Change With the Times
“The City is strong and growing stronger,” read the headline quoting the mayor at his State of the City address on Tuesday, February 26th, 2019. From where I’m sitting and what I’ve observed over the last six months, I don’t think that’s an accurate statement. It’s catchy, but it’s not reality.
However, I understand why the mayor said it. Are you going to go before the citizens and those gullible businessmen who attend this luncheon event, and actually tell it like it is? No, in my opinion, whomever made the state of the city event a reality, was only interested in massaging their egos.
Honesty might be the best policy, but it usually won’t get you re-elected. We (the city taxpayers) are in significant debt, and we (the mayor and city council) want to increase that debt by millions of dollars in unnecessary, and wasteful spending for ridiculous projects, i.e. new parking garage, new public safety building, a streetscape project, and trying to be a developer in downtown Wheeling, to name a few.
And now we’re faced with the passage of another tax, and they call it a user fee. Let’s face it folks, we can’t go back in time (like some people want) to when Wheeling had a thriving business district. Changes have occurred that brought us to where we’re at now. Almost everyone has a car, so public transportation is no longer a vital necessity. Mobility has changed the shopping areas from downtown business districts to outlying malls, and that is now changing due to the internet and online shopping.
I have spoken to a number of local businessmen, all of whom bemoan the path our mayor and council are “hell bent” to take us down. One of those businessmen said, “It’s time we quit spending, and begin to downsize government.” I concur 100%!
Cut the B&O tax, right size our police and fire departments through attrition, and increase the salaries we pay those who remain to a decent living wage. Review all positions in the administration with an eye to merge some functions, and to eliminate those that are found to be of little service to the taxpayers. Get out of the development business; no more purchasing properties for the benefit of private developers at a significant cost to the taxpayers. Pass an ordinance that prevents future councils from enacting or increasing any tax without providing the citizens of Wheeling an opportunity to vote on it.
Make city government more user friendly by creating a central switchboard, staffed five days a week that anyone can call for assistance in contacting the correct city agency. And finally, although people are reluctant to pay taxes and fees, those that are paying expect everyone to pay their fair share, and that is not currently the case.
Enforcement of those collections, as well as property code enforcements, shouldn’t be dependent on your political clout or poorly administered, and poorly supervised code enforcement efforts. Create a website and publish photographs of vacant and/or delinquent properties along with the owners’ names. This website would also publish the name of any person or entity that is delinquent for any fire service fees exceeding one year, with the amount owed, and what efforts were underway to collect those fees.
It might be my imagination, but I truly believe I’m seeing an awaking of the citizens, not only in Wheeling but throughout the surrounding communities. I see more letters to the editor on a wide variety of subjects. I see more vigorous and informative reporting in our local newspaper. I hear people speaking out and taking a stand, and all of this is good! Election day is coming; you need to vote, not because it’s your civic duty, but because it’s the only way you have the slightest chance to have your voice heard in the halls of government.
Hope springs eternal!