CORRIDOR CHRONICLE OPINION
Public officials required to make decisions
Controversy often permeates public policy and decisions. Many times, communities and constituents are divided on the issues of the day. The United States and governmental units here generally operate as republican forms of government. In the strictest sense, neither the USA or the 50 states are true democracies. If any were, citizens would almost continuously be at the polls deciding public policy.
Instead, Americans rely on elected representatives to “represent” them in decision-making processes. Taking matters a step farther, voters do not actually choose their own President — as was the case in the 2016 election. Although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, she lost to Donald Trump because he claimed a majority of “electoral” votes in the Electoral College.
Congressmen and women as well as United States Senators stand in for the public at large on making public policy at the national level. Voters choose Congressional representatives who they expect to vote in the best interests of the republic. If the congressional member fails to do so, he or she can be voted out in the next election.
At the state level, voters are represented by members of the Legislature and statewide officials, such as the Governor. Again, do the job right or face possible defeat in the next balloting.
County Commissions are largely the decision-making body for county residents. Although a County Commission technically serves even incorporated areas, it is clearly THE local government for West Virginians who reside in unincorporated areas.
All public officials are charged with upholding the responsibilities of their offices. This includes making decisions on controversial issues. State law does not permit an elected official to abstain from voting simply because he or she is too timid to make up his or her mind. Public officials can only refrain from voting on an issue if they have a vested monetary interest in the vote result. State law requires that any public official abstaining must clearly state his or her reason for doing so.
Mingo County appears to have a new County Commissioner who does not understand his full responsibilities. Perhaps unaware of statutes, he seems to think he can refrain voting “just because he wants to.” That simply is not true.
The controversy surrounding the proposed Serenity Point drug rehabilitation center on Second Avenue is a case in point. Earlier last month, the County Commission voted to table either supporting or opposing the project to permit more time for comment and study. Tabled on February 1, the matter came back up for a vote on February 21.
Apparently, 20 days is not enough for Commissioner Thomas Taylor to “educate” himself on an issue. While it is clear that there are thousands of both supporters and opponents of the center at the old Mountaineer Hotel location, Taylor evidently could not take time to speak with the director or learn anything about the treatment program in nearly three weeks.
Note to Taylor: there is a drug problem in Mingo County. It is likely you don’t know about it either. Mingo Countians want and deserve help with this community villain, illegal drugs. As both of the other commissioners, Diann Hannah and Greg “Hootie” Smith said, they do not know that the Hotel location is the best in the world. But, as Hannah said, the drug epidemic has hit virtually every family in the southern coalfields. “If you had a better place to put it, I’m sure you would,” Hannah told Brenda Harness, Director of the Mingo Housing Authority.
Hannah made a motion to voice Commission support for the project. Smith seconded it. Taylor announced, in advance, that he would abstain — and not, as one attendee suggested because Taylor’s wife works for the local Chamber which benefits financially from the Hotel/Motel tax. At that point, Taylor assured the public that “where my wife works has nothing to do with how I vote on this bench.”
No. Taylor abstained “because I feel it would be almost uneducated for me to make a decision and say it would be a great thing or a horrible thing.” Before that interesting confession, Taylor told listeners, “I don’t know a thing about the rehab business.”
The issue of the center has been in the public arena for months, yet Taylor has not had time to “know a thing.” Incredibly unbelievable coming from a public representative.
“I hope everybody can respect (my) decision,” he offered, apparently thinking some would.
We would suggest to Commissioner Taylor that he get his head out of the sand and STUDY the issues coming before the County Commission. We recommend that, instead of just collecting a paycheck, he actually makes an effort to represent the public that elected him. It is doubtful that any voter would be “respectful” enough to say they voted for Taylor so he could abstain from voting on controversial issues.
Smith occasionally abstains — as he did at the February 21 meeting — because, as a private attorney, he has a vested interest in some decisions. That is openly and clearly stated and understood. Unless Taylor now intends to claim he DOES have a pecuniary interest in the rehab center due to his wife’s employment, no other reason was even suggested at the meeting.
Voters deserve a representative with the courage to stand up for them. Thusfar, Taylor is failing that responsibility.