Strategic plan for Elkins raises concern

I would like to make several comments regarding The Inter-Mountain article published Aug. 17.

I note that Ms. Sutton, the city clerk, advises that she has to date not had any public comments received in her office regarding the public’s invitation to comment on the proposed five-year strategic plan. This is a discouraging point in that local citizens may be taking less interest in their government.

I do personally approve of the West Virginia state code involving Home Rule. It permits great flexibility to give local municipalities to self-govern as needed. However, I feel that if taken advantage of, this flexibility may also lead to misgovernment and overreach.

Regarding the proposed creation of a city manager position to oversee the day-to-day operations and management of the city has been in use by many cities throughout the United States as far back as the early 1900s.

I would highly recommend interested persons to educate themselves by visiting and reading the Wikipedia online reference and search for city manager. In that reference, I note that the position typically requires a MPA, master’s degree in public administration with several years of experience. A study taken in 2012, indicates that 43 percent of cities in the United States do require such qualification. Twenty-seven percent require other graduate degrees. (These were not specified.) Can the city of Elkins recruit such a qualified candidate? Can the city afford it?

A red flag was raised in my mind. in the newspaper article, last paragraph, “By June 2019, and by the same month to determine the feasibility of reducing council seats.” The first thoughts in my mind were, “A government for the people and by the people.” I am sure that many of you remember the source of those words? Reducing the number of council and placing more centralized power into one city office will reduce government transparency and accountability. After all, a de-centralized government is a truer democracy. I ask, who and what is driving the desire to reduce the number of council seats? This one has me scratching my head.

Another point that I would like to make is regarding a topic that I read in Focus Area Number One. Last sentence of the paragraph, “Vehicle and pedestrian access.” I realize that I am beating a dead horse, but non-the-less, I must comment. Decisions are already being made behind closed doors. We already know that in government when a decision that may not be quite palatable to the public appears on the radar screen, what is done, make the decision behind closed doors than give it raw to the people. When I worked in Washington for 21 years, I had a boss who would always dump such unpleasant company email on Friday late and then go on vacation for a week. Perhaps the city might find this a valuable strategy?

I digress, back to pedestrian access, I am referring to the old swinging bridge and the fact that the citizens of Elkins that live on Baxter, Dowel and Chestnut streets have no pedestrian access to the heart of the city. Pedestrian is the key word in the sentence, I think the word means, people that walk. Members of city government, the dirt is still on the top of the carpet, how will you find a way to sweep it under the carpet?

A final comment that I would like to make, the city recently passed a new tax. A tax without an end in mind as to how it would be spent. How and why did this happen?

I ask, who wrote the Strategic Plan? What is the true motivation for some of these ideas? So that they might be directly questioned, I suggest that these framers must be present at any public hearing. Citizens of Elkins, be careful as to how much power you give your government. I recommend that you keep as much of that power as possible in your hands, the hands of the people. As was recently illustrated in the elections of local and county government, voting is your right. Vote. Make changes.

Joe Ship