Sustained Outrage

Four things Gov. Tomblin forgot to mention

West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tombin, a Democrat, laughs as he delivers his inauguration speech on Monday, Jan. 14, 2013, in Charleston, W.Va. This is Tomblin’s second term in office. AP Photo/Randy Snyder)

Over on our Coal Tattoo blog, we discussed the mentions of coal policy in yesterday’s inauguration address from West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.  But it’s worth considering some of the things that the governor forgot to mention when he discussed other issues in his speech. Here are four key things he left out:

1.  Early in the speech, the governor asked for a moment of silence to reflect on the massacre of 20 schoolchildren and 6 adults last month in Connecticut:

Last month, the tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary School reminded us all of how precious our families, friends and communities are—and the joy they bring into our lives. Such loss is heartbreaking—it’s unspeakable. Still today, Joanne and I continue to pray for the families and friends of the children and adults who left this world far too soon.

But the governor took no position regarding the ongoing debate in Washington, D.C., about whether to strengthen the nation’s gun laws, and while the governor did mention the murder last year of two State Police troopers, he did not discuss the broader problem of gun violence in West Virginia — which so often is family violence involving men killing their wives or girlfriends — and offered no proposals for trying to reduce the local death toll.

2. Gov. Tomblin talked several times about drug abuse, saying at one point:

And while we must work on our education system, I also will continue to fight our substance abuse issues in our communities.

Not mentioned was the governor’s decision to reject the recommendations of his own substance abuse task force, which called for increasing taxes on alcohol and tobacco to raise funds to expand and improve substance abuse treatment programs around the state.

3. While making much of the state government’s strong financial condition, Gov. Tomblin praised steps taken to pay off West Virginia’s old workers compensation debt:

We had a broken system with widespread fraud, poor care for workers, and premiums that were way too high. We stabilized, and then privatized our workers compensation system. The albatross around our economic neck is all but gone, and we now have one of the best programs in the country.

The governor didn’t mention that the “widespread fraud” in workers compensation included a huge effort by coal operators and contractors to evade paying their workers compensation premiums.

4. The governor mentioned the extreme weather events West Virginia experienced last year — noting  “the spring tornado and floods, the derecho, Hurricane Sandy … ” and praising the state’s “strength of their character” and how  “West Virginians joined together to support each other”.

But Gov. Tomblin didn’t mention climate change, which a new federal scientific report again makes clear is the engine behind these extreme weather events.  That new report, the National Climate Assessment, warned us:

Climate change is already affecting the American people. Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and, in some  regions, floods and droughts. Sea level is rising, oceans are becoming more acidic, and glaciers  and arctic sea ice are melting. These changes are part of the pattern of global climate change,  which is primarily driven by human activity.