Where did the summer go? As Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in 1860, “Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.” Here’s a quick recap of several major issues facing our state which we cannot leave in the shadows.
Flood Recovery. Every flood survivor awaiting a hazard mitigation grant (buyout, rehabilitation, elevation) has been recommended for approval! Since the 2016 flood, all these folks languished on the “oversubscription” list. Basically, it meant they waited with no hope for approval. After two years of seeking solutions, I greatly appreciate Director (Michael) Todorovich of WV Homeland Security taking this needed action at our urging.
Each week, I receive calls from survivors in the RISE program. Those projects show promising movement as well with more entering the construction process each week. We still have miles to go to help all of our families, and we cannot stop until they are all made whole.
Roads. The good folks at our local district highways office know my number by heart, because I call them so often! Most calls I receive involve folks wanting their secondary roads improved. You can view a list of all planned maintenance projects (mowing, ditching, slips, patching) by county at www.Transportation.WV.com. If you don’t see your road there, please email me so I can make Highways aware. I cannot promise that your problem will be fixed, but I will make the problem known and advocate for the citizens it affects.
Autumn Color Express. Formerly known as the New River Train, a new excursion train (Autumn Colors Express) serves as the foundation for Railroad Days, the largest tourism event in Summers County each year. Riders board in Huntington and travel to Hinton for the weekend. It’s a fun time that’s vital to the local economy. I’m thrilled we were able to arrive at this new opportunity by working together!
State Parks. From Pipestem to Moncove Lake to Watoga to Hawks Nest, I love our state parks! They provide affordable, quality recreation for families. Our family decided to intentionally spend more time in them this year, and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed the splash pads, hiking trails, golf courses, and terrific food. Take a staycation and spend your dollars in the local economy enjoying our local land!
Opioid Shipments. A federal court succeeded where I failed, making the numbers of opioids shipped by drug distributors public for the first time. From 2006-2012, they sent 76 billion pills across America. Over 853 million were sent here to West Virginia. More per person than any other state. We also experienced the highest overdose death rate. The numbers are staggering. But we must remember this isn’t about numbers; it’s about people. Thousands of people died. It’s important that we channel our outrage into action to save as many lives as possible moving forward. We must let our fellow citizens who are struggling to recover know that we value their lives and we want to see them succeed.
Last but not least, congratulations on your enormously successful hosting of the World Scout Jamboree, Fayette County! You made us all proud to be from Best Virginia, and the positive benefits we will see for years to come are thanks to your hospitality of scouts from across the world. Take care.
Senator Stephen Baldwin is a local Presbyterian pastor. Reach him at 304-357-7959 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram @BaldwinForWV.