Reporter’s Notebook: Roads and Letters
I don’t know what I was expecting last Tuesday when Gov. Jim Justice brought every Division of Highways district engineer and county supervisor to Charleston, but I expected a lot more than a 15-minute speech asking for a list of bad roads.
It is clear Justice’s communications staff assumed that the DOH staffer would get a chance to speak. There were two microphones set up on either side of the Culture Center stage. Some of these guys came from three, four and five hours away. I’m sure they have some thoughts on what’s wrong at DOH and what they need to start repairing the secondary roads.
Nope, not a one was invited to step up to the microphones to give Justice feedback. Both Revenue Secretary Dave Hardy and Acting Transportation Secretary Byrd White had microphones, but neither one spoke. That’s right, the acting transportation secretary who is going to be leading this effort to “fix the damn roads” said nothing.
So, these DOH managers drove to Charleston for a 15-minute request for lists of state roads arranged by the level of needed maintenance. That’s it. As someone put it to me, “this could have been an email.” But of course, an email doesn’t give the governor’s communications hub people the photo op or the video they need to make it look like the event was a success.
Looking at the governor’s YouTube channel, I’m surprised they didn’t cut the video into a short recap. If it wasn’t for the governor’s seal in the corner, you’d swear it’s a TV news piece. That’s by design. It’s produced by a couple of former local TV news producers and hosted by a former TV news reporter/anchor.
I’m all for transparency and I appreciate the video live-streams the governor’s office does. For one thing, it saves money. Too often previous governors would turn to local video production companies to set up satellite feeds for TV stations around the state when the technology to stream video over the internet inexpensively has been around for almost a decade. The legislature was doing audio live-streams of floor sessions and committee meetings even before that.
But pretending to do news stories as if the clips are going on the evening news is just beyond the pale for me. Especially when those video recaps omit specific information. If you watched the recap about Justice’s plan to fix secondary roads, you’d never know he plans to skim money from the Roads to Prosperity bonds. That’s pivotal to his plan, but the recap video never gives you the details of his plan.
We need fewer public relations stunts and more actual relations with the statehouse press.
The drama from the anti-Muslim display that nearly upended the legislation session continues. This time, around 30 Democratic members of the House of Delegates signed onto a letter inviting representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations to Charleston.
Much how I didn’t understand why some Republican House members kept fanning the flames regarding the incident where House Minority Whip Mike Caputo kicked a door and allegedly injured a doorkeeper after Caputo apologized and was removed from committees as punishment, I don’t understand why these Democratic delegates would continue to dwell on the anti-Muslim display.
The whole thing was pretty roundly repudiated, even by the fringe group ACT for America, who threw the woman who has acted on their behalf in this state for years under the bus. For a moment, it made U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar — the Somali refugee turned Minnesota congresswoman who has been criticized for anti-Semitic remarks — a sympathetic figure due to a picture of her above a picture of the World Trade Center attacks.
I could think of better groups to invite to Charleston than CAIR, which has been accused of anti-Semitism as well, on top of some claims that the group has ties to the anti-Israel terrorist-designated Hamas organization. For example, considering all the attempts to get a bill that would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the state Human Rights Act, why not invite Muslims for Progressive Values or the Alliance for Inclusive Muslims?
Just saying, in a state that went overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016 and is likely to do it again, I wouldn’t hand the other side something to use against you in the next election.