Parkersburg must be better

Over the past two months, remarkable and contradictory events have occurred in our state. Fairmont and Morgantown passed ordinances enacting Human Rights Commissions. And here we are in Parkersburg, falling further behind. In fact, the Municipal Equality Index rating released last month rated Parkersburg dead last among West Virginia cities for their LGBTQ inclusion policies. This index uses 44 different criteria to rate the way in which a municipal government and administration support their LGBTQ citizens.

Mayor Tom Joyce tried to draw attention away from the city’s failures after a City Council meeting when he told reporter Evan Bevins, “That organization (the Human Rights Campaign) is obviously very narrow in their focus, and their survey questions are very narrow,” he said. “I think it is a miscategorization of the business environment and the general attitude and kindness” found in Parkersburg. This survey is a rating of his government and his administration and their failure to be inclusive. It is not a measure of the business community, kindness or any other entity.

Out of 100 possible points, Parkersburg rated only 20. Of those 20, 12 were given for reporting 2 hate crimes back in 2011, 6 points were garnered for the Wood County Board of Education’s anti-bullying position and 2 points were granted for the introduction of the Non-Discrimination Ordinance. The report is a stinging indictment of the failure of Joyce’s administration to work for inclusion of all in our community. He, his city department heads and the city council should hang their heads in shame.

It is deplorable that Huntington scored 95 points on this index, Charleston scored 67, Wheeling scored 63, Charles Town scored 50, Lewisburg scored 49 and Morgantown scored 48 and Parkersburg merely scored 20.

The executive editor of this paper recently wrote that while there should be optimism for the recent promise of over 80 billion dollars of investment in West Virginia, we still need to “Keep searching for opportunities to promote ALL we have to offer to travelers and adventure-seekers.” They also pointed out that we need to “help our bright minds and creative thinkers find reasons to remain West Virginians and raise their families here.”

I share the belief that we must do all that we can to retain our bright minds and creative thinkers and one of those ways is by building an inclusive community. It is time for Mayor Tom Joyce and the City Council to make Parkersburg a city with a future by working toward inclusion.

Kim Williams