We All Have Dreams

It is a new year and a new decade. The roaring twenties, millennial style, have come round again and it makes me wonder if this will be a feast or famine decade. Frankly, the past ten years have been more on the famine side until the last couple of years. Not that it was really the fault of the two thousand and teens. Actually, they were bearing the burden of the fiasco of the decade before and the crash and burn that was felt around the country. But, that was then and this is now.

When I consider all of the things that need to happen in this decade it makes me a little nervous. After all, our track record has not been stellar and we have made, and paid dearly for, some very questionable decisions in the past twenty or so years. So many, in fact, that we can hardly afford to make many more bad calls. Nationally, we are facing a serious social security crisis. Those of us who believed that we would be seeing a check in our golden years may have to come to terms with the fact that the well has run dry. As far as health care reform goes, neither democrats nor republicans are sailing the ship to any place that we can all afford ( both financially and quality of health care) to drop anchor. Do we need health care reform? Absolutely. Are we going to get health care reform in this decade? Nope. Our elected officials on both sides of the fence are too interested in the fight to care about the problems of regular people. After all, if you are worth millions of dollars you are probably not bothered by paying for quality health care or even getting health insurance with a pre existing condition. That being said, I am all for letting the businesses and the consumers find the place that they can both comfortably exist. However, getting rid of legal barriers that impede that outcome is the responsibility of our elected officials and none of them appear to be getting the job done.

Statewide, we need to be doing something about education and our roads. It is really hard to tout yourself as a tourist playground when the roads are more bad carnival ride than smooth driving. Sure, it’s good for the tire industry but it certainly wears on the nerves of the average traveler. Tennessee has the funds to keep the roads in good repair and the road sides clean. The road condition and cleanliness are the first impression that people have of our fair state and it is shameful the condition of both. Not to mention, those of us that pay taxes for such luxuries as roads would like to keep our teeth and tires in good condition. When the difference between pot holes and sink holes is not automatically apparent it is time for someone who can sign the state checkbook to do something. Governor Lee, I believe that would be you. As for education, it is clear that we need some serious work statewide. It is my opinion that the biggest problem is that we are getting what we pay for. When education becomes a viable profession, one that has reasonable expectations accompanied by reasonable pay, we may see some changes. This Promise program and Drive 55 program are ridiculous. The fact is that not everyone needs a college education to be successful. The fact also is that we should be focused on teaching our children what they need to know to be independent, thinking, prosperous adults during the 13 years that we have them in the classroom. Then, we need to have affordable, not free, education that is accessible to those that have the desire and ability to go further. I have said it before and I will say it again, there is nothing wrong with working for what you want. It makes you appreciate the prize at the end so much more if you have some skin in the game.

And then we have our local government. We have had some big, bad, expensive boo boos in the past twenty or so years. We have also gotten a few things right. This decade will bring some tough decisions about teacher pay, county buildings and school buildings. There are, without a doubt, some serious needs. There are also just as many serious wants. Jefferson County is facing a big per capita debt and that is not the legacy that we want to pass on to the next generation of tax payers. But, and this is where we sometimes become myopic, people want to see something for their taxes. They want a few perks. Some benefits. Maybe a County Pool? Nope, we already closed that. Maybe a great recreational facility? Doesn’t appear to be on anyone’s priority list. Something. Anything that says we are progressive and we think about the greater needs of our citizens. I would suggest, and some will shudder at the thought, that we could dip a toe into those multi million dollars of hospital reserve funds and provide something for the folks paying the bills. I don’t buy the adage that if we spend a little we will spend it all. Surely, surely we have better self control than that, otherwise we are destined to never use any of those funds and that shouldn’t sit well with the people of Jefferson County. It is inevitable that we will have a property tax increase in the next couple of cycles. I, frankly, believe that we should have scheduled increases that are minimal ( and would not be felt by anyone but the largest land owners of which there are not more than a handful left in the county) to allow for better planning on a personal and county level. We have to address teacher pay. We have to address building needs. We have to put some money into strategic recruiting of businesses and tourism. And mostly, we have to have a clear vision for Jefferson County. Every area does not need or want the same things but we have to identify just what is needed and wanted. Then, we need a good, solid game plan.

Just like everyone else, I don’t really know what is in store for the roaring twenties. I have a pretty good view from the cheap seats but even the players don’t always know which move will come next. What I hope for is prosperity, thoughtfulness and progress. I also hope that one day I will be able to travel to West Knoxville without needing a football helmet and mouthpiece. We all have dreams.

Source: K. Depew, News Director