MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s incorporated towns and cities have a lot of the same issues and those are being talked about this week at the West Virginia Municipal League’s summer meeting being held in Morgantown.
Whether it’s potholes, water and sewer service issues or police pensions, there are things that are going to be in need of attention. A shortage of money to do the things people want done is another common theme. But not every city’s problems are exactly alike, according to West Virginia Municipal League President and Bridgeport Mayor Bob Greer.
“We as a community are controlled by the state statues, the one-size-fits-all that comes out of the legislature in Charleston and that doesn’t always work,” said Greer on MetroNews “Talkline,” which broadcast live from the group’s meeting Thursday.
It’s also why Greer and the Municipal League have been strong advocates for home rule. The concept of giving local municipal governments more autonomy over decisions to impact how their towns and cities are run is still a strictly controlled pilot project. Cities allowed to engage in home rule must still be granted the privilege by the home rule board. Whether it becomes a permanent law and spread to all towns and cities remains up in the air.
“The last several legislative sessions we have pushed through an attempt to make home rule a permanent position,” said Greer. “In fact, if it isn’t approved next year it will sunset.”
Greer admits home rule carries some negatives in the minds of the public. Generally the first reaction is fear of tax increases. Greer admits taxes are part of the plan, but people are more willing to accept them if they can see tangible results.
“Clarksburg is restoring a major theater in the downtown with their sales tax money,” he explained. “Wheeling and Charleston are doing tangible things with their sales tax. The renovation to the Civic Center and Wesbanco Arena are supported by home rule city sales tax.”
Terry Williams is the longtime Mayor of Spencer and he agrees.
“A penny sales tax isn’t going to hurt anybody for the services you’ll be able to provide that you’re not providing now or at least at the level you can provide those services,” he explained on “Talkline.” “Let people see the things that are happening with the money.”
Both mayors agreed the advantage of city government is proximity to the people. City council members and mayors get phone calls daily at their house. They often are stopped on the street or in the grocery store by constituents who want to talk about issues.
“That’s fine with me, I love to talk to people,” said Williams. “Not only do we get calls about issues in their town, they get calls about issues that are from the county and state. But the good thing is, we also work to come up with a solution and get them an answer.”