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Readers give their ideas for the state's next 150 years

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- We asked readers for their ideas on how to move the state forward in the next 150 years. Some of the results are off-the-cuff, some are political and economy-based -- others downright whimsical. But all are thought-provoking. Here's a sampling of 100 reader comments.

1. Set aside a percentage of severance taxes to build a fund to support entrepreneurs, retrain displaced workers and rehab distressed communities left behind by dwindling extractive resource-based jobs. -- Samuel A. Hickman

2. Take the lead in a post-coal, renewable energy future. -- Matt Twomey

3. Create special legislation providing business/tax/lifestyle credits for 50 years of National Youth Science Camp alums to return/innovate in West Virginia. -- Bob Coffield

4. Create light rail and public transportation between all major cities. -- West Virginia Direct Action Welfare Group

5. High speed Internet for all, and let's not wait 150 years. -- Deirdre Purdy

6. Creation of 21st-century jobs that would bring us back home. We've allowed the rest of the world to develop and utilize renewable sources of energy while we cling to the lies and untruths told to us by out-of-state corporations and their friendly PR campaigns. -- David Scott

7. West Virginia could shine by spotlighting its dark side. We could improve and enlarge the wonderful areas we have where night skies are visible and glorious. Along with our other tourist attractions, our starry moonlit nights here could be a big attraction for those who only know light-polluted horizons! -- Cynthia D. Ellis

8. Local food movement for sure! Food trucks, microbreweries, the works. "Maybe Food Truck Friday" in Charleston? -- Lindsey Jacobs

9. Hire appropriate educators/tutors to ensure children receive hands-on technical training. Training should be available in local school computer labs. Training should include, allow and authorize legal guardians to attend training and assume responsibility of equipment. -- Cecil Williams

10. Implement modern state version of CCC (as other states have). Lots of useful projects to do, builds valuable skills for jobs. -- Brian Powell

11. Public service is deeply rooted in all of us -- a longstanding tradition that has become part of our DNA as West Virginians. Now is the time to find new ways to give back -- to our state, our nation and one another, so this tradition lives on for another 150 years. -- Sen. Jay Rockefeller

12. West Virginia should position itself as a retirement destination and aim advertising as such at former West Virginians using out-of-state addresses of West Virginia alumni groups. West Virginia has suffered a loss of population for decades, especially well-educated West Virginians who have left for economic opportunities elsewhere. As they retire, they are candidates for moving back to the state -- Anonymous

13. Quit taxing the people of West Virginia to death. Let them keep their money, and let them spend it the way they see fit. It is quite clear the government isn't doing a very good job at education, health and many other things. And have our leaders quit listening to lobbyists and the educated experts with no common sense. -- Rod Hays

14. Vote the democrats out of West Virginia. Make more affordable things to do to get people out of the house, as well as put a Whole Foods Market here and more accessible places for people to buy healthy food. -- Christina Shafer Baisden

15. Turn our non-renewable resources like coal and natural gas into a source of permanent wealth by creating a Future Fund from severance taxes. This will help build a sustainable economy and a shared prosperity by investing in what matters most, our people and our communities. -- Ted Boettner

16. Why not take these very expensive routers that the state already owns and create a drug tracking system statewide, like Kentucky and other states? This system would put up red flags when an individual or a doctor is abusing the system, then law enforcement could act accordingly. -- James Kinzer

17. Make the Promise scholarship a forgivable loan, which can be paid back through a state income tax credit over several years following the Promise scholar's graduation. Otherwise, West Virginia will just continue to subsidize the economy of neighboring states by giving such states our best and brightest. -- Matt Delligatti

18. I'd advocate for more, cheaper broadband access, particularly in rural areas. -- Kalee Kreider

19. Create a new national forest in the coalfields to take in post-mining land. Develop it for watershed protection, tourism, wildlife. Also, implement a program similar to Ohio's Post-Secondary Enrollment Options to allow talented high school students to take college courses. -- Brian Powell

20. Pray the governor will see the need to eliminate the Medicaid waiver waiting list. Too many frail, elderly or disabled -- his constituents are dying waiting for in-home services. -- Jonnie Sue George

21. Stop subsidizing the horse- and dog-racing industries, and put the money toward early childhood education. -- Ryan White

22. West Virginia needs to use its quality of place to attract the creative class such as software developers and inventors. The extracting economy and manufacturing are not sustainable. West Virginia needs to invest in a creative economy. -- Bill Gardner.

23. Mandatory safety inspection and removal, if necessary, of manufactured housing (read: trailers) more than 10 years old. And offer tax incentives for small farmers and households who produce their own food. Lastly, fix the aging sewer systems of West Virginia's aging cities so that we aren't discharging combined overflow into the watershed. -- Thomas Sayre

24. Create special, no per diem legislative session for voting on state foods, state guns, bridge naming, guest recognition, etc. Also, West Virginia could use about 100 more Ritter Parks, particularly in/around downtown Charleston. -- Taylor Kuykendall

25. Get a real deli that serves tongue and matzo ball soup in Charleston -- Hoyt Glazer

26. Fully and properly fund West Virginia colleges and universities. Accessible and affordable higher education is key to West Virginia's economic future. -- Bill Gardner

27. Face the frightening fact that due to global warming from CO2, the planet's fossil fuel reserves are worth less every day. West Virginia is already taking a major hit. Start planning with eyes (and hearts) wide open. -- Tom Rodd

28. Make sure all students get good career guidance. -- Gene Coulson

29. Invest in technology; give up the Friends of Coal charade. -- Chase Maynard

30. Allow folks the choice of making a DMV appointment -- with a small fee if they don't show on time. -- Karl Hafer

31. A reasonable contingency plan for the end of coal production. -- Jeffrey Johnson

32. Expand water and sewage lines to serve all West Virginians. -- Mike Walker

33. Trader Joe's or an Apple Store -- Lori Kersey

34. Embrace new ideas. Realize that coal is no longer our lifeblood. Now is the time to invest in renewable resources that won't destroy the natural beauty of our state. Become receptive to the ideas keeping us backward -- gay rights, real sex education, and outdated religious-backed alcohol laws (to name a few). -- Sydney Boggess

35. Stop destroying our beautiful mountains -- Denise Giardina

36. Only one stereotype truly fits West Virginians (whether by birth or by choice): we are nothing if not entrepreneurial. It's our most abundant, renewable resource. We just need to mine it ... Every W.Va. college should have a co-working center, along with a startup incubator and accelerator open to their community. -- Justen Deal

37. We must start insisting that littering our highways laws must be enforced and return the deposit on drink containers, which comprise the majority of litter lying along the highway. -- Jack Bowers

38. Get off the dependence for jobs from coal. That way people actually have to get an education. -- Nick Crawford

39. There should definitely be more things for people ages 15 to 25 to do -- some free hangout places to dance or just sit and talk with friends. There is nothing to do around here. That is why half of our population commits crimes. It gives them something to do. -- Jean Ann Vance

40. West Virginia needs to be more entrepreneurial in creating businesses. By creating music festivals, "farmcations," teaching homesteading skills, and selling the fruits of Appalachia (paw paws, ramps, maple syrup), West Virginia could build a bigger economy. West Virginia lacks basic marketing skills to reach out to the rest of the country and the world. -- Mary Rayme

41. When we have a united collective desire to preserve and cultivate the natural state of West Virginia to include, but not limited to, water, woods and all creatures great and small, we will have a solid beginning. Education regarding symbiosis is a necessary starting point. -- Charlotte Whipkey

42. Saturate the state with effective mental health and substance abuse treatment. Make getting help -- as many times as necessary -- as easy as getting a drink. Easier. -- Dawn Miller

43.We should build some more parks and pools and have places for kids and families to go have fun. We should also create more social events, night swims at pools, concerts, and shows for families to attend. Give us something to do! Oh, and pave the walking trails at the parks we do have. Asphalt is much better for walking on than gravel, especially when I have my son's stroller with me. -- Timothy Guice

44. We need to see and love each other more. Open our hearts and doors, return to our family values. Take joy in our relationships, state, lives and God. Share who we are with each other and our nation. Our stories, talents and wisdom that comes from the life we have. -- John Hissom

45. Limit political appointees in non-policy government positions to zero. Increase the influence of science and engineering throughout the state by placing key government positions with high-achieving staff from universities and businesses throughout the country. Competitive compensation must be reserved for highly credentialed employees only. -- James Shook

46. The governor should be more concerned with the elderly and disabled in this state, especially since we have one of the oldest populations of any state ... I have lived in West Virginia my entire life -- I am 53 -- and one day I may need assistance to remain in my home, but if something does not change with this state, I will be forced to move out of state to get the help I will need. -- Pam Miller

47. How about also create a new national forest from the land that has not been mined by taking from land companies by eminent domain? -- Rob Goodwin

48. One of the major issues in West Virginia is the lack of transportation. A solution to the issue, initially, would be somewhat costly, but in the long-term could be a perfect match for the transportation issue is one used by Portland Oregon -- the MAX Light Rail system. -- Michele Gordon

49. Form a new nonprofit corporation that acquires and holds coal and gas development rights to lands where such development is undesirable. The rights could be acquired in various ways: donation, legal settlements, bargain sale acquisition, or full fee simple purchase. These rights would then be held in perpetuity and not developed -- ever. Sort of a Nature Conservancy model, but rather than acquiring the surface rights, the subsurface rights would be acquired and retired. -- Steve Hollenhorst

50. My vision: We reconcile our deep divisions and collaborate to become strong, sustainable, and tolerant of others. We share our great gifts -- as individuals, families and communities -- with the rest of the world. We invest in, protect, and enhance our greatest natural resource: our people. -- Betty Rivard

51. Be more open to "outsiders" because they often fall in love with this great state and find reason to stay. -- Amber Evans

52. Embrace what's truly good about West Virginia instead of pretending that we're a Trader Joe's away from becoming a "creative economy." -- Josh Saul

53. Investment in promoting tourism, the wonderful higher-ed system, bringing light to things positive in the state -- Caitlyn Johnson

54. Bring in bio-industries. -- Joel Watts

55. 2013 Education Bill is the start and not the finish on education reform in West Virginia. Continue the focus on education innovation -- Charleston Montessori

56. Turn Blair Mountain into a national historic park, not another toxic moonscape. -- Brad Wood

57. Better signage at the Charleston exits of I-64 E. -- Russell Sitter

58. Coding is coming to every industry you can think of. Time to start making it part of public education? And develop strategies to maximize West Virginia's (Robert C. Byrd Institute) current leadership in 3-D printing. -- Larry Malone

59. West Virginia's future depends on preserving clean water and restoring polluted streams and investing heavily in our public schools. Ensuring vibrant music and Appalachian history programs in every school system in the state will lead us to a more sustainable future. -- Robin Blakeman

60. Bring back an organization like the CCC to put welfare recipients to work to earn their own way and make them stronger community members. -- Judy M.

61. Street artists and vendors in Charleston. -- Milt Wheeler

62. End coal mining -- Mike Andrick

63. Fair treatment and civil rights for LGBT West Virginians -- right here at home in West Virginia where we work, live and love. -- Casey Willitis

64. Embrace home rule and let municipalities make key decisions for themselves. -- Thomas Sayre

65. More microbreweries and craft beer. -- Nick Webb

66. West Virginia's future prosperity rests with reversing the inexorable under-education of our people through sweeping education reforms that center on a 220-day school year, accelerated implementation of apprentice-journeyman-master models for workforce development, and drastically reduced tuition at in-state colleges, paid for by a new natural resource tax. -- Howard Swint

67. Invest in renewable energies like wind and hydroelectric. While coal will always be a part of our state's culture and economy, a diverse energy portfolio will give us the flexibility to better handle policy changes in Washington or market fluctuations in regional, national, or global coal or natural gas prices. -- Benjamin E. Williams

68. Establish a "teachers' academy" to accept the best-of-the-best of candidates. Graduation would lead to employment in elementary, secondary and/or college/university assignments. Graduation and placement would assure that the quality teacher would be paid a salary that would make them the highest paid of any other profession; more than doctors, engineers, or scientists. -- Richard Cobb

69. Wire the entire state so that it offers the fastest Internet access on the globe free at certain basic levels. This would be the greatest economic development/PR coup. -- Rebecca Kimmons

70. I would love to see West Virginia do more to engage with the labor movement history and unions' presence that has so greatly influenced the state and the nation. I think it could have a greater role in not only the West Virginia history curriculum taught in school, but also as part of community, county, and state functions. -- Kathryn Cohen

71. Publicly-financed campaigns to get special interest dollars out of the political system. Divest ourselves of climate catastrophic fossil fuels and diversify our economy with job-creating clean green energy of solar, wind, geothermal, etc., Let progressiveness hold sway instead of leaning backwards on the rights of women, gays, minorities, and marijuana legalization. -- Teresa Parcell

72. West Virginia is blessed with scenic beauty, but its roads are challenging. A train system between major cities with feeder busses into outlying areas would stimulate the economy by increasing access to goods and services. Train lines take less space than roads, are less costly to run, and benefit everyone. -- J. Lester

73. Much of West Virginia lacks adequate potable water and/or sewer service. We'd love to see our state's leaders expand investment in water and wastewater infrastructure. It's a great way to create opportunities to develop new communities or enrich existing ones and to establish more places for businesses to thrive. -- Scott Jones

74. People always comment on the friendliness of West Virginians, but we aren't always friendly and open to each other. We need ongoing structures for community dialogues open to all so we really listen to each other and bring our diversity of wisdom and experience to creating solutions that work for everybody. -- Jean Ambrose

75. West Virginia should act on the need for major energy efficiency initiatives and for distributed renewable energy development. Climate change is real. -- Dianne Bady

76. Get on board with recycling. Get the bottle bill going, and give the profits to the road fund. Eleven other states have it and it is very profitable. -- Howland M. Sharpe

77. Ban mountaintop removal coal mining and begin the transition to a new, sustainable and just economy that provides living wages and a clean environment to West Virginians. Promote clean elections, free of corporate money, and more democracy through participatory budgeting, cooperative enterprises, and ranked choice/instant runoff voting -- Dan Taylor

78. Welcome organizations like Teach for America that are equipped to fill gaps our education system desperately needs filled -- Jennifer

79. Charleston needs a Sustainability director -- someone to plan and execute a sustainability plan. Also, greenways! And bike shares! Give us local places to get outdoors and get active. -- Anonymous

80. Southern Methodist studies show "the temperature of the Earth beneath West Virginia is significantly higher than previously estimated." That's our future. Our large, untapped geothermal resources! Sell it to the East Coast population centers. Enhance energy security, reduce CO2 emissions, and develop high-paying clean energy jobs. -- Elinore Taylor

81. Ensure that the one political party rule that has governed us to this point doesn't ever happen again. -- Roman Stauffer

82. Upgrade and invest money in state parks. West Virginia touts tourism as one of its primary sources of revenue, yet funding is continually cut or insufficient. -- Anonymous

83. Increase, not decrease, technical schools for young people who don't want to go to college but who lack skills for good-paying jobs. Offer courses applicable to jobs in the state, such as lumber grading, chemical plant jobs, gas and oil well jobs, surveying courses, graphic design. -- Anonymous

84. Make it mandatory that any graduating senior be able to read at grade level to graduate. Test them at the beginning of their junior year and give them two school years to improve. -- Anonymous

85. Expand the use of prisoners for labor on state highways for litter pickup, patching, brush cutting, with every county having one or more work teams. -- Anonymous

86. Consider bringing a NASCAR track to central West Virginia, possibly around Jane Lew or Lost Creek, easily accessible to fans from surrounding states. -- Anonymous

87. Make West Virginia safer by passing legislation to force the installation of an interlock system for anyone charged with DUI twice. -- Anonymous

88. Pass legislation requiring welfare recipients to pass a drug test monthly to continue their government assistance. -- Anonymous

89. Improve libraries statewide with better/enhanced funding mechanism. Libraries help educate and serve people of all ages. -- Brian Powell

90. A power grid that either through distribution or improved infrastructure is more resilient to storm events. -- Taylor Kuykendall

91.Spend broadband expansion grants on actually building broadband infrastructure. -- Thomas W. Sayre

92. The best thing West Virginia could do is give itself back to Virginia. I don't know if the people of West Virginia know how much they are looked down on. Number 45 through 50 in all the rankings I have ever seen. No doubt about it we need to secede back and make history again -- Phillip Wiseman

93. Join the 19 states that have raised the minimum wage and help make work pay! -- Ted Boettner

94. Improve funding for public and school libraries. Give ALL children the time and encouragement to read for pleasure at home and in school. Recognize that reading education begins in infancy and continues past fourth grade and that sharing a story or discussing a book is part of reading education. -- Read Aloud West Virginia

95. Create a robust transitional jobs program to help people move out of poverty and overcome barriers. -- Ted Boettner

96. Have a real domestic abuse campaign ... And crack down on prosecuting this. -- Joel Watts

97. Get rid of defeatist "we can't have nice things" attitude pervasive in the state. West Virginians can be their own worst enemy. -- Brian Powell

98. Large scale music festival along the lines of Bonnaroo, Coachella, Ozzfest, etc -- Taylor Kuykendall

99. Have rational, fact-based discussions about the future of coal and the role it does/will play in West Virginia's economy. -- Brian Powell100. Diversification. We can combat poverty and its effects if our state finally looks to diversify its economy. When we minimize large box store retailers and natural resource extraction, focus on educating rather than subjugating our youth to poor economic choices, then we change minds and actions. -- Joseph R. Skeen


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