As we do on the first day of every year, we begin 2013 by listing a few hopes we have for this community, this region, this state and the nation as a whole during the year. Since none of our hopes for 2012 were completely accomplished, we choose not to add many news ones for this year.
However, in 2013, we hope:
--The plans for new development on Melody Mountain announced in October by RG Properties will be realized. The plans are ambitious and would mark the largest single piece of retail development in this community since RG Properties built Walmart, O’Charley’s, Outback, Chick-Fil-A and a strip mall on the property that at one time seemed virtually inaccessible.
Beginning early this year, the company has announced plans for a 120,000-square-foot development that will include at least five retail stores with two of them being large anchor stores. The development will be property located between Walmart and O’ Charley’s.
While we are excited about the prospect of a major new development near the thriving Walmart, we have been here before. Soon after construction of Walmart began, developers said Home Depot would build on the site, and later it was announced that Kohl’s would be in a new building there. Mainly because of the nationwide recession, plans for both projects were abandoned.
From that we have learned not to count our economic development eggs before they hatch. While we are happy to see the revival of plans for developing the property, we will be even more excited when the retailers that will locate there are announced and construction begins. Our hope is that by the end of this year, development of the project either will have been completed or will at least be well under way.
--That at least one vacant building in downtown Ashland will be at least partially occupied in 2013. In a perfect world, we would hope to see new businesses locate in the former Sears, the Kitchen and G.B. Johnson buildings on Winchester Avenue during the year, but that may be unrealistically ambitious. But all three buildings have been completely renovated in recent years and should be attractive to the right tenants. In addition, finding new occupants for those buildings will help attract businesses to the many smaller downtown storefronts that are currently vacant.
--That the 2013 Kentucky General Assembly will not allow its dislike of President Obama and the Affordable Health Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) to prevent the state from taking full advantage of the health care reform law.
In its ruling upholding the law, the U.S. Supreme Court states the option of not participate in the expansion of Medicaid under the law, and there are some in Frankfort, particularly in the Republican-controlled Senate, who want to seize that option. To do so would be a great disservice to the people of this state.
Under the law, people whose annual income is below 138 percent of poverty ($15,425 for a single individual) will be eligible for Medicaid. This will insure some 400,000 uninsured Kentuckians who are not eligible for existing Medicaid.
With Kentucky’s Medicaid program already bleeding red ink, won’t expanding the program increase the red ink? Maybe eventually, but under Obamacare, the federal the federal government will pay the entire cost of Medicaid for new enrollees through 2017. Furthermore, the state's share of the cost never exceeds 10 percent. This should be a no brainer. If someone offers to give you $9 if you spend $1, take the deal.
The future of the Affordable Health Care Act was assured when President Obama was re-elected and the Democratic Party not only kept control of the U.S. Senate but actually gained seats in that body. We fear the Affordable Health Care Act is a misnomer and the law will prove to be extremely expensive. But that’s not the issue now. Uncle Sam is offering the opportunity for Kentucky to offer Medicaid to thousands of Kentuckians at little or no additional cost. To not take that offer would be foolish.
-- That the 2013 General Assembly will approve a pension reform plan that not only will stop the red ink but also begin raising the funds needed to begin paying down the huge funding imbalance that currently exists. Ideally, we would like the legislators to improve meaningful tax reform, redraw the 100 Kentucky House of Representative districts and 38 Senate in a way is based on far more population changes than on politics, and would place a constitutional amendment to expand gambling on the 2014 ballot, but those and other issues are secondary to pension reform. Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, already has said there is little or no support for tax reform in the House. Gambling and redistricting can wait until 2014, but pension reform can’t wait.
Of course, just how much the General Assembly will accomplish during the 30-day session whether David Williams’ departure as Senate president will bring a new spirit of cooperation in the Frankfort. One can only hope. We’re tired of all the political infighting.
--We also hope our leaders in Washington will show a new spirit of cooperation in 2013, but frankly, we see no signs of that as we enter a new year.
A year ago we also hoped that Ashland city leaders would make a greater effort to encourage increased use of Veterans’ Riverside Park, but that did not happen. With long-time Summer Motion president Chuck Charles becoming mayor, our hope is hat he will propose new ways to promote the beautiful park that now essentially is only used for three nights during Summer Motion.
When it comes to making meaningful progress, 2012 was a year of few achievements in this region. We are hoping for much better in 2013.