Letters to the Editor
To the Editor:
I am writing at the request of several Snowshoe community homeowners to share some information in response to Mr. Tate’s recently published letter. In his letter, Mr. Tate raises questions over whether a Resort Area District would have the authority to take hotel occupancy taxes away from the County and therefore do the County great financial harm. While I understand and appreciate the impacts of such a concern, I can openly share that the short answer to Mr. Tate’s question is very plainly, no.
As Mr. Tate points out, only counties or municipalities may collect occupancy tax. Also as Mr. Tate points out, resort area districts and municipal corporations are defined under different sections of West Virginia State Code. In other words, while both municipalities and resort area districts are considered to be types of public corporations, not all public corporations are municipalities, and this holds true for Resort Area Districts; in that they are public corporations, but are not municipalities. While the term itself is not widely used every day, public corporations are not new to us. Boards of Education, Public Service Districts, Economic Development Authorities, and Community Enhancement Districts are all just a few examples of public corporations that exist throughout our state today. Similar to resort area districts, each of these public corporations have defined limits on how they generate funds to support operations; and a resort area district would have no more authority to take occupancy tax from the County than do any of these other examples.
Further supporting my point, the resort area district statute was developed quite intentionally with a “do no harm” approach. We knew that we had to do something to help the Snowshoe community better deal with the impacts of hundreds of thousands of guests impacting our shared roads, transportation, public safety, and other community services at such intense levels. We also knew that our approach most certainly would fail if it negatively impacted the rest of the County. Occupancy tax was off-limits from the start. The statute provides no authority for resort area districts to “claw back” occupancy tax, and as such this tax remains off-limits today and in the future.
Rumors can be harmful to good ideas because they groundlessly instill fear in place of facts and understanding, and the same is true here. There is no mischief whatsoever in the resort area district concept. If anyone has heard things that lead them to believe otherwise, I do hope that they will take the time to call or write me. I’m more than happy to present the truth.
Analysis of the RAD proposal based upon economic theory:
During comments to the County Commission I requested a second and third order academic and peer reviewed analysis of the InterWest proposal to determine emergent and unprojected outcomes of implementing the petition.
Here is what we know:
…the legislation was drafted, lobbied for by I/W and passed by the Legislature without input from those most effected, the property owners.
…I/W, Fortress continue to service a significant amount of debt with the recent Initial Public Offering generating much less revenue than projected.
…the majority of the property owners are not residents within the county, thereby limiting the political leverage of the homeowner.
Here is what the academic and peer reviewed literature says:
Special Tax Districts are generally not good for homeowners nor the local community , transferring infra- structure costs (both repair/replacement R2 and new initiatives} to current and future real property owners.
The first order analysis of this economic trend was termed the Tiebout Effect and dealt with economic mitigating effects; folks would, in a suburban environment where there were competing nearby communities, just move.
The second order of analysis, isolating economic/political entities where there is no competition for equal resources from adjacent communities, allows for control and mitigation by political means, A good read on this topic would be “Standing Tiebout on His Head: Tax Capitalization and the Monopoly Power of Local Governments.” A well done second analysis by Brian Caplan.
Using a differing baseline (rural rather than suburban), Caplan academically defends the premise that rather than economic control, the electorate must then exercise mitigation and control through the ballot.
Unfortunately I, and most of the owners in the proposed RAD, do not vote in the county and probably the state.
So then, at the third order, the only valid form for reasonable control left if there is not economic (Tiebolt) nor political (Caplan) to ensure the petition contains reasonable and systemic controls that protect the population.
The IW proposal quite simply does not.
Despite the assurances of the corporate representative this is a classic example of creating a systemic organization that is predisposed to provide increasing and sustainable revenue to only a segment of the community – that segment is IW with revenue continuing to flow outside of the county to Vancouver and reducing overtime the county tax base.
I was President of the Allegheny Springs Condos for a couple of years. The proportion of voting paralleled the IW petition, and because of the alliance of one (of the three) board members along with the IW representative, operations and efficiency were, in my opinion, largely sacrificed at the expense of IW’s profit.
And, the probability of this reoccurring, given the proportions of representation that IW desires, is significant.
Should IW be sincere in the position of a community partner, then the petition must be modified to ensure that control of funding and decisions stay local.
Let the petition be redone and, to protect both the owners and the county, ensure control remains local and reflects the desires of all participants.
And, next time IW wants to get something through the legislature, let all the stakeholders participate, if you want, as a corporate partner, our trust.
McHenry retired for the Marine Corps after 30 years and subsequently was a GS 15 Program Director for the Corps. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and a Doctorate in Organizational Planning.
I was sorry to see an article by Geoff Hamill in a recent Pocahontas Times that was not up to the high standard for balance and accuracy that I expect of him. It is customary in reporting on legal disputes to attempt to interview both sides, and I certainly was not contacted for this purpose.
After correspondence both with Editor Jaynell Graham, and Hamill himself, a correction of the least important error (the Judges name) appeared last week, but the overall posture and significance of the case remained misrepresented.
It was in 2007, not 2006 as stated, along with Charlotte Elza, Doug Bernier and me, several hundred other Pocahontas County property owners were sued, and in Joseph Pomponio’s Court, not Rowe’s. Several hundred more had been sued for the same fee, several years before, in Rowe’s Court. Altogether, our Solid Waste Authority under Chairman Ed Riley has sued over a third of Pocahontas County property owners, and another raft of suits is now pending.
The central issues, ignored by the Courts so far, are far more important than paying for garbage (which no one disputes is important) , but are whether non-elected Government agencies can do whatever they find convenient, by whatever means they find convenient, or if they are bound to fulfill the specific responsibilities laid on them by the Laws that establish them, by the specific means and powers granted to them by those Laws.
The West Virginia Supreme Court’s Memorandum Decision, to which Hamill referred, is not yet final, and will be challenged in Federal Court, if not reversed on reconsideration.
Government by Laws that We, the People enact through our representatives, rather than rapacious Government by a King and bureaucrats who do as they please, was what a certain Revolution was fought over, and a certain Constitution was written to ensure, some two-and-a-quarter centuries ago.
I’m not ready to give it up. Are you?
Editor’s note: It is the policy of this newspaper to report the decisions of the court as cases make their way through that venue. If this case is challenged in Federal Court or moves to a hearing for reconsideration, we will report the outcome of that, as well.
I am writing to share my account of a shocking and disturbing incident I witnessed between Magistrate Carrie Wilfong and an elderly gentleman.
On Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at approximately 1p.m., in Marlinton, while sitting in my car waiting for an appointment, I heard a woman begin to scream obscenities in what can only be described as an out of control angry tirade. This was directed at an elderly gentleman standing on the sidewalk. After several minutes of this expletive filled rant toward the elderly man, who I never heard say a word, I became concerned that the situation was turning into something more serious because the woman’s voice was becoming louder and more aggressive. Decided to call 911 to report what I was hearing and seeing. After getting off the phone with 911, I walked by the residence from which the screaming was coming on my way to an appointment.
It was then that I recognized the angry woman as Magistrate Wilfong standing on the porch of what is apparently her residence. The screaming subsided as she appeared to make a telephone call. However, standing directly beside her was a male individual who I witnessed aggressively point at the elderly gentleman and verbally issue what sounded to me like a physical threat. Obscenity laws prevent me from quoting what I heard. Two officers arrived on the scene shortly thereafter.
Ms. Wilfong’s behavior was shocking, and in my opinion unprofessional and quite frankly verbally abusive. Her vitriolic display was unleashed upon the elderly gentleman for allegedly bumping her vehicle with his while attempting to park. According to the State Police officer who responded to the scene, the damage was minor.
Her reaction was completely irrational and way out proportion to what happened. Her handling of and over reaction to this situation, which was witnessed by several other people and customers at a business on the other side of the street, demonstrate a serious lack of good judgment.
From the moment a person steps into the public arena and becomes an elected official, like Ms. Wilfong chose to do, they are held to a higher standard. A Magistrate is entrusted with interpreting the law and issuing rational judgments based on the law. Although her behavior may not have broken any law, it certainly broke the public trust. I voted for Ms. Wilfong. I will appear before Ms. Wilfong in the near future. However, I no longer believe she is capable of making a reasoned and unbiased judgment over me or anyone else.
She should seek out the elderly man and apologize for the things she said.
Jack E. Cummins