West Virginia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Charleston Gazette on the effect of President Donald Trump’s trade positions:
Late last week, Ford Motor Co. abandoned plans to build the Focus in China and import it to the United States, thanks to President Trump’s new 25 percent tariff.
This is a win for American manufacturing, right?
The Wall Street Journal says it shows American manufacturers are starting to make decisions based on this policy, rather than waiting to see if it changes.
Ford will sell off the current stock of cars and shift toward more SUV’s which are more popular, the Journal said. The expected demand for the new version of the vehicle is too small to warrant making them here.
Another example that the president’s trade positions are having an effect also occurred last week when the United States and Mexico agreed to some terms in the re-negotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, as mentioned last week.
In Sunday’s Gazette-Mail, Jared Bernstein, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and former chief economist to Vice President Joe Biden, concluded that the proposal under discussion is better than the Trans-Pacific Partnership that was scrapped and would be good for both U.S. and Mexican workers. Talks with Canada were expected to continue this week.
Specifically, Bernstein praises an improved investor-dispute process outlined in the new proposal.
Under the 25-year-old NAFTA, disputes between investors in the member countries were resolved by a tribunal of three lawyers — not the court system that everyone else lives under. It was intended to protect investors from countries with legal systems considered inadequate, meaning Mexico.
But in 25 years, investors mostly sought to get around not Mexican courts, but U.S. and Canadian courts, thus avoiding legitimate environmental and health laws, and costing taxpayers in the process.
Meanwhile, Adam Posen writes in Foreign Affairs that the United States is paying a price for the tough trade tariff talk and action. Anti-globalization talk is making the United States a less attractive place to do business. Posen writes: “This year, net inward investment into the United States by multinational corporations — both foreign and American — has fallen almost to zero, an early indicator of the damage being done by the Trump administration’s trade conflicts and its arbitrary bullying of companies and governments. This shift of corporate investment away from the United States will decrease long-term U.S. income growth, reduce the number of well-paid jobs available, and reinforce the ongoing shift of global commerce away from United States. That shift will subject the entire world economy to greater instability.”
The Herald-Dispatch of Huntington on a hepatitis A outbreak:
The outbreak of hepatitis A has caused considerable concern in the Tri-State over the last few months, as it should. About 1,000 cases have been reported in West Virginia, meaning the state has struggled with one of the largest reported outbreaks of the disease in U.S. history, according to Scientific American magazine.
More than half of those cases have required hospitalization, and two deaths linked to the disease have been reported by state agencies.
County health departments have mobilized in hard-hit counties, including Kanawha, Putnam and Cabell, and the state epidemiologist and additional staff from the state Department of Health and Human Resources were stationed at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department beginning in May. Kanawha County has had the most reported cases in the state, with more than 500.
Just last week, more help arrived to try to counter the outbreak.
Six national epidemiological experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are now stationed in West Virginia to help manage the region’s hepatitis A outbreak, the DHHR said last week. The experts from the CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention will provide technical assistance mostly in Kanawha and Putnam counties. The CDC will assist in data management and case investigations as health officials work to stem the spread of hepatitis A.
The CDC assistance was requested by the state, at the direction of Gov. Jim Justice. Whether a request was necessary to bring on board the CDC is unclear, but some may wonder why the federal agency didn’t get involved more quickly if the assistance is considered appropriate now. If the CDC staff can make a difference in quelling the outbreak, and we hope it can, their help would have been welcomed much sooner.
The prevalence of hepatitis A in the Mountain State, and in Kentucky, too, no doubt is in part linked to the opioid epidemic, which also has hit the region hard. Nearly 80 percent of the people who have contracted the disease in West Virginia have a history of illicit drug use, Gupta said.
That’s just another indication that efforts to combat illicit drug use should remain a top priority for authorities and health agencies at all levels of government. A concerted effort to contain and diminish the spread of hepatitis A — a likely byproduct of that drug use — also must continue unabated.
Members of the public can do their part, too. Hepatitis A is a viral disease of the liver and is spread from person to person by the “fecal-oral” route, often by inadequate hand-washing after using the toilet or changing diapers. Thorough hand-washing with soap and hot water after using the toilet and before handling food is the best precaution.
The Exponent Telegram of Clarksburg on the Home Rule program allowing municipalities to raise local taxes:
One of the many issues to be considered by the Legislature next winter will concern Home Rule, a pilot program that began more than a decade ago. It is set to expire at the end of this fiscal year and we feel, without question, it should be made permanent.
The Home Rule program started out with just four cities, including Bridgeport. In the intervening years, the program has expanded to cover 34 cities in West Virginia.
For a long time, municipalities could not do certain things such as raising local taxes or fees without permission of the Legislature. That lack of autonomy held back a lot of cities and, in effect, kept them under the thumb of state government.
But Home Rule has proved a valuable tool for cities and has allowed them to grow. Bridgeport Councilman Bob Greer wants the program to continue because it has led to such projects as the Indoor Sports and Recreation Complex, which would not have been possible without Home Rule.
“Clearly, the project that Bridgeport is doing on the Indoor Sports and Recreation Complex — that particular economic development, as well as community facility, wouldn’t happen (without Home Rule),” he said. “There was just never enough extra money to do that. Home Rule and the ability to adopt the sales tax allowed us to do that.”
Because Bridgeport was given the option of establishing a 1 percent sales tax, it has been able to move ahead with the $30 million sports complex.
Clarksburg, which became a Home Rule city in 2014, has also instituted a 1 percent sales tax and used the additional revenues to fund street and bridge projects and to add to the coffers of city pension funds.
“There are several infrastructure projects that would have been very difficult to take on or complete without the use of the 1 percent sales tax, like the Lowndes Hill repair project and the replacement of the Sycamore Street bridge,” Clarksburg City Manager Martin Howe said. “Without the sales and use tax, there is a very slim chance that we would have been able to do those major repair projects.”
That additional revenue was also put toward the spectacular renovation of the Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center.
Weston has also benefited from Home Rule, which has brought in millions of dollars for capital improvements.
Home Rule has allowed cities both big and small to raise funds for local projects. The tax revenues realized from the 1 percent increase in sales taxes has let local governments do the things that they feel necessary to boost their own communities.
“Instead of having the state Legislature or the state government telling the people of Bridgeport, Clarksburg or Shinnston what’s best in their communities, we have the ability for the people who we see every other week at City Council meetings to be able to identify and address problems,” Greer said.
We hope the Legislature has noticed the positive results of Home Rule and moves to make the program permanent. To let it expire would be a big step backward for many of the state’s cities and towns.
We’ll give Weston Mayor Julia Spelsberg the last word: “How could they possibly let that expire?” she said. “It has done so much good.”