— Thumbs up … to Judge Robert A. Irons, who presides over the 31st Circuit in Monroe and Summers counties. The jurist is making it his mission to educate officials and fellow jurists about the benefits of community corrections programs. Such programs can save significant amounts of money for communities by helping judges determine whether someone charged with a criminal offense is a candidate for alternatives to pre-trial detention in a jail cell, including drug rehab or home confinement. “We’re not making any headway” with traditional judicial processes, the judge says.
Thumbs up … to the candidates for The Register-Herald’s Girls Basketball Coach of the Year: Jim Justice of Greenbrier East, Jamie Lusk of Westside, Karen Miller of PikeView, Marshall Murray of Oak Hill and Wayne Ryan of Summers County.
Thumbs down … to efforts by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to cap payments to miners suffering from black lung disease. New rule changes mean the DHHS Administration Black Lung Clinic program now limits awards to $900,000 per grantee. This funding cap represents a 44 percent reduction in funding for black lung clinics in West Virginia.
Thumbs down … to Adroit Films for its documentary “Upper Big Branch — Never Again” for being less than candid when interviewing subjects for its project. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., claims he was duped into participating in the project, which he says is an attempt to whitewash the role of former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship in the disaster that killed 29 miners four years ago today. Blankenship funded the film.
Thumbs up … to Wyoming County for its can-do attitude on cleaning up illegal dump sites. Volunteers worked for two years to clean up a dump at Huff Mountain, sorting through recyclable material and creating enough funding to clean up another site on Basin Mountain.
Thumbs up … to Angela Culicerto, a physical education teacher at Beckley’s Park Middle School, who was one of 12 state educators honored with a Teacher Achievement Award by the Arch Coal Foundation. Culicerto and other honorees were nominated by the public and selected by a panel of past recipients of the award.