Sustained Outrage

FBI: Hate crimes down in West Virginia

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Late last month, the FBI released hate crime statistics for 2009. Happily, hate crimes in West Virginia are way down from last year, from 43 total in 2008 to 24 in 2009.

Broken down by type of offense, 18 were motivated by race, three by sexual orientation, one by religion, one by ethnicity and one by disability.

The FBI breaks down its numbers by jurisdiction, so here’s a list of places where hate crimes occurred: Buckhannon, Clarksburg, Fairmont, Huntington, Martinsburg, Morgantown, Moundsville, South Charleston, Weirton (which had four total) and Wheeling (at the city level) and Berkeley, Jefferson, Kanawha, Monongalia, Summers and Upshur Counties.

Interestingly, Marshall University was the site of two hate crimes in 2009, both racial incidents.

Here are the FBI’s bullet points, which indicate that hate crimes were down nationwide in 2009:

  • Of the 6,598 single-bias incidents, 48.5 percent were motivated by a racial bias, 19.7 percent were motivated by a religious bias, 18.5 percent were motivated by a sexual-orientation bias, and 11.8 percent were motivated by an ethnicity/national origin bias. Bias against a disability accounted for 1.5 percent of single-bias incidents.
  • There were 4,793 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons in 2009. Intimidation accounted for 45.0 percent of crimes against persons, simple assaults for 35.3 percent, and aggravated assaults for 19.1 percent. Other offenses, including nine forcible rapes and eight murders, accounted for the remainder.
  • There were 2,970 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against property; most of these (83.0 percent) were acts of destruction/damage/vandalism. The remaining 17.0 percent of crimes against property consisted of robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, and other offenses.
  • An analysis of data for single-bias hate crime incident victims revealed that 48.8 percent were targeted because of the offender’s bias against a race, 18.9 percent because of a bias against a religious belief, 17.8 percent because of a sexual orientation bias, 13.3 percent because of an ethnicity/national origin bias, and 1.2 percent because of a disability bias.
  • Of the 6,225 known offenders, 62.4 percent were white, 18.5 percent were black, 7.3 percent were groups made up of individuals of various races (multiple races, group), 1.0 percent were American Indian/Alaskan Native, and 0.7 percent were Asian/Pacific Islander. The race was unknown for the remaining known offenders.
  • The largest percentage (31.3 percent) of hate crime incidents occurred in or near homes. In addition, 17.2 percent took place on highways, roads, alleys, or streets; 11.4 percent happened at schools or colleges; 6.1 percent in parking lots or garages; and 4.3 percent in churches, synagogues, or temples. The remaining 29.7 percent of hate crime incidents took place at other specified locations, multiple locations, or other/unknown locations.


An avalanche of cash in judicial campaigns, Pt. 2

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In a previous post, we looked at the vast amounts of cash poured into judicial campaigns, particularly races for seats on state Supreme Courts, and how many believe that money is undermining the judicial system.

On a macro level, well-organized and well-funded groups are spending millions and millions of dollars to help elect judges they believe will be either pro or con lawsuits filed against big businesses. But what about on a micro level?

As this report, The New Politics of Judicial Elections, 2000-2009: Decade of Change,  co-authored by JusticeatStake.org, The Brennan Center for Justice, The National Institute on Money in State Politics and Hofstra Law School points out, when a judicial candidate accepts a campaign contribution, that leaves him or her open to the allegation that the donor will receive — or at least expect — special treatment from the bench.

In West Virginia, judicial candidates cannot ethically solicit campaign contributions directly themselves. But that doesn’t mean that lawyers and businesses don’t hurry to open their wallets and checkbooks for candidates whom they hope will look upon their cases and causes favorably. And in very extreme cases, this might lead to their disqualification, but only in the most extreme cases.

So what’s a candidate to do?

The current race for state Supreme Court between Democratic incumbent Thomas McHugh and Republican challenger John Yoder, circuit judge in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan Counties, offers an interesting case study.

As campaign finance filings on the Secretary of State’s website show, McHugh has raised $289,326.09 as of Oct. 22. Yoder, by contrast, has raised $5,851.40. To date, McHugh has spent almost 40 times as much as Yoder.

Now, Yoder may pay dearly for his modest fundraising on election day — I really have no idea — but clearly he intends to insulate himself from any hint of a suggestion that he is beholden to any given campaign contributor.

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STOP Violence Against Women grants announced

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On Friday, Gov. Joe Manchin announced the distribution of federal funds from the Office on Violence Against Women, a part of the U.S. Department of Justice. All told, 24 projects in West Virginia received almost $1 million in grant money. The grants are part of the STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecutors) Program, initiated under the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 and renewed in the Violence Against Women Act of 2000 and Violence Against Women Act of 2005.

“The purpose of these funds is to establish or enhance teams whose core members include victim service providers, law enforcement, and prosecution to improve the criminal justice system’s response to violence against women,” the governor’s news release states. “Grants provide personnel, equipment, enhancement of those teams. Additionally, statewide projects are funded to provide training and educational opportunities for all victim service providers, law enforcement, prosecution, and court personnel across the state.”

The funds are administered locally by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. A complete list of the agencies and the amounts awarded is after the jump.

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FBI releases 2008 hate crime statistics

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On Monday, the FBI published its summary of hate crimes in America in 2008.

These are the FBI’s bullet points:

An analysis of the 7,780 single-bias incidents revealed that 51.3 percent were motivated by a racial bias, 19.5 percent were motivated by a religious bias, 16.7 percent were motivated by a sexual orientation bias, and 11.5 percent were motivated by an ethnicity/national origin bias. One percent involved a bias against a disability.

There were 5,542 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against persons in 2008. Intimidation accounted for 48.8 percent of crimes against persons, simple assaults for 32.1 percent, and aggravated assaults for 18.5 percent. Seven murders were reported as hate crimes.

There were 3,608 hate crime offenses classified as crimes against property; the majority (82.3 percent) were acts of destruction/damage/vandalism. The remaining 17.7 percent of crimes against property consisted of robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, and other offenses.

Of the 6,927 known offenders, 61.1 percent were white and 20.2 percent were black. The race was unknown for 11.0 percent, and other races accounted for the remaining known offenders

The largest percentage (31.9 percent) of hate crime incidents occurred in or near homes; followed by 17.4 percent on highways, roads, alleys, or streets; 11.7 percent at schools or colleges; 6.1 percent in parking lots or garages; and 4.2 percent in churches, synagogues, or temples. The remaining 28.8 percent of hate crime incidents took place at other specified locations, multiple locations, or other/unknown locations.

In West Virginia, 23 agencies reported 43 hate crimes. Interestingly, the FBI also listed different jurisdictions (cities, counties, etc.) that reported zero hate crimes during 2008. Happily, after the headline-grabbing accounts of what happened to Megan Williams in Big Creek in 2007 (and all the subsequent commotion), Logan County reported no hate crimes in 2008.

The same is not true of some of West Virginia’s most populated counties, including Kanawha and Monongalia (although Morgantown had none).

New Census data: One in six West Virginians living in poverty

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povertymap.jpg

More than 300,000 West Virginians lived in poverty in 2008, according to new data from the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau yesterday.

That translates into 17.4 percent of all residents (or slightly more than one in six).

For children, the numbers are even worse: 90,000 (23.9 percent) under the age of 18, and 32,000 (31.1 percent) of children under the age of five lived in poverty. (I’ve rounded the estimates but not the percentages.)

Worse still, all of those numbers are creeping up from 2007, after a slight improvement from 2006.

Nationally, only Louisiana (17.6) and Mississippi (20.8) had higher percentages of their population living below the poverty line. And at $37,528, West Virginia had the lowest median household income in the United States.

The data can also be broken down by county and school district. Staggeringly, an estimated 46.3 percent of people under the age of 18 in McDowell County lived in poverty. This is almost two times higher than Kanawha County (23.5), three times higher than Monongalia County (15.2) and four times Jefferson County (11.1, the lowest percentage of all 55 counties).

Metro government: There’s no one size fits all

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Bruce Katz is something of an expert on metro government. He is vice president and director of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institute, where much study of the nation’s brucekatz.jpgmetropolitan areas is done. During a recent chat, I asked him if he had any advice for a community, such as Kanawha County, where residents are considering whether to form a metro government. Katz (pictured) warns that reorganizing local government is difficult, but more people are finding it worth the trouble.

“Nothing comes easily in this area,” Katz said. “The fact remains that more and more places feel a need to change. They’re realizing that business as usual, with everyone going their own way, leads to paralysis.”Municipalities spend a lot of time competing against each other. ”

While it’s true that merging governments does not increase the population or make the workforce any more skilled, a cohesive regional government is frequently associated with a better job market, he said.

“The literature is still divided on whether consolidated government leads to a better economy, but there is tantalizing evidence that it may be so. The intuition is that greater cohesion in government might be a economic value.

“It’s not as immediately sexy as an effort to land a particular manufacturer, but over time, it may be the most important thing.

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Metro government: What about the user fee?

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Could metro government mean the end of Charleston’s user fee?

Very possibly.

At a July reception, representatives of various governments in Kanawha County had a chance to ask Louisville, Ky., Mayor Jerry Abramson how his community handled various problems when merging city and county governments in 2000.

Charleston City Manager David Molgaard, for example, asked about Charleston’s user fee, a $2 weekly deduction from every paycheck in the city.

If county residents formed a county-wide council, it could easily “vote the user fee out of existence,” Molgaard said.

“You may have to restructure your finances,” Abramson said. “You can let that kill it [metro government], or you can noodle on it a bit.”

The goal, Abramson said, is to identify everyone’s needs and concerns, and then address them. If the rest of the county would not support that fee, then the new government should be designed without it.

Meanwhile, at a recent meeting of Charleston’s Metro Government Committee, city council members were told that the fees city residents pay for certain services, such as garbage and fire protection, do not completely cover the costs of those services.

Garbage service, for example, costs $1.6 million more than Charleston residents pay in city refuse fees. The city uses tax money to make up the difference.

That means, if a community next door to Charleston wanted to pay to engage the city’s services, it would not be simply a matter of charging current fees of those new customers.

State ducked duty on smoking ban, commissioner says

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commissioner-carper.jpg Earlier this week, Nitro City Council members proposed the city change jurisdiction to the Putnam County Health Department and away from the Kanawha County Health Department to avoid Kanawha’s smoking ban. The ban affects Nitro’s Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center.

The Kanawha-Putnam county line runs through Nitro, but the racetrack is in Kanawha County.

Putnam County officials say such a change would over extend an already overburdened department.

Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said Wednesday Nitro’s attempt to jump ship, is a result of the state’s not taking responsibility for policy.

“This should have been decided by the Legislature,” Carper said. “They had the legal authority and responsibility and they kicked this can to the health department to deal with.”

Under current law, it is up to health boards in all 55 counties to devise smoking regulations.

Carper said when the Legislature faces unpopular decisions, lawmakers leave the hard choices to counties. All-terrain vehicles and Sunday hunting are other subjects that the Legislature left to local governments to manage. The outcome is that West Virginia residents could have 55 different policies on these issues that cross county lines.

“The Legislature created this mess. They ought to get full create for this,” he said. “It’s not the county commission or health board in charge of creating laws, it’s the state Legislature.”

Metro government: Watch the forum

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You can watch the July 8 forum on metro government featuring Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson. A video recording of the event is at the Kanawha County Commission’s Web site:

Part 1

Includes an overview of Louisville’s experience by Jerry Abramson. About 33 minutes.

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Metro government: Interest in Harrison County

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ron_watson.jpgHarrison County Commissioner Ron Watson has been keeping an eye on Kanawha County’s metro government discussion.

He grew up at Lost Creek in Harrison County, but he worked for more than 20 years for the consolidated government of Jacksonville, Fla.

“I have some knowledge of the good, the bad and the ugly of consolidated government,” he said.

Clarksburg has about 16,000 people, but used to be a major city in the state with 30,000 people. Bridgeport is an energetic, up and coming city of about 8,000, he said. But all the municipalities compete and squabble with each other to annex developing bits of the county, which doesn’t seem like much of a growth plan to Watson.

“I love what Kent Carper and Kanawha County Commission did, by going to the Legislature and getting the opportunity to put it on a ballot, they can let the people choose what they want.

“I’m going to follow them very carefully and closely as they go through the process.”

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