We couldn’t care less where Gov. Jim Justice calls home at the end of the day or where he conducts the state’s business. It is the digital age, after all, where most anyone – especially the chief executive officer of the state – is but a cellphone call away. But Big Jim has handled the legitimacy of questions about his residency as clumsily as a big ol’ bear rummaging through a well stocked hunting cabin, and if he were forthcoming and less defensive he would have to admit that not all is right with the ship of state.
And that’s on him.
So, too, with the appearance that he may be attending to private, personal business ahead of matters of state. He ran and was elected governor of the state and the citizens of West Virginia expect him to live up to his oath – and to work at all times on their issues, not his many businesses.
Gov. Justice’s response has been predictable, self-pitying and disappointing. He turns any discussion of issues to a critique of the media and a litany of all that he, and he alone, has done for the state.
“West Virginians need to ask themselves, ‘are things better in West Virginia since I took office?’ “ he said recently in response to a lawsuit that would have him abide by the state Constitution to live in the governor’s mansion in Charleston. He followed with a lot of “I did this, I did that.” It reads like a braggart who is avoiding other truths.
● “I turned a $500 million deficit into a revenue surplus.”
● “I changed the footprint of education by removing red tape.”
● “I proposed and signed into law a 5 percent across-the-board pay raise for our teachers.”
● “I proposed the Roads to Prosperity Constitutional Amendment.”
● “I’ve directed a massive amount of state resources to attack the opioid epidemic.”
What he conveniently does not mention is that there are multiple dumpster fires burning in Charleston.
Victims of the 2016 floods – the great majority of whom are here in southern West Virginia – are still waiting on financial assistance and no one in state government tells the same story about why some $150 million in federal funding is sitting idle. Commerce Department officials, originally handed the reins to recovery efforts, are either being fired or leaving on their own accord.
Not to be outdone, the Department of Health and Human Resources has been paying $30,907.34 a month in rent for space in a Morgantown mall it vacated in June 2015. That’s about $1 million in taxpayer dollars out the door.
Did we mention that the Legislature is now moving ahead with an investigation and likely impeachment proceedings against a state Supreme Court justice? And that he may not be the only one on the court up to his armpits in the sludge of ethical improprieties?
News flash: While Rome was burning, the governor flew to D.C. to huddle with President Donald J. Trump to strategize on how to boost coal and timber industries, both major holdings in the billionaire governor’s expansive portfolio.
Bottom line: Gov. Justice has done much good for the state.
But the governor has also taken his eye off the ball, flood victims are awaiting assistance, the state is wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on one rental agreement alone, the integrity of our judicial system is under duress and people’s concerns are not being addressed.
And that’s the job the governor signed up for – no matter where he lives.