Recently the Beckley City Council voted to approve a city manager form of government.
According to Danille Stewart, a candidate for Ward 4 — what’s most concerning is the public was silenced and didn’t get to be part of that vote.
She says city manager was put in the city ordinance in 1954.
So everybody wants to know — why change this now? Stewart said there’s no legitimate answer.
The real battle is who will control the city of Beckley in the future.
Stewart says you have to have two readings when passing an ordinance. The first part was passed in November. She says at that point there was an outcry from the public that they didn’t want to remove the city manager form of government, with the mayor even going so far as telling everyone it would not be on the agenda.
“At the last minute in January snuck it onto the agenda for city council to vote for,” Stewart said that’s shady. “And when you talk to people about it; they’re kind of the same way as I am… there’s pros and cons to both, but the people should decide and it certainly shouldn’t have been done the way that it was done.”
She says this is a habitual long-term problem.
“Because of that lack of transparency, people don’t know and quite honestly people don’t trust the city. Let’s do something controversial, then we’re not gonna do anything for it for a year,” said Stewart. “Everybody will forget. Poof, here it is again — a method to try to keep people out of knowing what’s going on and keep people from being able to voice their opinions.”
There are still a lot of things at play — a lawsuit against the city that may change everything, no talk right now of the city council picking a city manager. They want to see an ordinance or change of the charter placed in the municipal elections.
“Whether we want a city manager or a strong mayor form of government, giving the authority to transition back to a strong mayor form of government,” Stewart said that way the people can decide what they want. “They’re absolutely against placing it on the ballot, everything seems shady.”
Another concern Stewart says, is the measure that the city manager does not have to live within city limits.
“I’m adamantly fighting against that — having somebody come in, make decisions that don’t affect them, and then they can go hang out somewhere else and not have to worry about the effects of their decisions,” she said. “That’s not right.”
A longtime community advocate, Stewart says she’s at almost all the city council meetings and workshops.
“I am out there fighting for the people of Beckley every day and have been, and have a track record of doing that now for years,” said the Ward 4 candidate. “Win or lose, I will still continue to do it.”
To have a say in what happens next, make sure to vote on May 14.