Charleston Gazette-Mail. December 20, 2023.
Editorial: Has anti-woke gone up in smoke?
As national culture-war politics trickle down to the state level more and more, it’s not surprising to hear West Virginia lawmakers, and even local officials, parroting a national narrative.
Around the time of the 2018 election, West Virginia GOP leaders and officials were tossing the word “socialism” around in a very elastic way, using it to encompass anything that didn’t fit with their own views.
Over the past couple of years, “woke” has become the buzzword to define anyone who doesn’t want an evangelical theocratic government that decides everything from whom one can love and what beliefs one can follow down to what books go on library shelves and what beer companies are patriotic enough to patronize.
West Virginia Republicans have used “woke” to describe many things, but toss out the word most consistently as it pertains to the energy sector.
State treasurer and congressional candidate Riley Moore has accused energy companies that invest in energy sources other than fossil fuels as “woke,” even though most of those companies still invest heavily in coal and natural gas.
State Sen. Rupie Phillips, R-Logan, an unapologetically shameless coal industry shill, protested against an investment in a new manufacturing operation that will make high-capacity energy storage batteries and create hundreds of good jobs for West Virginians. Phillips called the state’s investment, made up of taxpayer dollars, “coal money that we’re giving to a woke company.” (There’s been plenty of space devoted to everything wrong with that statement.)
But there are signs that the war against woke is fading. Just listening to anything vaguely political will demonstrate a downward trend in the use of the word. There could be numerous reasons behind this, but at least two exist that definitely had an impact.
The first is that going anti-woke hasn’t really produced results. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has taken a beating from his spat with Disney, costing his state jobs and taxes in the form of a new office facility the company shelved, not to mention the disaster of trying to revoke special zoning and tax laws for the company, which shifted the burden to state residents.
Anti-woke hasn’t proved much of a winning political strategy either, at least at the national level. Again, DeSantis is the poster child (or perhaps whipping boy) here. He thought campaigning against wokeness could boost his presidential chances, but it just hasn’t panned out. Sure, there are other reasons DeSantis hasn’t emerged as the Republican candidate that could give the GOP Trump-like rage without being Trump, but going all in on fighting “the woke mind virus” hasn’t done him any favors. And there are signs DeSantis has picked up on this.
The Huffpost noted that, during a recent CNN town hall, DeSantis, the self-styled anti-woke candidate, completely dropped the word from his vocabulary. He didn’t say it at all.
So, why isn’t it working politically? As the Huffpost reported, one really only need look at the words of former president Donald Trump, himself, who, at a rally a few months back, said, “I don’t like the term ‘woke’ because I hear, ‘Woke, woke, woke.’ It’s just a term they use, half the people can’t even define it, they don’t know what it is.”
If Trump has grasped the obvious, it’s fair to reason that most others have, too.
So, five years ago it was “socialism” (which still gets a shout-out or two these days) and, today, it’s “woke.” What will the new catchall word be? Only time will tell. But bear in mind, when these words get tossed out, most of the people using them have no idea what they actually mean.
The Herald-Dispatch. December 14, 2023.
Editorial: DHHR re-organization accomplishes … what, exactly?
It’s close to impossible to kill a bureaucracy, and it’s almost as difficult to change one. Members of the West Virginia Legislature received a reminder of that fact this week when they heard about progress on how the state Department of Health and Human Resources is dividing into three separate agencies in accordance with a legislative mandate.
Maybe that should be phrased as how management of the DHHR is getting around that mandate.
As reported by HD Media’s Roger Adkins, the Legislature mandated splitting the DHHR into three separate agencies — the Department of Health, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Health Facilities — after concerns over problems ranging from transparency and financial management to longstanding issues within the state’s child welfare system.
The Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Resources Accountability on Monday heard a status update on the agency’s division from interim DHHR Secretary Dr. Sherri Young. After the Jan. 1 split, Young will lead the Department of Health.
The plan to divide the DHHR includes creating the Office of Shared Administration to work with all three of the new departments. The office will include the Office of Finance, the Office of Human Resources Management, the Office of Constituents, the Office of Communications, the Office of Operations, the Office of Information Services, and a Liaison to Boards and Commissions, each branching into the three new agencies in varying ways.
The DHHR’s administration could not be decentralized without putting each of the new departments at a disadvantage, Young told the committee.
Delegate Amy Summers, R-Taylor, asked, “So is it any different from what we currently do or is it exactly the same?”
Young replied, “It’s very similar.”
The split is less than three weeks away. It’s difficult to believe that no one in either the Legislature or the Governor’s Office knew of this plan to counter the Legislature’s order to divide DHHR into three agencies.
The DHHR is the state’s largest agency. It has a $7.5 billion budget and nearly 5,000 full-time employees. Its size makes it difficult to manage, and that has brought about scores of problems in providing the services it is supposed to provide to West Virginians. Dividing the agency was to allow managers to focus more on specific services. Sharing the services in the various high-level offices defeats that purpose.
The legislative session begins Jan. 10. If this plan to divide the DHHR into three agencies with shared management isn’t what the Legislature intended, then legislators need to step in and make their intentions clear. If their intent was to do something that looked like taking action but, as Young said, end up with something nearly identical to what the state had before, then they will take no action.
What happens or doesn’t happen during the session will reveal how serious legislators and the governor are about solving DHHR’s longstanding problems.
The Intelligencer. December 18, 2023.
Editorial: New Ideas Can Help West Virginia Shine
Politicians may have at one time believed “the sun doesn’t always shine in West Virginia,” but Wayne County is ready to prove the sun shines enough to provide electricity for an entire school district.
West Virginian solar installer and developer Solar Holler and Wayne County schools are taking advantage of coal community investments through the Inflation Reduction Act to build what is being called the largest single demonstration of solar powered renewable electricity in an Appalachian public school.
“This type of investment in rural America to create jobs, make our country more energy secure and lower electric costs is exactly what the IRA was designed to do,” said U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.
Wayne County Schools Superintendent Todd Alexander is eager to see the potential for the project to better his school system all around. He said the financial impact of the project will be enough to fund salaries for three additional teachers for the duration of their careers.
What a wonderful possibility for those affected communities.
“It’s the heart of coal country, where our state’s proud history of energy production is rooted,” said Dan Conant, Solar Holler Founder and CEO. “It’s literally the community that’s helped build our business, so we’re really grateful for the opportunity to shine a light on what solar can do for public institutions and education systems right here in Southern West Virginia.”
Perhaps the project will do something to change the narrative to which too many politicians continue to cling, as well. Open-mindedness about the expansion and diversification of our economy will be essential if we are to both thrive and shine.