When voters go to the polls in Harlan and Bell counties on Tuesday, the future representation in our local, state and national offices will appear on the ballots.
At no time in recent memory is the importance greater for the voters of our region to go to polls and cast their votes after researching for yourself what the candidates stand for and what they can bring to leadership positions in our communities, Frankfort and Washington, D.C.
Our region has been extremely hard hit with the nation’s economic downturn. There is a lot of rhetoric out there about big races like Obama vs. Romney, but even the races for small seats in the local communities for city councils and commissions, school boards and other positions are critical in upcoming balloting.
The time has come that voters must know where candidates stand on issues of importance, what those candidates can bring to their positions to help our communities with overcoming pending economic difficulties and how can they think outside the box to move our communities forward with the dwindling local, state and federal dollars that have been there for us in the past. The loss of a greater percentage of coal severance funds at the state and local level could be on track to cause great fiscal despair for city and county governments that have bonded so many projects thinking these dollars will be there forever as a result of the success of the coal industry throughout the years.
In Harlan County, the council of the small city of Evarts appears to understand what fiscal challenges are around the corner. In a recent meeting, the mayor and council worked to identify the projects that would be the best use for the shrinking severance funds with an eye on how to use those funds today to prepare for the future. The question: How is it best to prepare for future budgets with the current funds — put a new roof on city hall and/or the water plant, paying down debt on the fire truck and so forth.
We offer encouragement to the region’s fiscal courts, city councils large and small, to follow the path of the Evarts council to openly discuss the budget situations and work diligently with vision for the future to prepare for lean economic times.
And while our local officials continue to learn to do more and provide adequate services to the people of our communities with much less revenue, we have to send a message to our state and federal representatives and senators with a sense of urgency that you must step forward and help to identify ways to offset this loss of the coal severance dollars that have kept us afloat in years past.
The dollars that come our way now must be earmarked for projects that prepare for the future, with economic diversification at the forefront of any discussion. Our miners and coal companies have sent millions and millions of dollars to Frankfort and Washington over the years and now it is time for our communities to reap assistance from new funding sources identified at these levels of our government.
It is imperative that those we elect on Tuesday know their communities, have vision and foresight, and be able to think outside the box in moving our communities forward.