There was a great editorial in last Sunday’s (January 19th) PADUCAH SUN in case you didn’t see it. Voters were challenged to press candidates to be authentic and provide their stance on issues. I couldn’t agree more that the stakes are high in the upcoming Paducah elections. Voters should challenge candidates and not settle for ambiguous answers.
The Aquatic Center along with other competing projects has hit many nerves in Paducah. There is more discourse in our community right now than there has been in a long time. Overall this is good because it means people are paying attention. It also means that we are taking risks in the projects we are proposing. However there is a right way and a wrong way to move forward and I don’t believe there has been enough transparency for our citizens on projects and plans by leadership as they have developed.
As a citizen and a candidate, I don’t question the value of a new aquatic center to area residents and the attractiveness that a facility of this type offers to those thinking of relocating here. Nor do I question the potential health benefits to the citizens of our area. I do question however the assumptions and financial justification of providing a $22 million project for not only city but county residents as well without financial participation from the county, hospitals, school systems and other users. Additionally, such a large project with substantial yearly outlays for labor, repair, replacement should have an endowment to offset these costs.
The Friends of the Park 501 (c)3 is critical to the long-term success of the facility and because many members of that group have been major advocates for the project it is even more important that a specific financial commitment be made and soon. I respectfully challenge the Friends of the Park to make that commitment visible to the community. I will be the first to make a contribution.
For the record, I would not have allowed the project to advance this far without a wider and more visible base of financial support, particularly private investment, both to provide additional capital investment up front and to help fund operational costs. Simply stated, I would have handled this project much differently. I would have been much more transparent throughout the project to ensure that citizens knew what was happening and when. I would have sought and listened to additional input as the project developed. And I would have either right sized it as it grew from what many thought was an $8-10M project to $22M or I would have made sure that the finances had been better planned and the city not stretched on a bond issue of this magnitude for a project of this type. Citizens should have had more voice.
The commission will move forward with the project over the next few days, despite at least one dissenting vote and we will all need to move on. And of course an aquatic/recreational center will be great to have but, basic infrastructure such as proactive planning and maintenance of our storm water system, funding our needs related to 911, and improving existing parks and facilities should have taken precedence among priorities without a stronger financial plan than has been constructed. Voters should hold our elected officials accountable for their actions on these projects as I would expect to be held accountable if elected as your next Mayor.
Transparency of government, the prioritization and optimization of the City’s finances, and increasing a quality job base are cornerstones of my campaign, and I welcome the hard questions about my views. Please don’t hesitate to contact me to ask questions or to share your views.