Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 15, 2014

Home rule: Applications in Bluefield, Princeton

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — The cities of Bluefield and Princeton are moving forward with individual applications for possible participation in the state’s new municipal home rule program. We believe this is an important step, and it is our hope that both cities will be selected by the state to participate in the second-phase of the program.

The state launched the first phase of the municipal home rule program five years ago. Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport applied and were the initial localities accepted. A total of 25 proposals were submitted, according to Josh Cline, redevelopment and planning director for the city of Bluefield.

A legislative audit later concluded the pilot home rule program was a success with more than 20 proposals implemented from the participating municipalities. The audit also encouraged a state-wide adoption of home rule.

The state is now planning to accept an additional 16 localities into the second phase of the municipal home rule program. Applications must be submitted by this May for consideration by the state.

The expanded home rule program affords cities in the Mountain State more power to identify state rules that may restrict their capability to perform municipal duties. It also provides cities greater flexibility in identifying effective solutions. There are still restrictions on what the towns and cities can and can’t do under home rule. For example, they can’t enact new rules dealing with environmental issues. But Cline has identified a number of proposals that city officials in Bluefield could explore if approved for home rule, including allowing the city to directly convey property when the primary purpose is to facilitate economic development as well as a reduction in the Business and Occupation tax in specified categories. He says a home rule designation would also allow the city to enjoy a faster turn-around time on housekeeping items that normally require approval by ordinance.

The city of Bluefield voted last week to hold a public hearing on the city’s home rule application on March 25 at 5:30 p.m. Cline says the application must be submitted to the state for consideration prior to May 6. He is hoping city residents will provide valuable input into the planning and application process.

We are glad to see that both cities are proceeding with home rule applications. It is our hope that both Bluefield and Princeton will be selected later this year to be one of the 16 localities to be included in phase two of the municipal home rule program.