Becoming Part of the Solution

Robert New
Robert New

We’ve been doing a series on running for office. This week I’d like to deviate from that series and take a look again at why we need good, honest, conservative people in office by looking at two recent events.

Berea has an economic development director on the payroll, full time. On August 2, 2011 Berea hired a consultant, Michael Shuman of Cutting Edge Capital to “facilitate a community discussion on Economic Development Strategies”. In a letter to the Berea Citizen Mayor Steve Connelly said,

“Our last discussion occurred following World War II when city leaders devised and implemented a strategy of recruiting industries to Berea. This strategy was successfully implemented, allowing Berea to build a strong economic base over the past sixty years which now generates over 3,200 manufacturing jobs with more anticipated after the recent announcement of Hitachi’s expansion.

But Berea has also lost several of its’ industries over the past decade. With the changing nature of the world economy and the recent prolonged recession, the Berea council and administration are committed to reviewing our economic development strategies with the goal of developing a consensus on the best ways to create more jobs, build a bigger economy, and exploit opportunities offered by the global economy while maximizing the power of local ownership and spending.”

First, shouldn’t this be the job of the full time city employee whose title is Director of Business Development? Secondly, after studies and public meetings and the formation of groups targeted with discussions focusing on areas such as small business, finance, tourism, etc. there is no evidence, other than some outdated posts from the meetings on the city’s website, that anything is being done. The city website promised that Michael Shuman’s final report will soon be made available on the city’s website. We are still waiting.

Now the city is taking on an elaborate and expensive feasibility study to see if Berea could sustain a retirement community. How are the citizens of Berea supposed to have faith that anything will be done with the study? Is the Berea City government throwing good money after bad? It is time for new leadership.

Fast forward to Monday night’s meeting of the Jefferson County Board of Education. The Board wanted a 3.1% tax increase making this the 6th straight year they have raised property taxes. Earlier this year Kentucky Education commissioner Terry Holliday met with JCPS Superintendent Donna Gargens and two board members to discuss improvements the district needed to make.

Holliday said JCPS had 18 of the lowest-performing schools in the state and that the district was not providing the KDE with a plan for improvement. Holliday has said previously that KDE could take over managing the district’s improvement efforts if progress was not made.

When the vote came up for the 3.1% tax increase the proposal was defeated by a 3-4 vote to the cheers and applause of a packed house. But then just moments later a member of the board made a second motion they raise the tax rate 1.4% and the vote passed 4-3 to the shock of the stunned citizens in attendance. In the past 10 years property taxes in Jefferson County have increased by 23%. Once again, the question is, what are the tax payers getting for their money? Are the teachers’ unions really running this show as some have suggested and will an additional $8 million solve the problems in the JCPS district? Probably not. There comes a time when throwing money at a problem is NOT the solution and new members must step up.

It is important that we get critical thinkers, problem solvers, and fiscal conservatives in local offices. Stories like these are happening all across the state. I urge you to take a look around your community and see where you can get involved to bring about positive change. Let us know about change in your community, your story may just be the inspiration others are looking for. — Robert New

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