Charleston Gazette-Mail. October 19, 2022.
Editorial: Justice best WV gov of all time, just ask him
Gov. Jim Justice is the best chief executive ever to almost grace the halls of the Governor’s Mansion. If you have any doubts, just ask the source of the claim: Gov. Jim Justice.
At recent stumps across the state mostly aimed at stopping voters from approving a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would allow the West Virginia Legislature to repeal taxes that fund schools, fire departments, ambulance teams and libraries, Justice has pontificated on his legacy.
The ever-humble, Republican coal baron, luxury resort owner and girl’s high school basketball coach who occasionally dabbles in affairs of state owing to twice being elected governor, has said that, when West Virginians look back, they’ll say “Greatest governor we ever had.” Justice says the people of the Mountain State will come to that conclusion if they’re being fair and honest in their analysis.
After a statement like that, West Virginians might wonder what Jimbo considers unfair — or they would, if he weren’t always showing or telling them that, too.
This is hardly a comprehensive list, but some things Justice thinks are unfair include:
Not being hired to also coach a boys’ high school basketball team while governor.
Conducting press briefings with reporters in the room.
Timely payment of legal settlements, taxes and fines racked up through judgments and government citations against his myriad businesses (putting those in a blind trust is also apparently unfair).
Living in Charleston while governor, as the state constitution requires (although Justice agreed to do this after a court settlement, it appears he still lives in his Greenbrier County home, two hours from the state’s capital city).
Having to go through the normal process for appointing legislative replacements after someone resigns; etc.
Justice promised West Virginians he never wanted anything for himself. He only wanted to take the state from the bottom of the nation to the top in things like education, economic development, public health and infrastructure.
That hasn’t happened. Instead, Justice has mostly dawdled through two teacher strikes, a legislative attack on public education and an all-out assault on women’s reproductive rights.
He’s actively engaging in opposing Amendment 2, not because it would give a Legislature controlled by a GOP supermajority the power to blow holes in county budgets in the name of being “pro-business,” but because he favors an income tax cut.
Justice’s tenure as governor has been a testament to one man’s ego, which could not be better exemplified than when he named a sweepstakes incentivizing West Virginians to receive COVID-19 vaccinations after his dog. By the way, that sweepstakes barely caused a bump in vaccination rates and Justice, ever delusional, declared it a massive success.
The governor has never let reality get in the way of his own perceptions and projections. He probably believes he’s the best governor West Virginia has ever had. Does anyone else? Maybe Babydog, but even she had to feel a bit humiliated after Justice lifted her up and presented her hindquarters to everyone watching the State of the State address, telling his critics where to plant their lips. A “Free Babydog” movement is long overdue.
It’s possible that some people think Justice has been a wonderful governor. Sure, he bungled flood recovery efforts (efforts that are still being sorted out six years after the flood itself) and announced that a Chinese energy company was investing somewhere north of $80 billion in the state for a natural gas project (which now appears to be a near-total fabrication). At least he had those two or three months where he was at work and talking to the people every day during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some people think Arch Moore was the best governor West Virginia ever had, and he went to prison on corruption charges. That has to be worse than anything Justice has or hasn’t done (so far, anyway), right?
History is a funny thing. A lot of details get lost and rough edges get smoothed. Take away the meager detail and nuance around Justice right now, and what you get, at best, is a court jester sitting on the king’s throne two to three times a week. That’s probably how, if people are really fair, Justice will be remembered.
The Herald-Dispatch. October 13, 2022.
Editorial: Amendment 4 requires careful consideration of what voters want
Amendment 4 on the West Virginia general election ballot comes down to a basic question: Who do you trust to have the final say on policies affecting West Virginia’s public schools?
The Legislature appropriates money to run the schools, and it enacts laws that set the basic framework for how schools will operate, but policies set by the state Board of Education determine curriculum, personnel matters and other day-to-day decisions that go into operating schools.
West Virginians often complain about the quality of education their children receive in schools. In the chain of authority that includes teachers, principals, superintendents, county school boards, the state superintendent and the state school board, parents can be frustrated in trying to effect actual change. Bureaucracy resists change, so change comes slowly.
This is where the Legislature is willing to step in and take a more active role in setting or overseeing the policies that schools must follow.
This is the ballot summary of Amendment 4, the Education Accountability Amendment: “The purpose of this amendment is to clarify that the rules and policies promulgated by the State Board of Education, are subject to legislative review, approval, amendment, or rejection.”
This doesn’t say legislators would set rules and policies. It says legislators would approve, amend or reject them “in whole or in part.” Does that apply only to rules made after the election, or would the Legislature have authority to review or change rules now in effect? Would the Legislature be free to write its own rules?
The Legislature has a lot to do in its regular 60-day session. Barring a special session, the amount of work it can do well in that window is limited. Does it need the added responsibility of writing, reviewing, amending or rejecting the myriad of decisions the state school board makes the rest of the year? That doesn’t sound like a recipe for the “thorough and efficient” school system the state constitution requires.
Would the state even need a state school board if the amendment is adopted and zealous legislators dive into the minutiae of school policy?
Amendment 4 may be the best way for parents and other caregivers to exert more influence on local schools to make them more responsive or accountable. Or it may send the education establishment wherever the winds of partisan politics blow in any given time between legislative elections.
Voters can keep the status quo or take a chance on constant change.
The Intelligencer. October 18, 2022.
Editorial: It’s Time To Focus on W.Va.’s Future
If they will not listen to ordinary West Virginians, perhaps our elected officials will listen to John Deskins, WVU’s director of the Bureau of Business and Economic Research.
Deskins delivered a presentation at this year’s WVU Economic Outlook conference during which he explained residents are being asked to focus on the wrong challenges (he will be in Wheeling Thursday to deliver the outlook for our region). He would not comment on tax cut plans presented by Gov. Jim Justice or the Legislature. Instead, the problem to solve is our declining population and poor labor force participation, he said.
“I wish that our biggest problem was that we had a really bad tax system,” Deskins said. “… Because if we had a bad tax system, we could just fix it.”
Population issues and the labor pool “is a problem that even if we do make policy changes today that we need to make, it would still take five to 10 years to see real differences in these statistics.”
Deskins also pointed out our labor force participation woes are not purely a result of our aging population. “Of course, having an older population is clearly an important driver of our low rate of labor force participation… but it is so much deeper than that,” he said.
We’ve got to do something about the sociocultural factors that leave us with the worst higher education degree attainment rate in the country, the highest mortality rate and the highest drug overdose rate. We’ve got to make two-year community and technical colleges and apprenticeship programs more accessible. We’ve got to reverse our intentional disregard for mental health and substance abuse recovery efforts. And we’ve got to focus on the industries of the future — Deskins suggests statewide we focus on chemicals, plastics, aerospace, rare earth minerals/carbon products; industrial diversification and entrepreneurship; and outdoor recreation and tourism.
Deskins understands we’ve been focusing on the wrong things for too long in West Virginia. It’s time for that to change.