Huntington Mayor: Home Rule Key to America's Best Community Finalist Spot
The city of Huntington’s advancement to the finals of the America’s Best Communities competition presents a unique opportunity for a city striving to improve itself.
Huntington was selected by a panel of judges to be one of eight finalists in the national competition for America’s Best Community.
Huntington and Charleston were both semifinalists in the competition. Charleston wasn’t selected as a finalist, but Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said the key for both cities in his mind is the Home Rule Pilot Project. The project, which started in 2007 with four cities, and has expanded to other communities in the state, shifts power from the state to the local level.
"The home rule pilot project does actually work," Williams said. "Every community has its own unique needs. It shouldn’t be a cookie cutter, one size fits all, a decision is made in Charleston and now everyone has to put that square peg in a round hole."
As one of the eight finalists for the America’s Best Community Project, the city received $100,000. Huntington’s proposal, called the Huntington Innovation Project – or HIP, outlines projects and ideas that will jumpstart the local economy. The top three communities that make the largest impact and show the greatest potential for sustaining revitalization will be the grand prize winners. The top community will receive $3 million, second place will earn $2 million and $1 million will go to third place.
Williams said Huntington’s plan is different than other communities, which concentrate their ideas on one, specific area. Huntington went all in on four different projects at once.
"The decision that we made in Huntington, is that in order for us to transform our city, we absolutely don’t have time to wait to have each of these neighborhoods redeveloped," Williams said.
Those projects include:
- The development of brownfields areas in the Highlawn nieghborhood.
- Development of the West End of the city for commercialization.
- Revitalization of Fairfield through the tearing down of the Northcott Court Housing projects.
- Development of high-speed broadband throughout the city.
Williams says the projects won't be finished in 11 months, but the city has to show they're making headway on making changes.