Where are you, Gov. Justice?
Communication is essential. That can’t happen, of course, if there is no one with whom to communicate.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice’s residence aside, I have heard over the past couple of years an increasing frustration — not just from reporters — about the difficulty in communicating with the executive branch. Not only is there little transparency (“I’m not even sure who’s in charge, or what’s really going on there,” said one staffer), there is a labyrinth to navigate before you find out you’ve hit that opaque wall.
Last week I talked with the executive director of one state industry organization, who said there is “not a direct line” of communication to the governor, or the executive branch in general. Work gets done more through other connections that happen to have been cultivated over the years.
“It is extremely difficult for any industry or business to communicate with the executive branch,” she said. “It is difficult to reach the governor.”
But it is a problem for everyone, not simply the organization she represents. “It’s not specific to us,” she said.
As she was speaking with me, she was kind enough to say that perhaps the communications problems were due to a “lack of experience,” or the governor being “a moving target.”
But I don’t think so. We see the same tactics from the president, to whom Justice says he is “bound at the hip.”
It is intentional. Contacts reporters used to be able to call for information now appear to have been ordered to stay quiet. We are, instead, referred up the chain, where requests for information go unanswered.
While we may not like it, it is at least understandable that who ever is in charge has decided not to make it any easier for us to do our jobs — to shed light on what is happening in Charleston. After all, we are just pesky journalists. We will keep working to get the answers the public deserves no matter the challenges.
An executive at a large employer taking a look at West Virginia might not be so persistent.
Ignore reporters and they will work harder. Ignore business and industry folks and they might just go away.
What about officials from other countries — say, Brazil, or China, for example? Keeping open the lines of communication with them could have been make or break for some economic promises made to Mountain State residents. Guess what. It was “break.”
Keeping citizens — taxpayers and voters — in the dark, making it difficult to get done the work that will move West Virginia forward, and adopting a “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” attitude is dangerous and damaging to this wild and wonderful state we all love.
If, as has been suggested, it really was a lack of experience that got that ball rolling, Justice has been in office long enough now to know better and put it to a stop.
Independence Day is this week, folks. As always, I hope you will enjoy the holiday safely. But also use it as an opportunity to remember what the Founders who signed the Declaration of Independence were railing against. It wasn’t just the high price of tea. We have a duty to remember what they hoped this country would NOT become.
Christina Myer is executive editor of The Parkersburg News and Sentinel. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org