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Here is our annual report card for the community, when we evaluate our performance against the goals and objectives we listed last January.
We have undertaken this process since 2009, and we believe that it is the newspaper’s goal to establish goals and lead the focus and discussion on issues that are of primary importance to all of us.
As we look back at 2012, at an agenda that was modest by most standards, we can grade our county with an A in several important categories, but we are more unsettled by how many Incompletes we must hand out.
Certainly, as a newspaper, we were drawn away from some of these issues by the news of the year. We had serious issues that we had not anticipated as dominating discussion through the year.
Nevertheless, these elements we had set forward will remain important, and as we next week establish our goals for 2013, we expect topics that remain in scope for our residents and leaders will continue to draw our emphasis.
We welcome your comments on these issues and our grades for them.
Complete repairs to Exit 32.
We have been elated to see clear and significant progress on replacing the short and deadly eastbound merge lane from Kentucky 55 to Interstate 64. We entered the year hopeful of action on this issue because state Transportation Cabinet officials had promised us the money was in place to make these changes. That work is under way full force – along with the widening another segment of I-64 – and promises by early 2014 to offer a more modern and safe access for motorists moving in all directions on this very busy interchange. Yes, there is painful and messy construction ahead, but we are encouraged that workers are continuing to attack this job in the winter months and doing everything possible to accelerate the project. In the meantime, drive safe and keep the faith.
Represent Shelby fairly.
Would anyone argue that this was a big, fat Incomplete? Only our congressional district passed the approval process after the new state legislative districts became a predictable political football winter. A reapportionment plan was drafted, passed and signed, but Republican leaders were not satisfied in the outcome and took their concerns to court, which postponed the decision until this year. For Shelby County, that meant the status quo in the districts served by Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) and state Sen. Paul Hornback (R-Shelbyville). Our goal was to ensure Shelby remained whole – which it was in the original plan – but we would have liked to have this argument settled and not leak over into important issues that must be faced in 2013.
Broaden our election slate.
The Shelbyville City Council had the biggest slate in recent history, with a rare Democratic primary leaving 10 candidates in place to vie for the six spots. This did spark some new conversation about issues, and that’s what we were seeking – more voices with more ideas. That principle became the norm, however, in the race for the Shelby County School Board, where two districts were hotly contested – we wish the third had been as well – and provided us with the essence of political rivalry and the platform on which campaigns should be based. Let’s use these two races to build for 2014 and beyond. Our increasingly diverse populace needs more variety on the ballot.
Accelerate City Center.
Leon Mooneyhan continued beating his drum for the convention/performance space that would be built on the block surrounded by 8th, 9th,, Main and Washington streets, and we’re grateful for his tempo and tenacity. His project benefitted this year from the largesse of Don and Greta Prather, who bought one of the decrepit shotgun houses on Washington Street and donated it to the project – as Citizens Union Bank had done as well. Those are wonderful contributions that kept the parade moving forward.
Pave a new way.
We had hoped this year to see some movement on a redevelopment of the northern end of 7th Street in Shelbyville, from Washington Street and on along Burks Branch Road and into Clear Creek Park, to advance the concept of building a virtual greenway to the park. But we haven’t heard much of a word about this effort. The de facto leader of this project has been Shelbyville City Council member Shane Suttor, and we hope his re-election for another 2 years will allow him to draw new focus on this plan. All the ground work of plans has been laid, if you will, and now we need to take the hard steps of designing and funding those plans. Wider sidewalks is the first step, and we believe there could be grant money to be pursued on this issue. Let’s don’t give this up. Fitness is such a need in our community, and anything we can do to encourage fitness and allow easier access to the park – with a motorized vehicle – is a true positive.
Continued growth of parks.
There was definite progress in expanding our parks system, from an unexpected source, but that progress was tempered by a coming new era for Shelby’s wonderful parks. The good news was the addition of 75 acres through the parks system’s grant purchase of a parcel adjacent to Shelby Trails Park in Todds Point. That will allow the trail park to add more hiking trails over the rolling ridges and valleys north of Simpsonville. That’s wonderful news. There also is a new fitness trail at Red Orchard Park. On the other hand, the parks system will lose next year its longtime leader, Clay Cottongim, who is retiring after 38 years. He is the front man for the parks expansion, and we will carry forward as a goal to find someone who has the commitment and focus that Mr. Cottongim has exhibited. We hope the next person can find a way to add the Skirmish near Simpsonville to our parks system.
Let’s get healthier.
By some measures, Shelby County was deemed to be a healthy county. It was honored as the first county in the state to be heart healthy, a designation built more on the training of residents in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and the availability of defibrillators. We like that – any little bit helps – but our opportunities are unlimited to improve. Our childhood obesity measures are still stunningly bad, and our encouragement of young people to exercise continues to wane. This is a problem for our future.
Examine the U.S. 60 corridor.
No one stepped forward to launch an extended plan on how U.S. 60 might be protected as a jewel of the county. We wish the road were devoid of metal buildings that detract from natural beauty and historic value of the road. We wish there were plans for a bike path to follow its course between Frankfort and Louisville. We wish that all property owners shared our view of this throughway. Alas, we need a leader who shares our dream to make this happen.
Continue green initiatives.
This was a year when it seemed apparent that Shelby County would lose some of its greenness, when farm land will make way for outlet malls south of Simpsonville. Still, we saw continuing efforts on behalf of the schools, of local industry and of residents to help preserve our environmental future. Jefferson Community & Technical College Shelby Campus had numerous initiatives that were encouraging, and we like the fact that the new county convenience center will centralize the opportunity for residents to recycle. We hope that new facility opens very soon.