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Editorial: City voters to select council, decide charter issues

Oct. 18, 2012 @ 11:57 PM

Besides choosing a mayor, Huntington voters in this fall's general election will have other important decisions regarding their city government.

All 11 City Council positions will be at stake, and those who win those seats will be responsible for saying yes or no on proposed city ordinances and resolutions and have final say on how city taxpayers' money is spent.

Huntington voters also will be asked to decide on three proposed amendments to the city charter, which spells out the structure of city government operations.

It's important that the successful City Council candidates are familiar with city operations and community needs, have a basic understanding of the financial forces at play and an ability to work together toward solutions.

Two at-large council members are chosen by voters in the entire city, while the other nine are elected from geographical districts. Incumbent candidates representing Districts 1, 5 and 6 are running unopposed, but the other City Council positions are contested. Our recommendations:

At-large: Republican Cal Kent and Democrat David Ball offer the strongest combination of credentials, experience and record of community involvement.

Kent, formerly dean of Marshall University's College of Business and now its vice president for Business and Economic Research, served on the council for 12 years until term limits forced him off in 2008. He was twice council chair and for eight years chaired the council's Finance Committee. His expertise on financial issues will be vital to the council.

Ball was a Huntington firefighter for 23 years, and also has the perspective of an entrepreneur through the catering business he's operated for nearly a decade. He has presented solid ideas for doing a better job of collecting fees and taxes, serving businesses better and more efficient operations.

District 2: Democrat Pete Gillespie II advocates more beautification efforts and more aggressive redevelopment efforts.

District 3: Incumbent Frances Jackson, a Democrat, brings long experience to the position, and has been a strong advocate for residents in her district.

District 4: Republican Gary Bunn's resume includes work as a city manager, City Council member, county commissioner and service on the city Planning Commission.

District 7: Incumbent Scott Caserta, a Democrat, has proven to be an able member of the council and should be re-elected to a third term.

District 8: Independent candidate Dick Strode has identified priority issues relating to public safety and unkempt property.

District 9: Sherry Lynn McClanahan, a Republican, lists developing a better business climate and better communication with other levels of governments among her goals.

City charter amendments: All three proposals are reasonable and warrant a "yes" vote.

The charter currently requires employees to live in the city. However, because of legal disputes over the past decade, it alternately has been enforced and then abandoned. In 2009, the City Council voted to exempt all current employees from the rule but required all new hires to follow it. Proponents of the change say the requirement limits the pool of candidates for city jobs. Abandoning the requirement makes sense, but it's appropriate that the city's voters have a final say.

A similar issue is involved with the city's Public Works director's position. Officials say the requirement that the director be a licensed professional engineer for the $64,000 annual salary tied to the job makes it extremely difficult to find candidates. The job also now primarily involves administrative functions. We agree that the requirement should be removed.

Finally, a requirement that all city vehicles be placed at one central garage when not in use simply isn't practical. This rule also should be eliminated from the charter.

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