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Letters to the Editor
Coming to terms with changes

Dear Editor,
{This is primarily in response to a recent commentary regarding the economic hardships and parallels between Greece, Puerto Rico, and Appalachia by Dr. Krugman of the NY Times. I wanted to enter this discussion as a resident of Appalachia who has been struggling to come to terms with the changes going on around me and my family.}
The economic history of the central Appalachia region has as a theme capital investments from large cities and more developed areas leading to an extensive mining industry and an increased population in an isolated, sparsely settled, and rugged area of our country. The expansion of population due to a need for workers had major consequences. The central Appalachian resources were in Bruce Springsteen’s words from the song, “Youngstown”, used to “win this country’s wars”. They also provided the basic profits to the investors that could be used for diversification in the parts of the country that provided the initial capital, an important point to remember in deciding how to view the current situation. 
Recently, a “500-year storm” occurred in eastern Kentucky. Seven inches of rain fell in a specific location in less than one hour by some accounts.  It was a storm more severe than any seen in our region by any living person.  The immediate result was a flash flood that killed four and washed away more than 70 homes. In much the same way, the sudden shift of the country and the world away from coal as a resource due to environmental priorities has created similar destruction and devastation due to the rapidity of the changes. Mining shutdowns have occurred in more than 70% of the mines over the past three years and the collapse of the local service economy is taking place at an unprecedented rate. While some mines still produce, homes and businesses in many areas are being abandoned and people’s lives are being ruined or changed drastically and suddenly.  Like the flood victims, they have not had time to prepare. 
The essential nature of the rugged, isolated Appalachians makes it difficult to adapt or diversify the economy quickly since it is mountainous and is not located next to seaports or population centers.  I would add that any diversification efforts are also stunted by the fact that the majority of the profits from the extraction industries have been transferred away, leaving very little for current residents to use to make ventures persist or even be contemplated.  Options such as tourism have a limited ceiling in large part because of the environmental damage the decades of mining have wrought. 
Several efforts have been made (such as the SOAR program) during the current crisis to address the changes that are occurring but it is certainly not clear if anyone has an idea with the potency to be a true solution.  One proposal that has some potential would first require an acceptance of the fact that the country’s priority on environmental concerns is proper. The world is warming and the weather is much more extreme and we need to do whatever we can to mitigate that damage. Secondly, we need to take the national concern for our environment another step by emphasizing that improvements to the Appalachia regional environment itself are necessary. 
In this proposal, to invest truly in Appalachia’s future, it will be necessary to make a long-term commitment that targets environmental concerns that exist as either direct or indirect consequences of the area’s history of industrial extraction and population shift. It would include correct (and not the bare minimum) reclamation of old mine sites, identification, demolition, and removal of abandoned homes/businesses/infrastructure, and educational investment in schools and vocational programs that will allow the current residents to gain skills that will permit many of them to move away to places with more realistic job opportunities. 
What would result from this plan? There would first be immediate employment options that would smooth the current transition for people living in the region. Miners wanting to stay here could work on reclaiming sites, mining engineers could organize those projects and the demolitions, laborers and heavy equipment operators could work in both places to support their families and keep up payments on their machinery, lawyers and real estate specialists could work to identify abandoned assets that need to be removed, and the multitude of service workers could provide support to those directly involved in the program. Over an extended period of time (10-20 years), the program would find fewer homes to remove, fewer mines to reclaim, and would cease to be needed.  During that time, the transition of an area could take place at a moderate pace and not at a pace that leads to destruction.   
In the end, the central Appalachian area will become more like it was before the discovery of coal...a much lower population, much more natural and varied beauty, and a genuine change in the mindsets of the people living here.  Central Appalachia will become an asset to the country once again, as it was for the Vanderbilt and the Mayo families earlier in its history. This part of the Appalachian region could be an oasis of natural beauty and diversity close to the coast but separate. An area where people will eventually want to live again, starting a more natural process that will hopefully re-make the economy in a better, more sustainable image. Harry Caudill contrasted Appalachia and Switzerland and suggested the chief difference was not in resources or location. It was in the “soft skills” embedded in the culture that seemed to him to make the difference in prosperity. Central Appalachia can remake itself but it will take time and the results will not be evident for some time. The alternative of just letting everything rot away will bring much more chaos, more unearned hardship, and will take much longer with less likelihood of a positive outcome.
Barry Adkins
Paintsville, KY
More affordable prices for 111th Kentucky State Fair

Dear Editor,
A Century, a decade, a year … and counting!           
The Kentucky State Fair celebrates its 111th year in 2015, with a colorful 11-day fanfare of food, music, rides, agriculture, animals, entertainment and fun, Aug. 20-30.
And now this summertime experience is an even better value.  Children under six get in free, parking is only $5 when purchased in advance, discount admission is available online — as well as Ticketmaster outlets, Kroger and Walmart stores. The fair continues to offer free parking on the weekends with free shuttle service from Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.  With free concerts staged each night, and Midway ride specials every day, the Kentucky State Fair offers the most affordable way to live it up in those last lazy days of summer.
Plan to meet your friends and family at the Kentucky State Fair, Aug. 20 – 30, as the Commonwealth celebrates the 111th renewal of everything that’s traditional and right up to date in Kentucky!
Clifford “Rip” Rippetoe
President & CEO
Kentucky State Fair Board

Letters to the Editor
Thank You

Dear Editor,
The OSCAR had a very successful and fun OSCAR KIDS ART CAMP thanks to the many volunteers that helped and our sponsor Leslie Equipment.  Because of Leslie Equipment, we were able to offer a camp free of charge to thirty three kids.  Each camper took home 3 super crafts and a day filled with fun, learning, and laughter.  Thanks to the teachers and helpers Cindy Blair, Bambi Philllips, Emily Baldridge, Brenda Cockerham and the UK Extension Office, Shelby Conley and MaKenzie Rice.  Thanks to Payne Rice Jr. for providing the pizzas for lunch.
OSCAR (Oil Springs Cultural Arts and Recreation Center) has many classes for all ages offered each month.  Thanks again to all involved in this great camp.

Very truly yours,
Vicki M. Rice, President
Rt. 23 Cultural Heritage Network

Letters to the Editor
Hurrah for Donald Trump!

Dear Editor,
President Obama and congressional Democrats disparage Trump. Political pundits deride his candidacy and extemporaneous speech. Interviewers dissect his impromptu responses and written statements searching for criticism. Script-reading presidential contenders scoff at his perplexing success. Leaders of the GOP (Grand Old Party) wish he would fall off their money-controlled cloud headfirst. The foregoing conglomeration of attitudes reveals the greatest threat to America and our way of life.
Nowadays, hero is seldom applied as defined in the dictionary. Nevertheless, Senator John McCain and the other 1,940 prisoners of war in Vietnam were heroes. To be fair, Trump misspoke in reference to McCain’s military service, but he was indisputably right about McCain, the politician. He and his counterparts are “all talk and no performance.”
By definition, veterans who have served America honorably are heroes. Politicians in Congress say they revere our veterans. If their performance matched their talk, our heroes would walk on red carpet to the entrances of the finest medical clinics and hospitals in the world and not one of them would ever die waiting to see a doctor, not one! Politicians have had the ways and means and opportunity to demonstrate their reverence, but self-serving performances limited their reverence to meaningless words.
Consequently, sick veterans died on secret waiting lists created to cover up shortcomings of high-level managers in a Veterans Administration that is permeated with corruption. Directing the spotlight on that national disgrace is what Trump should be remembered for, not triviality like “perhaps McCain was a hero.”
America is in dire need of plainspoken truths and a president with extemporaneous speaking skills complemented with sufficient courage to demonstrate truth with honest performance. Such personal attributes are responsible for Donald Trump’s perch on top of the polls, which is precisely where he belongs.

Shafter Bailey
Lexington, KY

Letters to the Editor
Music program

Dear Editor,
I read in the July 22 edition of the Herald that the Paintsville Board of Education voted not to fill the recently vacated band director position. This is not the first time this issue has surfaced; this almost happened 10 or 12 years ago. Budgetary issues were cited, but I find it interesting that money can always be found for activities that are valued by the community. It looks like the school system is ignoring all the research that says kids involved in music programs perform better in academics. I’m thoroughly disgusted.......

Jerry Johnson
PHS Class of 1983
Louisville, KY

Letters to the Editor
Scott Johnson
A hero to all of us

Dear Editor,
In life we cross paths with many different individuals. Some are just acquaintances and become a part of the repetitive revolving door. But some have their own unique traits that set them apart from everyone else in the world. They are a loyal friend that would stick by your side regardless of the situation. They are a mentor that would always be there for you with words of encouragement. They are the light that guides you through the darkness. They are the smile that warms your soul. They have a magnetism about them that draws you in and captivates you. They are a gift that is given to you. And just knowing that person makes your life better.
I was one of the lucky ones that had the opportunity to gain that gift over 20 years ago. It came wrapped in a Bermuda button up shirt and JNCO shorts. His name was Scott Johnson. He walked with a trademark swagger, had an unmistakable laugh and a smile that would light up a room. I was instantly drawn to this enigma and shortly after we spent our evenings and weekends together.
The weekends and summers during that period were some of the best times of my life. Spent with the crew that consisted of myself, Scott, Anthony L.B. Daniels, Bracken Salyer, David Bangham and his brother Ronnie, Randy Selvage, William Lackey, Amy Elizabeth Castle, William Bill Blevins and his little brother John, Alex Castle, Kyle Burge, and so many more. The evenings and nights would be spent at the plaza hanging out or on some random crazy adventure. Saturday mornings would always be spent at the infamous stock yard after raiding the Shoney’s breakfast buffet. And the first weekend in October would be spent at Apple Day from morning till almost midnight.
Scott was always over at my house, my mom and my dad both adored him and he loved to sit in the living room and talk with them for hours. Always laughing, always telling jokes and sharing his love for classic rock and classic country music. Scott was always the life of the party and there was nothing he wouldn’t do to make you laugh.
Scott had many defining traits. Not only was he one of the funniest people I ever met; he was one the most trustworthy. If you needed help or he told you he would be somewhere at a certain time, you could count on him always being there. He was sincere. I remember many nights sitting outside on my dad’s deck talking about where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and how we were going to take over the world. If you needed advice he would always be the one to talk to. There were many times that he would pick me up when I was feeling down, and kick me in the butt to get me motivated.
As time passed and we became adults, I moved away and Scott stayed in “The Gap”. We kept in contact through phone calls and social media. We would reminisce about the past and share our love for music. His being rap and mine being heavy metal. Both of us being musicians, we would try to set up a collaboration but due to work and schedules we never got the chance. And that, I have to say, is one thing that I will always regret.
I hope that Scott knew how much he meant to not only me, but to all of us that knew him. The impact he had on our lives, the space he owns in our hearts, and the gift that he was to us all. Life can be cruel and take away the things that we value the most. But the one thing it can’t take is our memories. It’s up to us to make sure that the memory of Scott never fades.
In a world tarnished by cowardice, Scott gave the ultimate sacrifice for his family. Acts of bravery are becoming a rare occurrence in this day and age. He is a hero to us all. All who knew him will always be overcome with a great sense of pride when we talk about Scott or hear his name.
Scott Johnson. My friend, my brother, my mentor, my hero. 

Haskel Frye
Ashland, Ky

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