The Herald-Dispatch |

Neighborhood Issues in Huntington and Cabell County
Here we discuss issues of importance to every city and neighborhood in Cabell County, W.Va. What do you see as issues? What are the most pressing needs? What positive things are happening? Together, we can make Huntington and Cabell County a better area in which to work, play, study and raise a family. Have your say right now. Just click on the "Post Comments" button at the end of each posting; you can post anonymously. Together, we will accomplish anything we can imagine!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Without Vision the People Perish

When I think of the word "vision" as it relates to political leaders, I think of someone that keeps things together. Someone that keeps things moving in the same direction. Like gravity pulls the water in a stream down the mountain. Or like an area of low pressure pulls the wind relentlessly in a particular direction. We need to have someone that binds us together. Someone that keeps us moving in the right direction. If there is not, we will all eventually wander off and go our own way. In the words of Solomon in Proverbs 29 v 18 "the people perish".

Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope. I believe in Cabell County and Huntington. If I've learned one thing in my sixty-five years, it's this: You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. We all have a role to play.

That's the challenge I am attempting to articulate. It's a call to action for people who, like me, believe in Huntington and Cabell County. It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the hubris and go to work. Let's tell 'em all we've had enough. Let's elect citizens who have the vision of a newly revitalized Cabell County and an area that is seen as a great place to live, work, play, study and raise a family!

I believe in the potential of Huntington and Cabell County. Here is my challenge to you. First, register to vote. Second, start learning all that you can about each candidate for the various offices in the city and county. Third, become familiar with the area's long-term issues. I say long-term, because the city and county’s deteriorating infrastructure will be extremely costly to up-grade, and it may take decades to modernize it.

How can you be a part of this movement in the short-term, get involved in your neighborhood - when was the last time you volunteered your time, without expecting anything in return? Invest in your neighborhood in some small way: pick up litter, coach a team, run for office, be involved in your child's school, join a civic club, adopt a spot and keep it clean, etc., etc. and etc.

Finally, every citizen of our county needs to recapture the “sense of community” that once existed in our area, and having that community spirit dictates that we continuously keep in mind what is best for future generations of citizens who will inherit what we leave behind – be it good or bad. We do have a responsibility to work for the good of all - in the present - and for our children and their children and beyond.

I offer this as my “good medicine” for the first small step toward a progressive and “livable” Huntington and Cabell County for the Twenty-first Century.

Power to the People! Will you join us? Register to vote, stay informed and VOTE!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Our City's Mission - A Return to Civility

The street life in some of Huntington's neighborhoods has given way to social and physical incivilities. The result? Additional rapidly deteriorating areas of the city.

Social incivilities include public drinking or drunkenness, rowdy and unsupervised teen groups, sexual harassment on the street, arguing or fighting among neighbors, open prostitution, and—since the mid-1980s—public drug sales and the presence of crack addicts.

Physical incivilities include abandoned buildings, graffiti, litter, vacant and trash-filled lots, unkempt yards and housing exteriors, abandoned cars, and—again, since the mid-1980s—the conversion of houses and apartments to drug-selling locations. Until we eliminate the social and physical incivilities of our declining neighborhoods, we will retain the reputation of being an "unlivable" city.

Candidates for Mayor of Huntington must discuss this issue and outline their plans for bringing civility back to all of our neighborhoods. What evidence do you see that incivilities exist in your neighborhood? What could be done to make your neighborhood more livable?

(Note: the photo is that of the interior of an abandoned house on 13th Street in Fairfield West. There are scores of houses like this in various neighborhoods citywide.)

Give Mayor David Felinton His Due

Sometimes, I have been critical of Mayor David Felinton, but to be completely fair, I must compliment him on the positive things that have occurred during his two-terms of service to our citizens. I have found him to be thoughtful, intelligent and committed to making things better in Huntington. Yes, he is young, but he is a "quick-study" and is learning. The Mayor is not a “flashy” sort of person. Therefore, many of Huntington’s citizens have not had an opportunity to get to know His Honor. I believe he is a shy person and is not into "showing off" or posturing. It is a nice change, don't you think?

The more I consider the list of presently announced candidates for Mayor, I tend to think that a third-term for the Mayor is appropriate. Unless some other candidate can change my mind by laying out their plans that include realistic time-lines for resolution of Huntington's major public policy issues, I may well vote for David Felinton for Mayor of the City of Huntington for the third time.

Shouldn't we all give Mayor Felinton is due?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Non-negotiable citizens' stance has us frozen in place.

Until the citizens of Huntington relinquish their non-negotiable stance of "no new taxes", we will be "frozen in place". Until then, we will continue on our present path of deterioration, rather than experiencing a renaissance! You cannot manage a city without adequate revenue streams to pay for the quality of services that are required for a city to attract new residents and employers, or retain young people who are lured away to more appealing cities. Our city government and our citizens have much work to do.

The key to any revival is basic improvements: a city must be safe; its rubbish collected properly, its streets and sidewalks properly maintained, its schools adequate. How to make our city viable long-term is an unsolved question. An early task ("It's hard work!") is to address the physical problems. We are moving dramatically forward with the revitalization of downtown Huntington - a fantastic leap forward!

However, the problems of a shrinking population and the high number of decrepit houses must be faced, and soon. You cannot go a block without seeing a dilapidated house. Blighted buildings are like cancerous cells; they spread crime and lower nearby property values, gnawing away at Huntington's shrunken tax base.

Many cities share this problem. A good example is Flint, Michigan. I understand that the City of Huntington's plan for our participation in the WV Legislature's pilot "home rule" program incorporates some of the ideas Flint has put into action.

In short, the #1 priority for Huntington is to make it livable, a city that might lure a start-up or retain students after they graduate. The physical task is serious enough. Addressing our area's structural economic problems is a much thornier question.

What do you think?

"We know the way. We need only the will."

Amanda made this comment on our earlier post, "We know the way; we need only the will." She said:

"I realize I'm a little late on this thread, but I have some things to add.Mr. Cobb, thank you so much for your work and constant promotion of fairness and equality. This is an important ordinance for Huntington (and the rest of the US, but we'll take baby steps). Just one comment - lesbians are homosexuals, too. ;) I am one, I wouldn't steer you wrong.

To anonymous: I know that for my homosexuality is a characteristic that I can't change about myself. I tried to fit the mold for a long time - I certainly didn't want to be different than all of my friends. But the truth is I was miserable and resentful that I had to hide who I was for fear of being outcast. Maybe some people choose their sexuality, I'm not saying it's impossible, but it really shouldn't matter anyway. My point is, it isn't necessarily a choice. If this hasn't changed your mind, let me ask you this: Who decides whether you are Catholic or Methodist or Buddhist? Religious freedom is protected, and that most definitely a choice.

tanstaafl: You would be right if we lived in a Utopian society and everyone understood that "all people" means exactly that. However, we don't, and there are those who would refuse to hire someone because of their race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and/or sexual orientation, and their defense would be that there was nothing in the Civil Rights Act that said specifically that they couldn't do such a thing. I don't know how old you are, but there was a time when it was perfectly legal for people to put up help wanted signs that said "men only." The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission didn't legally prohibit sex-segregated help wanted ads until 1968. You keep expressing concern that white males are specified under this ordinance, but neither are black males or white females. It includes RACE, which can be white, black, Asian, pacific islander, etc. It includes gender: male OR female. It does not include sexual orientation yet, which would protect heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals (and I don't know, but I'm assuming transsexuals? That is if we truly want it to be all-inclusive...which I do.) You seem to think these things are only for the benefit of minority groups, but it would protect a heterosexual white male from being fired by a homosexual black woman simply because of his race, gender, and - you guessed it - sexual orientation. I'm not trying to attack you by any means, I'm just trying to show you the other side of the coin, so please don't be offended. It's OK if you don't agree with homosexuality. But I think we can all agree that every American should be able to earn a living and keep a roof over their head."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Home Rule and Consolidation of Huntington and Cabell County Governments

Today's Herald-Dispatch reported that a proposal from the City of Huntington to be considered for one of the five West Virginia cities who will participate in a pilot "Home Rule" program approved by the West Virginia Legislature and Governor Manchin, will soon be on its way to the state. I am encouraged by this "progress."

Now, if we can only get our government leaders to seriously consider a reorganization of our counties and cities. Consolidation is the only answer for ensuring that our local governments are "lean and mean" and capable of conducting the peoples' business in a cost effective and efficient manner during the rest of this century and beyond.

“Where there is no vision the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I would like to challenge every person living in Cabell County to do more than they are doing to make our county better. Let's start with solving the problem of litter and improper solid waste disposal. That is a job that each of us can do to contribute to a better community. If each of us would make a pledge to ourselves to never litter and, further, to pledge to "adopt a spot" that we notice needs some tidying-up, we would be a long way down the road to having cleaner communities. To me that would be "giving" - giving back to our community. A "taker" is someone who does anti-social things - like dropping fast food waste in the street without any thought that someone else will have to pick up their trash.

That is a simple example of what I mean by "givers" and "takers". You can carry that idea out, as it relates to "volunteering" for community service, or "never volunteering" to be of service to others. In reality, many of our citizens are so self-absorbed that they have disconnected from their community, their county, their state and their country. their self-interest is their only concern.

What can we do to get folks to "re-connect" and become a "giver" in the comunities of Cabell County?

Discussing Issues For All of Cabell County? Why Not!

I have been asked by many people why our "Neighborhood Issues" blog is only about Huntington's neighborhoods. I've thought about that, and I concluded that on this blog we should do exactly that! So, effective with my next posting, we will discuss neighborhood issues for all areas of Cabell County. This is our county - Cabell County. We can all work together and make anything we can imagine happen for the benefit of all.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Equal Justice Under the Law?

According to the Washington Post, an independent panel is considering reducing the sentences of inmates incarcerated in federal prisons for crack cocaine offenses, which would make thousands of people immediately eligible to be freed.

Should the panel adopt the new policy, the sentences of 19,500 inmates would be reduced by an average of 27 months. About 3,800 inmates now imprisoned for possession and distribution of crack cocaine could be freed within the next year, according to the commission's analysis. The proposal would cover only inmates in federal prisons and not those in state correctional facilities, where the vast majority of people convicted of drug offenses are held.

The commission is taking up one of the most racially sensitive issues of the two-decades-old war on drugs. Jurists and civil rights organizations have long complained that the commission's guidelines mandate more stringent federal penalties for crack cocaine offenses, which usually involve African Americans, than for crimes involving powder cocaine, which generally involve white people. The chemical properties of the drugs are the same, though crack is potentially more addictive.

Nearly 86 percent of inmates who would be affected by the change are black; slightly fewer than 6 percent are white. Ninety-four percent are men. What's going on here? Where are all of the convicted powder cocaine users? With shorter sentences, they are now at home, or in a state correctional facility; while the African Americans, using the same drug in a different form, are given longer sentences in the federal prisons! That is just plain wrong! Racism is alive and well in America. We must do better!

Monday, November 12, 2007

City-County Consolidation In West Virginia

I recommend that every citizen of Cabell County review this report regarding the consolidation of city-county governments in West Virginia. The link to the final report is below; just click on it:
We, the people, need to be knowledgeable of the issues. Consolidation must occur; shall we begin the process? After reading the report, I would appreciate your input and views on consolidation. Thanks!

Why is it so difficult for people to change?

During the mid-to-late 1970's, I lived in Augusta, GA. I was the CEO of the city's coliseum/sports arena/exhibition hall.

The governments of Richmond County, Georgia and the city government of Augusta, Georgia merged into the Augusta-Richmond County Consolidated Government in 1995 with 66.7% voting yes. Three previous attempts failed (in 1971 with 41.5% voting yes; in 1974 with 48.5% voting yes; and in 1976 with 45.5% voting yes).

So, it took twenty-four years to get it done. A new generation had to make it happen. Why is it so very difficult to get people to accept change?

Now their citizens are prospering, and they are pleased with the cost savings and the improved delivery of public services. The police, fire and medical services for the consolidated government are well-respected and admired and the infrastructure is modern and well-maintained.

Ditto for the Consolidated Government of Columbus, Georgia (Muscogee County). I was the CEO 0f the Ironworks Convention and Trade Center from 1985 to 1988.

The City of Columbus, GA and Muscogee County (GA) governments consolidated much earlier than August-Richmond County (1970), with 80.7% voting for approval. Consolidation had failed in 1962 with only 42.1% voting for consolidation.

Because the citizens of Muscogee county had the vision to consolidated their governments, the the citizens are experiencing prosperity and enjoying the very highest quality of public services.

What did the citizens do to make it happen? All of the "good ole boys" were required to relinquish their positions at the public trough. Everyone had to give up his or her long-held turf.

That will have to happen in Cabell County. Why is our state always fifty-years behind in taking action for needed change? Will the people of Cabell County rise-up and vote for consolidation? I truly believe they will - and I, personally, will vote for government consolidation.

All the cities and towns in Cabell County will retain their uniqueness and individuality, but we will have one county-wide government to deliver services, and we will have one set of public officials that we will hold responsible for conducting the business of the people. I believe that we must change our form of government and as soon as is humanly possible.

The future generations of our county will praise us for having the guts and foresight to defeat the "good ole boy network"! Layered-government is too expensive - one government is less costly, more efficient and more capable of delivering high-quality public services.

This is an idea whose time has come for our county! We must stop being self-absorbed and thinking only of ourselves. We need to start caring about Cabell County's future and what will be best for our children and their children. Would you consider supporting the consolidation of the City of Huntington and the Cabell County Government for the future welfare of our area?

How about this name – The Consolidated Government of Cabell County?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

No Help from Federal Government, I Fear

Obviously, the financial condition of our federal government dictates the amount of funds that can be allocated to the states for the improvements needed to enhance the lives of their citizens. The fact that the United States Congress is again considering additional funding of $611 Billion for continuing our military occupation of Iraq, is a strong indication that federal assistance will not be forthcoming anytime soon. And, in my opinion, things are going to become much worse.

I believe that the Executive Branch of our government is using the tactics described by Nazi Germany's Herman Goering to lead us into a larger war. Goering was one of the highest-ranking Nazis who survived to be captured and put on trail for war crimes in the city of Nuremberg by the Allies at the end of World War II. He was found guilty of "war crimes", "crimes against peace", and "crimes against humanity" by the Nuremberg tribunal and sentenced to death by hanging. The sentence was not carried out, however, because Goering committed suicide with smuggled cyanide capsules hours before his execution, scheduled for October 15, 1946.

Herman Goering proclaimed that although "the people don't want war, they "can always be brought to the bidding of their leaders." Here was his thinking on the subject, which he divulged during discussions with others during his imprisonment (does his thinking sound familiar?):

"Of course the people don't want war. But, after all, it's the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

-- Herman Goering, from prison, during the Nuremberg trials

Saturday, November 10, 2007

It's not the form of government, stupid!

It is not the form of government that is the problem with our city. That is too simple. And because it is simple, officeholders use it to deflect criticism of their inability to come up with solutions and strategic plans for resolving our numerous public policy issues.

One strategy that politicians use is "deflection". If the voters are "turning up the heat" and wanting solutions to Huntington's problems, deflect attention away from those issues by blaming everything on the form of government. I don't fall for it! The mayor and council members asked for the jobs ... now do them! Communication between this council, the mayor and Huntington's citizens is non-existent.

I suggest the mayor and council accept their responsibilities and begin discussing short and long-term solutions to: solid waste disposal; the self-insured employee health insurance program; dilapidated and fire-damaged houses and structures; modification to the long-term financing of pension plans; enforcement of all existing city ordinances (we have ordinances for every possible infraction, but no enforcement); home rule and a modification to the tax laws to encourage an influx of new businesses; drugs and crime .... shall I go on?

I want to hear candidates speak to those issues! It's not our form of government that is the problem. The problem is a lack of vision, strategic planning, consensus-building and a laissez-faire attitude on the part of all of our public officials.

Should we have a vote on whether or not the City Charter should be changed? No! Just elect citizens who dare to be great!

So, what do the rest of you think?

Who ya gonna vote for?

Listen up, folks. It is time to start watching very closely and listening intently to the announced candidates for Mayor of the City of Huntington. We have serious issues in "river city"! If you don't know what they are, you need to learn! How can we ask the candidates questions about solutions, if we are not knowledgeable of the problems? How can we choose a candidate, if we have no idea what their plans are for resolving them? No plan; no support; period!

I, for one, am looking and listening for someone to trust-in and vote for! I want straight-talk and a no-nonsense strategic plan for each problem! How about you?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Mayor Felinton Explains Why $200,000 Is Available

I received an email from Huntington Mayor David Felinton. His Honor enlightened me as to why $200,000, planned to be used in the sanitation and trash departments enterprise fund, are now available to help cover the increase in the projected cost of the City's self-insured employee health insurance program.

Here is what Mayor Felinton said: "You may be misinformed about the transfer. We are not robbing "Peter to pay Paul". This was money that was to be transferred to the enterprise fund from the general fund, if the funds were needed to break even (in the created) enterprise fund (which was established) July 1. It was anticipated that the revenue would not cover the costs (or at least the fund would need to borrow start-up money from the general fund.) After the first round of billing and collections of the refuse fee, we found that it is not necessary. Thus we did not have to rob Paul (the general fund) to pay Peter (the enterprise fund), as was anticipated a few months ago."

I appreciate Mayor Felinton clarifying why the funds were available for other uses, and I apologize to him for making the wrong assumption about the reason for the transfer. I am comfortable that our mayor has the welfare of our city upper most in his mind.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Trash and Sanitation Reserve Fund To Be Raided?

City of Huntington Finance Director, Robert Wilhelm, yesterday proposed to the Huntington City Council's Finance Committee that $200,000. in a current reserve fund for the trash an sanitation budget be used to help offset the projected increased expense of the city's self-insured employee's medical insurance program. It is projected that the city's health insurance costs will balloon to $7.6 million, from $5.6 million, for this fiscal year. So, again, the city is "robbing from Peter to pay Paul". The idea that we would use funds allocated for trash removal and sanitation, and use it for some other purpose, does not make good sense. Our city is dirty and trash removal is not up to even minimal standards. It just doesn't make good sense!

What is Huntington's #1 Priority?

The #1 priority for our city is to re-establish the sense of community pride that we have lost. When a city becomes trashed by its own citizens, it is suffering from a poor self-image. How can we expect to attract new residents, jobs and businesses when it is obvious that we don't even care enough to keep our own city clean? Have we no shame? We pay User Fees and business owners pay a Business and Occupation Tax. The money collected by the City of Huntington is supposted to go, in part, toward the costs associated with the enforcement of our city's ordinances. Why are we not enforcing our present ordinances related to littering and solid waste disposal? What is wrong with this picture?