West Virginia editorial roundup
Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Parkersburg News and Sentinel on a lawsuit over where the governor lives:
West Virginia’s state Constitution states that the governor is supposed to live in the capital city, Charleston. Gov. Jim Justice lives in Lewisburg and has no plan to move.
Justice insists he is in touch with state government adequately and does not need to live in the governor’s mansion.
But this summer, House of Delegates member Isaac Sponaugle, D-Pendleton, filed a lawsuit over the issue. He says Justice should be compelled to live in Charleston.
Last week, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Charles King dismissed the lawsuit — not on its merits or lack thereof, but because of a technicality. Sponaugle did not comply with state law requiring that Justice be notified of the lawsuit at least 30 days before it was filed.
Sponaugle should refile the action. It is a matter that needs to be decided in court because it has ramifications far beyond Justice and his current term in office.
West Virginia’s Constitution states the governor and five other executive branch officers “shall reside at the seat of government during their terms of office .”
Either the state constitution means what its wording says, or not. And either the courts will require adherence to the constitution, or they will not.
If not, the possibilities for mischief in all three branches of state government are endless.
Sponaugle should ensure the notification requirement is met, then try again.
The Register-Herald of Beckley on economic data:
... As lawmakers prepare the legislative agenda for 2019, we would advise that they pay less attention to the economic bluster of certain - but not all - Republican Party leaders, the governor and the state’s Chamber of Commerce and lend an ear to cries for help out here in the real world, out here where there has been a growing and troubling economic trend that seems to have been buried beneath the hype that says our state’s economy is doing wonderfully well.
According to Census data released this past week, more West Virginians lived in poverty in 2017 than in 2016. And that just doesn’t jibe with the messaging from the Capitol.
We know that the powers that be are excited about the most recent data set - those monthly numbers that show state revenue collections ahead of budget. Reports say personal income tax collections are up. Consumer sales are powering ahead. Construction work, brought to you by the Roads to Prosperity program, is strong.
Taken at face value, employment numbers, too, offer optimism. The state’s jobless rate is 5.3 percent and there were 5,000 more jobs this past year than the year prior.
How is it then that an estimated 336,301 West Virginians were living in poverty in 2017? That equates to a 19.1 percent poverty rate - 20 percent here in the Beckley Metro reporting area. By comparison, the U.S. poverty rate was 12.7 percent.
We would cast a suspicious eye at anyone who claimed the state has broken through economically, especially since the West Virginia poverty rate has not declined since the end of the Great Recession.
Especially heartbreaking is this: West Virginia’s child poverty rate was 25.5 percent in 2017 - a rate on the rise. In real numbers, an estimated 91,734 children lived in poverty in 2017, the fourth highest child poverty rate among the 50 states.
We think Sean O’Leary with the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy has it right: “The Census data shows the reality and economic hardships of everyday West Virginians are being ignored as state policymakers claim a West Virginia economic turnaround. West Virginia’s economic growth since the Great Recession has not been balanced, and the average West Virginian family is not better off.”
Poverty is pernicious and a troublesome condition to shake. Its grinding societal effects are generational and remain a more serious problem for the state’s black population (a 31.7 percent rate in 2017) and women (20.9 percent rate).
We know the way out is through education but we will never find that road if we don’t first accept the fact that our economic malaise reaches beyond the freshest set of sterile state data that does not attempt to measure just how conditions are playing out here on the ground.
We hope that our elected officials drill down on those data sets and reveal an honest story of our economy. Without that, we will not be able to devise strategies - legislative and otherwise - to address our economic ills.
The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register on obesity:
Here in West Virginia, our local and state governments seem to jump through most of the hoops regarding how well healthy eating habits are encouraged and assisted.
Healthy food financing initiatives? Check.
Physical education at all public school levels? Check.
Requirements for early childhood education facilities to limit the time youngsters spend in front of computer screens? Check.
The list goes on, to a total of 24 criteria checked by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a respected organization conducting health research. West Virginia was positive in 18 of the categories.
Yet our state has the highest level of adult obesity in the nation, according to the foundation. Here, 38.1 percent of adults are obese. That compares to 22.6 percent in Colorado, which had the best showing in a recent report.
For more details on the study, visit the foundation’s website: stateofobesity.org.
Obesity is far more than an appearance concern. People who are overweight suffer from a variety of health challenges that could be lessened by losing a few pounds.
Among troubling aspects of the study is that in both our states, adult obesity is growing worse. Just 10 years ago, the percentage of obese West Virginians was a full 7 points lower. In Ohio, it was 5.2 points lower.
Some Americans rely on government to solve our problems. Yet the foundation study indicates that while actions such as increasing access to healthy foods and encouraging exercise can help, they are far from a panacea.
Again, West Virginia is involved in 18 of the 24 government initiatives checked by the foundation — but we have the worst obesity problem in the nation. What to do about it?
Clearly, do not look to your city building, county commission, state or federal government to slim us down. Healthy eating and exercising are personal behaviors. They can be encouraged, but not mandated, by the government.
Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, then, is up to us as individuals. The answer to the problem can be found by looking down at your dinner plate and in the closet at those underused tennis shoes.