Re: Home Rule in Lewisburg

Dear Editor:

A few things Lewisburg citizens should know about Lewisburg’s second application to the Home Rule Program:

First let me say, that it is getting extremely tiresome and time consuming to try to keep up with all of the new rules, ordinances, regulations and fees that Lewisburg Mayor and City Council keep trying to impose on its citizens. I totally understand why so few people attend the regular meetings. We just don’t have enough time to do our own jobs when we have to watch every minute to make sure this group does their job which is to represent the majority of the Lewisburg citizens-not just the special interest groups.

Essentially, the WV Home Rule Pilot Program allowed pilot cities to implement changes in all matters of local governance without regard for state laws or rules. (From the website of WV Legislative Auditor Performance and Evaluation & Research)

That means that the city governments would have more and more power to do things their own way – without regard to state regulations. It can be argued that that’s a good thing and would streamline many of the hoops cities have to jump through to get things done in a timely manner.

However, I totally disagree in this case, because I personally feel that our town has too much control over what we do already. I feel they need to be kept in check by having to obey laws of the state. What if all of us could get exemptions from the regulations we didn’t like? Try it and see what happens.

Lewisburg is gearing down on what they are asking for on this second attempt at Home Rule. The reason is that once they are approved for home rule, it will then be much easier to add amendments and get approval than to try to get it all on the first try. This has been proven over and over. Do your homework; go to the WV Home Rule website and look at what other cities have asked for as amendments once their original applications were approved.

This is one way our expensive fire fees came into being. For instance, here is a copy of what Bridgeport asked for AFTER they had been approved for Home Rule Status: Amendment to Bridgeport Home Rule: Bridgeport proposes to assess a fire fee for providing fire protection outside of its corporate limits and to file and enforce a lien for unpaid and delinquent fees in order to provide funding in part for providing fire protection services to properties outside of its corporate limits. They also mentioned in their “feasibility study” that the fire fees outside of city limits would be 50% higher than the charge for commercial properties within the city limits.

Lewisburg Fire Ordinance originally stated that liens could be placed on our property for not paying the fire fees. Oddly, they discovered that was illegal because the county properties were not in the Lewisburg jurisdiction.

What’s to stop them from asking for an exemption on this once they establish Home Rule?

What’s to stop them from adding more taxes (for instance hotel/motel taxes) for long term tenants at local establishments or if students are living in your home for a few months during the year? Currently, the state code exempts those long-term guests from paying a bed tax. That could change with an amendment.

I know a lot of local people are currently focused on the Ordinance 254 Nondiscrimination issue, but let’s not let this Home Rule Ordinance slip by without voicing our opinions on it as well. The first reading of most of these ordinances is usually done in a”special off-week meeting” of the council. We must be diligent and watch for these. The second reading of Home Rule is coming up.

Remember that this is only the initial request to the Home Rule Board. By the Mayor’s own words, “Amendments have been going through pretty smooth over the last couple of years.” He added “that history indicates new ordinances patterned after those already approved for other municipalities are better with the board.”

Marietta Lyall

Lewisburg

 

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