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Perry County is at a crossroads

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By JONATHAN SANDERS, Guest Columnist

As we near the start of absentee voting for the November elections, we must evaluate where our local government has taken us and where we’d like to be. This is perhaps more critical to consider at the local level than at the national level because the effectiveness of local government impacts almost every aspect of our lives.

And while we cannot devise and implement a new plan for Perry County overnight, we must examine the issues which have kept Perry County from competing with our neighbors in the region. We must continually strive to raise the quality of life for all residents. This will take time, a balanced two-party system, as well as the general public’s involvement to accomplish.

We must first work to increase the county’s tax base, which would thereby lower everyone’s individual taxes. We can do so by drawing new businesses into the county while working to ensure our current businesses stay here.

To accomplish this we need to make Perry County look attractive to businesses by increasing the county’s population, which can be accomplished by attracting new residents and by stemming the tide of “youth drain.” If we have better jobs, young people won’t feel the need to leave Perry County for greener pastures.

The good news is that the methods used to draw businesses and people to Perry County are interdependent. Success in one area fuels further success elsewhere.

By developing and expanding infrastructure in the northern part of the county, we support and attract the influx of businesses and people much in the same way Crawford County has developed along Interstate 64 in recent years.

We must also work with local educators to ensure that the youth of Perry County are being prepared for the modern economy. If we attract more and better jobs to our county and our young people graduate with the skills to do those jobs, we become more attractive to employers considering investing in our communities.

It is also important that we promote the health and safety of our residents. We can do so by first ensuring that the necessary medical facilities are in place. We also must reduce the number of drug crimes and felonies being committed in our county, which can be accomplished by expanding our law enforcement structure through the hiring of additional sherriff’s deputies and through the judicious use of prosecutorial discretion for first-time offenders charged with felonies.

The cyclical nature of these improvements is important to remember. As businesses and people migrate to our county, everyone’s individual tax burden is lowered while at the same time allowing for improvements to infrastructure, schools, medical facilities and law enforcement. Making those improvements then encourages more people to move here, and the cycle continues.

But how do we achieve it? Where can we start? While the plan itself must be developed by all of us working together, we can start with better communication.

It would be helpful to see the agendas of local government meetings posted prior to each meeting, with the minutes of meetings posted afterward, perhaps even in the News or on the Web. Meetings should be scheduled in a manner which promotes maximum involvement from the community. And contributions by the public at those meetings should be encouraged, not stifled.

We would also encourage Perry County residents and government entities to scrutinize and scrub the county budget to make sure we are spending our money wisely. There are also grants which are available to be used for community improvement. If we get more “bang for our buck,” we can make progress for the future of the county without jeopardizing the present.

These are important things to consider when we all head to the polls this fall. The decisions we make today will impact every area of our lives in the future as residents of Perry County.

When you question your candidates for local government, ask them where they stand on these issues. We all have a voice in local government, but if we don’t speak up, it won’t be heard. The most important thing is not that we lay out a plan in its entirety today, but that we at least acknowledge that currently there is no plan and one needs to be developed as soon as possible.

Sanders is the communications director for the Perry County Republicans. He lives in Tell City.