Since late winter and early spring flooding, something old is blooming again in Letcher County — roadside and creek-bank litter. Readers have called and stopped in at The Mountain Eagle office to complain about ditches and streams in their neighborhoods, and the Eagle staff has noticed it as well.
But some have said it is people’s imagination that the litter problem is getting worse — that there had been no major flooding in Letcher County for several years, and the high water just washed out litter that was already there, hiding under the weeds.
The Mountain Eagle mailed questionnaires to 32 candidates for county judge/executive and magistrate asking questions about 20 issues about which newspaper readers have spoken to us or that have come up in fiscal court meetings over the past few years.
The last two of those 20 questions are about litter. Is litter getting worse? Even more importantly, does litter hinder the ability of Letcher County to attract tourists and industry?
Not all of the 12 who returned the surveys thought the litter problem is getting worse, but every one of them thinks it is bad and needs to get better. Likewise, each of them says it hurts our county economically.
The Mountain Eagle staff thought it important that candidates talk to the voters and let them know what they think about issues, not just tell them who their parents are and who they married, even though many of us here still identify people by their family relationships.
Below are the questions and answers from the 12 candidates about litter. Next week, the last edition of the newspaper before the primary election, we will explore answers to our final two questions — those that asked what the candidates themselves think are important.
QUESTION: Do you believe litter is becoming a worse problem in Letcher County?
COUNTY JUDGE CANDIDATES
Terry Adams (R) — Yes. I think litter is an increasing problem in our county. This is affected by high jobless rate and loss of pride in our county. We need to do more to educate the young and old alike about not littering our roadways and streams.
Mica Smith Johnston (R) — (This candidate filled in “These are not yes or no questions” in the space provided for yes or no answers.) We had to turn the recycling center over to the city, garbage pickup has become slack, and there is nothing being done about illegal dumping. Garbage bills keep going up, but services aren’t being performed as they should.
Jack Banks (R) — Yes. The litter problem is no better, probably worse in the last 10 years. We need strict monitoring by our litter warden and prosecute (litterers) to the fullest when caught.
Curt King (D) — Yes. Some people don’t take pride in our community anymore. We have some people who are working their heart out to pick it up in order to make our communities look nicer, but then people come right behind them and throw it back out. We need better ways to enforce littering fines and a more aggressive stance to punishing people who litter.
Don McCall (D) — Yes. Even with mandatory garbage collection, some folks throw litter on the roadsides. The litter abatement program offered by Congressman Rogers is helpful in cleaning up and the jail work release program is helpful, but litter is a growing problem.
Sherry Sexton (D) — No. Litter is no worse or better than it has always been. It has always been bad, and we need to address it. Garbage pickup has a small impact, but we need to work on changing attitudes toward litter. District 3: Codell Gibson (D) — Yes. It is terrible. (It) only can change when people take pride in their county. (It) needs to be taught to our children.
Emory “Fudge” Mullins (D) — Yes. Litter is the worst. (The county) needs to enforce the law — stiff fines — no exception for littering. They can be caught. Find the two worst places and put up cameras.
Roger Back (D) — We have a lot to improve on in Letcher County, however I believe we are on a par with other counties in the region. I believe we can do even better, and should.
Melody Coots (D) — No, I think litter is a problem everywhere, but we should have stiffer fines and penalties. The county does a lot to keep it cleaned and grant money is given to organizations (which) help clean up the county. There is always room for improvement as the county see fit from past experiences and problems, and it should be addressed.
Robert “Sarge” Howard (R) — No. I think the litter problems in the county have improved over the years since the institution of regular garbage pick up in the county. There needs, however, to be more enforcement of cleaning around properties and businesses to create a cleaner look.
Johnathan Belcher (D) — Yes. I don’t know if people don’t realize that all of the stuff they throw out will just pile up in the creeks and ditches. A drive by any of our wonderful scenery will also showcase a choice of local fast-food destinations.
QUESTION: Do you believe a clean county is necessary for tourism and economic development?
Terry Adams (R) — Yes. A clean, litter free county is vital to tourism development and to attracting new business to our county.
Mica Smith Johnston (R) — (This candidate filled in “These are not yes or no questions” in the space provided for yes or no answers.) People will not visit a place if they have to wade through trash. We have to be proud of our county to promote it.
Jack Banks (R) — Yes. Start teaching our children first at an early age in our school and in our homes that littering is wrong.
Curt King (D) — It sure is. Who would want to come and visit our town and look at our fallen down homes, standing chimneys from fires, and ditch lines and secondary roads filled with litter? In order to encourage people to locate their homes and businesses here, we need to make our community look more appealing.
Don McCall (D) — Yes.
Tourists are less likely to come back to an unclean destination. Businesses are less likely to open in an unclean community.
Sherry Sexton (D) — Yes, it is necessary. No tourist wants to hike along a trail and see litter or even see it beside the highway. Same goes for industry. They want to see that we have pride in our county and keep it clean.
Codell Gibson (D) — Yes, it shows we care for our county.
Emory “Fudge” Mullins (D) — Yes. Everyone knows a clean, beautiful county is a must for any (tourism) and any kind of development.
Roger Back (D) — Yes. A clean county is absolutely necessary for tourism. No one wants to see litter and trash scattered through our county. It is vital for tourism.
Melody Coots (D) — Yes, because why would anybody have trust in a potential area if that area doesn’t take pride in its county? I don’t see anybody wanting to go tour a garbage dump or an industry that wants to expand its business at the local dump site.
Robert “Sarge” Howard (R) — Yes. A clean county presents a more inviting atmosphere to those wanting to visit these mountains or to locate their business in our area. By providing a little more oversight from the county government, we would encourage people/ business to work on maintaining properties with a clean look and pleasant atmosphere. Reward these efforts by recognizing personal efforts to beautify homes and businesses.
Johnathan Belcher (D) — Yes. No one wants to come see Fishpond and a Big Box lunch. Nor do they wish to see Little Shepherd Trail and a Family Dinner Set. Although they are delicious in their own rights, they don’t match the atmosphere.