Mayor Stresses Need for Home Rule Renewal to Legislative Delegation

Updated 1 year ago by Tony Rutherford HuntingtonNews.Net Reporter
Mayor Stresses Need for Home Rule Renewal to Legislative Delegation

Prior to the Monday , Feb. 11 meeting of Huntington City Council, Mayor Steve Williams and council members met with members of the West Virginia legislative delegation..

Williams wisely punctuated the city’s successes under the pilot Home Rule program and how essential it is that the expanded power of local government continue.

Del. Jim Morgan on the eve of commencement of the 2013 session predicted that continuation of  Home Rule will be introduced, but “we suspect a provision that “no taxing ability” will accompany it. Morgan, who helms  the board that oversees administration of the pilot program, urged council and the Williams administration to “consider bringing new projects to the board” before the June 30, 2013 expiration of the current legislation.

Suggesting that the “lame duck” period between the June 30, 2013 expiration of the current home rule authority and the likely extension until 2018 could still be productive, Morgan hinted that an extension would preserve previously passed ordinances in all cities.

“There’s still time to throw things in,” he said.

The Mayor indicated an interest in adopting an on the spot building code citation program similar to the one developed by Charleston.

Morgan indicated that though legislative members considered it for statewide implementation, the eyesore standard for Huntington’s Highlawn area likely would not have the same eyesore criteria in the mostly rural Monroe County.

Meanwhile, Williams provided what may be a preview of Friday’s State of the City address.

Responding to legislator predictions that state budget monies will be tight due to statewide education and pension fiscal challenges, Williams told them, “ We won’t be pleading poverty. We will find ways to be innovative,” emphasizing “we have to find ways to do more with less.”

The Mayor pointed out that “we already manage the most efficiently run city in the state and region,” noting that Huntington’s budget is half that of Charleston. As proof, he stated that residents pay only about $800 per capita.

SHIFTING CRIME

While the Weed and Seed program helped diminish the high crime and drug reputation of the Fairfield neighborhood, the strict enforcement there sent the undesirables to the West End.

 State Senator Evan Jenkins emphasized that he is committee to “help clean up the town,” ranging from graffiti defacing to robberies and car break-ins. “We need to tackle criminal law to give it more teeth,” he told those in the Mayor’s conference room.

“I want you to be successful. If you are successful, we are successful,” Jenkins explained.

Williams who in his campaign proposed a West Huntington Tax Increment Funding (TIF) project stated the experiences through the Weed and Seed program has given Huntington the reputation for “the best police department in the state” and despite limited resources, “the best police chief across the country.”

The Mayor’s economic development initiatives combat crime.

“Where crime is low, economic opportunity is great,” Williams said.

Del. Carol Miller represents the third member of the local delegation who serves on the finance committee. Miller supports health issues and drug rehabilitation in particular.

“I’m willing to work together with other delegates,” she said.

Sen. Robert Plymale, co-president of the Keith Albee Performing Arts Center, expressed appreciation for the city’s $25,000 donation to the historic theatre. Plymale indicated the roof replacement fund remains $75,000 short, but the contribution “goes a long way toward getting our roof complete.”

During the session which will be Plymale’s 19th, he anticipates the budget will keep him busy, especially “educational financial reforms.”

The Mayor expressed willingness for flexibility on Home Rule tweaks. He stressed that the occupation tax will be rescinded, but a legal negotiation technicality has the matter stalled --- he will not agree to pay the attorney fees of the petitioners that opposed the 1% tax.

However, the 1% sales tax has been a boon pulling in about $6 million dollar in revenue. Predicting that removal of the final 1% tax on food will drop the revenue to $5.4 million, Williams underscored the city’s need for its enacted Home Rule ordinance to remain in effect. Should the legislature desire, he would be agreeable that new city taxation matters be put to  the residents through a referendum.

The Mayor will be in the audience for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s State of the State Address. He also told the delegation that he will visit Charleston weekly during the session.

Finally, he expressed the city’s gratitude to the legislative members in attendance by presenting Jim Morgan,  Dale Stevens, Carol Miller, Evan Jenkins and Robert Plymale with keys to the city of Huntington.

He promised “if we lose the ability to manage Huntington properly, we will give you the keys to the city,” which he accented by reaching in his pocket and offering the various keys to city departments.

 
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