The Voice of West Virginia
Liberty (Harrison) holds off late Braxton County comeback, 31-23.
Mountaineer quarterback Jace Bartley rushes nine times for 118 yards and three touchdowns.
(Video Courtesy of Braxton Live)
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COAL CITY, W.Va. — Judah Price found the end zone five times as Independence collected their sixth dominating win of the season with a 44-16 triumph over Bluefield in a Class AA state semifinal rematch from last November.
With the remnants of Hurricane Ian arriving just before kickoff, both teams struggled to move the ball in the first half. The Patriots led 14-8 at halftime thanks to a pair of touchdown runs from Price [18 and 2 yards]. Gerrard Wade had Bluefield’s score in the second quarter on a 70-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
“We tried to throw it a little bit but the ball was so wet. They were loading the box and we were really trying to make an attempt in the first half. But in the second half, we just said, ‘It is too wet’ and we just loaded up to run. We put it in Judah and Trey’s hands to see what we could get,” said Independence head coach John Lilly.
Trey Bowers broke loose for a 59-yard touchdown run on Independence’s first possession of the third quarter to put the Patriots up 22-8.
“Trey is still learning the quarterback position. We are trying to run him a little bit more the last two weeks. We feel like we need it. We don’t want Judah carrying the ball forty times.”
Price found the end zone twice more in the third quarter. His scoring runs of 20 and 3 yards were sandwiched around Bluefield’s lone offensive score of the game. Caleb Fuller connected with Sincere Fields on a 29-yard touchdown. IHS led 38-16 after three quarters.
“Our secondary is pretty good. We’ve got three first team All-Staters back there. We just kind of challenged them and we accepted the challenge. I think they wanted that challenge. They have been hearing that we didn’t play anybody and all this other stuff.”
Price won a footrace to the pylon for a 13-yard touchdown run in the opening minute of the fourth quarter. Less than a minute later, players from both teams were assessed offsetting personal fouls after a play. Bluefield head coach Fred Simon approached the officials and Lilly. The coaches agreed to call the game with 10:09 left to play.
“The kids played hard tonight. I think they took the challenge. They wanted to play good and prove that they are a good team. Coach [Fred] Simon is a class act and Bluefield has been the big dog in southern West Virginia for a long time. And they will be for a long time. It is just good that we got a good game in. Hopefully we can play each other over the next couple years.
“We’re still not as good as we can be. I think we’ve got a lot of room to improve. I know that sounds silly. We have to cut the mistakes and we have to cut the penalties. But I was real proud of them tonight.”
Independence is now 6-0 while the Beavers are 1-5.
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BUCKHANNON, W.Va. — A number of law enforcement agents spent much of Friday combing through a home in Buckhannon.
A large number of unmarked law enforcement vehicles along with FBI agents were noticed at the home along Meade Street Friday afternoon. It’s unclear what they were looking for.
Reports indicate the home is that of Buckhannon City Councilman David McCauley who also formerly served as the city’s Mayor.
The initial group of investigators arrived on the scene around 11 a.m. Friday and more continued to arrive throughout the day. There was a marked vehicle of the Pittsburgh Police Department at the home along with cruisers from the Upshur County Sheriff’s Department.
The FBI is heading up the investigation, but the agency hasn’t commented on what they may have been looking for or the subject of the investigation.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Federal Emergency Management Agency already has a team in West Virginia ahead of the arrival of the remnants of Hurricane Ian.
Mary Ann Tierney, Administrator of FEMA Region 3, said they are here and have been involved in storm preparations with the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
“We’ve been preparing all week and talking to emergency management about potential impacts. We’ll be monitoring through the weekend,” she said.
The storm’s track is coming out of the Carolinas, into Virginia, and expected to roll into West Virginia tonight and intensify on Saturday afternoon and evening.
“Today and tomorrow are really going to be the days we need to monitor which we will be doing vigilantly. If there’s any need for a response, we’re there to support the state. Afterward if we need to do damage assessment we can do that in conjunction with the state,” she said.
Tierney encouraged West Virginians to be prepared and stay alert and spend the weekend keeping tabs on neighbors who may be vulnerable to the potential of high water and flash flooding.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Residents of Florida are now starting to learn the full impact of Hurricane Ian which made landfall Wednesday as a Category 4 storm. Now that the winds have died down and the storm surge has started to recede in Florida, the full magnitude has left many reeling.
The Red Cross was on the ground even before the storm to provide shelters to ride out the high winds and rain. The agency will continue to provide relief to victims who have incurred devastating losses. The Central Appalachian Chapter of the American Red Cross which makes up areas in West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky pre-positioned nine volunteers in the hurricane zone and are poised to send many more as they are needed in the days ahead.
“They will be working in sheltering, feeding, distributing cleaning supplies and working in those communities on recovery efforts,” said Krista Farley with the Central Appalachian Chapter.
The region has four emergency response trucks which are mobile feeding units. Farley said all four are ready to be dispatched to Florida with their two man volunteer crews.
As devastating as Ian’s impact was on Florida, it may not be done. The remnants of the storm crossed back over to the Atlantic and will come ashore again tonight through the Carolinas, Virginia, and eventually are expected to dump heavy rains in parts of West Virginia as well. Farley said if the storms strike here at home, they’re ready.
“We’re already ready to respond and open shelters and to be available whenever the community needs us. If we would potentially have any severe weather here, as always the Red Cross is ready to support those families impacted,” she said.
Those wishing to donate can do so at RedCross.org and make a monetary donation earmarked for the specific disaster or can find a place to donate blood to help in the disaster area.
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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Over the first four games of the 2022 season, the play of true freshman tight end-turned-tailback CJ Donaldson has been among West Virginia’s most positive storylines.
Donaldson has thrived at a position he didn’t have experience playing in high school and one he wasn’t originally brought in to play for the Mountaineers, who boast one of college football’s top rushing attacks through the opening month in large part because of his production.
Yet Donaldson isn’t the only West Virginia running back showing he can make the most of his opportunity, with sophomore Justin Johnson doing likewise last Thursday in the most extensive action of his career that helped the Mountaineers pull away from Virginia Tech for a 33-10 victory at Lane Stadium.
“The game is kind of slowing down for me as I’m starting to get more reps,” Johnson said. “Thursday night was big for us as a team. I credit most of my success to the offensive linemen. We were phenomenal up front. They’re doing a good job this season and I know they’re going to keep it up.”
Johnson rushed for 83 yards and his first career touchdown on 11 carries. His 6-yard touchdown run 47 seconds into the fourth quarter allowed the Mountaineers to lead by two scores as they began to pull away from the Hokies.
Johnson’s steady play gives West Virginia a third tailback it can rely on. Tony Mathis, who began the season as the Mountaineers’ top tailback, has a team-high 58 carries for 272 yards and two touchdowns. Donaldson’s 380 yards, 7.3 yards per carry and six scores lead the the team, while Johnson shows 145 yards on 30 rushes.
“I had to wait my turn, but that’s always a story,” Johnson said. “Just be patient and blessings will come. We’re all tremendous running backs and a three-headed monster. Me, CJ and Tony are really something special. I think we’re the best in the nation.”
Johnson played sparingly as a true freshman in 2021, when he carried 24 times for 90 yards.
A native of St. Louis, the 5-foot-11, 198-pound Johnson was behind lead tailback Leddie Brown and Mathis last season as he transitioned from high school to college football.
“The most challenging thing from the transition to college is pass protection and how to pick up on pass pro,” Johnson said. “[Running backs coach Chad Scott] has done a great job of teaching us that and slowed the game down for us a lot.”
Johnson noticeably struggled with pass protection at times in 2021, and Scott and head coach Neal Brown discussed the need for him to improve in that aspect.
“It wasn’t discouraging at all,” Johnson said. “It showed me I had to get in the film room and study a little bit more. I wasn’t ready yet. Coach Scott saw that and believed in me. He let me get ready and threw me back out there into the fire to get better and better.”
Not long after the Mountaineers wrapped up a 6-7 campaign in 2021, they hired Graham Harrell to coordinate an offense in need of a spark.
An accomplished quarterback at Texas Tech who went on to play in the NFL and CFL, Harrell is a disciple of the Air Raid coaching tree that often features a pass-heavy attack.
Over his first four games at West Virginia, however, Harrell has relied heavily on an experienced and improved offensive line and three tailbacks for West Virginia to average slightly better than 217 rushing yards — good for the No. 20 rushing offense among 131 FBS teams.
“We play more balanced,” Johnson said, “and we run the ball just as much as we pass the ball.”
Moving forward, the Mountaineers plan to continue utilizing the trio of tailbacks, and Brown said Tuesday, “whoever has the hot hand will play more.”
Each of the three has a different stature and skill set. Johnson’s description of his style is one centered around patience and hitting running lanes hard when they open up. The 240-pound Donaldson is a bruising back that’s displayed both power and patience as he consistently keeps his feet moving and falls forward. Mathis, at 207 pounds, has a combination of size and speed and is the team’s most experienced tailback.
“We’ve been intentional about playing all three,” Brown said. “In the first half of every game, we’ve played all three and we’ll continue with that. We may look at some multiple running back packages down the road, especially if all three of them continue to run the ball effectively and are unselfish.
“We weren’t necessarily surprised that [Johnson] ran the ball well at Virginia Tech, because we’d seen that in camp and spring ball.”
Johnson sees no reason the three can’t continue to build on their September success.
“We’re all going to succeed. We’ve all done some great things and we all have our own style,” Johnson said. “At anytime, we can have a breakout game just depending on the defense and how they play us.”
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Today on MetroNews This Morning:
–West Virginians ride out Ian in Florida while others prepare to help with the aftermath
–The first patients of the new WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital are moving in
–Governor Justice delivers a check to finish up funding of a new Marshall baseball stadium
–In Sports: it’s Football Friday
Amendment 2 on West Virginia election ballots could open the door to lower property taxes for businesses and on people’s vehicles.
Gov. Jim Justice, the highest-profile opponent of the amendment, wants to hit the brakes. “The whole idea of hooking the car tax to it is nothing more than the purchase of your vote,” Justice said during a briefing this week, reiterating the kind of assessment he has made repeatedly in recent weeks.
“It is a way to get you to vote for this and then Charleston’s got control of your destiny and future, and that would be a big mistake.”
Justice has been barnstorming the state almost every day to bang the drum against the amendment. He is being countered by some of his fellow Republicans, particularly senators Craig Blair and Eric Tarr, who contend tax reform under the amendment would lead to economic growth.
And organizations across the state are lining up with positions on the amendment too.
The West Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the West Virginia Manufacturers Association for years have favored the kind of changes it could bring. On the other side, the West Virginia Association of Counties and the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia have taken positions against it, expressing concern about uncertainty for the finances of local governments that depend on property taxes.
This is one of four constitutional amendments that West Virginia voters are being asked to consider. Early voting starts Oct. 26, and Election Day is Nov. 8.
What does Amendment Two do?
Amendment Two recognizes that, for decades, property taxes have been defined by the state Constitution. This amendment would allow the Legislature more flexibility to make changes to property taxes.
This is what it says: “To amend the State Constitution by providing the Legislature with authority to exempt tangible machinery and equipment personal property directly used in business activity and tangible inventory personal property directly used in business activity and personal property tax on motor vehicles from ad valorem property taxation by general law.”
State lawmakers have long talked about having more flexibility with property taxes, particularly those that businesses pay on equipment and inventory. Last year, lawmakers passed a resolution that could allow changes on personal property tax rates.
Now citizens will have a say in whether that’s wise.
Property taxes are a main piece of how counties pay for services like school systems, ambulance services, libraries and more.
So there’s a likely trade-off that voters will have to weigh.
What’s the argument for adopting the amendment?
For one, there’s the annual property tax on vehicles that the governor mentioned. Households may judge that this is their opportunity to eliminate that tax.
“Here’s what’s for certain: If we vote down Amendment Two, there is no chance that you’re ever going to have the personal property tax on your automobile, that 13th car payment, eliminated. It will not happen,” Senate President Craig Blair, R-Berkley, said this week on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
The other is the potential elimination of property taxes that businesses pay on machinery and inventory. Supporters of the amendment say those taxes make West Virginia an outlier among competing states. And they contend tax relief would give companies, including small ones, more leeway to turn profit and reinvest in capital and employees.
“Over 70 percent of the employment opportunities in the state of West Virginia are small business owners, and they pay that personal property tax too,” Blair said. “And they’re the ones that actually grow jobs.”
.@WVSenatePres and @EricJTarr4WV issued a call today for Governor Justice and State Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy to participate in a series of public forums to allow West Virginian's complete and accurate information about Amendment Two. Senator Blair joins @HoppyKercheval. pic.twitter.com/3Yr96oUphW
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) September 27, 2022
“We think that when people understand it, they tend to be very supportive of it,” Steve Roberts, the executive director of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, said this week on”Talkline.”
Roberts said businesses and potential employers already seek property tax breaks when they invest in West Virginia, often through individual deals called payment in lieu of taxes. That’s essentially a lease arrangement with the state on the books as the owner of machinery, so it’s not taxed. The companies then use the equipment tax-free.
But Roberts differentiated “those that are already here and are not getting those breaks.” This amendment would place those companies on equal footing, he said.
“There is a fairness issue. There’s really an equity issue here,” Roberts said. “And many of the small businesses that we represent don’t get to take advantage of this.”
What is @WVaChamber perspective on Amendment Two? Steve Roberts, West Virginia Chamber of Commerce President, discusses the chamber's position to @HoppyKercheval. WATCH: https://t.co/yCFQ3nDJuy pic.twitter.com/nOCQXPhvcM
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) September 27, 2022
What’s the argument against it?
The West Virginia Association of Counties and the County Commissioners Association of West Virginia are concerned about loss of authority over about $550 million in “dedicated, constitutionally-protected revenues” — and “handing that money to the Legislature.” They also expressed concern over lack of consensus among the Senate, House and governor about a solid plan to make up revenue to the local governments.
“They’re very strong, in their vote, that they want to keep those revenues local,” Matt Harvey, who recently became president of the Association of Counties, told Panhandle Live on WEPM Radio. “They don’t want the revenues going to Charleston and having each county fight to claw it back — and that’s the fear.”
Blair and other Senate leaders have pointed toward an adaptable plan with detailed information about all 55 of West Virginia’s counties. They have suggested money from the state would more than make up for what counties give up in property taxes. That could pay for expenses that local governments now struggle to meet, including jail bills, the Senate president has said.
But opponents of the amendment have said that’s still too much uncertainty over whether the House of Delegates would approve that plan too, whether future legislators would keep their word and whether all bets might be off during the strain of an economic downturn.
“It’s bad for not only our schools, but our first responders, our sheriffs, our deputies, our fire departments across the state, our libraries,” said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association.
Lee had this conclusion: “I hate to pay the car tax too, but one of the things they’re not telling people is counties will have to make up the revenue somewhere,” suggesting that county assessors will wind up feeling pressure to increase valuations on real property. “At some point, the counties have to have some money, and that’s one of the ways to do it.”
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) September 27, 2022
What would the Constitution say?
With the adoption of Amendment Two, the Constitution would say this:
- 1. Taxation and finance.
Subject to the exceptions in this section contained, taxation shall be equal and uniform throughout the state, and all property, both real and personal, shall be taxed in proportion to its value to be ascertained as directed by law. No one species of property from which a tax may be collected shall be taxed higher than any other species of property of equal value; except that the aggregate of taxes assessed in any one year upon personal property employed exclusively in agriculture, including horticulture and grazing, products of agriculture as above defined, including livestock, while owned by the producer, and money, notes, bonds, bills and accounts receivable, stocks and other similar intangible personal property shall not exceed fifty cents on each one hundred dollars of value thereon and upon all property owned, used and occupied by the owner thereof exclusively for residential purposes and upon farms occupied and cultivated by their owners or bona fide tenants, one dollar; and upon all other property situated outside of municipalities, one dollar and fifty cents; and upon all other property situated within municipalities, two dollars; and the Legislature shall further provide by general law for increasing the maximum rates, authorized to be fixed, by the different levying bodies upon all classes of property, by submitting the question to the voters of the taxing units affected, but no increase shall be effective unless at least sixty percent of the qualified voters shall favor such increase, and such increase shall not continue for a longer period than three years at any one time, and shall never exceed by more than fifty percent the maximum rate herein provided and prescribed by law; and the revenue derived from this source shall be apportioned by the Legislature among the levying units of the state in proportion to the levy laid in said units upon real and other personal property; but property used for educational, literary, scientific, religious or charitable purposes, all cemeteries, public property, tangible machinery and equipment personal property directly used in business activity, tangible inventory personal property directly used in business activity, personal property tax on motor vehicles, the personal property, including livestock, employed exclusively in agriculture as above defined and the products of agriculture as so defined while owned by the producers may by law be exempted from taxation; household goods to the value of two hundred dollars shall be exempted from taxation. The Legislature shall have authority to tax privileges, franchises, and incomes of persons and corporations and to classify and graduate the tax on all incomes according to the amount thereof and to exempt from taxation incomes below a minimum to be fixed from time to time, and such revenues as may be derived from such tax may be appropriated as the Legislature may provide. After the year nineteen hundred thirty-three, the rate of the state tax upon property shall not exceed one cent upon the hundred dollars valuation, except to pay the principal and interest of bonded indebtedness of the state now existing.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia State Bar Board of Governors and the Young Lawyers Section held an information event and fundraiser Thursday benefiting an organization dedicated to helping foster families.
The event at Charleston’s Capitol Market focused on Mission West Virginia, an organization helping families with resources for foster care and provides programming to assist foster and kinship parents with the costs of raising children.
“Currently, we have 6,500 kids in care in West Virginia. About half of those children are being raised by relatives,” said Kylee Hassan, the marketing director for Mission West Virginia. “Raising awareness and funds allows us to help those children and families in the state.”
Mission West Virginia does receive grants from the state government and private organizations, but those funds must go directly toward helping raise children. Fundraisers like Thursday’s gathering raise money for items such as school field trips.
“It is vital to normalize childhood experiences for these kids,” Hassan said.
Gerald Titus, a member of the State Bar Board of Governors, said he did not fully understand the lives of children in foster care until his daughter told him about a student in her class. The child told Titus’ daughter she missed her mom and wanted to go home.
“She already saw herself as something different where she’s just a kid, but she’s saying, ‘I’m something different,'” Titus said of his daughter’s friend.
Titus continued, “[Mission West Virginia] is seeking to normalize the lives of children in care and give them the same experiences of their peers so they don’t miss out.”
Hassan said Mission West Virginia serves an important role in providing West Virginia children with childhood opportunities.
“Whether that’s us funding a child to go on a field trip or covering costs to go to a homecoming dance where they may not have gotten those same experiences because they are in foster care or kinship care,” she added.
Members of the state Supreme Court of Appeals also attended Thursday’s event.
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A controversy is roiling Monongalia County schools over gay pride flags.
It began when Superintendent Eddie Campbell sent a letter to remind school administrators that the election season is quickly approaching and that, “While you may be tempted to engage in conversations with staff, families and students about related topics, you may not realize the communication could be unacceptable within our school system.”
Campbell went on to say that interactions with students and families “carry a great responsibility” to keep personal opinions, values and expressions of activism out of the classroom.
The notification reinforces a standing policy by the school system prohibiting political activities, “issues or a particular point of view” to be displayed. The memo led to Pride flags being removed from schools in the county. The rainbow Pride flag is the recognized symbol of the LGBTQ movement for acceptance and freedom to live without discrimination.
The flag is a statement with an agenda, one that is powerful and essential for individuals who desire acceptance for being their true selves. But it is also a symbol of a movement often associated with political activism. That generates controversy, as well as consternation among people who are unwilling or unable to accept the LGBTQ community.
That makes it a violation of school policy, which has angered many students, parents and teachers. They have spoken out at a school board meeting and rallied outside the school board office. Some LGBTQ students say they are bullied, and they don’t feel safe at school. A flag in a classroom to them was a symbol of a safe space.
If school officials look the other way on the pride flag, they will have to do the same for other flags. Picking and choosing would run afoul of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Shurtleff v City of Boston, where the court ruled unanimously that Boston violated the Constitution when it rejected the Camp Constitution Christian flag, but accepted others.
It is important to note that the school policy does not prohibit students from exercising their First Amendment rights. For example, students can wear clothing with the rainbow flag. The courts have ruled that neither students nor teachers shed their free speech rights when they enter the school, but those rights have limitations. The courts have also found that school officials have the right to control conduct, and that may involve certain limitations on speech.
The larger issue here is the allegation by LGBTQ students that they do not feel safe at school. Morgantown Pride president Ash Orr said, “It’s the kids, the faculty and the staff who are inundated with this harassment and hatred every day in an environment where they are supposed to be feeling safe.”
If so, the focus is on the wrong flag; that’s a red flag warning that school officials need to take seriously.
Ron Lytle, president of the school board, said on WAJR radio this week, “I made them a promise that I will be their advocate. If they don’t feel safe in the schools, we have an issue, and we need to address that.”
That sounds like a commitment from a person in a position of authority who is willing to do something about a problem, and that’s far more important than a fuss over a flag.