Charleston Gazette-Mail. September 29, 2023.
Editorial: Why Gov. Justice won’t ever go by the book
There are at least two planes of existence in West Virginia: the realm of reality that most inhabit and the impenetrable bubble of delusion wrapped around Gov. Jim Justice.
The governor has bent and broken all manner of mechanisms meant to assure competent governance that is free of conflicts of interest since taking office in 2017. He’s not the first West Virginia governor to do so and likely won’t be the last. But it’s hard to name anyone who has done it so lazily, frequently and brazenly as Justice, who has made it clear he believes everything from court rulings to the state constitution apply only to people less important than himself.
In the latest example, Justice appointed his buddy Mike Honaker as inspector general of the state Department of Homeland Security. It’s a newly created position meant to help address the crisis of overcrowding and understaffing at West Virginia correctional facilities. The problem is that Honaker, prior to his resignation in August to take the job, was a member of the House of Delegates when the position was created. According to the state constitution, elected officials aren’t eligible to take state government jobs created during their time in office until that term ends, which would be January 2025 for Honaker.
The stipulation is there for a pretty straightforward reason: keeping lawmakers from crafting any number of high-paying jobs for themselves (the Homeland Security job pays $95,000 a year, which is more than decent for one of the poorest states in the nation). To be clear, no one is accusing Honaker of doing such a thing. Still, his appointment does violate the constitution.
When the problem was first brought to his attention by reporters, Justice feigned ignorance. Then, this week, his team rolled out the excuse that Honaker was appointed to an existing position, and will only take the newly created job once he’s eligible. Uh-huh.
It wouldn’t have been hard for Justice to find someone for the job who was both qualified and eligible, but anything short of easy with a dash of cronyism is too much of a bother for him.
And why would he put in more time and effort or apply anything resembling a moral (or at least legal) compass? Previous experience, as a businessman and politician, has informed Justice that he can do whatever he wants because no one will hold him accountable. Be it a government organization, a stiffed vendor or a miner whose health insurance isn’t working because whatever Justice-owned company they work for hasn’t paid the bills, the only way to get to Justice is to take him to court. Even then — as voluminous reporting has shown — he’ll flout the law, allowing rulings, fines and fees to pile up, only to eventually try to negotiate them down. And round and round it goes from there.
It’s been one thing or another like this for nearly seven years.
Keep in mind that this is the guy who had to be sued to follow the constitutional provision that the governor reside in Charleston — after Justice, who lives a two-hour drive away in Greenbrier County, was often missing from important events and developments and had no handle on them once he did show up. He entered into an agreement that he’d follow the residence requirement, but he still isn’t doing it.
Jim Justice is a walking, talking manifestation of why just about everything that seems like a no-brainer in the constitution or civil legal code was put in writing. And yet, for Justice, they’re just pieces of paper. What can they do to him?
It’s hard to imagine that anything will change with Justice in the home stretch of his second term. But Justice is now asking voters to put him in the U.S. Senate. West Virginians need to realize that Justice won’t rise to the occasion to fit the job — if anything, he’ll likely try to use such status as a shield against his many legal liabilities — and then ask themselves if they’re OK with that.
The Intelligencer. September 28, 2023.
Editorial: Bringing Goodness To W.Va. Students
Even Gov. Jim Justice’s harshest critics find it difficult to argue he hit on political magic when he introduced Babydog to adoring West Virginians. It makes sense, then, that First Lady Cathy Justice has made it her mission to bring that kind of magic to students who need it.
“You know me, I’m very in tune with what a dog can bring to all of us,” Jim Justice said. “Babydog has done it, and I know there are a bunch of new therapy dogs that will be doing good stuff, too. I am so excited to see how these dogs will positively impact students around our state.”
With the First Lady’s Friends With Paws Initiative, the seven newest therapy dogs will bring the total to 19 in our state’s CIS schools. Communities in Schools counties are those in which students are disproportionately affected by poverty, substance misuse, or other at-risk situations.
“These therapy dogs will bring friendship, love, and support to their schools,” Cathy Justice said.
Washington Lands Elementary School in Marshall County is one of the schools to receive a therapy dog. There are now 260 CIS schools in 53 counties.
The work of Friends With Paws must not come to a screeching halt when Cathy Justice is no longer First Lady.
Our students need as much support as we can give them.
And while the 19 already on the job are sure to do great things, they can’t do it all — even if they work like dogs.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel. October 3, 2023.
Editorial: Fire Safety: Be responsible and follow the rules
Sunday was the start of West Virginia’s fall fire season. And while it’s tempting to think that means outdoor fire pits, pep rally bonfires and maybe even a crackling fire in the fireplace as chillier evenings creep in, it actually means a renewed vigilance against letting human mistakes ruin our natural treasures (and maybe even endanger lives).
Residents are to confine their outdoor burning to 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. Fires set during that time must be put out before 7 a.m.
That crisp autumn air we love so much (and the debris piles we find more plentiful for burning at this time of year) make the risk even greater.
Fires must be attended at all times. Before leaving any fire for any length of time, the fire must be completely extinguished. Clear at least a 10-foot area (safety strip) around the fire and make sure all burnable material has been removed. Any equipment that can throw sparks and operating on land subject to fire by any cause must be provided with an adequate spark arrestor.
Failure to follow these rules could result in fines up to $1,000. And if your fire gets out of your control, you are liable for the costs of fighting the fire and any damage the fire may cause. That should be enough to keep most people operating within the rules. But if it is not, West Virginians have a painfully recent reminder that the cost of fighting these wildfires can include the lives of the heroic men and women willing to get that job done.
“Autumn’s vibrant hues bring joy, but they also signal the start of our fall fire season. We are asking everyone to please help us safeguard our forests from the threat of wildfire by following burning laws,” said Jeremy Jones, State Forester and Director of the West Virginia Division of Forestry.
Be smart and responsible about your outdoor fires. Enjoy all this season has to offer, and make sure your actions are part of the prevention rather than part of the problem.