The Herald Bulletin

February 15, 2014

Viewpoint: Jobs, education and renewable energy are key to Anderson's improvement

By James R. Willis Anderson resident
The Herald Bulletin

---- — In a recent editorial, the editorial board was critical of Mayor Kevin Smith’s State of the City speech because, as the editorial suggested, it lacked vision. I would have to concur in this assessment. I really don’t like to engage in negativity, but sometimes constructive criticism can be a very effective tool in bringing forth the best in ourselves and others.

It seems that politicians serving in Anderson always want to talk about what they have done to balance the budget, maintain public safety, and how many miles of streets they have paved. These accomplishments are commendable but every politician in Anderson past and present has done those things and will continue to do those things.

What is lacking on the part of our local politicians is their ability to put themselves out there, to show us and to tell us with conviction their ideas that will in both the short term and long term improve this community. It should be easy for anyone that holds public office in this community to look around and see where we need to improve the most, and the fastest, and to formulate and share their plan of action with the citizenry.

I’m no politician. I’m just an interested citizen like many of you that wants to see Anderson start to improve in all areas, but I believe we need to begin by concentrating on three key concerns. The three areas I want to talk about are jobs and wages, education, and renewable energy. These issues are key to Anderson’s future and we need to start having conversations that lead to action on these issues. I want a future in this community that includes us attracting an impact employer. An impact employer that creates several thousand good-paying jobs in Anderson that pay wages that can support families.

Secondly, I want to see a new spirit of cooperation on the part of the community in the area of education. I want to see a better system of preschool education, I want to see a higher graduation rate, more of our young people going off to colleges across the country and more young people attending Ivy Tech here in Anderson. Furthermore, I want to see a vocational school that is the envy of every community in the state, I want young adults coming out of high school in this community with vocational skills that are in demand in today’s economy.

Thirdly, I believe it is imperative that at some time in the very near future that our local leaders embrace new technologies and implement strategies that place Anderson on a pathway to a renewable energy future. Madison County has embraced wind power and the town of Frankton in partnership with IMPA has the first solar park in Madison County. Why can’t Anderson partner with IMPA and use areas at our airport for a solar array like they have done at Indianapolis International and create the first “green” airport in the state. Why have we not applied for federal grants to convert our fleet of city buses to natural gas?

Mayor Smith in his address talked about “the shackles of our automotive past,” and how that type of thinking has hindered us as a community. The only shackles on this community are the ones of our own making and those shackles are easily destroyed by those willing to think great thoughts, those who are willing to dream dreams, and those who will lead.