Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 27, 2013

Home rule — Bluefield, Princeton should participate

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— Participation in the new West Virginia Municipal Home Rule program should be viewed as a priority for the cities of Bluefield and Princeton. The expanded program affords cities such as Bluefield and Princeton more power to identify state rules that may restrict their capability to perform municipal duties. It also affords cities greater flexibility in identifying effective solutions. The cities of Charleston, Huntington, Wheeling and Bridgeport are already participating in a five-year program. Now more communities are being allowed to join the home rule initiative. The state will be accepting applications for the program between January and June of next year.

We would like to see both Bluefield and Princeton participate. Power has been tightly controlled in Charleston for far too long. The individual cities should absolutely be afforded more local control. After all, what is good for Wheeling may not necessarily be in the best interest of Bluefield and Princeton, and vice versa.

The state is planning to bring 16 new communities into the home rule program for a total of 20 participating localities. It is imperative for Bluefield and Princeton to be among those new localities engaging in home rule.

The newly elected members of the Bluefield Board of Directors will submit an application in hopes of becoming a home rule locality, according to Mayor Tom Cole.

“That is at the top of our list, absolutely,” Cole said. “We will do everything in our power to see that we are selected for home rule. What I have told the other members of the board as well as (City Manager) Jim Ferguson is that I’m not worried about having the first application. I’m worried about having the best application.”

According to Cole, home rule would let city officials look at ideas in regard to the city’s business and occupation taxes, and how the city generates revenue. Home rule would also allow the city to enforce ordinances as elected board members and citizens see fit while also reducing the volume of crippling red tape currently required for business licenses.

The Princeton City Council has not yet decided whether to apply for the home rule program, according to Mayor Patricia Wilson.

“We are still in the process of studying it,” Wilson said last week. “We want to weigh all of our options to see if it’s going to benefit us before we obligate to it.”

Wilson adds the city hasn’t ruled out participating in the program, but is simply studying the home rule concept to see how it would fit the city.

We would strongly urge both cities to apply for home rule. Simply put — local governing bodies should be allowed to govern. And that is what home rule does. It provides participating communities greater flexibility. Charleston shouldn’t have the final say on what is or isn’t good for Bluefield or Princeton. That’s why we view participation in home rule as a good thing for both cities.