing to do for the people of Logan County and the state, we will not be able to get back what was destroyed in the process.
For Arch Coal, we have less and less sympathy every day.
    It seems to us that the firm is more inclined to spend lots of money advertising, lobbying, whining and paying its employees to protest in Charleston than it is willing to sit down with interested parties and find a way to extract coal from West Virginia's hills in a more responsible way.
To Arch Coal, we say, get used to a new way of doing business in West Virginia or get out.
    The days of coal companies raping our land and taking advantage of our residents is over. West Virginians care about their environment and their quality of life. We won't let Arch, or any other big business, run roughshod over us again.

Today's editorial reflects the opinion of the Exponent editorial board, which includes William J. Sedivy, John G. Miller, Julie R. Cryser, James Logue, Kevin Courtney and Cecil Jarvis.



Telegram Editorial, March 12, 1999

Solving PEIA money woes may be elusive
because lawmakers averse to change

    The $10.7 million allocated by a House Finance Committee two days ago may have been all that Governor Underwood requested to help reduce the huge Public Employees Insurance Agency deficit. But it is merely patchwork, considering the state must find about $38 million to overcome the nearly $50 million PEIA shortfall.
    The House Finance Committee provided the additional $10.7 million as part of the $2.65 billion budget for fiscal 1999-2000 it approved Wednesday. The bill was sent to the full House, while the Senate is working on its own version of the budget in the meantime. Then the differences in the versions will be worked out next week- after Saturday's adjournment of the regular session.
    The $10.7 million and an increase in state workers' deductibles and co-payments effective July 1 are intended to prevent a budget deficit in the health insurance program.
    The program's budget is increasing about 10 percent a year, in contrast to a 1.8 percent annual growth in state revenues. But the ratio of working employees to retirees is shrinking. PEIA subsidizes retirees in the program in the amount of $60 million per year.
    In the state Senate last week, Sen. Robert Plymale, D-Wayne, offered a plan to trim the spiraling cost of PEIA that would increase premiums gradually over five years. But the Senate Finance Committee immediately postponed action on the proposal for another year. Could it have been those legislators were giving in to the demands of public employee unions?
This is certainly not to say that lawmakers have failed to devote their time and energy to finding a solution. Quite the contrary. The PEIA crisis has consumed them this session. Not only are we disappointed that the Senate Finance Committee has delayed action. We feel changes should have been made years ago.
I    t is important to remember that those covered by the PEIA pay only 7 percent of the amount, with the remaining 93 percent up to the already burdened state taxpayers. One Republican senator, Sarah Minear, supports a plan that would lower this to 80 percent. If enacted, that plan could be of some comfort to the many taxpayers who are without health insurance themselves or who split the premium 50-50 with their employers.
    A couple of ironies come into play. One is that lobbyists for the state employees are against the plan, since the more money the state spends on PEIA, the less money it has for raises and pension plans. And the other irony is that many state employees claim that instead of a pay raise once in the 1970s, they received free health care. Yet the costs of that health care turn out to be that they go without pay hikes.
Go figure.
    To our way of thinking, a rise in PEIA premiums from 7 percent of costs today to 20 percent in 2004 would be a gradual one. It may be an increase over what state workers covered by the plan are now paying. But it still is less than what is paid by many employees in the private sector. Currently, PEIA consumes 11 percent of the state's budget, and as its costs continue to increase faster than the state's revenues, it will be consuming even more of the budget.
    Changes are inevitable, according to PEIA Director Robert Ayers, who maintains that while the impact to insurees could be kept at a minimum this year, premiums will eventually have to be raised.
    Ayers says such items as massage and sleep therapy can be trimmed from the plan, but the savings would not be large enough to make the program solvent. Thus his reasoning for the need to eventually raise premiums.
    The bottom line: It would have been wiser (and no doubt less painful to taxpayers and public workers alike) for legislators to have made needed changes now when they could be gradual, rather than delaying action and facing the strong possibility of sudden increases later.
 Robert F. Stealey
Telegram editorial board chairman



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