Put User Fee on Ballot

Editor, News-Register:

I’ll make this short and sweet. Actually, when I completed this letter, I found it to be anything but short and sweet. But it is what it is, so let the letter begin.

The proposed “user fee” that the honorable mayor and his city council are offering as a means to finance the proposed “mid-town parking garage” and the proposed “public safety building” is illegal, if my reading of the law is correct. WV Code 8-1-5a, Municipal Home Rule Pilot Program, states: “(j) Municipalities may not pass an ordinance, act, resolution, rule or regulation under the provisions of this section that: … (2) Enacts an occupation tax, fee or assessment payable by a nonresident of a municipality.” In a recent newspaper article Councilwoman Wendy Scatterday was quoted as having some concerns about the proposed enactment of a “user fee.”

It’s nice to see Ms. Scatterday break the wall of silence and unity of our elected city officials. The people went to the polls and voted for individuals that would review, evaluate, and independently act upon various city proposals in the best interest of the city. I’ve heard comments that some members of city council are upset that Councilwoman Scatterday went public with her position on the proposed funding for the public safety building. I totally disagree with them being upset; she is doing exactly what the voters elected her to do. She is questioning, instead of rubber stamping, the enactment of a “user fee” that, in my opinion, will actually accelerate the decline, and loss of population in Wheeling.

I challenge, nay demand, that the mayor and city council put the enactment of a “user fee” before the voters, even if that means a special election. If the majority of voters approve such a tax, then so be it; at least the taxpayers whose pocketbooks will be tapped will know the mayor and city council have received an unquestionable directive to move forward with their (council’s) plan(s).

I’m sure none of us that voted in the last election envisioned what has transpired over the last three-plus years with the mayor and council’s attempt to force projects down the taxpayers’ throats. A proposed downtown two-way street proposal, a mid-town parking garage, a downtown streetscape project, and a new public safety building, to mention a few. And also, the withdrawn proposal to make every Little League team pay to use the city’s ballfields. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those individuals (nonresident) who went before city council several months ago, in opposition to the user fee. I believe the city solicitor may have misinformed you when she said the city had a right to enact a user fee that included taxing workers that were nonresidents of the city.

The question remains, will this letter generate a sufficient outcry to get the “user fee” placed on the ballot, or will the mayor and city council continue to wear “blinders” and ignore the will of the people? And finally, thank you to those who have taken the time to write “letters to the editor” expressing your opinion and views on current issues and concerns that are close to your heart. Silence is an accomplice in the destruction of our democratic form of government.

P.S. After writing this letter and submitting it for publication I received a telephone call from an individual who told me that “the Ohio County Commission has received a number of inquiries from downtown businesses about relocating from downtown Wheeling to the Highlands. If true, could this be the result of the proposed “user fee.” I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t bode well, again if true, for revitalizing the downtown area.

Hope springs eternal!

J. Jacobs

Wheeling

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