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Pete Gillespie

Pete Gillespie, candidate for Huntington City Council District 2

This is one of a series of guest columns from candidates in contested races in the June 9 West Virginia Primary Election.

Few if any City Council candidates — or more so, sitting members of City Council — ever mention the single most important responsibility of the role of City Council. That is in the power of the purse, the legislative duty to appropriate the city’s budget, a duty which a member of council can be held personally liable for.

In just under the past six years, Huntington’s budget has gone from $45 million to nearly $60 million at the present, a difference of approximately $15 million. With Huntington’s population hovering at only about 47,000 people, a $60 million budget seems quite adequate.

Between the police and fire departments making up almost half of Huntington’s budget at approximately $28 million, that leaves about $30 million to be spread over the remaining city departments and city obligations for the fiscal year. The chief executive/mayor proposes the budget, and almost always council approves the budget with little to no changes at all.

Oftentimes, when the executive office finds itself with more money to spend, you can bet they’ll find a way to spend it. And, far too often, Huntington City Council is just willing to hand over the purse. The single most powerful tool City Council possesses is often handed away with little discussion or debate or amendments.

You might be asking yourself, why is this so important? Let me tell you: To know the city’s budget is to know the strength of the city. The budget can forecast the feasibility of short-term and long-term goals for the city. Little is accomplished unless it is in the budget. From public safety to street repair, to embarking on capital projects and/or partnerships and even the acquisition of some grants, City Council members can move money around in the proposed budget or even create their own line items.

For instance, say I want to fund a love-your-block type of program that was not in the proposed budget. The council could create a line item and fund the program by moving money around in the budget.

I also am a supporter of Huntington Check Book (a program that traces all of Huntington’s spending that follows the state model). First, we need to create an ordinance of council establishing Huntington Check Book, then allocate monies in the budget for such a program. City Council’s power is its budgeting ability. Council is the steward of your money, thus Huntington’s Purse.

I am excited and hopeful to play a role in making Huntington a great city once again. I believe we need to focus on replacing regressive revenue with progressive revenue. I want to see adequate treatment for our citizens suffering from drug addiction.

I want to establish a permanent love-your-block type program helping bolstering housing stock in Huntington.

I will work with our police and fire departments to ensure they have the tools they need for their personal safety, and to protect our community, such as proper staffing, equipment and job training.

And last but certainly not least, I will sponsor an ordinance of City Council establishing Huntington Check Book, a program that follows the state model, creating more transparency between local government and the public, by which most all transactions will be posted on the city’s website.

Pete Gillespie is a Democratic candidate for Huntington City Council from District 2, which includes West Huntington.

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