Group: Petition nearly halfway to goal to change Pike government
The group seeking to allow a vote on whether Pike County’s government should be changed to a commissioner form reported this week that, after its initial efforts and a signing drive held Monday, the petition is nearly halfway to the required number of signatures in order to place the item on the ballot.
In a press release, the Pike Countians Against Government Waste group said that the petition will need to receive 1,200 signatures in order to be placed on the ballot in the November general election.
After its first organized efforts on Monday, including a signature drive at the Lower Johns Creek Community Center, the group said in the statement, a total of nearly 500 signatures have been obtained.
The group, however, said in the statement that it will continue to obtain signatures even after surpassing the 1,200 required signatures, “to show the fiscal court the amount of grassroots support.”
“This is the first official activity for the non-partisan group that was formed in response to the occupational and net profits tax recently passed by the Pike County Fiscal Court,” the statement said. “Several citizens of the county stood in opposition to the tax and have formed the group in response to what it sees as wasteful spending (practices) and a fiscal court that ignores the voice of the people.”
Future petition drives will be announced later this week, the group said in the statement.
Last week, group member Greg Blankenship told the News-Express that the effort intends to replace Pike County’s current six magistrates with three commissioners, and is a direct response to the occupational tax passed recently by the fiscal court.
Pike magistrates out?
MUELLER SAYS MAGISTRATES WON’T CUT THEIR SALARIES OR BENEFITS ‘NO MATTER HOW BAD TIMES GET’… ‘POLITICS AS USUAL’ MUST BE CHANGED
A group of Pike County residents is beginning an effort which, if successful, would change the face of Pike County government.
According to a statement issued Friday by a group called Pike Countians Against Government Waste, the organization has begun the process of collecting signatures on a petition to institute a commission form of government and abolish the current magistrate-based system.
The key difference between the two types of government is that, unlike Pike County’s current system where six magistrates are elected from six different districts, in a commission form of government, three commissioners would be elected at-large.
The attempt, according to the statement, is to get the measure on the ballot for the November general election. But the change would not go into effect until 2019, when the current court’s term ends.
Greg Blankenship, a member of the Pike Countians Against Government Waste group, said the change would immediately impact the county by cutting the need to pay six magistrates.
“You go, basically, from six magistrates to three commissioners,” he said. “In that, you’ve cut salary, you’ve cut the cost of offices, you’ve cut benefits, assistants to the magistrates — those jobs would all be ended at that point.”
Blankenship said the group proposing the petition was formed on Facebook as a result of the occupational tax, which Blankenship said he and others believe is a “penalty” on the working people of Pike County.
“When I posted the Facebook page, I told my wife, ‘We’ll be lucky if we get 200 members,’” he said. “And surprisingly enough, we’re 1,800 strong, and I believe that these are concerned citizens that either live in Pike County or they work in Pike County and have an interest in the state of Pike County and the future thereof.”
Blankenship said he is also confident that the petition will be successful and the move will be approved by the voters of Pike County.
“I’m certain,” he said. “The people themselves ought to be able to choose their form of government.”
The group will be holding an all-day petition drive at the Lower Johns Creek Community Center. The event will be held from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Monday.
The group will also have volunteers going door-to-door and also events throughout the county until sufficient signatures have been collected, the statement said.
By Russ Cassady
Facebook Comment from my friend Lee Mueller, former Herald-Leader reporter”
“…Last I checked (years ago now), Pike County’s six magistrates (they used to have eight) were paying themselves about $55,000 a year to attend one meeting a month, plus thousands in travel expenses. In addition, they each were allowed to rent an office (frequently from themselves), hire a secretary (frequently a spouse) and buy themselves a new SUV or pickup, all from county funds. Each was assigned a separate road crew, frequently packed with relatives.
All E Ky.county governments — even the good ones — are having difficultly coping with life after a boatload of coal severance tax revenue. Pike previously received about $4 million a year in coal taxes, a figure now down to about $1.6 million.
Like Martin County, they’ve cut funding for nearly every county agency — except themselves and their buddies. Some county judges have even begun strong-arming other taxing districts, forcing them buy property and goods from their cronies or business partner. On the other hand, counties w/ Commission forms of government (such as Johnson) are limited to three commissioners, elected countywide instead of by magisterial district. They are, consequently, responsible to the entire county, not just their district, and rarely (except for Jefferson County) receive the perks magistrates in Pike (or Floyd or many E Ky. counties) give themselves.
Unfortunately, such attempts rarely work because the magistrates — with their jobs,and the jobs of their buddies — at stake campaign furiously, door to door, against them.”
HOW ABOUT LAWRENCE COUNTY?
Editor- Lawrence County magistrates make $1,300 per month plus $300 for expenses. Not as much as Pike County or Martin County but right up there with counties that do not have coal severance tax monies to use for whatever they please. They do have large staffs who are paid above average wages and benefits for non-certification type work. Millions of dollars that should have been spent upgrading the infrastructure and insuring the future of coal country during 30 years of prosperity have been spent playing the magistrate game and with times changing – it is becoming more and more obvious what happened.
Now Lawrence County is awaiting a huge raise in oil and gas taxes – if that boom comes about — let us demand that the monies be spent on the future instead of ‘politics as usual’…