West Virginians faced with economic and environmental devastation have been forced to leave their beloved hills and hollows for too long. But if you ask Bill Bissett, the head of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce, people who seek to hold coal and gas companies accountable for cleaning up their messes should just leave. In Mr. Bissett’s Letter to the Editor in the Huntington Herald Dispatch, he stated, “We need to change ‘The Struggle to Stay’ to ‘Maybe You Should Leave’: ...if you only see negativity here and have soiled to the possibility that the state can be improved and succeed, maybe you should leave.”
While Mr. Bissett seems to be focusing his ire on people who he claims offer no solutions, his letter is tone deaf at best. When your state is hemorrhaging people, it is our duty to identify and solve our problems. It’s too bad Mr. Bissett has turned his back on some West Virginians. Maybe it’s too much work for him, or he doesn’t feel any personal responsibility to work with others to solve our problems. Maybe he doesn’t realize that those people he wants to leave are customers in the businesses he’s supposed to represent. But those of us who see our poisoned communities dying and people leaving to find decent-paying jobs know that losing population only hurts us.
The Chamber of Commerce should not be treating people who call out West Virginia’s problems as the enemy. There are many ways to support economic strength, but telling people who object to the poisoning of their communities to get out is not one of them.