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  • Writer's pictureJoan Browning

Hitch Up More Horses

Mountain Messenger, Saturday, October 31, 2009

An honest local headline could read: CRIME SPREE BANDIT STEALS FROM 500 HOMES, BUSINESSES and CHURCHES.


Verizon is the bandit. The plain fact is that Verizon is charging about 500 customers for telephone service that they did not deliver. Common sense calls this theft and fraud. If telephone bills average around $100 a month, those customers pay $50,000 a month to Verizon. This month, Verizon has stolen at least a fourth of that service, so Greenbrier County Verizon customers are being defrauded of at least $16,000. The headline’s subtitle could be STATE OF WEST VIRGINIA GAVE BANDIT ADVANCE OKAY.


You’d think that the State of West Virginia would represent citizens versus the “regulated” utilities like Verizon. You’d be wrong. The legislature and governor of the State of West Virginia authorize Verizon – and Allegheny Electric, and Mountaineer Gas, and many other utilities– to steal from us.


The legislature and governor hide behind three appointed Public Service Commissioners.


Three can be a holy number. I learned as a child that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three aspects of the inexplicable God. That trinity helps me understand the mysteries of my faith.


In human affairs, though, three-person groups are not holy. In West Virginia and in Greenbrier County, three-person government groups are decidedly malfunctioning.


Changing the Public Service Commission from three to five Commissioners, and electing those Commissioners, is a good firs step toward protecting citizens. Only the legislature can authorize that change.


Greenbrier County citizens have the power to change another unholy threesome – the Greenbrier County Commission.


It has been obvious for at least a decade that two of the three Greenbrier County Commissioners run the county. It is easy to believe that the problem lies in individual personalities. The solution, many thought, was to elect different individuals as County Commissioners. Election after election, the County Commission still malfunctioned.


The problem is not with individual elected County Commissioners. The problem lies in the fact that for the past decade, two of the three Commissioners have allied in ways that do not serve the public. Essentially, we have a two-person county commission.


Greenbrier County citizens can add two more Greenbrier County Commissioners.


The process is nonpartisan. Independents, Republicans, Democrats, Mountain Party, no party, everybody – all may participate. It starts with a petition to add two more Greenbrier County Commissioners. Then a courthouse cabal would take a conspiracy of at least three Commissioners.


Adding two more County Commissioners will not be easy. Here are the steps and a hurry-up calendar.


By December, about 2,500, or 10 percent of Greenbrier County’s about 25,000 registered voters sign the petition.


The Greenbrier County Commission verifies that the petition is signed by 10 percent of the legally registered Greenbrier County voters.


By January 23, 2010, the Greenbrier County Commission forwards the petition to the Clerk of the Senate and the Clerk of the House of Delegates.


Before adjourning in March or April 2010, the legislature verifies that the petition meets constitutional requirements and passes a law authorizing the issue to be placed on Greenbrier County’s next General Election ballot.


November 2, 2010, a majority of Greenbrier Countians voting in the General Election approve the change.


Election cycle 2012, Greenbrier Countians elect more County Commissioners. They take office in January 2013.


At the request of dozens of readers, I will post a petition on my web site, www.joanbrowning.com.


The unholy trinity Greenbrier County Commission can be replaced with a five-person governing body. It is up to Greenbrier County voters.

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