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What we think: Here are our community goals for 2012

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Our annual suggestions to issues we think are paramount for the coming year.

It’s the time of year when we as individuals pause to organize our thoughts going forward, circle some dates on our calendar and prepare goals for where we want to be at the end of December. Some of us call these resolutions, but those tend to be tied to regiments that don’t really fit our lives and evaporate before the ground thaws.
To that point, as is the case each January, The Sentinel-News offers a set of goals for Shelby County. We encourage them, share in them and through the course of the year will draw attention to them because we think they are important mileposts for all of us.
You likely have your own lists, and ours does not presume to be omniscient or overriding. We simply pick up our inherent responsibility as the coalescing voice among all Shelby Countians to help form the discussion that should carry us forward.
Our leaders and decision-makers ultimately will decide where and how we go and where we finish 2012.
But, as we would suggest of those leaders, we design these steps with purpose and foresight, and we hope to engage you in their development and expansion.
Complete repairs to Exit 32.
In 2011, the Kentucky Department of Transportation promised to move forward with plans to reconstruct the deadly eastbound merge lane from Kentucky 55 to Interstate 64. More than two years ago we pointed out its dangers, and only a few months later there were two deaths at the end of its abruptly abbreviated and mostly blind corridor. Shelby County’s elected leaders picked up our argument for change, and state engineers ultimately devised a plan to remodel the ramp in advance of the next phase of widening of I-64. This year was seen as a potential start date, and all that remains is to ensure the appropriate funding – the estimated figure has not been reported – was set aside by the General Assembly. The session began on Tuesday, and we are hopeful that state Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville) and state Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) will make that funding happen. Lives depend on it.
Represent Shelby fairly.
State legislators have the task early this year to reapportion legislative, judicial and congressional districts based on the 2010 census. With Shelby County’s tremendous growth in population, the county stands to maintain its presence as the dominant elective force in both legislative and judicial districts. We like that all the multicounty representation comes from Shelby County, and we’re hoping that if the county can’t become its own district – as some have suggested – then we can accept its link to various districts, with Anderson, Spencer and Henry counties mentioned. What we think would be atrocious would be for Shelby County to be divided into two districts. That seems remote, but it would be ridiculous, too. We also would prefer – but realize it’s unlikely – that both legislative districts be uniform. Wouldn’t that better serve all constituents? And we also would like our judges and prosecutors to be more aligned with those as well. Uniformity, however, has proven a gerrymandered pipe dream in past such reapportionments. We simply want to be sure that Shelby County’s growing strength doesn’t mysteriously disappear.
Broaden our election slate.
While talking about government, we would be remiss not to endorse the idea of a wide open exchange of ideas from among a variety of candidates for this year’s elections. We will elect a new Commonwealth Attorney, a new Circuit Court Clerk and – on 2-year rotation – a new Shelbyville City Council, Simpsonville City Commission and some seats on the Shelby County Board of Education. Mr. Montell and U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Bowling Green) also will face re-election. We are not here to point fingers at candidates who may want to be re-elected – though we might observe that there seems to be some staleness and absence from focus in a couple of existing positions – but we are here to ask for hands to be raised by those who might oppose them. We think an election process must be engaging, and unopposed races engage almost no one.
Accelerate City Center.
We made progress in 2011 on the proposed theater/convention complex for downtown Shelbyville, and it was good progress. But you didn’t think we were going to let this issue lie quietly, did you? A feasibility study is under way, and we look forward to its findings. We believe that the next major step, after the study, would be to create a formal blue ribbon group to push forward this concept across public/private lines. Leon Mooneyhan has given a virtuoso one-man performance, and, although he has had support from a small group of believers, he will need a larger cast to get this show on the road to completion. We will contribute to the casting call.
Pave a new way.
We have been kicking around ideas for making the northern end of 7th Street, from Washington Street and on along Burks Branch Road and into Clear Creek Park, a virtual greenway of encouragement to walkers, runners and cyclists. We have noted the studies and considerations of the Shelbyville City Council and the Shelby County Fiscal Court, including the 7th Street Plan that was adopted by the city. The county has encouraged the same sort of plans through a less formal process. Everyone pauses at the expense. But we don’t think the entire plan has to be gulped down like a dose of developmental castor oil. Perhaps finding grant money and some private infusion simply to widen sidewalks and build cycling lanes through the corridor would be a fit first step. It also would help beautify the crumbling area and create a foundation for the future plan to be developed as opportunity permits. Yes, this would be a small first step – but also allow for many more steps – in both the fitness of the public and our community.
Continued growth of parks.
To that point, too, we continue to be amazed at the vibrancy of Shelby County’s parks system. We have many dedicated individuals who give of their land, their time and their money to make our system ever special. The planned fitness trail at Red Orchard Park and the new facilities at Shelby Trails are two of the many ideas on the agenda for this year. The long-range plan to build a trail from Clear Creek to Red Orchard is an A-plus idea. To those, however, we would add this: Let’s make the Skirmish near Simpsonville Memorial a part of our parks system. This has been suggested and is being considered informally by Shelby County’s leaders, and we like it as a public/private/civic club arrangement.
Let’s get healthier.
And we need every advantage to improve the healthfulness of our residents. Kentucky and Shelby County continue to have issues with obesity – how does being the fifth fattest state sound to you? – and we as leaders need to lead this class rather than follow. Shelby County Public Schools continues to study and provide more nutritious options for meals at the schools and to educate young people about the need to be fit, and those are efforts we can sink our teeth into. But we need more encouragement and goal-setting. Why couldn’t’ Shelby be the healthiest county in the state – building on its heart-healthy designation – and lead the state away from the buffet table?
Examine the U.S. 60 corridor.
Last year we were suggesting that U.S. 60, the aorta of Shelby County, needs to be maintained as the glittering jewel that it is. The downtown village plan for Simpsonville, the cityscape and East End projects in Shelbyville have become spot-checks in outlining how we must support our oldest highway. Let’s keep it going and ensure that in our zoning reviews and business plans that we protect that jewel.
Continue green initiatives.
And, finally, Shelby County has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase land for a combined new county dump and recycling center that is much more centrally located. We aren’t clear about how this facility will be structured – we don’t want to raise too much of a stink, of course – but we think it provides a great opportunity to incent the public to use its recycling capabilities. We would welcome a plan to do just that, so that residents who now aren’t served by a public recycling system might be more inclined to participate in keeping our land clean and green and landfills less filled. Let’s be keen about being green.