By Steve Novotney
The government of Wheeling, W.Va., has a lot to accomplish despite more than a decade of proactive decisions, and that’s because the Friendly City needs to address big-picture issues in order for the momentum to continue.
Let’s start with addressing the local decision makers for District 6 of the West Virginia Division of Highways concerning reaction time and the icy roadway conditions that thousands faced this past Saturday morning. The National Weather Service issued a “Watch Alert” hours prior to the falling, freezing rainfall, and yet more than 100 accidents took place on Interstate 70 and I-470.
Granted, the weather is the weather, but response time was, well, delayed.
Please don’t blame the DOH District 6 employees. They follow the work schedule, and they do not move until instructed. Instead, blame the decision makers and blame current U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin for pushing his plan to “centralize” and “privatize” DOH services.
Those services are especially important to the residents of Wheeling and Ohio County because of a pair of federal interstates and a state highway run right through the area.
Wheeling officials have been tough on the DOH in the past year, and they must continue to do so. Those efforts may mean for more traffic congestion than is already anticipated during coming years, but the attention is most needed.
Wheeling needs to recycle.
Residents once had blue, recycling bins for weekly collectors, but that went away nearly 10 years ago, and it has never returned. Recycling does still take place, but at a minimum. Privatizing the city’s garbage collection could solve the problem, and the options are under examination.
Wheeling needs to combat littering.
It’s ridiculous. In every neighborhood in the city, trash can be seen along roadways, at intersections, along the creek banks, and in the woods in the more rural areas. One non-profit organization, ReInvent Wheeling, may soon launch a “Pride Campaign,” and it’s my hope a portion of that blitz reminds all that tossing a cigarette butt and a bag of discarded remnants of fast food is not cool and is against the law.
Wheeling needs to rethink its strategy for the trees lining downtown streets.
I’ve tired of the manicured appearance, and I’d like the Main and Market streets area to appear more like a neighborhood than something it is not. Downtown Wheeling is not shiny, and it never will be thanks to the state highway, but pruning and not sculpting might be a new way to proceed.
And the tree beds also are in need of some love and stapling an, “If your dog poops here, clean it up!” sign on every other one might be a decent consideration, too.
Wheeling needs to push the federal government for dredging in areas of Big Wheeling Creek.
I find it ridiculous the city of Wheeling is not permitted to clear debris in Big Wheeling Creek (or any other flowing waterway within city limits) because of federal regulations, and I believe it’s idiotic for local government officials to have little say about the condition of a creek that possesses the potential to flood houses and wash away swing sets and jungle gyms. If the creek was dug deeper, the chances for flooding would decrease, and canoes and kayaks would be a more frequent sight.
Wheeling needs its leaders to be more vocal about the future of flood insurance.
The issue is, of course, on the federal level, and more than a year’s worth of debate has taken place in our nation’s capital. The only attempt made by Congress was a bill that reduced the increased rate of collection for policies through the National Flood Insurance for residential properties. The legislation, passed and signed in March, reduced that rate by 7 percent (25 percent to 18), but it did nothing to assist owners of commercial and rental properties within FEMA’s newly mapped flood plains.
None of the above is easy, and nothing will be accomplished any time soon. Dealing with state and federal government folks can seem daunting following the first phone call because of the immediate-and-dreaded red tape and the maze of avenues to navigate to simply get the right person on the phone.
Perhaps Wheeling should hire Charlie Sheen as its spokesman in its next commercial.
“Wheeling is winning,” he’d say. “And Wheeling wants to keep winning.”