Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 1, 2014

Hopes for 2014

Things we would like to see accomplished in new year

The Independent

ASHLAND — As we do on the first day of every year, we begin 2014 by listing a few “hopes” we have for this community, this region, this state and the nation as a whole during the year. However, the “hopes” we listed a year ago for 2013 are different from those we list today.

Because none of our “hopes” for 2012 was achieved that year, we chose to list no new “hopes” for last year. However, since there was progress on achieving our 2013 “hopes,” we offer mostly new “hopes” for this year.

They are:

‰Honest countywide elections throughout this region.

After taking a year off from state, county, municipal and school board elections in Kentucky, the ballot promises to be long throughout the state this year,  but the race certain to get the most statewide attention — the campaign for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Mitch McConnell — may not be the most important.

On the ballot this year are most city and county offices, and in recent years, county elections throughout this region have been marred by corruption. Not only do the multiple convictions of vote buying make genuine democracy an illusion in many area counties, they reflect a negative image of this region and its people.

Our hope is that 2014 will be the year when no one is indicted, convicted and removed from office because of election fraud. All the convictions of politicians  on vote-buying charges should send a message to candidates that election fraud no longer will be tolerated and trying to “buy” an election could result in going to prison.

‰Our hope is that  a settlement can be reached in the ongoing legal battle between the city of Wurtland and Sun Chemical that will not result in a huge rate increase for Wurtland residents in its water and sewer bills because they are being forced to pay for the cost of building and operating a  sewage treatment plant built to meet the needs of the now closed plant.

We don’t pretend to have any solutions to this problem, but an ideal one would be having a new company locating in the closed plant — or building a new one on the same site — that would treat close to as much sewage as the Sun Chemical plant did.

 Wurtland and Sun Chemical recently announced a tentative agreement on some of the issues in the lawsuit. There still are major issues to be settled, but it is at least a sign of progress.

‰Most of the work has been completed on the former site of the AK Steel Coke in east Ashland. Our hope is that in 2014, a buyer will be found for the largest industrial site inside Ashland and a new use will be found for it.

Wishful thinking? Maybe, but local economic development officials say they frequently get inquiries about the property. That’s a hopeful sign. In our book, the property  is not well suited for retail development, but with the railroad, the Ohio River and decent highways, it is an ideal industrial site.

‰Our hope is Kohl’s and other retail businesses will open on Melody Mountain in 2014, and that at least one vacant downtown storefront will be occupied. Perhaps a tax incentive plan being considered by the Ashland Board of City Commissioners will encourage development, although the number of employees a business would have to have to qualify for the tax break may exceed the number of workers a new business would need.

‰Let 2014 be the year the Kentucky General Assembly finally places a constitutional amendment to allow expanded gambling on the November ballot. We don’t believe gambling is the cure-all for Kentucky’s economic needs, and at this point, we can’t even say we would support such an amendment. It all depends on the wording.

However, we do think this is a issue that ultimately should be decided by the voters of Kentucky and not the 138 members of the General Assembly. After all, the people have twice elected a governor who strongly supports expanded gambling, but legislators have refused to place the issue on the ballot. That needs to change in 2014.

‰A return to civil discourse. Once upon a time, members of Congress from  both political parties put aside their differences once the votes were counted and honestly tried to work together for the good of the people who elected them. That no loner seems to be the case and our federal government is broken because civil discourse has disappeared. May our elected officials in Congress in 2014 concentrate more on governing and less on politicking in 2014.