Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY

July 19, 2013

A few good ideas can go a long way

By JAMES BROWN
Glasgow Daily Times

GLASGOW — News, notes and a quote or two ...



There is a great, well-researched story from the Huffington Post on the political career of Mitch McConnell. I know that the Post is a liberal-leaning online publication, but I would say the story paints a fair and accurate picture of our state’s top-ranking politician. (The governor may believe he holds that position, but he would be mistaken.)

The article covers McConnell’s political career from when he became judge-executive of Jefferson County to where he stands now in Washington D.C. The following two sentences may sum it all: “Today, McConnell finds himself at both the most powerful and most vulnerable moment of his career. He faces not only a Democratic opposition out to avenge McConnell’s attacks on Obama, but an energized tea party unhappy with the GOP establishment and independents disgusted with Washington.”

Here we are in little ol’ Kentucky, the epicenter of our nation’s political future. Hope all goes well for us.

Also on the political front, it seems some of the questions about who might run for governor shook out this past week. U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie confirmed he will seek re-election to his present seat in 2014. That opened the door for fellow Republican, state Agriculture Commissioner James Comer, to hint at possibly seeking the state’s highest office.

Whether Comer plans to run for governor is to be seen, but he certainly has been the most effective politician in Kentucky in the last couple of years. He moved the needle on hemp legislation and did so by building bi-partisan backing, which led to hemp being introduced into the U.S. House-passed farm bill.

The Sentinel-News reported a bill was introduced into the House’s version of the farm bill that would allow “colleges and universities to grow hemp for research purposes in states where hemp production is allowed by state law.”

Of course, Kentucky passed such a law allowing such research earlier this year. The final farm bill has not passed, but there seems to be support for this provision moving forward in a future bill.

“It wasn’t that long ago that people told us we wouldn’t even get a sponsor for the bill in the state Senate,” Comer told the Sentinel-News. “Now we have a state law for regulating hemp production, and one house of Congress has passed legislation to allow colleges and universities to grow hemp. This has been an amazing journey – and we’re not finished.”

Whatever Comer decides to attempt for his political future, it certainly seems as if he will make a formidable candidate.

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On page B6 of today’s newspaper we have a story about the city of Detroit filing for bankruptcy. Within it, there is a brief history of how the city went from one of our nation’s largest and most prosperous to where it landed Thursday.

To me, there is a certain object lesson for city leaders everywhere. They should always prepare each budget with an eye toward the worst possible financial outcome. Also, that if they don’t mind the store year after year, budget after budget, with a close eye on potential outcomes 10 or 20 years down the road, then they will leave a disaster for someone else to fix.

In Detroit’s case, the city did not decline into financial (physical) ruin overnight. It happened over 60 years as successive mayor’s and city councils failed to adjust budgets to declining revenues, over extended future budgets with promises of money in the future to city employees, likely promised overpriced services, and basically didn’t have a plan for worse possible outcomes.

Those in charge likely made expedient political decisions that got them through that day and through the next election cycle. We’ve seen that type of decision-making locally as well in recent years. Of course, those who elect public officials and don’t have a clear idea of what that person’s fiscal position is are doomed to get exactly what they voted for — a community without a plan for the future.

But citizens shouldn’t sit around and bemoan their public servants not having a plan. They should find some like-minded friends and put forth a plan they would like to see enacted. Locally, I believe the individuals involved in Sustainable Glasgow have done that very thing.

What they have done and the more that must be done for the future vitality of our community will require input from many quarters and a comprehensive community plan that covers all aspects of what we could face in the future. The plan must be thoughtful and it will need many people at the table who have brought from their corners of the community ideas and concerns to be worked on and worked out.

There will have to be political candidates found who are receptive to planning for the future of our little neck of the woods. They will have to be willing to look at new ideas and be inclusive in communicating the ideas.

If we don’t want to be a micro-Detroit, we had better get started soon.

James Brown is editor of the Glasgow Daily Times. He can be contacted by e-mail at jbrown@glasgowdailytimes.com.