Charleston Gazette-Mail. July 19, 2023.
Editorial: Justice doubles down on political stunt at border
Gov. Jim Justice announced Monday on Twitter that West Virginia is doing its part to help with the country’s southern border (or “Biden Border Crisis,” as he called it) by sending National Guard troops to provide support. It’s a pure political stunt that doubles down on a previous pure political stunt.
First off, Justice made the announcement from his U.S. Senate campaign account, not from his governor’s account. That in itself shows this is blatantly political and not a matter of actual policy. Also, no announcement of any new Guard deployments to the border has been made, so Justice must be referring to his authorization to send 50 troops to Texas back on May 31. If that’s the case, it’s intentionally misleading.
Reasons abound regarding why sending West Virginia National Guard troops roughly 1,500 miles from West Virginia is a bad idea. In theory, the troops are there to help bolster forces in stemming the tide of illegal immigration into the United States. On top of the basic issue of entering the country illegally, the fentanyl trade, human trafficking and (if one takes the bogus claims of some alarmist politicians at face value) terrorists are tacked onto the situation.
Illegal border crossings are dangerous, no question, especially when those leading a group have ulterior motives. But the idea that the United States has “open borders” that allow people to come and go while committing crimes is absurd.
According to the conservative-leaning Cato Institute, the United States has some of the strictest border policies in the world, and entering legally is very difficult, which contributes to illegal immigration. Even so, illegal immigration is just as hard and much more dangerous. The institute also found that immigrants generally assimilate into American culture easily, pay their fair share of taxes, are less reliant on welfare than Americans and — whether entering legally or illegally — are less likely to be incarcerated or commit a crime than native-born U.S. citizens.
As for drug trafficking, according to a study by the Cato Institute released last year, most of the fentanyl distributed in the United States comes in from legal points of entry. More than 90% of fentanyl confiscated by border authorities is discovered at legal crossings or vehicle checkpoints. Indeed, U.S. citizens are generally the best drug smugglers, because they’re less likely to be rigorously searched, according to the institute. About 99% of fentanyl users are U.S. citizens, and immigrants are 80% less likely to use the drug.
Illegal immigration at the southern border also happens to be down by about 70% since Title 42 restrictions enacted during the COVID-19 pandemic were lifted in May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.
So, if it’s the same 50 Guardsmen or Justice is talking about sending more, exactly what are they supposed to be doing about illegal immigration?
Of course, the main strike against sending Guard members anywhere is that Justice mobilized them last year under a state of emergency to shore up critical staffing shortages at West Virginia correctional facilities. The Guard is still on the job at overcrowded jails and prisons, some of which have staffing shortages as high as 76%. Why send Guard members elsewhere when a crisis at home is far from over?
The answer, of course, is political expediency. Judging by the numerous, harshly critical responses Justice’s announcement received, most West Virginians aren’t buying it.
The Herald-Dispatch. July 16, 2023.
Editorial: If candidates ask for your opinion, be sure to give it to them
The 2024 governor’s race in West Virginia has begun. Candidates are raising money and working on name recognition as they build momentum for next spring’s primary election and beyond.
Most of the announced candidates are familiar to people who work at the State Capitol Complex, but for those of us in the rest of the state, we’re about to get some election-year attention and frequent visits from candidates with whom we probably have had minimal contact, if any at all.
Those candidates are likely to ask voters what they want from the next governor. Here are a few possible answers:
One, West Virginia needs a governor who can keep the mechanism of state government working smoothly, efficiently and for the benefit of the people. Sometimes one of those three things works in opposition to the other two, but the governor is expected to balance those needs. People want state government to be there when it’s needed and not there when it’s not.
State government should be accessible, and that access should be convenient.
The past few years have seen problems with the foster care system and inaction on regional jail and state prison staffing problems. Those problems were known but not worked on with any sense of urgency. And they want their trust restored in state agencies. Does anyone think the problems at the highest levels of the West Virginia State Police have been corrected? What can the next governor do to be more proactive in solving this sort of problem?
And there are issues that never seem to go away, but they still must be addressed. Schools, roads and infrastructure top that list.
One priority that is harder to achieve but easy to describe: Make our lives better, or at least don’t make them worse. Be a facilitator of progress, not an embarrassment.
West Virginia has had some good governors in recent years, depending on your definition of “recent.” It has had some, shall we say, colorful ones, such as the current one. It has had some forgettable ones. We need an effective one.
Politicians and political junkies may see the State Capitol as the most important building in West Virginia, but for the rest of us, the most important building is the one our families are in at the moment. Instead of political infighting in Charleston, we’re concerned about that guardrail falling over the hill, all those deer that jump out in front of our cars and having help nearby when it’s needed. We want opportunities to grow in our education or in our standard of living. We want utilities at a reasonable cost, and we want to be safe and secure in our homes and our persons.
There’s a good chance you will see a candidate show up at your event in Barboursville, Madison, Williamson between now and June 2024. If he or she asks what you want, be ready to give an answer. It’s your chance to make a difference before voting begins.
The Intelligencer. July 17, 2023.
Editorial: Ascending West Virginia to New Heights
To those of us who live here and love West Virginia, it does not sit well that we are the only state in which there are fewer residents now than there were in 1950. In fact, the state has lost a greater percentage of its residents than any other state — 3.2% between 2010 and 2020. Among the reasons cited by some analysts are the decades-long declines in our traditional industries.
That may have been part of the story at the start of the population decline, but a better explanation in more recent years is the failure for far too long to adapt to new economic realities.
Thankfully, some of our more forward-thinking state officials have gotten creative, not just in attracting the kinds of employers that could help diversify and expand our economy, but in trying to retain and attract residents. Now, they’ve expanded one of those efforts, as Ascend West Virginia has added a fifth location in which out-of-state workers can apply to live. The New River Gorge/Fayetteville area joins Morgantown, the Greenbrier Valley, Elkins and the Eastern Panhandle as spots for which applicants can receive $12,000 and free passes for whitewater rafting, golf, rock climbing, horseback riding, skiing and ziplining if they move.
“The growth of this program is a testament to the increased interest and positive buzz around West Virginia,” said state Tourism Secretary Chelsea Ruby. “The residents of our mountain towns are some of the most warm and welcoming people you’ll find anywhere in the nation. They’re eagerly awaiting these new folks to move in.”
Indeed, we are. Program officials are to be commended for expanding its reach. The rest of us must continue to build on that momentum.