Save the Sharp Farm of Pocahontas County
History and heritage in Slatyfork, West Virginia.
The Author's Blog

Four Seconds

Saturday June 2, 2007
By David Fleming

Part One

Yesterday's (6/1) WV Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council (IJDC) Funding Committee meeting at the Water Development Authority was a lesson in civics I will not soon forget.

The agenda of the Funding Committee's meeting included the funding consideration of 34 various projects, from PSDs and towns across West Virginia. The IJDC's bylaws require that public input be considered in all deliberations, and of the 34 projects listed, there were 3 that had public representation at the meeting.

The rules are that for a given project, public input cannot exceed 2 minutes, and only one representative may speak. I represented agenda item "Pocahontas PSD (Phase I), 2003S-762a," and here is my 2 minute speech.

Although only one may speak per project, any number of the public are permitted to attend, and it was good to see 10 fine folks from Pocahontas County, Castle Coalition, Eight Rivers Safe Development, Sierra Club, and Snowshoe Property Owners Council there to show their support and—while they weren't allowed to speak—to submit their written concerns for the IJDC's official record of this case.

The projects were listed on the agenda in alphabetical order, so "Pocahontas" was slightly past half-way down the list. This fact provided for some first-hand insight into the mechanics of the IJDC funding committee, as we witnessed the efficient and straightforward approval of a number of projects before ours came up.

The fashion of execution went as follows: the committee chair introduces a project and asks for a motion to be made to approve it, then a second, then an all-in-favor-say-I, all-opposed, then onto the next project.

"Gauley River PSD (Phase I). Do I hear a motion?" spoke the chair.

"I move," stated someone immediately.

"I second," as my head still tracked the origin of the I-move.

"All in favor say I."

In unison, "I."

"All opposed."


"Gauley River PSD (Phase II)...," the chair then introduced.

With stark efficiency, it was fast becoming clear what the role of the Funding Committee was: to not deny any project.

Then the agenda arrived at the "Pocahontas" project. The chair introduced the project, and I was given the opportunity to speak for 2 minutes before any motion to approve it would be made.

I stood, addressed the committee and the approximately 40 people in the room, drew in their attention, and let it fly. Two minutes later, I was done. The chair thanked me, and then asked:

"Do I hear a motion?"

An unprecedented event then occurred: roughly 4 seconds of non-motioning, non-seconding silence ticked by.



And that was that.

While others of us there had some success in interjecting their concerns, the chair held pretty firmly to the bylaws and cut that off pretty quickly.

At this time, we 10 assembled outside and those of us with signs held them in protest. Some cars drove by and gave us smiles and thumbs up. Inside, the meeting continued on with the remaining projects for perhaps another twenty minutes or so.

As the meeting was nearing completion, I went back inside, holding my sign, smiled, and as the meeting let out made the effort to thank everyone for coming and for hearing us, and shook many hands.

The IJDC Funding Committee meeting was over, their recommendations on the way to the full IJDC for the Wednesday, June 6 meeting of the full council. At that meeting, the PSD's proposal will be fully approved (or not).

Part Two

As this event of the morning dissipated, we decided on the moment to go to the Capitol, to have a chance at speaking with Governor Manchin directly. So we drove the short jaunt back down Greenbrier Street on to the Capitol.

Governor Manchin was not available, but we were given the opportunity to speak with the Governor's Deputy Chief of Staff, Joe Martin. Mr. Martin met with us for perhaps an hour or so, as each of us communicated our concerns to him.

It was a pleasure to meet with Mr. Martin, and he very patiently heard us and asked questions as we had a good dialog. However, it wouldn't have been fair-minded to expect something of an official nature to come from such an impromptu meeting, so I won't speculate on the outcome, if any, of the meeting.

For my part, I conveyed to Mr. Martin my concern that an approval of the PSD's proposal at the upcoming IJDC full council meeting on Wednesday, June 6 would put the current project on a path that our county commission—even if they tried to do something about it later—might not be able to alter.

So What's Next?

So the events of Friday, June 1, 2007 unfolded and our presence in Charleston came to a close. It was a long drive back to Green Bank. I was tired and pretty well whipped for the day, but the sights and sounds of the Williams River were refreshing as I made my way out of Cowen towards the Highland Scenic Highway (debatably, the quickest route between Green Bank and Charleston).

Mostly too tired to think of what to do next, the river nevertheless soothed my mind enough to make the next move clear: go to the Pocahontas County Commission meeting this Tuesday, June 5, to inform them of the day's events, of the IJDC full council meeting the very next day, and, generally, of things to come.

So that is what I will do.