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Exponent editorial for June 23, 1998

Marion County's lost history

What's a little history in the face of progress?

God only knows that damage was done last week when the Marion County Commission allowed historical documents dating back before the Civil War to be tossed into the trash heap. It was done in order to pave the way for renovation of the building in which they were housed.

The leather-bound books dating from 1842 to 1880 contained information that might have been valuable to people tracing their family trees. Many of the records were kept by justices of the peace. They were the only county officers who kept records of people who took responsibility for orphans. That kind of information could be priceless to genealogists. Now it's lost and gone forever.

Some county officials were unmoved. "There is no way anyone could have gone through and sorted all the books," said County Commissioner Cody Starcher. That may very well be, but there are plenty of libraries and archives that would have welcomed such additions to their collections.

But no one was notified that the records were going to be moved. They were just carted off so that contractors could begin renovation of the Jacob's building.

To say that the commission acted heartlessly in this matter is probably an understatement. The records that were destroyed could have helped out many; but aside from that, they were a part of the county's history, plain and simple. And getting rid of them just because they were in the way was something approaching sinful.

We can only hope that if there are other historical documents in Marion County that are standing in the way of progress, the County Commission finds some other place to put them other than in a local landfill.

In fact, elected officials anywhere in the state should learn a lesson here. What may seem to be dusty, dull and boring to some, can be a treasure to others.

-- James Logue


Telegram editorials for June 23, 1998

Gambling's moral impact on state not getting the attention it deserves

While lawmakers study gambling's financial impact on West Virginia, they should keep in mind its moral impact.

A Gaming Committee created to study gambling in West Virginia met for the first time last week. Co-chaired by Delegate Jerry Mezzatesta and state Sen. Oshel Craigo, the committee is apparently the first effort to take a comprehensive look into gambling in the Mountain State.

Lawmakers need to keep in mind legalized gambling's moral impact because legalized gambling is as tempting for them as it is for bettors. For lawmakers, it's an easy, painless way to pad the state budget without being forced to increase taxes or reduce spending.

State-sponsored gambling like the lottery amounts to a voluntary tax -- residents willingly handing their money over to the state -- the kind of revenue source government officials dream of. Private gambling, despite the middle man, glitters like gold for lawmakers in search of more revenue.

The problem, of course, is that legalized gambling is not painless for the people who gamble. It destroys lives, ruins families. It takes money from the people who can least afford to lose it -- people struggling to get by and desperate to hit it rich. There are a lot of those people in the Mountain State.

Early signs are good that Gaming Committee members see more than just dollar signs.

Delegate Mezzatesta said at the panel's first meeting:

"We're not guaranteeing that we'll do anything. I think if we were to say we'll propose legislation, then the purpose of the committee is a farce."

Another committee member, Delegate Vic Sprouse, said the panel should review South Carolina's problems with video poker. The Supreme Court in that state has struck down county bans on video gambling.

We hope the Gaming Committee, and all state lawmakers, take an honest look at legalized gambling, including its moral impact. They'll see that while allowing more gambling may be easy on lawmakers, it will be hard on the people of West Virginia.

-- Tim Langer

More women, children wanted for 10K race

The people who organize the Greater Clarksburg 10K Run would like to attract more women to participate in it. Discovering from 1997 figures that among last year's nearly 700 runners little more than 20 percent were women, we also believe they should have more opportunities to run.

Although race organizers are proud that the event drew a diverse group of runners -- from such nations as Morocco, Zimbabwe, Russia and Kenya -- they'd like to have more participants from this area, including women and children.

We're with race chairman Larry Mazza, who says that for the 10K race to grow, the distaff side of the human race must be encouraged to become involved in the event, to take place in August.

Mazza's group would like to keep the Clarksburg 10K a family event and would like for a lot of spectators to watch. So to do this, the summer seminar series provides sessions on fitness training for runners.

And we applaud the 10K planners who this year will conduct "The Kids' K" for children ages 12 and younger. Each will receive a T-shirt, a prize at the finish line and free lunch.

It doesn't appear to us that race officials will have any problem attracting at least 1,000 participants in 1998.

-- Robert F. Stealey