Kudos to Erica Peterson over at West Virginia Public Broadcasting, for pointing out that two state lawmakers — Senate Finance Chairman Walt Helmick, D-Pocahontas, and new House Majority Leader Brent Boggs, D-Braxton — gave identical speeches on Wednesday promoting the oil and gas industry.
Ironically, Chesapeake Energy announced the next day that it was eliminating more than 200 Charleston-area jobs. And the day after that, NiSource said it was cutting 170 jobs in West Virginia, as Gazette business editor Eric Eyre reported.
The people, in delegating authority, do not give their public servants the right to decide what is good for the people to know and what is not good for them to know. The people insist on remaining informed so that they may retain control over the instruments of government they have created.
That’s the preamble to the West Virginia Open Governmental Proceedings Act. Among other things, the law requires state and local government bodies — everything from a city council to the state Board of Public Works — to let citizens know when and where they are meeting, so anyone who wants to attend can do so.
Two years ago, when the Roane County, W.Va., jury came out with its verdict, McClendon was quick to attack the state’s legal system. He fumed about it in a Jan. 28, 2007, email to Gov. Joe Manchin, which the Gazette obtained under the state Freedom of Information Act.
But it looks like McClendon needed a geography lesson:
Governor Manchin: please read these attached press releases and let me know if you are able to visit with me tomorrow about this ridiculous outcome …Â
It took a jury in Sloane County all of 3 hours on a Saturday afternoon to render what I am told is now West Virginia’s largest punitive verdict ever.
A few weeks ago, a colleague sent me a piece from The New York Times headlined “When the Watchdogs Don’t Bark.”
It was bemoaning the fact that newspapers in New Jersey, Connecticut and elsewhere were cutting staffs at a time when government officials needed to be watched more closely than ever.
The Gazette has always been known (both praised and damned) for its coverage of government and its leaders.
Whether in long exposÃ©s or in routine coverage of council meetings, the officials know the Gazette is watching and holding them accountable. We believe that our efforts keep the corruption down, even if we can’t wipe it out altogether.
We think our watchdog role is as important now as it has ever been.
Our mission is to be the eyes and ears of readers everywhere who can’t attend those regular council meetings, or who don’t have the time to read important but hefty government reports, or who want us to look for the story behind the press release.
The staff at The Charleston Gazette wants to assure its readers that its watchdog coverage is as strong as ever. And we have some new tools at our disposal.
On a Web page coming soon, we’ll share the same kinds of stories with you that you have always expected from the Gazette, but also original documents and other resources that we could never fit in the paper. We’ll share them with you, so you can help us keep an eye on things.
We’ll share useful links, too, and more frequent updates through this new Sustained Outrage blog, an online journal of reporting in the best tradition of The Charleston Gazette.
So check back often. Pass on a tip to firstname.lastname@example.org. Or tell us what you think. We don’t want to miss anything. We don’t want you to miss anything either.
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