The Ill Mice And The Fat Cats

THE HARTMAN RUN BRIDGE SCANDAL STEMS FROM THE REALITY THAT THE MORGANTOWN CITY COUNCIL AND THE MONONGALIA COUNTY COMMISSION ACT LIKE THEY ARE IN LOVE WITH BEING POOR

That is, with keeping the public impoverished. Take a look around.

Who needs bridges? Take a look at the Hartman Run bridge, literally falling apart.

Take a look at Morgantown and Monongalia County. It’s as if these places are in love with being poor. Both Morgantown City Council and Monongalia County Commission have ample powers to vastly improve the public conditions and qualities of life, but they seem to prefer to keep the public impoverished instead. Oftentimes, these officials even sound proud of keeping the local public poor. It’s sick. The Morgantown City Council and the Monongalia County Commission too often act like ill mice slaving in the service of monied fat cats. It’s pathetic, grotesque, and wrong.

County Commissioner Eldon Callen and Bill Bartolo both emphasize not increasing revenues, keeping a lid on how much money the Commission provides the county. They act proud of dispensing paltry sums to the parks, to counseling services, to transportation, to the needs of the homeless. Hey, if they can spend fewer dollars on the public, for the public’s welfare, they are proud to tell you, they surely will. In Commissioner Bartolo’s words: “Look at how you are spending [money for]…public services…not on how you can get more.”

What a sick joke. Commissioners Bartolo and Callen recently voted via the “ballpark TIF” to give away millions of taxpayer dollars to the extremely high revenue WVU athletic department. And they recently voted, via this “ballpark TIF” to give away tens of millions of taxpayer dollars more, for the next three decades, to support commercial development – thereby locking a lot of tax money into that largely commercial district and locking it away from largely residential areas of the county. Meanwhile, these commissioners vote to give a mere $70,000 per year to the local public parks system, and they refuse to repair or replace the heavily traveled Hartman Run bridge (wholly owned by the county), and they vote for virtually nothing more for the local homeless problem, and there exists a dire lack of centers (such as may be found, for example, in Garrett County Maryland) for recycling common hazardous or toxic materials, and in the case of Commissioner Callen, at least, he refuses to vote to let Westover properly expand its tax base over city-adjacent commercial properly. Unless Commissioners Callen and Bartolo get far more on the forward and healthy side of history, they should be thanked for whatever service they may have contributed and then be quickly dismissed by the voting public in favor of Commissioners who are not so intent upon keeping the public poor.

WVU President Jim Clements not uncommonly makes wrongful decisions, unfortunately – in fostering secret dealings from the public, in siting childcare facilities at dangerous and polluted intersections, in constantly allowing tuition raises – but at least he knows what his main job is: raising money for his constituency, WVU, constantly bringing in tens of millions of additional dollars. Contrast Clements’ clarity of purpose with that of Commissioners Bartolo and Callen who not only constantly talk against raising funds for the public but who then turn around and essentially give away public funds to wealthy entities like the WVU athletic department, which itself is supplemented by the even more wealthy WVU Foundation ($1.2 billion in assets). With County Commissioners like that, any fear of public waste and public theft is superfluous. Monongalia County poverty, that is, the active impoverishment of the public, in many ways starts with these commissioners and their woeful, backwards rhetoric. They cling to a kind of rhetorical insanity that flounders along the following broken line: the more the commissioners deny the public, the more the commissioners benefit the county. Who exactly is the county, again, if not the public? Insanity of speech? Or willful idiocy? Regardless, this kind of grotesque ideology is typically pushed down on public officials and then upon the public itself primarily by the few but the powerful, wealthy entities and individuals. It takes a strong and active public well-organized to overcome these impoverishing forces.

What is exceptionally not helpful is when this idiocy of the County is rubber-stamped by the Morgantown City Council, for example, in its unanimous resolution supporting the “ballpark TIF.” This odious resolution was soon followed by high comedy when the City Council and the County Commission found themselves haggling over their remaining tight funds – dollars which are badly needed for bridges, and parks, and counseling, and homelessness, and street repair, and hazardous waste disposal…and a million other things.

So let this be one of those rare learning moments when that great cheerleader of a WVU President, Jim Clements, has something to teach the Monongalia County Commission and the Morgantown City Council: your foremost job…IS TO RAISE FUNDS FOR THE PUBLIC…so that you can stop denying services to the public, and so that you can provide additional badly needed services to the public, and so that you can stop impoverishing and marginalizing the public.

West Virginia has one of the lowest property tax rates in the USA. That might be a significant reason why West Virginia is dead last in well being in the USA. Morgantown has one of the most chewed up and hollowed out city boundaries imaginable, allowing a tremendous amount of B&O taxes to go uncollected. That might be a significant reason for much of the rough and rugged, that is slummy and crummy – crumbled – conditions of the city and county, with too many pitiful and non-existent public services.

No surprise either that Monongalia County Board of Education continues to find especially unsavory ways to impoverish the public by threatening funding for the Morgantown Area Youth Services Project, in what appears to be retaliation against Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom. 

It’s long since time for Morgantown and Monongalia County (not to mention the entire state) to move forward, with or without the existing elected officials. It’s long since time to stop the impoverishing of the public.

Local elected officials need to stop playing the part of ill mice scurrying around – and squeaking so grotesquely – under the commanding eyes and the backwards mentality, or instructions, of the fat cats. The public deserves better, to say the least.

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