A chief complaint among visitors is the availability of parking. As the Daily Mail's Matt Murphy reported, more than 10,000 spaces are open to the public across the city, including surface lots, metered spaces and city-maintained parking garages. City officials are assessing how best to use $1.1 million to improve the parking system. Those funds will become available next year after existing bonds, used to construct the city's parking garages, are retired.
Despite the availability of parking spaces, many people avoid visiting downtown Charleston, saying the system is antiquated and parking in Charleston is inconvenient.
But convenience isn't limited to the physical sense. Paying to park also should be made as simple and hassle-free as possible.
One thing being considered are parking meters that accept credit or debit cards. But that change might not be so easy. Parking Director George Jarrett told Murphy implementing such a system would be "very, very expensive."
Comparatively, the city charges little to park in metered spaces. Interchange or "swipe" fees charged by credit card companies could equal a zero sum for the city, especially for small transactions. A company specializing in credit card parking meters told city officials new meter heads would cost $500 each, plus $5.75 per meter each month for software support and 13 cents per transaction. Not exactly cheap.
City leaders also are experimenting with leaving the gates up in parking garages, lessening the chances someone's car may get locked in when the garage shuts down.
The problem is the current, antiquated system sends visitors a negative vibe. Adding barriers to convenient parking -- like locking garage stairwells mid-evening -- might make those visitors decide to spend their money at places other that downtown on their next night out ...
Although the modernization will require some upfront investment, a revamped and friendlier parking system will encourage visitors to Charleston's downtown shops and restaurants more frequently, revitalizing the area's economy and encouraging other entrepreneurs to do business in Charleston.
For Charleston's downtown, a convenient, modern parking system is a worthy investment.
The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia, on fighting opioid drug addiction:
Starting today, West Virginia has a new tool in the box for fighting opioid drug addiction.
Legislation that was passed in last winter's session allows the Department of Health and Human Resources, Adult Drug Courts and Division of Corrections the ability to use a FDA-approved, non-addicting drug to help keep addicts from relapsing.
The drug, Vivitrol, is reportedly long-lasting and is used in conjunction with psychosocial support.
We have long advocated the use of alternative treatment over putting drug-abusing offenders in jail or on probation without the backup needed to help them beat their addictions.
Today's new treatment appears to be what the doctor ordered ,,,
This treatment is another step in the right direction — along with recent crackdowns on "pill mill" clinic and stepped up efforts by law enforcement — in helping rid the state of the drug-abuse scourge.
It also has the benefit of being effective on heroin, to which many addicts turned as pills became more expensive.
Nor does it appear that this treatment will be unattainable. Crosswinds Center in Greenbrier County offers the treatment and Dr. M.K. Hasan, founder of Raleigh Psychiatric Services, and clinical social worker Michael Johnson, an advanced addiction specialist, also have plans for a clinic.
While not a quick-fix, miracle cure, Vivitrol does sound as though it will be a breakthrough for many who want to beat their addictions.
Getting more people off drugs is the key to getting people back to work and off of public assistance. The fewer addicts, the more chance we have of diversifying the economy and boosting our workforce numbers.
The Vivitrol legislation was introduced by Delegate Chris Stansbury, R-Kanawha, a physician. Delegate Lynn Arvon, R-Raleigh, also was a sponsor.
Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on forced pooling:
The West Virginia Legislature made the correct decision - barely - in this year's regular session when a bill requiring the forced pooling of natural gas fields failed to win passage. But it's clear that lawmakers will be confronted with the same issue in the 2016 session. Let's hope they can once again resist the intense lobbying pressure that already is building.
Among the key provisions in House Bill 2688 - which failed to pass on a 49-49 vote in the House of Delegates in March - was a requirement that mineral owners sell or lease their rights if 80 percent of neighboring owners already had agreed to sell or lease their rights for a horizontal drilling project.
The argument for the provision was that it would boost the oil and gas extraction industry in the state, particularly by allowing more horizontal drilling because the horizontal shafts no longer would have to be blocked by properties whose owners had not signed away their mineral rights.
However, one of the main arguments against forced pooling is that it amounts to an illegal seizure of private property - an argument that by rights should win out again.
Last week a representative of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association indicated the group is not giving up and is in fact devoting the year to promoting the legislation.
Toward that end, attorney Kurt Dettinger told the legislature's Joint Committee on Energy that the group had commissioned a study that found forced pooling could lead to an additional 100 wells per year over the next 20 years, generating up to $1 million a year in new capital investment, $365 million per year in taxes and fees for state and local governments and $430 million in royalty payments. That all sounds good, but it was surprising that such specific numbers could be projected because he couldn't say how many people are already employed in the gas and oil drilling business in West Virginia nor could he cite any specifics about whether projects have been abandoned because the state lacked forced pooling.
It's also curious how many lawmakers have shown their support for forced pooling considering that on other issues their rallying cries are individual rights and free market principles. The legislature has cited individual rights in trying to remove any regulations on firearms, and they championed the notion of "let the free market decide" when talking about removing prevailing wage provisions on public construction projects.
The fact is that individual property rights are a valued commodity in our society. Despite an occasional setback in court, the prevailing attitude is and should be that one person's private property should not be taken from him or her to give to another private entity. After all, police departments spend much of their time investigating property crimes in which someone has taken someone else's property against his or her will.
But the forced pooling legislation would legitimize that, and a new government panel would be set up to decide on forced pooling issues and have final say about how much people will be paid for their mineral rights if they are forced to participate. Thus, this legislation throws free-market principles out the window.
Many of the same people who favor this legislation also rail about government overreach. But forced pooling would be a case of government supporting a similar overreach by gas operators whose main goal is to increase their profits.
Protecting individual property rights should prevail again.