Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Charleston Gazette-Mail on Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice winning reelection:
It appears Republican incumbent Gov. Jim Justice will be serving another term.
To earn what he’s received from the voters, there are some things the governor needs to accomplish over the next four years.
For starters, he needs to show up and do the work. Over the past several months, as a pandemic gripped the nation, it’s been easy to forget how little Gov. Justice actually committed to the top office in the state of West Virginia. He refuses to live in the capital city, despite a state constitutional requirement. He continues to coach a high school girls basketball team, because that’s just as important, if not more, to him than running a state.
Gov. Justice can say it doesn’t matter, but two teacher strikes in back-to-back years showed him missing, then out of the loop, out of his depth and woefully out of touch with the situation once he intervened.
He’s also not done a good job of following through on major policy initiatives he announces at the beginning of legislative sessions. The governor argues he’s a successful businessman who can get things done, but delegating his day-to-day responsibilities to advisers and attorneys has not been a winning formula.
Everyone, including us, was impressed with how Justice stepped up and showed his true leadership capability in the early months of the pandemic. That was thanks, in no small part, to his obligation to be present and involved. As he spaced out briefings and began commuting every other day again, the situation declined and messaging began to oscillate, leading to confusion and doubt. He also left some crucial decisions regarding the pandemic to linger over a weekend, rather than taking more proactive measures.
No matter how he rates his capabilities, Justice needs to accept that being governor is a full-time job.
Justice also needs to be more transparent about federal COVID-19 relief funds, and he should call a special session of the Legislature before the end of the year to allow state legislators a look at the situation and a chance to have input on how that money could be best used for their constituents. Gov. Justice and hand-picked advisers should not be the only ones deciding the disbursement of $1.26 billion in funds.
Infrastructure remains a problem, whether talking roads, water or internet access. Broadband is a vital issue, as more and more children have to learn from home and more residents seek health care through telemedicine. Reliable and affordable broadband also is key for businesses large and small.
This is a universal West Virginia problem. Just as there are many rural areas that lack access, there are dead spots and pockets where service frequently goes out even in Charleston. That has to be addressed in a meaningful and organized manner. Whether it’s a committee or a coalition or a task force, something has to be done.
And the governor can’t just stop when part of the solution inevitably involves spending money. Grants and loans can help, but none of West Virginia’s infrastructure problems can be solved without some level of significant state spending.
The Journal on COVID-19 tests:
COVID-19 testing is more than a matter of individuals safeguarding their own health and that of their families. It has become an important tool in limiting the disease’s spread.
Recognizing that, members of Congress included an important testing provision in the CARES Act approved earlier this year. It is that people can obtain COVID-19 tests without having to pay out of their own pockets.
Leave it to the federal bureaucracy — the swamp, if you prefer — to strangle a prudent initiative with red tape.
U.S. Reps. David McKinley, R-W.Va., and Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., are leading a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers determined to ensure that Americans can get COVID-19 testing without paying for it out of our own pockets. Their action is necessary because “recent changes have created confusion regarding coverage requirements for COVID-19 testing,” according to McKinley.
It seems that a “guidance” document involving three federal agencies has resulted in an increase in insurance company denials of coverage for coronavirus tests. Some people seeking them are being told they will have to pay at least part of the cost out of their own pockets.
Given the price tag for a COVID-19 test — reportedly $350 or more — that is a real barrier for many people. It is a reason for them to decide against being tested.
That, in turn, makes it more difficult for public health agencies to control the disease.
McKinley, Pascrell and 52 other lawmakers are seeking action by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to “clarify” the government’s position on testing. Again, it is that no one should have to pay out of their own pocket to learn whether they have COVID-19.
Azar should comply with the request immediately. At the same time, he may want to consider whether the bureaucrat(s) responsible for the confusing “guidance” ought to be replaced.
The Herald-Dispatch on planned renovations for a street in West Virginia:
Hal Greer Boulevard is one of the major entry points to the city of Huntington, and its importance has grown along with that of Cabell Huntington Hospital and Marshall University.
The street as it is now was designed to move traffic in and out of Huntington, and it has done that job reasonably well over the years. The problem has been that Hal Greer Boulevard can be a problem for pedestrians and bicyclists. But that is about to change.
Last week, local officials said work is imminent on correcting many of the problems the street has, in particular the part from the railroad underpass south toward Meadows Elementary.
Engineering work should be completed by spring 2021 and construction is slated to begin in summer 2021, said Chris Chiles, executive director of the KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission.
The plan calls for realigning portions of the roadway, widening sidewalks, installing of new lighting, reconfiguring traffic signals, eliminating two traffic signals, building a pedestrian crossing near Cabell Huntington Hospital and adding a two-way cycle track, which will be protected from traffic by additional parallel parking.
“The Corridor Management Plan is essential to the future development and resiliency of our region,” said Chris Chiles, executive director of the KYOVA Interstate Planning Commission.
Chiles said the plan will make it safer for all users of the corridor, including pedestrians and bicyclists. He said it also addresses stormwater issues.
“We expect it to be completed sometime in the fall to winter of 2022,” he said.
The estimated cost of the project for engineering, design and construction is $9.93 million. More than 80% of the cost will come from KYOVA through federal Surface Transportation Block Grant Program funds, according to Chiles. The remaining matching funds will come from the city of Huntington, he said.
Tonia Kay Page, the city councilwoman for the Fairfield area in District 5, said there were three priorities for the community.
“The safety of our children crossing the street was No. 1,” she said. “They are supposed to be widening the sidewalks, they are supposed to redo the traffic lights, and they are also supposed to put better lighting in our area because this is a main road. Sometimes when you are coming in, it’s hard to even see where you are at. Those were the three main things we looked at, and now that they are getting done we are happy because it will be safer to walk up and down 16th Street.”
Mayor Steve Williams summed it up well in his comments Wednesday.
“It is only fitting that Hal Greer Boulevard, which is the main artery to downtown Huntington and Marshall University, receive needed improvements to enable and support the coming Fairfield community revitalization so that it is safer for all users.”
Roads are for more than traffic. They are for the well being of all members of the community. Progress on the Hal Greer corridor improvement plan is a good step forward for the entire city.