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Cal Kent: City must be able to live within its income

Oct. 05, 2012 @ 12:13 AM

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is one of a series of columns written by candidates in contested races in the Nov. 6 general election.

All issues facing the City of Huntington can be summed up as "money." What can be accomplished is and will be determined by the financial health of the city. The city must live within its income.

During my previous service on the City Council, I was considered a "budget hawk." I looked for ways to prioritize expenditures and eliminate unnecessary spending. Huntington's citizens -- when all taxes and fees are considered -- carry one of the highest burdens in the state. We must make every possible effort not to increase the cost of city government.

To accomplish this we must have "financial integrity." We must pursue delinquent bills vigorously, publish those who do not pay and temporarily close businesses that are delinquent until they catch up.

Adopting the consultant's recommendations regarding fire services would reduce costs, freeing funds to bring the department to full strength and make capital upgrades.

The municipal fee is based on how many square feet are in a structure. These records must be current so demolished buildings are no longer included and new ones are on the rolls.

Working with the state, make certain sales outside the city for products delivered inside the city are subject to the sales tax, not only to raise revenue but also to give local merchants a level playing field.

State and federal grants to support city programs totaled $4 million. How will Huntington pay to keep those programs if the grants are cut or eliminated?

Citizens need to know the future costs of complying with state and federal regulations. These range from the fire and police pensions ($145 million) and post employment benefits ($100 million) to landfill closure ($4-$8 million). Also storm sewer revitalization and separation of storm and sanitary sewers must be done. We must have a plan to pay for these

Along with "financial integrity" we must promote "economic development." Other cities have complete development websites using Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Scouts looking to recommend places to firms seeking new locations favor those where the website can furnish all the information they need.

We should promote the "Transpark" currently under development. There, shipments by rail, river, road or air can be received, reassembled and sent elsewhere. Cities near these facilities have seen significant growth in employment, income and revenue. The creation of a Tri-State Development Authority and a "free trade zone" are essential.

The potential of higher education must be better utilized. Marshall has made "civic involvement" one of its core missions. The programs at MCTC create a pool of employees that is a positive force for economic development.

Most city agencies would benefit from faculty and student interns. The programs in engineering, science, fine arts, education and public administration offer low-cost and high-quality talent. The new Entrepreneurship Center at the Business School will aid business endeavors. The Rahall Transportation Institute is a model.

Enhanced visibility must be obtained with the Legislature and executive offices. Currently state legislation in many areas hamstrings the city and denies us the options to handle our own problems. Other cities have been more effective in making their voices heard and their needs presented.

My qualifications consist of 20 years residency with my wife of 50 years, Nita Sue. I served on the City Council from 1998 to 2008 with two terms as chair and 10 years on Finance Committee. Past service includes the Huntington Municipal Development Authority and the Tri-State Airport Authority.

A former dean of the College of Business and vice president for Business Research at Marshall, I am now teaching, organizing the entrepreneurship program and doing policy research for the Legislature.

I served as chair or co-chair on Tax Study Commissions under both Governors Underwood and Manchin. I have been a member on state boards and commissions and a consultant to the Legislature and governor. I am on the State Board for Kids Count.

I serve as treasurer, trustee and executive committee member at Hospice of Huntington. I am active in my church as elder, clerk, trustee and Sunday school teacher. I am a member and past president of the Rotary Club.

Cal Kent is a Republican candidate for an at-large position on the Huntington City Council.

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