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Corruption must be eliminated for economic gains

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    Lesson from Ferguson: Do not lose hope

    Friday, August 22 2014 8:00 AM EDT2014-08-22 12:00:24 GMT
    The images from Ferguson, Missouri, look like snapshots from a war zone. We still don't know why city police officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, but we do know the fallout shines a glaring light on what happens when scores of people are disconnected from the American Dream.
    The images from Ferguson, Missouri, look like snapshots from a war zone. We still don't know why city police officer Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown, but we do know the fallout shines a glaring light on what happens when scores of people are disconnected from the American Dream.
  • Political bickering overshadows need for change

    Political bickering overshadows need for change

    Friday, August 15 2014 11:39 AM EDT2014-08-15 15:39:41 GMT
    New ideas and ways to move our state and nation forward are in short supply during this election season.
    New ideas and ways to move our state and nation forward are in short supply during this election season.
  • Diversifying our economy will make it more resilient

    Diversifying our economy will make it more resilient

    Friday, August 8 2014 6:00 AM EDT2014-08-08 10:00:18 GMT
    We have been hit hard with some tough economic news in recent days about our state’s most recognized industry. We learned that Alpha Natural Resources could lay off more than 1,000 workers later this year. Another report showed that it is becoming cheaper for domestic energy producers to import coal from other countries than to use what is mined in the U.S.
    We have been hit hard with some tough economic news in recent days about our state’s most recognized industry. We learned that Alpha Natural Resources could lay off more than 1,000 workers later this year. Another report showed that it is becoming cheaper for domestic energy producers to import coal from other countries than to use what is mined in the U.S.

Disgraced former Mingo County Circuit Judge Michael Thornsbury is slated to spend the next four years behind bars. Thornsbury spent 17 years on the bench, but this week he pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiring to deprive a man of his constitutional rights in order to protect a political ally.

He acted like a “third world dictator” and what he did was “an ugly insult to the United States Constitution,” U.S. District Judge Thomas Johnston said during Thornsbury’s sentencing.

The details of his crimes have been well documented, but Thornsbury’s operation manages to shock even in a state with a long, sad history of political corruption. George White, one of the victims in this mess, put a fine point on it when he said during Thornsbury’s sentencing, “there’s three laws in West Virginia: federal, state and Mingo County law. And Mingo County law I fear a whole lot more than federal or state — because anything is possible under that law.”

Can you imagine feeling that way as a citizen of any county or city in this country, let alone in our state? No wonder Mingo County is in the shape it’s in; so many have lost faith in the most fundamental civic concepts. Just making it is hard enough, but the odds for success are clearly stacked against you. Why would an enterprising person or group even consider investing there when it’s known the first time you cross someone at the courthouse, the goon squad comes calling? This kind of behavior is not limited to Williamson. It happens all over West Virginia.

Thornsbury and other lawbreakers need to be brought to justice, and this kind of corruption must be rooted out at all levels. But nothing is truly going to change until we address the larger issue — for so many places in West Virginia, if not the entire state, the economy is based on the government. Elected officials and bureaucrats hold sway over far too much. Their power extends well beyond rule making or rule interpretation. It’s a fiefdom. We deserver better, but nothing is going to happen until we open this state for investment. Corruption in some form or fashion will always exist, but nothing good happens when the political class not only has absolute power, but it controls who prospers and who does not.

A better West Virginia is a West Virginia where everyone has a real, lasting shot at the American Dream.