Boone County Folks:

Mingo County residents held their second land study meeting Aug. 2 at the #1440 UMWA building, Matewan, to discuss steps to tackle the county's revenue issues with a focus on absentee landowners (land companies that own massive amounts of land but pay minimal property tax).

Mingo County residents are uniting. They are strategizing, setting up workshops to learn about land ownership, and will educate each other about land policies at the local, state, and federal levels. They are arming themselves with allies and preparing themselves to face politicians. They want change.

Do you know that 70% of the land in West Virginia is owned by out-of-state corporations, and some of these corporations pay a whopping 50 cents an acre in property taxes due to outdated policies? When I said minimal, I meant it.

Do you know that in the Southern West Virginia coalfields that number increases up to 90% where mineral rights are concerned and 85% for surface land?

In case you don't know, our property tax revenue funds our schools. Our people are leaving for work in other states, which leaves lots of empty houses - how many "for sale" signs can you find in your neighborhood? This means less personal property taxes are collected; in turn, schools receive less funding. If you want to learn more about how this works, take time to talk to Boone County Commissioner Craig Bratcher.

But what about all that land we don't have access to because of gates and guards? Shouldn't it benefit us somehow, like through land usage or a higher tax rate so that we can fund our schools?

Lots of people talk about wanting to see change and to see Boone County's reality shift. But are we really ready to do something about it? Are we ready to put in the work with our leaders and each other? Are we ready to shape our future, from the ground up? Demand reparations? Demand access to land? Occupy land? Vote for leaders who have our livelihoods as a priority? There are many things we can do to express ourselves, but whatever we do, we have to do it together.

A research task team, made up of residents and professional researcher Lindsay Shade, will met in Matewan on Aug. 17 to review data. The next Mingo County land study meeting will be in October. Folks from Mingo County have said they will commit to supporting Boone County should we decide to follow in their footsteps. Interested in following up with this? Contact me at kandilynn3@gmail.com or call 304-946-7211.

Kandi Workman is a

resident of Boone County.