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‘Home rule’ worked well in experiment

December 5, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

Limited "home rule" seems to have worked well for a few cities involved in a five-year experiment by the West Virginia Legislature. Lawmakers were urged this week to expand the program to all municipalities with 2,000 or more residents.

The program's name is a bit misleading. It permitted a far from complete home rule for participating communities, which included Wheeling, Charleston, Huntington and Bridgeport. In effect, the experiment gave them more latitude in only a relatively short list of government functions.

But as Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie noted, the change allowed streamlining of business licenses and fees, along with changes that enhanced the city's ability to deal with dilapidated buildings.

During a meeting with legislators, McKenzie and Charleston Mayor Danny Jones gave enthusiastic reports on the home rule experiment. McKenzie said expanding the program could allow lower municipal taxes, better economic development and less government red tape. It already has had some success in that regard in Wheeling.

Obviously, legislators considering expansion of the home rule program should be careful not to open the door to higher taxes in municipalities. Still, it seems clear the program has been beneficial and could be good for residents of other communities.

When they meet for their regular annual session next year, legislators should approve the proposed expansion.



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