West Virginia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register on Sen. Joe Manchin’s decision not to run for governor next year:
West Virginians got good news this week: U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin will remain in Washington. He revealed Tuesday that he has decided not to run for governor next year.
For months, Manchin, a Democrat, had been considering a campaign for governor. In all likelihood, at least for now, his opponent would have been incumbent Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican.
Public opinion polls indicated such a race would have been a close one — though one released a few days ago had Manchin supported by 49% of respondents, compared to Justice’s 39% (12% were undecided).
Manchin has said he enjoyed being governor, a tenure cut short by the death of former Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. Manchin won the post in a special election in 2010.
But in the end, his thoughts were more about where he could do the most good for Mountain State residents than about the potential to win a gubernatorial race, Manchin said. His announcement put it succinctly: “I have always said that ‘public service is not self-service.’ So, when considering whether to run for governor, I couldn’t focus just on which job I enjoyed the most, but on where I could be the most effective for the Mountain State.”
Manchin’s effectiveness in the Senate has been out of proportion to his seniority. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., named Manchin to his leadership team.
And, the senator from West Virginia serves on important committees — including the all-important Appropriations panel. He is ranking member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and serves on the Veterans’ Affairs and Armed Services panels.
In addition, Manchin serves on important subcommittees. One is the cybersecurity arm of Armed Services Committee, where he is one of just nine members.
A substantial part of the reason why Manchin has been effective for our state is that he represents the thinking of many West Virginians. That is, he is not part of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Rather, Manchin is a pragmatist, voting on how issues affect our state rather than by party allegiance.
Manchin’s decision was right for West Virginians, then. He deserves praise for remaining in his post, fighting for the Mountain State in Washington rather than engaging in a battle for governor.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail on possible conflicts of interest with private businesses and Gov. Jim Justice:
It’s been a common thread in recent reports and commentary that West Virginia was never prepared for someone like Gov. Jim Justice.
State framers and those who crafted the West Virginia Ethics Act and formed the Ethics Commission could never have envisioned a billionaire with more than 130 companies holding the state’s highest office, not releasing tax returns and not placing those multiple potential conflicts of interest in a blind trust or writing a check for $1 million from the governor’s inaugural committee to a resort that same governor owns.
Gov. Justice has been in office for nearly three years and has been busily converting West Virginia into his fiefdom, where the only people he has to answer to are those he appoints. He may well win another term.
So now is a good time to get used to the idea of someone like that running the state.
It’s not like West Virginia’s gubernatorial record was spotless before. Many previous governors, be they Democrat or Republican (Justice has been both in one term), surely profited from business and governmental agendas aligning. West Virginians hardened by this state’s political history would be forgiven for being alarmed if there weren’t some level of rather obvious quid-pro-quo going on.
Still, Gov. Justice has ushered in a new age of brashness and, frankly, confusion. With the multitude of companies the Justice family controls, most of those in the energy sector, getting any sort of handle on the level of conflict is a daunting task. In fact, it might be more difficult to pinpoint where state interests and Justice’s business interests don’t intersect. That doesn’t mean it should just be left alone.
Of course, the glaring exception to all of this is The Greenbrier, the state’s No. 1 luxury resort. Just this week, the resort hosted the annual West Virginia Chamber of Commerce business summit, as it has for many years. Do West Virginians know how many politicians, business owners and corporate lobbyists rub elbows at that thing? Do West Virginians care that this is surely making money for the Justice family, and that it might be viewed as a way to curry political favor? They should.
There’s also the ethical quandary of The Greenbrier and state spending. Gov. Justice rightly asked out of any state sponsorship of the PGA tournament at the resort, but The Greenbrier is featured heavily in state tourism advertisements and promotions, funded by tax dollars.
There are some ways to at least try to fix these things. As veteran Gazette-Mail statehouse reporter Phil Kabler mentioned in a recent column, giving the Ethics Commission the ability to launch its own investigations, along with the proper funding to retain the level of staffing and resources to conduct them, would be a good start.
That’s not something Gov. Justice is likely to support, but it needs to happen, and soon. Because, in the end, this isn’t about Jim Justice, but the floodgates he’s opened. Political norms across levels of state government are being warped, and they won’t course correct without some oversight.
West Virginia needs to hold its state officials and its Legislature accountable, so that government can function properly long after Justice, and others who might follow his lead, are gone.
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel on meetings across West Virginia to address affordability and access to oral health care:
We’ve all heard the old “jokes” told mostly by those from outside West Virginia about the condition of our teeth. Nasty as they might have been, there was a grain of truth to them in terms of the need for better oral health for many families in our state. Progress has been made, but room for improvement remains.
That is where the West Virginia Oral Health Coalition comes in. Last week it held a stakeholder meeting here in Parkersburg to hear ideas for the group’s next State Oral Health Plan. Meetings will continue around the state as the group pursues its mission of “Healthy Smiles for All.” That’s a lofty goal in a state where too many families are struggling with economic worries, addiction, poor health and limited access to healthcare.
Even for families who have fared better in the economic resurgence that wasn’t, “extras” like dental insurance are an easy thing to slice from the budget when times are (and have been) tough.
Oral Health Plans put together for 2010 to 2015 and 2016 to 2020 focused on issues like community water fluoridation and dental sealant programs for school-aged kids. How about we add affordability and access to the list?
A family that cannot afford to take everyone to the dentist, maybe doesn’t have a means of transportation, or does not live anywhere near a dentist’s office is going to have enough other worries that proper oral healthcare will fall by the wayside — and many of them live in areas where they do not draw from a municipal water source that might be fluoridated.
Surely these concerns will come up during the meetings being held statewide. Let us hope the State Oral Health Plan 2020-25 includes measures to address them.