West Virginia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Dominion Post says President Donald Trump’s remarks on the opioid crisis go beyond hyperbole:
President Trump is known to dabble in political hyperbole.
Matter of fact, everyone dabbles in hyperbole — an obvious and intentional exaggeration to get your point across. Think of figures of speech, like it’s raining cats and dogs or he’s older than the hills and others that are not appropriate here.
Politicians are undoubtedly the masters of hyperbole, but it’s important to qualify their statements as that. To do so you need only study their context, tone, intent, the audience and then decide if their meant to be taken literally.
That’s not all that difficult to do. The hard part is when someone falsely claims something out of sheer ignorance or to manipulate support.
Last week, the president told a rally of Tennessee Republicans that opioid numbers were “way down.”
He also said, “We got $6 billion for opioids and (are) getting rid of the scourge that’s taking over our country. We’re getting the word out — bad. Bad stuff. You go to the hospital, you have a broken arm, you come out, you’re a drug addict with this crap.
“It’s way down. We’re doing a good job with it. But we got $6 billion to help us with opioid.”
First of all, it’s uncertain what numbers he was talking about, but we’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. Opioid prescriptions are down. According to data in an April study, prescriptions for opioid prescriptions fell almost 9 percent in 2017, the largest drop in 25 years.
The total dosage of opioid prescriptions filled declined by 12 percent for a host of reasons, too.
However, for all opioids, including illegal and prescriptions drugs, the number of fatal overdoses were up 15 percent between 2016-’17.
One other bright spot, if you can call it that, is that though the death toll continues to climb, it is rising at a slower rate than last year.
Emergency room visits for overdoses of opioids rose 30 percent from July 2016 to September 2017. And God knows how many people are not one of these statistics because they received an overdose prevention drug.
As for that $6 billion that Congress green-lighted at the end of March we doubt those funds are gushing into programs, yet. Not to mention that total amount is allocated over a two-year period.
Rallying a party’s faithful with political hyperbole is nothing new. Leaders of both major parties do so regularly.
But Trump’s remarks, alluding to unfounded achievements, were merely hyping false hope.
The Herald-Dispatch says the lag in flood recovery is an embarrassment:
The June 2016 floods in West Virginia left thousands of people’s homes in disarray and killed about two dozen residents. State officials acted quickly to seek federal help to recover from the disaster, and money was allocated.
Now, nearly two years later, the program run by state government to help those people whose property was harmed by the flood appears to be in great disarray, also. In this case, though, there’s no flood waters to blame.
As of yet, there is no clear answer as to what went wrong and, more importantly, when a full stream of help will be on the way to help those trying to put their lives back in order. What is known is that about $150 million in federal money was placed in the control of an operation called RISE West Virginia to funnel to eligible flood victims. But as of about two months ago, only about $1.14 million of that money had been spent.
Naturally, those who had applied for help are wondering what the hold-up is. And so are legislative leaders and some members of the Justice administration. As a result, investigations are being conducted or about to start.
One aspect of the delay is that Gov. Jim Justice ordered an interruption in the program at the end of January over concerns that a contract in the program was not executed properly. That contract, worth $17 million, was for consulting services from Horne LLP, a firm headquartered in Mississippi that assists states in grant-funded recovery efforts, specifically through the HUD Community Development Block Grant program used by RISE, according to a report by the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Proper state procurement procedures were not followed in awarding that contract, officials said. Among the questions raised but not answered is why the contract, which was signed in March 2017, was back dated to December 2016.
The pause ordered by Justice was lifted last week.
Even before the governor halted the program temporarily, there already were questions about the effectiveness of the flood recovery effort. Many people expecting help wondered when it would arrive. Local emergency management officials also inquired about delays, and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito’s office posed an inquiry about a women whose application for aid was turned down with no reason given.
Complaints about lack of sufficient reporting on the RISE program from the designated officials also have surfaced. And the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provided the federal funding, has inquired about delays.
As you might expect, there has been finger-pointing about what has gone wrong, and clearly any legal and legislative investigations should proceed with the public receiving answers about the findings. With so much money at stake, delays in delivering it to the people who need it, and questions about a contract, many will wonder if anything illegal has occurred. If so, those responsible should be held accountable.
However, the top priority at this point should be on correcting the issues so that the RISE program can begin doing what it should: Giving people the assistance they need to restore their lives.
The Charleston Daily Mail says short-term disasters shouldn’t turn into long-term tragedies:
Barrels of ink and reams of newsprint have been expended on the troubles related to West Virginia’s recovery from the June 2016 flood, as have hours of air time on broadcast outlets.
Delays and other problems with the RISE West Virginia program have dominated the news the past two weeks, but it wasn’t just that state-run program whose delayed and inadequate response has been inexcusable.
Folks in Richwood and elsewhere in Nicholas County have just recently decided on new schools to replace their flood-damaged ones after lengthy argument among supporters of one school or another, difficulty with the state and county boards of education, and a power struggle between Richwood city council and mayor-or-not Bob Baber.
In Kanawha County, delays in decisions on the replacement of Herbert Hoover High School has students in the Clendenin area in limbo and the educational process interrupted.
Now is time — past time actually — for the Toby Keith solution: “A little less talk and a lot more action.”
Fortunately, that may be what’s happening with the RISE West Virginia program now. On Monday, Gov. Jim Justice transferred responsibility of that $150 million program to help homeowners rebuild under leadership of the West Virginia National Guard and adjutant general Maj. Gen. James Hoyer.
No need to rehash the many delays and places things went wrong and who may or may not have been responsible here, but the bigger and thornier question is: What is it about the decision-making process at the local, county and state level in West Virginia that so often causes horrific incidents like a major flood to become long, drawn-out crises?
Many West Virginia families suffered a tragedy, losing their homes, businesses or worse, on June 23, 2016. Scores of church groups, volunteers and other businesses, including some owned and operated by then private citizen Jim Justice, came to the flood victims’ aid in the immediate aftermath.
That type of aid is supposed to be temporary, long enough for people to get back into their homes, get back to work and return to normal lives. Unfortunately, the government’s flood recovery is another tragedy, and lawmakers, leaders and citizens must figure out how to work better to provide real results so natural disasters in West Virginia don’t continue on ad nauseam as government-made tragedies.
Short-term disasters shouldn’t morph into long-term tragedies.