Make Your Voice Heard

Make Your Voice Heard

Editor, News-Register:

It is my understanding that Mayor Elliott and City Council are considering “user fees” to fund, or partially fund, the cost for constructing the mid-town parking garage and the construction of a new “public safety” building.

Now mind you, all costs cannot be covered by the proposed fees, which have been tentatively identified as $2 per week for the parking garage, and $1 a week for the public safety building. You might ask, “what exactly is a user fee”? My conclusion after researching the term “user fee” is that a true user fee is “when someone chooses to use a government service and must pay for it, he’s paying a user fee” (Mackinac Center for Public Policy).

From this definition I can only conclude that funding of a new public safety building and a mid-town parking garage does not qualify as a user fee. Again quoting from an article by Lawrence Reed-Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “In principal, true user fees make a lot of sense, if you use a service, you pay for it. You don’t pay if you don’t use.” If the so called user fee for funding these two projects is passed by city council, I would not be surprised if that ordinance was challenged in the court(s) as being a tax and not a user fee.

My opposition to the public safety building and the parking garage is centered around the fact that the majority of the taxpayers (property owners) in the city of Wheeling are middle to lower income wage earners, or retired on a fixed income. In my opinion, those who are pushing to build these structures have not taken into consideration the financial impact it will have on this group of taxpayers for years to come.

I have a concern that the mayor and city council are working on these and other projects without full disclosure and transparency. The information I’ve uncovered is not readily available to the public. I blame the media for not reporting this information.cIf I can find it, a good reporter; be they newspaper or broadcast media, can do the same. You only have to visit a city council session, or view it on TV, to see that there is limited, to no discussion on these topics on the floor of council prior to them being voted on. It seems that these discussions are going on behind closed doors and it is only a formality when it is on the agenda to be voted on (if that’s true, then they are in violation of the WV sunshine law). Most votes seem to be unanimous.

Maybe the mayor and city council need to amend the guidelines on when a taxpayer can discuss an item being brought up for passage. Currently, taxpayers are limited to three minutes at the end of a council meeting, at which time votes have already been cast on items/issues that a taxpayer may have wished to debate on their merits.

In closing, the last time I checked the population of Wheeling had fallen below 27,000. Of those 27,000, how many are actual property owners, not children or non-property owners? We’ve already seen our taxes, and fees, increased to support the school bond levy and to pay for a new water treatment plant. Gas and electric bills continue to rise with no end in sight. I repeat, we are not Pittsburgh, Columbus, or New York City. We need a plan for improvements that takes that into consideration. Agree, or disagree with this letter, make your voices heard by reaching out to the mayor and your council representative by email, or telephone. “When there is no middle class, and the poor greatly exceed in number, troubles arise, and the state soon comes to an end.” (Aristotle)

Hope springs eternal!

J. Jacobs

Wheeling

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