- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:


April 4

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The Charleston Gazette on the various fine, taxes, penalties and debts owed by Gov. Jim Justice’s companies:

Resort owner and girls basketball coach, billionaire Gov. Jim Justice, is a calamity. His mining firms have a dismal record of unpaid fines, taxes, penalties and debts across several states.

This month, a federal judge approved two consent judgments requiring Justice’s Greenbrier resort and Old White Charities, the nonprofit that puts on The Greenbrier Classic PGA golf tournament, to pay two companies for services and equipment, as the Gazette-Mail’s Jake Zuckerman reported. Special Event Service and Rental, of Tennessee, said in federal court that The Greenbrier borrowed equipment that was damaged in the June 2016 flood. A federal judge approved a consent judgment requiring the resort and the nonprofit to pay almost $623,000 and more than $44,000 in interest to the company. Another order requires Old White Charities to pay Select Event Group Inc., of Maryland, almost $754,000 for equipment and services, rising to a total of $820,000 with interest and legal fees.

There is a $9.4 million judgment against one of the governor’s coal firms for a huge loan in Kentucky, court reporter Lacie Pierson revealed Monday.

Also, a claim for $950,000 was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Charleston against a Justice company, Kentucky Fuel Corp., for an alleged debt to an out-of-state firm.

Meanwhile, Albemarle County, Virginia, is threatening to auction nearly $24 million worth of Justice-owned land if he doesn’t pay $148,000 in delinquent taxes.

Last month, Kentucky authorities said Justice firms owe $2.9 million in overdue property taxes in several counties.

The West Virginia Tax Department says another Justice firm, Tams Management, owes a similar $2.9 million in the Mountain State. Hardly a month passes without a new debt accusation.

In 2016, federal records listed James C. Justice II as operator of 154 coal mines, preparation plants and other facilities in several states. In 2017, many of those properties were transferred to his son, James “Jay” Justice III, and daughter, Jill Justice, a physician. Currently, only 39 facilities are held by the governor. Nearly all the properties are dormant, in limbo.

Forbes magazine estimates Justice’s worth at $1.7 billion. Why can’t he catch up on his bills - especially property taxes that support public schools?

In Kentucky, as in West Virginia, property taxes fund important local services, such as sheriffs and health departments. Most property tax money goes to education, or at least it does when it is collected.

“West Virginia’s governor should be a better neighbor,” says an editorial from the Lexington Herald-Leader.

In Kentucky’s Knott County, West Virginia’s billionaire governor owes the people $1.92 million in delinquent property taxes. The county had an annual education budget of $30 million, until recent years, when tumbling coal property values cost it about $1 million a year. After cutting the budget, the school system is still trying to close a $100,000 budget shortfall, and turning to the state legislature for help.

The Herald-Leader notes that Gov. Justice changed his mind and supported a 5 percent pay raise for West Virginia teachers after a sixth-grader inspired him to think about “education as an investment.”

“Now if only a sixth-grader from Knott County could bump into the billionaire coal operator/resort owner and urge him to make good on the more than $1 million in delinquent taxes that one of Justice’s coal companies owes the struggling Eastern Kentucky school district,” the editorial says.

How embarrassing.

Online: https://www.wvgazettemail.com/


April 4

The Inter-Mountain on new food stamp requirements:

Handing out free food to anyone with income below a certain level, regardless of whether they are working or trying to find a job, makes no sense. It is what some refer to as a disincentive - a reward for not attempting to better oneself.

Yet for a few years, that is how we did things in West Virginia and, for that matter, in many other states.

Federal law requires that those receiving assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - food stamps - must be working, seeking work, engaged in community service or obtaining job training. Quite a few SNAP recipients, including those with children, older people and the disabled, are exempted.

But during the “Great Recession,” many states, including West Virginia, sought and were granted waivers from the work requirement. For a few years, virtually anyone meeting the SNAP income and asset guidelines could get food stamp assistance.

Things have changed. At the height of the recession, our state’s unemployment rate hit nearly 9 percent. It is 5.4 percent now. Though pockets of high joblessness remain, there is far more work available now than there was just a few years ago.

That prompted state legislators to reinstate the work requirement for SNAP recipients, effective Oct. 1. Gov. Jim Justice signed the measure into law last week.

Beginning this fall, able-bodied adults from 18-49 years of age and without dependents will have to be working, engaged in community service projects or receiving training to qualify for SNAP benefits.

Liberals went through the roof when the change - actually, just a reversion to commonly accepted practice of just a few years ago - was proposed.


Do the new/old rules discriminate against anyone? No.

Do they make life more difficult for poor parents with children? No.

Will they be a burden for older and/or disabled Mountain State residents? No, again.

The rules change boils down to just this:

If you are an adult West Virginian able to work and without dependents who rely on you being home, taxpayers will expect you to have a paying or volunteer job or get training to help you land one. There will be no food stamp benefits for those who choose not to work.

That may well be an incentive for some of them to inquire about those low-paying jobs they spurned in the past. It may be a path toward food stamps being a hand up rather than a handout.

If so, that could help get some West Virginians out of the vicious cycle of poverty - and that would be a good thing.

Online: http://www.theintermountain.com/


April 1

The Journal on a program to tackle opioid use among expectant mothers in an attempt to end generational addictions:

It’s no secret that opioid addiction is wreaking havoc across West Virginia and with many women using drugs while pregnant, victims are younger than ever.

The Journal has covered the efforts to help infants affected by Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome - dealing with opioid withdrawal after birth. As disturbing and heartbreaking as NAS is, the consequences of maternal opioid abuse go beyond withdrawal. Families can be torn apart, more health issues can emerge and those children can grow up with a higher chance of becoming addicts.

An addicted mother-to-be can be in a variety of circumstances and often needs help on multiple fronts - not just through medication - to effectively conquer her addiction.

Maternal Comprehensive Opioid Addiction Treatment, a new program launched by WVU Medicine at the Harpers Ferry Family Medical Center, is aiming to tackle the obstacles expectant mothers face on the journey to getting clean, as reported Thursday in The Journal.

Run by Dr. David Baltierra and Giselle Perry, a licensed practical nurse and program therapist, the pilot program features medical treatment paired with group therapy on substance abuse, relapse prevention, pre-natal care, breast feeding, pain management and and actual labor and delivery, according the Thursday’s Journal article.

While much of this program focuses on the expectant mother and the subsequent health of her baby, an intervention like this offers a chance for an entire family to turn things around.

Roughly 12 percent of children in the United States live with a parent who is dependent on or abuses alcohol or other drugs, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. How one grows up and if there is drug abuse in the family can greatly affect the chance of a child falling into addiction later, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.

Addiction is often a generational affliction. So a mother deciding to get clean before her child is born is already improving that child’s life by working to stop the cycle. The more tools a mother has to complete that goal the better.

“It’s usually a family member that starts them on it,” Baltierra said in Thursday’s Journal article. “Then in one household, you’ll have the mom, the baby, a parent, and even a grandparent and siblings addicted. You’ll have easily three generations of addiction in the house living together. To deal with that, you can’t just take care of the pregnant woman - you have to take care of the partner, the husband, the boyfriend the mother, the daughter.”

To tackle that aspect of treatment, Harpers Ferry Family Medicine also launched family therapy programs to get everyone involved in the journey to get clean.

Growing up in the world of drug addiction is no easy road. But with family intervention like this, each child whose mother goes through the program is even less likely to experience the psychological, medical, economic and emotional hardships that come with being in a family affected by addiction - not to mention a lesser chance of becoming an addict later in life.

Those running this program clearly understand exactly how deep addiction can be and that in order to truly turn one’s life around, many issues need to be effectively addressed. These multi-approach treatments tackling the widespread net of opioid addiction have the potential to not only save children, but to also save entire families.

Online: http://www.newsandsentinel.com/

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