Open Letter To The Governor: 'It Won't Be Easy'

Dec 9, 2013

A letter from a grassroots citizens group has reached the office of Governor Steve Beshear, the same day as the SOAR Summit.

The letter contained a simple message: The mountain region of the state can have a bright future, but achieving that goal "won't be easy." The letter was written by two members of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Elizabeth Sanders and Carl Shoupe, on behalf of the group's membership of 8000.

According to Sanders, who lives in Letcher County, the letter asks Beshear and eastern Kentucky's Congressman, Hal Rogers, to commit to a long-term, inclusive planning process involving "a bunch of different people, from different age groups, from different sectors."

Sanders and Shoupe wrote that "We need public leaders who encourage collaboration, reduce polarization and create a process that allows for meaningful public participation from people from all walks of life and perspectives."

The letter arrived as Beshear and Rogers open an initiative they are calling SOAR, for "Shaping our Appalachian Region."

The letter from the grassroots group said that while "it's a painful time" in Appalachia, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth members believe, in their words, "we can build a bright future here in the mountains."

"The conversation needs to be about leadership and long-term investment and all different strategies really."

The KFTC letter lists more than a dozen policy options to pursue, including a long-term fund to invest in regional economic development strategies and increased investment in training and support for laid-off coal miners.

Carl Shoupe, a retired coal miner from Harlan County, said, the "past is the past" and it's time to start moving forward.

"So that's what eastern Kentucky needs to do," he said. "We need to put on this new coat, you know, and move forward and make our politicians be responsible."

That's just one of the many messages in the letter Shoupe signed, which ended with the message that he, and others of the grassroots citizens group, want "to make good things happen."