Randy Tomblin: Poverty, education at top of priorities
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one of a series of columns written by candidates in contested races in the Nov. 6 general election.
Wayne County is hurting. U.S. Census data show that 20.2 percent of our population is living below the poverty level (individuals making less than $11,484 per year.) This means that one in five of our neighbors do not make enough money to get adequate nutrition, put a roof over their head, or afford the day-to-day necessities they need to survive. This is a terrible situation, but it is not a necessary situation.
You see, in Wayne County we have been led to believe that when it comes to politics, experience is better. This is false. My opponents have spent a combined 35 years "representing" Wayne County. In those years, many things have changed in our county, including our poverty rate, which went from 16.8 percent in 2000 to the staggering 20.2 percent it is at today. Apparently, some believe our citizens' dependency on jobs in the coal industry has changed as well. On May 31, 2009, in the middle of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Speaker Thompson cosponsored House Bill 103. This bill is West Virginia's version of the national cap-and-trade policy that has helped eliminate mining jobs across the state. Although we've been told that the "good ol' boys" are taking care of us, we cannot and will not ignore failed representation.
On my watch, I will write and sponsor legislation to create a West Virginia intermediate appellate court system, an action that many businesses have pointed to as a necessity in order to expand their operations into the state. Individuals and businesses deserve this action to ensure that they get an immediate appeal on cases.
I will also work with colleagues to create partnership programs with businesses and corporations so that our students can get first-hand internship experience in fields that interest them. This action will provide many opportunities, from allowing our students to figure out if a particular career is really for them (before they spend tens of thousands of dollars on an education) to allowing businesses the opportunity to match employment needs with job candidates within its own community.
In addition to these issues, I will work with fellow members of the legislature to tackle one of our largest problems -- the state education system, which was recently ranked 50th in the nation. We can't expect a competitive job market if our children are not competitively educated. First, we must reduce the size of the bureaucratic machine known as the state Department of Education, which estimates show would save the state nearly $24 million in five years. A recent audit of the West Virginia education system highlighted areas in which our state could cut back and make changes that would save over $115 million in a five-year period. Imagine a West Virginia where we could give our educators the tools needed to provide our children with a cutting-edge, competitive education. With these improvements and the savings the state would have, we could afford to provide a competitive salary and benefits package to attract and keep the best educators for our children. Our educators -- both in K-12 and higher education -- deserve adequate compensation, and we have a way to give it to them. I am a firm believer that a better educated population draws more and better jobs. There is no doubt in my mind that these two go hand in hand.
As we move toward Nov. 6, we face many great challenges. My promise to you is that as your representative, I will work diligently and tirelessly with members of both parties to solve the economic and education problems our state faces today, as well as other issues that arise along the way. I believe in West Virginia, in its potential and in its people. It is time to get rid of politicians who act in their own interest or the interest of private donors and businesses over the needs of the citizens of this state. It is time for true representation, not "good ol' boy" politics. Stand with me on Nov. 6 and let's begin to shape an amazing future for Wayne County and West Virginia -- together.
Randy Tomblin, a resident of Huntington, is a Republican candidate for the West Virginia House of Delegates from the 19th District, which includes most of Wayne County.