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Phil Reale: A response to ‘When will West Virginia recover from the flooding?’

To Don Smith, executive director, West Virginia Press Association


I just read your narrative on when the recovery will be over and was very moved.  It was a nice piece of writing for sure, but it truly captured the dilemma we face going forward.  It was thought provoking, the objective of any good editorial.


I also worry about the overall implications of the flood at this unique period in our state’s history, where we have a very depressed economy.  My fear is that with such little hope for an economic recovery in the foreseeable  future and the need to rebuild communities and make some effort to restore the jobs lost by virtue of small businesses that have been destroyed, the flow through effect of all of this on our economy is just devastating.


I worry about many of our young and intelligent West Virginians – either starting a career or trying to build a career – deciding to move on to a jurisdiction with a more vibrant economy and the prospect of economic fulfillment being more realistic.  I worry about our young people in our public schools and higher education system currently, recognizing that the capacity for getting a job in our state is further diminished and they begin setting their sights on another jurisdiction.


All of this fosters growth of an older population with fewer people in our state employed to provide the tax base necessary to assure our state can provide essential services to her citizens.


The downward spiral associated with not having a readily available educated workforce is problematic, but we are headed in that direction.  So what is the answer?  Right now we must, without delay, commission an ad hoc group of strategic thinking West Virginians to obligate themselves to work collaboratively and take the time necessary to build the 20-year plan for West Virginia.  That would be a plan which includes, among other things, elimination of the current system of county governments we now have – giving way to regional governments in which multiple counties and municipalities share in the function of governing a population of sufficient mass that makes sense. But it is not just the plan itself, but how to achieve the objectives of the plan.  We are indeed in extraordinary times and we must take extraordinary measures.  Political agendas have to be shoved to the side of the road and our common enemy of self-interest has to be forsaken


There is so much to be done and so much healing which has to occur to bring some closure to the devastation and loss of hope being felt by our people, but there is also a need for a vision going forward.  It is disheartening to think that there has been a pre-flood need for a forward vision for West Virginia that gives hope to young people and security to our elderly population in terms of services they must have. Our political being as a state has descended to the sort of rancor we have so often complained of in relationship to the actions of the U.S. Congress.  Unfortunately, no one seems poised to proactively step up and articulate such a vision and have the capacity to inspire our people to achieve the vision. 

Forgive me for taking up your time, but your writing inspired me to share my thoughts with you.

All the best.


Philip A. Reale, PLLC


Charleston, W.Va.

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