First I have to acknowledge I don’t know exactly how political stuff works in Charleston or other parts of West Virginia, but I know how it should work in Mineral County. If my interpretation of a certain activity at the recent WV Public Service Commission hearing to gather evidence about an industrial wind installation is correct, I think our Mineral County representation needs a real – kick in the pants – shake up.
It seems WV State Senator Helmick shows up at the hearing for a project unrelated to his own 15th district and proceeds to tell the PSC the project should be approved so Mineral County can begin to pull it’s weight and send some more “bucks” to the state capitol. Had I been in charge of the meeting I would have cut him off right about there and asked if he had any actual evidence to offer relevant to the proposed construction. Lacking any, I would have asked him to sit. But, professional courtesy often permits some folks to take a few extra steps toward the edge of their power, power we mere mortals can only dream of. I’ll come back to that.
At the kick-off of his bash, Senator Helmick was proud to announce he was carrying “some letters written by my colleagues and political confidantes in that area, Senator Bob Williams, Senator David Sypolt, Delegate Allen Evans, County Commissioners Cynthia Pyles and Janice LaRue.” Of course, these are the folks we elected to represent the area set up on Senator Helimck’s tee.
Now this could be all innocent. Maybe Senator Helmick mentioned he was making a delivery in the area and would drop off all the notes written by his “political confidantes” to save postage and just thought he might as well clobber the hell out of Mineral County as a deadbeat area while he was there. To believe this, you’d have to believe also that our Representatives had no clue he was going to insult Mineral County. But, were that the case, you would think the local papers would be flooded with their letters of outrage for the suggestion made by their “colleague.” I didn’t notice any!
Another possibility is that the “political confidantes” representing us freeloaders are intimidated by what the Charleston Daily Mail calls the “master doohickey finagler” for his penchant for attention grabbing “bizarre, creative gadgets (he uses) to cast his votes,” and chose to simply let him run down their county with their silent, implied agreement. This seems a likely possibility because his out of left field feeble endorsement for a project having no impact on his life certainly should have garnered some attention in Mineral County, beyond that of the Allegheny Front Alliance.
See, Senator Mr. Helmick didn’t seem so much to endorse the project on its merit, but more as an opportunity for the citizens of Mineral County to gather some tax revenue to help pay bills. I guess the good Senator thinks revenue from the wind industry is a good idea. I suppose the logic resides somewhere that taxpayer dollars, once removed and recycled as heavily funded subsidies to wind projects by federal and state governments will, after profits are taken, return as tax revenue generated by new money. To me, taxes on taxes as a good thing is a puzzling concept. But maybe that’s because I pay taxes and don’t get to dole them out.
I don’t have, nor could I find copies of the letters from the district 14 Senators Williams or Sypolt or the one from Delegate Evans in the record, so I cannot comment on whether they supported or opposed the wind installation, but let me take a wild stab – I think they support, Otherwise their “political confidant” might not have made an announcement when he presented them. I can’t say if their letters agreed with Senator Helmick’s suggestion that Mineral County owed the state acceptance of the set of eagle grinders considered for placement in the migratory flyway of the Alleghenies as some sort of penance or restitution. No matter, as that is their right as private citizens to speak for or against. Just as it was the right of Mr. Helmick as a private citizen to drop by and listen to the testimony, just as it is mine to read it and comment. But for the PSC to give any weight to his request for cash, simply because he has a job in Charleston, is silly. This was a hearing to gather evidence. The PSC already received dozens of letters from people outside the affected region asking them to approve the installation in someone else’s yard, so we didn’t really need Mr. Helmick’s private citizen point of view to consume hearing time gathering undue attention. He could have dropped his letter off with the others.
Oh, don’t take this as disrespectful to Senator Helmick. It just happens in my view it was not the Senator, but private citizen Mr. Helmick who showed up at the hearing and was simply taking advantage of a title related to his day job. In fact, the opening line from PSC Commissioner Albert gives me that clue. He said, “Okay. We did allow for additional public comment at this hearing. I see Senator Helmick sitting out there. Senator, do you have a statement you want to make?” Familiarity among peers is understandable, but by addressing a “public” commenter by his official title implies more weight might be given to his words than, say, an average person like me.
And, I guess my problem is this. Entering into “evidence” what I consider oblique support for the project as a supplier of “bucks” to the state coffers he oversees coupled with a publicly expressed disdain for any county that doesn’t have ski lifts or mine coal, is ridiculous. The fact that Mr. Senator Helmick gave no scientific, economic, health related, environmental or even valuable evidence directly related to the installation brings into question the whole reason for his appearance and frankly, what little he offered to the proceedings he could have easily sent in a letter.
What follows should be of particular interest to the citizens of Mineral County, WV. The words of Senator Helmick may tell you a lot about what’s wrong in Charleston. The lack of vocal outrage by the individuals representing Mineral County over Senator Helmick’s comments might tell you a lot about wrong with our representation.
The full text of Day 1, October 26, 2009 is at this link.
Hearing Statement begins:
PSC Evidentary Hearing – October 26, 2009
COMMISSIONER 1 ALBERT: Okay. We did allow for additional public comment at this hearing. I see Senator Helmick sitting out there. Senator, do you have a statement you want to make?
SENATOR HELMICK: I do, Your Honor.
COMMISSIONER ALBERT: Why don’t you come up and take the witness stand?
SENATOR HELMICK: Your Honor, prior to me making —.
COMMISSIONER ALBERT: Senator, look down to see if the grey button is pushed down so that there’s a blue light shining.
SENATOR HELMICK: We’re on.
COMMISSIONER ALBERT: All right. Now we’re on.
SENATOR HELMICK: Your Honor, prior to making a statement in support of Pinnacle’s wind farm application, I do want to offer some letters written by my colleagues and political confidantes in that area, Senator Bob Williams, Senator David Sypolt, Delegate Allen 1 Evans, County Commissioners Cynthia Pyles and Janice LaRue. I would offer those.
COMMISSIONER ALBERT: All right. Fine.
SENATOR HELMICK: My role in state government — and I think I have to go back there in order to be clear on what I’m about to say — is to watch the generation of dollars and to use those dollars the best that we possibly can and be as fair as we possibly can throughout the state. We have several counties in West Virginia that are counties that generate. They carry their own weight, that use their resources in a way that’s very helpful to the entire package of state government.
And for instance, if you look at some of the counties that generate coal, Boone County gives us $20 million — $60 million extra per year from local resource. Pocahontas County, where I live, we utilize the top of the mountain at Snow Shoe and generate significant money. We are the number one county in West Virginia in producing local share dollars, that is dollars toward our education system, which is our number one expense in West Virginia. And then we have other counties — Jefferson County, because of our gaming efforts there, last year gave us $171 million just by large — by all measures, the largest share of dollars. So they recover their cost and help. And so each county uses what they have available to them, if you will, to help out.
And throughout the eastern part of West Virginia, in this town, we don’t have great timber. We don’t have a lot of the other resources. We have no coal. We have very little resources, and so you have to be innovative in the things that you do and utilize, you know, what’s given to you in a responsible way. That’s why I support the effort there. I supported it in some other counties, said, okay, step up and be a part of and generate some activity in there. It will bring, in this case, $433,000 to the local tax structure. And the bigger part of that 70 percent — if you break it out, 70, 30. Seventy (70) goes to educating our youth, which indeed, as we all understand and know, is the future of West Virginia.
So looking at it from all sides and what they have to offer in Mineral County, they have something to offer here that they can help all the people of West Virginia and help the students and the base of Mineral County. Several counties have the distinction of — 35 of having the Board of Education being their number one employer and that’s not the way things really should work. We should see total activity. And in the case of Mineral County, we’ve put significant bucks in there from state level, from state government. We’ve put some in stage [sic] college, the education system there. So we do a huge amount, but this would be an opportunity to help in a responsible way to offset some of those costs that the rest of the state has to bear because basically all the nine counties — the 14 over the years that I’ve represented, we’ve had few counties like Webster County that carry their own weight because of the coal industry there. They’ve utilized their local resource and carried their own weight. Some of the others I’ve mentioned, but in this case here, it’s an opportunity for local folks to help themselves, and while they’re helping themselves, they’re helping the State of West Virginia. Thank you.
Hearing Statement ends:
Before everyone gets in a lather, I write this for myself and not for any group. If I happen to see something I think needs a little daylight, I’ll try to open the blind a bit. As always, I’m open for correction of any misunderstanding, error or broken link. Just send a comment and it will all be fixed. This whole process is not to end conversation, but to allow it to begin.
So, the comment section is open and available for any and all. It would be greatly appreciated should any of the elected officials named as “political confidantes” by Senator Helmick respond to the good Senator’s implication about the community they represent. I would suggest they do so in one of the local papers since the circulation of this little blog is just the few of us actually reading it. Why do I have this feeling we’ll hear nothing?
And, by the way, I do have a little Mineral County coal for Senator Needsthebucks … it’ll be in his Christmas stocking. For the others, if you did speak or write to defend Mineral County I apologize for missing the piece and would be pleased to publish your comments here. For those of you who permitted this to go unchallenged, your stocking might contain a Wizard of Oz official lion costume.