Keeping Herron in Wheeling

All too often, government at all levels tends to “spin” fiscal issues to convince people that whatever scheme officials have in the works is realistic. That’s one reason why the cost of so many federal programs bears no resemblance to what taxpayers were assured when the initiatives were established.

But observant local residents have come to realize that if Wheeling City Manager Bob Herron is responsible for a set of numbers, they will be reliable.

By that, I don’t necessarily mean accurate to the penny. Given the complexity of municipal government, that would be asking too much. One can never tell, for example, when Washington will decide to reduce support of local and state programs.

Herron’s talent and candor is in being as realistic as possible on the cost of government, while being conservative on revenue. That means it is highly unlikely a city agency or program will outpace revenue available for it.

That, in addition to his excellent management skills, makes Herron very valuable to Wheeling taxpayers.

Apparently other people would like to have that sort of city manager, too. As we reported this week, Herron is on the short list of candidates for city manager in Kalamazoo, Mich. Another municipality, possibly in North Carolina, also may be thinking of trying to recruit Herron away from Wheeling.

One cannot blame Herron for looking. He is paid around $95,000 a year here in Wheeling. The retiring Kalamazoo city manager makes $138,000.

Money isn’t everything, of course. Herron has said he likes it here. But looking at the potential for a 50 percent increase in pay can make a person like lots of places.

Wheeling simply can’t compete with bigger cities such as Kalamazoo in terms of pay. Still, it would be worth City Council’s time to discuss whether a few dollars can be found to sweeten the prospect for Herron of staying here.

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One of the reasons Mountain Health Choices died in West Virginia was that not enough Medicaid recipients understood the program would be good for them. Perhaps if MHC had been President Barack Obama’s brainchild instead of that of former governor, now Sen. Joe Manchin, that would have been different.

MHC was an initiative that offered Medicaid clients enhanced benefits if they would sign simple personal responsibility agreements. That could have made many of them healthier, while reducing the cost of Medicaid in West Virginia.

Liberals hated it. Not many people signed up for it because, according to analysts, they didn’t understand it very well. If only there had been more time and money to educate potential enrollees, proponents of the program complained.

Well, the new national health care law – Obamacare – is hard to understand, too. But it was revealed this week the Obama administration is going to hand out $150 million to help people sign up for health insurance under the law.

No one in Washington offered to fund an outreach program for Mountain Health Choices, though.

Obama’s definition of well-to-do keeps changing. For some time he insisted Americans earning more than $250,000 a year ought to be soaked at much higher tax rates than those making less. Wealthy folks should pay more, he says.

Apparently “wealthy” now translates to $205,000 a year.

Obama wants Congress to put a lid on the amounts Americans can contribute before taxes to 401K or other personal retirement accounts. He says the limit should be $3 million – enough, he claims, to provide a pension of $205,000 a year.

One can only wonder what the president’s definition of too much income will be by the time he leaves office – or if Democrats take control of the House of Representatives in the 2014 elections.

Myer can be reached at mmyer@