City’s status draws a variety of comments
Herald-Dispatch columnist Dave Peyton recently noted that the industries that led to Huntington’s creation and growth have either downsized or disappeared. He cited railroads and coal-related businesses as the prime examples. “Is the death of a city a natural thing? When the reason a city is born is gone, can the city find a new reason to exist?” he asked.
Peyton’s thoughts drew a variety of responses from Herald-Dispatch readers.
Keith Barnhart: “Downtown’s biggest money earner is the food and beverage industry. But we have systematically driven interested patrons from the entire metro region away with overly eager patrolmen hellbent on pulling over every driver they deem fit to illegally stalk and harass. Nothing is being done to preserve/boister mid-tier level live music and theatrical shows which are very sparse indeed. Huntington is in a tough spot: It needs those extra city fees and taxes just to barely maintain a city built for 100,000 but scantily funded by a population of 48,000. Those who remain are largely the elderly who no longer pay any significant taxes, if at all, and our largest labor base: low-income workers, primarily in the service industry, who also pay little taxes. We need to provide more retail for MU students as well as lower the drinking age to 19, and, oh yeah, not metered parking for the next three years.”
Jeff Joy: “I’ve owned a business in town for the last 30 years and the city is more prosperous now than when I started. But the drug epidemic and homeless population is rampant. It’s bringing this city down and fast. It doesn’t help when the Mayor is glad-handing and cutting ribbons on rehab facilities on a monthly basis. The leaders of this city seem to embrace this cancer and at all costs try to fix something that can’t be done. Huntington has created this illusion to come here if you’re on drugs and you will be taken care of and it’s not going to happen! Can this city find a new reason to exist? I’m doubtful at this point.”
Strat Douthat: “Maybe Huntington should be a nice little river town, say with a population of 30,000 or so. Maybe it could become a recreational river port and destination. Widen the floodwall; put shops and recreational activities atop it. Some of the old walled towns in Italy have turned their walls into running tracks and recreational venues. Eventually, things will shake out but Huntington will never again be the booming regional shopping town it was when I was a boy, back in the ’40s and ’50s. Adapt or die.”
Jay Sullivan: “The city is dying. It is shot through with cancerous, spreading tumors and failing organs. We have denial, anger, bargaining and depression all in process simultaneously with people dying individually of despair, not drugs. It cannot be confined to Fairfield East or the West End any more. I see it even in the city’s fabled South Side. Instead of the futility of revival and reinvention, we need a realistic plan of hospice care to give the city a pain-free decline and death with dignity. We will go back to the small farming communities that were here before Mr. Huntington brought us his railroad, as will the rest of West Virginia.”
Guidon Grundlehner: ” ... While the city has tremendous adversity still affecting it, there has certainly been much more change in making it more prosperous. I don’t think anyone’s denying Huntington has problems ...but you can stand there and complain about it and present absolutely zero value to something, or be a part of the change, put your money where your mouth is and do something. It’s refreshing to see people taking more action when they felt powerless.”