PRAISE for beefing up the Mountain State’s seat belt laws. Come July 9, drivers and passengers in West Virginia can be pulled over if they aren’t properly restrained.

Late last week, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed legislation making failure to buckle up a primary offense. Before, drivers could be cited only if they were being stopped for another violation.

There’s a $25 fine for not wearing a seat belt. Proponents say the change will boost awareness and lead to more seat belt use – and fewer driving deaths and injuries.

NAY to too many Charles Town residents who choose to sit on the sidelines of our democracy. According to the latest census numbers, the city has more than 5,300 residents but just 3,600 are registered to vote here. And of that number, only 388 turned out to cast a ballot for City Council in last week’s election.

It’s unclear now whether incumbent Don Clendening or challenger Jonathan Wertman will prevail in the closer race (city officials are sorting through provisional ballots in that contest, which now has Clendening a vote ahead), but we can all agree the miniscule turnout is nothing short of depressing.

For all of us who believe citizens deserve a well-run city, is it too much to ask that residents begin to take the time necessary to be a part of the decision-making process in the most basic way – by registering to vote and then turning out at the polls?

PRAISE for community activism. We’re pleased to see the way citizens are standing up and demanding accountability from Potomac Edison in the wake of untold complaints of residents getting slammed with exorbitantly high electric bills. PotEd officials say the bills are the result of estimates made in the absence of meter readers following last summer’s derecho, but we’re … skeptical about that rationale.

Citizens invited the public to share their views at a public gathering last week at Wright Denny Intermediate School in Charles Town. They’re surveying residents to find out just how widespread are the concerns over unprecedentedly large monthly bills. The citizen activists say they’ll press the West Virginia Public Service Commission to probe the matter, and that’s a move we applaud.

PRAISE for new ground rules at West Virginia’s minimum- and medium-security prisons that allow inmates to grow produce for the state’s largest food bank.

Division of Corrections Commissioner Jim Rubenstein says the Harvest Now initiative partners prisons with Gassaway-based Mountaineer Food Bank, which will distribute the fresh fruits and vegetables to food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, youth programs, day care centers, senior programs and schools in 48 of the state’s 55 counties.

The roots of the project date to 2009 in Connecticut. Founder Brooks Sumberg says Harvest Now provides a sense of purpose and lets inmates give back to communities.


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