AND THEN AGAIN….. by Tamara Pettit

……’the Rest of the Story by Paul Harvey was a popular radio commentary when radio was king and television was still evolving. In his commentary, Harvey would describe an event or a person and then finish with a caveat that often changed the whole story.  Remembering those illuminations came to mind as I read the Governor’s latest press release on the State’s financial condition.  I learned about delving a little deeper when provided facts and figures during my Legislative service.  The  rest of the story was often the most important part of the story.      A good example was former Del. Joe C. Farrell from Logan County.  “Joe C” as we all called him bought the “vending machine” business from former Gov. and Sen. Earl Ray Tomblin’s family.  (Can you say “gray” machines prior to the passage of the Limited Video Lottery Act?)    Joe C. got himself in a bit of trouble on an unrelated issue that almost resulted in a jail sentence.  The Judge  put him  on probation with one caveat:  Joe C had to promise never, ever to run for public office again.  He swore before the Judge and all that was holy in Logan County…..and then he not only ran for the House of Delegates, but the voters elected him.  Fast forward a year and legislators were at the annual dinner for the Speaker of the House.  The dinners were a lively time where Legislators are roasted so it was no surprise when reference was made to Joe C’s promise.    Never one to be shy, Joe C let us in on the rest of the story by sharing that he had his fingers crossed behind his back when he made that pledge.   While humorous, Joe C’s revelation may let us know that we all need to look a little closer at statements made by our governmental leaders.

……Take Governor Jim Justice, for example.   He just put out a glowing report on West Virginia’s financial status as of Dec. 31.    He reported that tax revenues had risen a whopping 32,6 % since last December, the biggest jump in five decades.  Corporate net income tax revenues had risen 96% from the prior year.  He was euphoric.  Well wait, what is the ‘rest of the story’?   Remember December 2020?   We were in the middle of a pandemic! Longtime businesses didn’t survive.  Shoppers didn’t venture out to buy gifts.   Restaurants closed their doors.    Production slowed as the workforce got COVID and consumer need diminished.  How can you begin to compare this December to the worst pandemic December?    I think there may be a reason Justice doesn’t allow reporters at his  press conferences.   There would have to be one exasperated, overworked and underpaid reporter who would shout out “Are you *******kidding me?” That would be me.

……And, sometimes one just has to ask the right question of your governmental officials.   During my tenure in the Legislature, I sat on the House Finance Committee.   While many members found the Departmental budget hearing somewhat tedious, I found  them  entertaining if one just knew the right question to ask.   The Department heads could always find a way to spin their presentation so things sounded glowing.    If you paid attention you beceme versed in “politospeak”.  State employees leaving their jobs like rats leaving a sinking ship due to low pay and worse morale.  (We are working with less employees and those workers were putting out 110%.)      Department budget bloated with political appointments whose exact duties were hard to pin down?   (Dept. is excelling at constituent service and performing outstanding outreach.)  Under investigation for questionable accounting practices? (Dept. is assisting in investigation.  What that really meant was “helping the Feds carry the file boxes out.”)

……At December interim committee meetings the manager of the RISE program appeared for the third time to report on progress of  the program which used Federal funding to help those who lost their homes in the 2017 floods that ravaged lower West Virginia.   Now progress might be a loosely used terms because the RISE program promulgated layers and layers of bureaucratic paperwork and  failed to deliver the necessary housing.  After three committee meetings delving into what had been done and what remained to be done,  Senate Minority Leader Stephen Baldwin finally asked the right question to the Department head speaking: “Are you under State & Federal Investigation?”     The answer was “Yes.”   Again, getting the ‘rest of the story’ often requires asking the right question.   Perhaps, legislative committees members will need to begin each budget hearing with that question,   Kinda like, “Have you been exposed to COVID in the past………?”

……COVID isn’t done with us yet so be very cautious when your out and about.  The Jan. 4th report from Dept. of Health & Human Resource listed over 290 active cases in Hancock County.