Let Public Comment Before Votes Are Taken
I noted in the last election, which happened to be for the Ohio County School Bond renewal levy, that fewer than 10% of the registered voters in Ohio County participated in the election. This fact was pointed out by the news media, and was mentioned to me on more than one occasion by irate citizens, subsequent to the election.
Voter participation in the city of Wheeling’s mayoral race of 2016 was 8,034 of approximately 19,164 registered voters. Better than that same race in 2012, which was only 5,678. However, in my opinion the number of votes cast in both elections is a disappointing figure to say the least.
The lack of voter participation is not unique to Wheeling, and/or to West Virginia and states and municipalities throughout the country. People have done studies in an attempt to identify why the people have turned their back on their civic duty to vote, with varying reasons being noted.
However, the most prevalent reason seems to be the feeling that their vote doesn’t count and the politicians don’t listen to them.
I’ve personally experienced this on three separate occasions when I spoke to our city council. Most recently I noted that several ordinances were voted on before the public was permitted to speak. In every case there was no open discussion, or questions, asked or answered, by and between the members of council, or the general public. I rose and asked a question on one of the ordinances that was read by the clerk prior to a vote of council for passage. The vice mayor refused to recognize my request and told me I could ask questions at the end of council meeting.
Now, how does that make sense? By the time I get to speak my words of wisdom, they’ve already passed the ordinance and it has become law.
Maybe someone in the general public has some valuable information that needs to be considered before a vote is taken, but no, they’re told to basically sit down and shut up, the adults are conducting business. It seems that some of our elected officials have lost sight of who works for who. Maybe they need a reminder when they run for re-election.
In closing, now I know why they didn’t re-install the lettering/sign that said, “That the will of the people be heard and acted upon,” above the council seating when they moved the chambers and renovated the new space.
Hope springs eternal!
Jerry Jacobs is a candidate running for mayor of Wheeling in the May municipal election. The News-Register has offered him space for a commentary each month until the election in May, and will make the same offer to other candidates for mayor.