13 April 2007

Quote of the Day

“I didn’t come here to put on a show, but I am as Popeye. That was Popeye the Sailor Man. He said 'I am what I am and that’s all that I am.''’

-- U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., at a hearing Thursday on Capitol Hill, as quoted by The New York Times. Byrd also said he plans to run in 2012, when he turns 95, "the Lord willing."

Byrd 2012?

U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd, D-W.Va., declared at a Capitol Hill hearing Thursday that "I will run in 2012, the Lord willing," according to The New York Times.

Byrd, 89, became the longest-serving senator in U.S. history several months before he handily won a record ninth term in November. He would be just shy of 95 on Election Day 2012.

Garrison Picked As WVU President

West Virginia University's Board of Governors made the announcement around 12:20 p.m., and The Associated Press' Vicki Smith was there.

The AP story is also here.

MetroNews was also in the boardroom for the announcement, as was The Charleston Gazette.

The official word from WVU is here.

And WVU's Next President Is...

West Virginia University's Board of Governors plans to choose the school's next president at its 8:30 a.m. meeting today in Morgantown.

Update: The Associated Press has a story setting the stage for the day's events.

Opinions abound as to whether the board will pick M. Duane Nellis, Kansas State University provost and former WVU dean, or recent Higher Education Policy Commission Chairman Mike Garrison.

Those opining include Hoppy Kercheval of MetroNews, in his online column today.

WVU's faculty senate has endorsed Nellis, with a resolution also seen as a no-confidence vote of Garrison's candidacy. WVU student government leaders are backing Garrison, a former student body president.

The Higher Education Policy Commission has scheduled an 11 a.m. special meeting at its Charleston office to approve the board's selection and compensation offer.

Garrison, who was a cabinet secretary and chief of staff to then-Gov. Bob Wise, resigned as commission chairman when he was selected as a finalist for president.

12 April 2007

W.Va. To Appeal Teacher Pension Ruling

State officials want the Supreme Court to overturn the January ruling that nixed the planned merger of West Virginia's two teacher pension funds. The Associated Press has a story about yesterday's decision by the Consolidated Public Retirement Board.

The board voted to appeal the Kanawha Circuit Court ruling after some expressed concerns about the chances of prevailing.

11 April 2007

Quote of the Day

"I think his candidacy - if he were successful - it does make us in some ways continue to look rather insular and provincial."

-- West Virginia University associate professor of English Gwen Bergner on Mike Garrison, one of two finalists for WVU presidency, quoted by The Associated Press' Vicki Smith.

WVU Faculty Senate: We Want Nellis

West Virginia University's Faculty Senate has endorsed M. Duane Nellis over Mike Garrison as the state's largest public university prepares to select its next president, The Associated Press is reporting.

The AP's Vicki Smith counts today's vote as 47-5 with two abstentions.

Smith also notes that though it was an emergency meeting, the turnout (54 of 114 senate members) is considered typical for regular meetings.

"The qualities the Faculty Senate demanded were 'visionary leadership with global perspective,' a proven ability to lead a large organization with many constituencies, and an ability to attract and recruit nationally and globally recognized scholars," the AP story said,

Student Body President David Kirkpatrick and Vice President Jason Parsons, meanwhile, endorsed Garrison as "the best choice to lead WVU into the future," Smith reports.

MetroNews was also on hand for the faculty vote.

Nellis worked with the faculty as dean of WVU's Eberly College of Arts and Sciences for seven years, before taking his current post as Kansas State University provost.

Garrison, former Higher Education Policy Commission chairman and Wise Administration official, answered questions from faculty, students and staff during separate forums at the Morgantown campus yesterday.

WVU's Board of Governors is scheduled to choose the new president on Friday.

WVU Search Coming Down To The Wire

Mike Garrison told faculty at West Virginia University why he wants to be WVU's president on Tuesday, and the Charleston Daily Mail was there to cover the candidate forum.

So was Metronews. It also offers audio from the 1 hour-plus exchange between faculty and the former Higher Education Policy Commission chairman.

Public Broadcasting, meanwhile, aired a story setting the stage for Garrison's on-campus meetings with students, faculty and staff. The transcript is here.

(Update: Public Radio also aired a segment on Garrison's appearance.)

The search, and Garrison's candidacy in particular, has been a recurring topic on MetroNews' statewide (but Morgantown-based) Talkline program. Host Hoppy Kercheval opines on Garrison's performance in his online column today.

Hoppy discussed it on the program today, but also heard from Gary Abernathy on the topic.

Hoppy saw a strong showing by Garrison (dubbed "The Fortress" by nickname-happy Hoppy back when Garrison joined the Wise Administration).

"A few faculty members said afterward that Garrison won them over, or at least they were not as worried about him as they were before they heard from him," Hoppy writes today.

Hoppy also believes that "Garrison nailed a question about why he returned home before receiving a degree from Oxford when he said his grandfather died, his father was out of work and he thought it was time to come back and get a job."

A GOP consultant, blogger and state Republican Party executive director, Abernathy sees Garrison benefiting from low expectations.

Another conservative voice to weigh in on Garrison's candidacy has been Alice Click, who is/was director of the state chapter of Concerned Women for America.

Click has questioned Garrison's fundraising credentials while praising those of M Duane Nellis, the other remaining candidate for president.

As I reported when Nellis was named a finalist last month, the former dean of WVU's Eberly College of Arts and Sciences "Nellis helped guide the $50 million Life Sciences Building project and was credited for reviving the WVU Press. He also oversaw the creation of WVU's National Geospatial Development Center."

Nellis' seven years as dean has also contributed to his candidacy's support among faculty members.

(Update: As a reader points out, Portland State University President Daniel Bernstine has accepted a job in charge of the group that administers the LSAT since dropping out as a WVU finalist. PSU's student newspaper has the story.)

Previous posts on this topic include my attempts to provide context to the various connections among those involved in the process, and my reporting on the letter from Judge Robert B. King.

With the on-campus forums and visits complete, WVU's Board of Governors expects to chose the successor to David Hardesty on Friday.

10 April 2007

Table Games Polling

Landings Research of Fort Collins, Colo., is polling likely Kanawha County voters in advance of the special June 9 election on table games, The Associated Press reports.

The survey tests statements both pro and con to gauge what might sway voters. It also asks about the direction of the state, Kanawha County and their economies.

The poll is also asking residents whether they feel safe walking in downtown Charleston at night. The survey includes several statements linking gambling to increased crime.

One of the first sets of questions, though, seeks to measure the favorable/unfavorable ratings of several public officials (without their titles) and groups:

- Kanawha County Commissioner Dave Hardy;
- Sen. Vic Sprouse, R-Kanawha;
- West Virginia Family Foundation;
- the Legislature;
- President Bush;
- Gov. Joe Manchin;
- Tri-State Racetrack and Gaming Center;
- Charleston Mayor Danny Jones;
- Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper.

At least one of the other three tracks, Charles Town Races & Slots, has done polling since the table games legislation passed. The initial results helped prompt its parent company to petition the Jefferson County Commission for the special Saturday vote.

Vowing to sue over the new law and block these four local elections, the family foundation expects to have its legal challenge ready this week, its lawyer tells AP.

09 April 2007

Redrawing W.Va.'s Judiciary

With some circuit judges juggling twice the caseloads of their colleagues, the state's court system is facing a real crunch, as The Associated Press reports.

Gov. Joe Manchin wants the Legislature to redraw the state's 31 circuits to shift workloads and ease driving times for judges and staff. With anemic or declining population growth, Manchin and others consider this route preferable to hiring more judges.

Lawmakers had chosen the latter path, prompting one of the governor's 16 vetoes from the recent regular session.

But as the AP story points out, the same Supreme Court-commissioned study that told lawmakers where to add judges can also tell them how to re-carve circuits.

Manchin says he will consider convening a special session on the issue -- but only if the Legislature agrees to a bill beforehand. Otherwise, the state constitution will not allow a realignment of the circuits until 2015.

The Charleston Daily Mail has also reported on the situation, while the Bluefield Daily-Telegraph hears from Manchin about his veto. The study ranked Mercer County Circuit Court among those with the heavier caseloads per judge, and the nixed bill had included it among those offered relief.

VA Responds to Rockefeller

A U.S. Veterans Affairs official responds to Public Broadcasting after Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., alleged low morale and staffing problems at its medical center in Beckley.

The transcript is here. Rockefeller has also alleged that the center's administrator has provided false information to VA officials to counter his allegations.

Public Broadcasting also has a companion piece alleging a clampdown on press interviews at the center, “because of the Walter Reed thing.” Transcript here.