West Virginia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Charleston Gazette on President Donald Trump visiting Huntington:
The last time Donald Trump visited West Virginia, way back in late August, media reports, including an article from The New York Times, stated that, as Air Force One left Charleston, the commander in chief bemoaned the empty seats in the Charleston Civic Center. He also thought the crowd was flat. It was Trump’s sixth visit to West Virginia since becoming president. He’ll visit for an eighth time (he stopped in Wheeling in September) in Huntington on Friday.
In previous visits, the president didn’t come to talk about the opioid crisis or the devastating resurgence of black lung disease. Lately, he’s come to stump for Patrick Morrisey’s Senate bid and Carol Miller’s loud-on-ads, soft-on-details run for the House of Representatives.
This is one of Trump’s last bastions of stalwart support. He carried nearly 70 percent of the vote here in 2016. He was able to persuade the governor to flip parties. People always turn out in droves wearing red caps and waving flags when Trump is in West Virginia.
It’s been a place where a president who didn’t win the popular vote, lies at a clip that a million fifth-graders with bad report cards couldn’t match and encourages extreme divisiveness can let loose and feel the love after the grind of executive time and making himself an international laughing stock at every opportunity.
It’s a place to assuage his fragile ego. Even in one of Morrisey’s TV ads, Trump proclaims “A vote for Morrisey is a vote for me” in a truncated quote that drives home the point that for Trump, it’s all about Trump.
Many of these visits have been marred by bizarre statements and outright lies. Recall the strange speech the president gave to a crowd of 40,000 Boy Scouts in Fayette County that was so odd, untruthful and charged with vitriolic political rhetoric that the Scouts actually issued an apology.
Then there was that day in Charleston, Aug. 21. Why was that event, in the president’s own vernacular, so “low energy?”
Maybe because that day, Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort, was found guilty of federal financial crimes, and Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, entered a guilty plea to eight federal crimes including a payoff of a porn star who had allegedly had an affair with the president.
But that couldn’t be the reason behind this self-perceived (not a word often associated with this president) flop in Charleston, could it?
For once, maybe the president was right. He wasn’t having a bad day, the crowd was off.
Maybe it’s because, after so many visits to one state, the act is old. “Donald Trump is coming to West Virginia” hardly moves the needle anymore. Sure, West Virginia is still the heart of Trump’s support, and people will always turn out to see him. But if you’ve been in a mob of folks yelling “Lock her up!” once or twice, it might as well be a hundred times, right?
At this point, it might be better to announce the months in which he or Vice President Mike Pence aren’t stopping by.
Friday will be different. There’s an election next week, and it’s an important one. It might take away or solidify the GOP majority the president has been able to at least use to slash taxes for the rich and undermine health care coverage for those who need it.
Then again, Trump bumbled with his divisive talk while bombs are being mailed to his political foes and synagogues are being shot up. His popularity has taken another dip.
So it’s back to West Virginia to fire up the base. And fired up they’ll probably be. But if they’re not, it’s because they’ve seen this act before.
The Intelligencer Wheeling News-Register on the death of retired judge Arthur Recht:
When Arthur Recht passed away Sunday, it was a loss not just for Wheeling and the Northern Panhandle, but for our state as a whole.
Recht had an incredible record of public service as a circuit judge and state Supreme Court justice. His dedication and ability were such that even in retirement as a senior status judge, he was called upon repeatedly to serve temporarily on various cases. Supreme Court justices relied upon him to serve in their stead when they were unable to handle certain cases.
His name will endure both in the judiciary and in public education for his authorship in 1982 of what is known as “the Recht Decision.” He spent years crafting that mandate for better schools.
He stuck with it, monitoring school reform progress until he relinquished control in 2003. It is no exaggeration to say that his dedication made West Virginia public schools — and thus our state — better in important, lasting ways.
Recht was honored many times with some of the highest awards his profession — and leaders of our state — could bestow. He deserved them all, and more
State Supreme Court Chief Justice Margaret Workman summed him up: “One of West Virginia’s legal giants has passed,” she said.
Beyond any shadow of doubt, she was right.
Bluefield Daily Telegraph on the closing of the all-terrain vehicle Pocahontas Trail system:
It was an October surprise that no one saw coming. Area leaders, business owners and ATV tourists were all blindsided by last week’s surprise announcement of a looming “temporary closure” of the popular Pocahontas Trail system in Mercer County.
The announcement created a lot of confusion with many asking why the popular Hatfield-McCoy Trail system would be closing in Mercer County Dec. 3. Complicating matters was the lack of prior notice given to local officials and business owners who provide lodging and other services to the trail riders.
Here is what we know. A coal company has started a mining operation on land near the trail system at Windmill Gap. The mining company, which is based in New York, leased the land from Pocahontas Land Company — the owner of the property where the trails are now located — to actively mine coal in this large-scale operation.
Some riders of the Hatfield-McCoy trail are apparently veering off course, traveling along the so-called “outlaw trails” — or trails that are not a part of the official Hatfield-McCoy system — bringing them in close proximity to the coal mining operation. This created some obvious safety concerns.
John Fekete, assistant director of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail System, is calling the shutdown a “temporary closure” of the ATV system in Mercer County. Fekete says he has been working closely with officials with Pocahontas Land to “shift” the trails to another location.
Fekete emphasizes that coal and land companies do not get paid to allow ATV usage on their properties. “Anything can happen — anytime, anywhere,” Fekete told the Daily Telegraph last week. “There is no guarantee a trail is going to be there tomorrow.”
Still Fekete and Jeff Lusk, executive director of the Hatfield-McCoy Trail Authority, say they are working to have a new ATV trail route open in Mercer County in 90 days.
And the trail authority seems to be trying to make good on that promise. Just last week, officials were on the ground in Mercer County mapping out plans for a new trail. But with the looming onset of winter, and the fact that it normally takes officials about a year to build new trails, 90 days might be an unrealistic goal. But we would love to see the new trail finished by next spring if at all possible.
Gene Buckner, president of the Mercer County Commission, says the proposed new trail will be between 50 and 70 miles or longer compared to the 40-mile length of the existing Pocahontas Trail. It will also connect with McDowell County. The existing trailhead in Bramwell and welcome center on Coaldale Mountain will remain open even after the temporary trail closure begins on Dec. 6.
The recent news is troubling. Our region has gone to great lengths in past years to promote ATV tourism and to accommodate all of the ATV traffic in Mercer County. But it is our hope that this setback is only temporary.
We also believe that it is important for the trail authority to send a clear message to those ATV tourists across the country who are riding the Hatfield-McCoy system that Mercer County — and all of the supporting ATV lodges, campgrounds and related facilities — are still open and ready to serve off-road enthusiasts.