Kim Wolfe: Staying course will assure more progress for city
At this point in a mayor's first term, I suppose it is natural to look back at what has been accomplished and what goals remain. I have been blessed to serve this community for my entire adult life, but never have I been given a more exciting and challenging opportunity to have a far-reaching positive impact; for this, I will always be grateful.
I am also grateful for the outstanding team we built within and between our administration, City Council, our hard-working city employees, our neighborhood associations and numerous civic, business, government, church and service organizations. They have worked so well together to achieve our extraordinary success in such a short period of time. I look forward to having four more years to further develop these partnerships and foster even more growth and progress.
In our first mayoral campaign, we adopted the "T.E.A.M. Huntington" mantra: Together Everyone Achieves More! Our primary goals were a safer, cleaner, more prosperous Huntington, but our accomplishments exceeded any of our hopes for the first term. Thanks to YOU, here are some of our successes, according to recent statistics from sources including the F.B.I., the Drug Market Initiative, The Huntington Police Department's Annual Report and others:
Huntington is the safest it's been since 1985! Since 2008, murders and violent crimes in Huntington have decreased by 67 percent.
We have 600 new jobs and counting with the investment of Amazon, DirectTV and others in our future.
We have established a regular paving schedule with more than $1 million in paving already accomplished.
We have removed more than 130 dilapidated houses and reclaimed the properties for future use, with many more to come down. Property values on Artisan Avenue are up 197 percent.
Our police department won the U.S. Attorney's law enforcement agency of the year in 2011 and 2012, and is about to be nationally accredited. They are attacking drunk driving aggressively with DUI arrests up 60.5 percent.
We are attracting new businesses, new residents, new MU students and even the film and television industry.
We have eliminated the manufacturing tax, cut the B&O tax in half, and are waiting on the state courts to allow us to eliminate the unfair user fee and replace it with a fair and equitable 1 percent occupation tax, which will not affect Social Security or pensions, but will allow folks who live elsewhere but earn their income in our city to pay their fair share of support for infrastructure and services.
The Paul Ambrose Trail, the revitalization of downtown, the Old Main Corridor Project -- the list goes on, but ultimately, these accomplishments resulted from teamwork.
The extraordinary cooperative effort with our administration, HURA, the Governor's office, the U.S. Attorney's office, The National Guard, the West Virginia Department of Corrections and other agencies to bring down dilapidated crime-infested houses has made us the envy of other cities in the state. They marvel at our success in bringing these entities together. This was possible because of our effective professional staff and their great preparation and working across party lines to do the right thing to eliminate this blight and revitalize these neighborhoods.
The long-awaited cooperative vision of razing the old barracks-style housing at Northcott Court and other public housing complexes and moving these families into cleaner, newer, more family- and community-oriented housing will restore pride and dignity in their neighborhoods and allow families to feel safe to sit on their porch and watch their children play again.
When we took office, the city was teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and receivership, our streets and neighborhoods dirty and unsafe, and much of downtown boarded up. Today, our streets and neighborhoods are cleaner and safer, our pension system has been revamped, saving the city millions in the future and saving the pensions of our retirees, and there is an exciting new optimism in our future, built upon coalitions of trust, cooperation and partnerships.
To change administrations in the midst of this upsurge of momentum and forward movement would dangerously impede our progress. We have accomplished so much together! It is time to stay the course!
Kim Wolfe is the Republican candidate for mayor of Huntington.