Whitesburg KY

Acting like ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ is not what we need in E. Ky.

To the Editor:

Good sound ideas for the growth of our economy in eastern Kentucky seem to get further from reality each week. I read that SOAR held another meeting July 15 to focus on the strengths, weakness, opportunities and challenges for eastern Kentucky agriculture. SOAR needs to come back to earth.

Have I misunderstood the economical and workforce problems of small farmers nationwide that have been in the news for the past 100 years? An agrarian lifestyle is a wonderful, desired even by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson also died broke.

How many unemployed coal miners and other people in this area own farmland? How many of these people have the resources to start and produce a profitable farm venture? How many employees could one farm support? It takes time and resources to start even a small cash crop farm. Our people need industry where they fill out an application, get hired and take home a paycheck in two weeks. They don’t have years for these nonsense meetings and goofy ideas. We need more sound ideas like the proposed prison to be located in this area. The good citizens working on this project know how many realistic, long-term jobs it would immediately create.

I read the letter from the woman from Indiana concerning tourism for this area. Tourism is good. It brings many dollars to an area, but not the core dollars, the good salaried jobs, not the career path jobs that we desperately need for our young people. Letcher County has made great improvement in tourism. I don’t think it is a lack of ideas, creativity and hard work but a lack of funding that holds it back. I would not want my child to plan their career by wearing period costumes, serving soup beans and cornpone after weaving a basket — maybe for a summer job to help pay for the college fees, but not a career.

We need jobs that build a strong tax base, which in turn builds strong infrastructure in our communities. This means better schools, hospitals, emergency and fire rescue, community resource centers. It also means our property is more valuable. It means private citizens can build resources to finance restaurants, arts and craft stores or a lodge. It means major chains want to locate in our communities. When the tide comes in, all boats rise. We must stop dreaming, placing blame on others and do something now to attract the correct type of industry to our communities or we will keep losing our most important resource, our brightest and best youth.

Our biggest problem is starting so late to replace the coal industry. We still can make changes if we demand correct and useful attention from our elected officials, not just sound bits. One of our best resources is having one of the most powerful persons in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell from the state of Kentucky. Or it should be. Mr. McConnell and friends need to stop blaming President Obama, the EPA or whomever they think killed the coal industry and get on with the job at hand.

No one person or agency killed the coal industry. The coal industry was reducing and changing long before this administration was elected. Coal has been reduced by a natural process helped along by natural gas, solar energy and concern for the future of our environment. Coal has always been boom or bust, mostly bust.

The only light I have seen coal keep on is a very dim bulb of ignorance. What did it ever give us but low paying, hard, dirty, dangerous work to enrich a few? This is not to take anything away from the thousands of hardworking men and women who depleted their physical strength to support and raise families as coal miners. God bless those special people.

Is coal mining all Mr. McConnell wants for our region? This is 2014 and is this all he sees for our future? The same old same as in 1960? If coal mining regained its fat cat status, do we want to return to those days for our young men and women? If it was such a wonderful career, why did thousands head north the first opportunity they had to escape the coalfields? And what do you have after you are too old and broken down to work? Black lung and Social Security Disability payments.

All these years we have had our heads buried in the sand with this industry because we needed jobs, just where the powers that be wanted us to keep our heads. With a diversified economy base to offer our people, the ones who chose to be miners would have more choices, giving them power to ask for even better wages and benefits.

We need to work together and demand better ideas and action from our Kentucky elected officials. These elected people need to work for their home state more and work their mouths on CNN and FOX News less. Tell Mitch McConnell and his buddies that not all of us want to be coal miners; we would like our people in eastern Kentucky to have job opportunities without leaving their home state.

And we sure as heck do not need to be acting like Jeb and Granny for the paying public to earn a living wage.


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