Stand Up for What is Right, Even if You Stand Alone-Suzy Kassem

I have lived in Bowling Green for 35 years, both in the city and county. I am not a politician, but I used to love living here. I am running for office because I think the City Commission has lost its way.

When I first moved here, the main shopping center was located where South Campus is now.  I would buy groceries and have to wait in line while everyone in front of me had a conversation with the check out person. And, at least half of the time the people knew each other. When I was young, I was annoyed by this.

When my Dad and I would go places, we would be blocked in the road by two cars talking with each other. We would wait until they were through. I would say to myself “why don’t they just call each other?”

Going to the mall meant driving by vacant fields and most people were home by 9 p.m. The Mall was the place to catch up with friends.

Many WKU Alumni say they came from elsewhere to attend college, but chose to stay because it became home.

I understand these days are gone.  I miss the pace. I miss having a conversation with every person I meet. I miss seeing green space in the city. I miss the local businesses. Do you remember the Iron Skillet, The Parakeet, Royal Barn Florist, Pushins, The Holidome, House of Wan, The Brass A? And there are many more. It was nice going into a business,  seeing local people running their small business, and having a chat.

Now, there is more focus on developing industry, developing apartments, and master plans. These lack the heart of local business. When times get tough, big business leaves; small business owners innovate.

Gander Mountain-left; Camping World (local) took over the space.

Fruit of the Loom- layoffs every few years

K-Mart-Gone

Sears-Going

I understand some of this is the result of the loss of brick and mortar sales. However we also live in the information age, yet are pursuing manufacturing. As far as I know, we are not preparing for the future in a responsible way. We know manufacturing jobs are being replaced by automation. Are we training our young to work in technology? We have STEM Programs, but does this continue through to adulthood and on to the work force?  I know people who are WKU graduates laid off from WKU, Fruit of the Loom, etc. and the only jobs these white collar trained people can find is on a factory line.  I am not opposed to blue collar work. But, if a person trained for white collar employment, then why aren’t there more white collar jobs available? WKU enrollment is down.

It has also been noted roughly 60% of the property in Bowling Green is rental/apartments and the other 39% are home owners. When the job market has a downturn, many who are more mobile will leave to find better jobs.  Homeowners have roots in the community. They may be more innovative in their employment so they can stay in the community. Many couples find a “forever home” where they plan on starting and raising their family.

We all have seen how when a large company comes to a town they talk of how much they love the community. But when better incentives, cheaper labor comes along, these companies leave for better profit opportunities.

Research indicates the middle class is shrinking. I believe we have an obligation to support our local businesses and assist in developing small business. Many small businesses can support our economy in good times and bad.  They will innovate, because their survival depends on it. We can grow our middle class; the backbone of society.

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Restart the Innovation Center to provide support for budding businesses
  • Work more closely with the SBA (Small Business Administration) to help people make effective business plans and build success.
  • Utilize local businesses for smaller City projects to invest in our local businesses.
  • Implement the plan already in place in Christian County-if a person graduates from high school, two years of Community College or two years of Trade School are free, provided the student maintains an acceptable GPA.
  • Coordinate with WKU and KCTCS to form a seamless transition from graduation to employment in the community.

These ideas are counter to the current City Commission, which seems to focus on industrial development only. I am not against the City Commission, but I think they need to broaden their view and focus on the individuals in the community.

According to Forbes, there is a prediction of the next recession to be in the second half of 2019. My concern is when the large factories leave, the economy will tank, the people will move, the rental properties will be vacant and we will look more like Detroit than Bowling Green. The heart of our city is the citizens and we need to help citizens grow roots in the community.

I may stand alone on this issue, but I thought there needs to be a discussion. Thank you for reading this post.

-Victoria

How Immigration has added to the fabric of BG

Lately I have been pondering the cultural climate due to news headlines, memes, and commentators. In this pondering, I find my thoughts lead me to Marty Deputy. And I think, “What would Marty think about all of this?” For those who never had the pleasure of knowing Marty, she had enough love for everyone and an open heart for all. She began the Refugee Assistance Agency to help the people Vietnam who were being killed in their war torn country. This expanded to helping people from Cambodia and Laos. She didn’t help by just sending a check. She helped by opening her home and our community by sponsoring families, and providing the foundation for immigrants to put down roots. She helped new arrivals find jobs, obtain green cards, learn English, enroll in school, and always had time to listen. Later, Marty helped other people displaced by war and conflict; Bosnians, Serbians, Salvadorans to name a few. Before she died, Marty was helping people from Mexico obtain green cards and citizenship.

I met Marty in 1985 when working on my Master’s Thesis entitled “Refugee Adjustment in Bowling Green”. I interviewed Cambodians, Laotians, and Vietnamese about why they chose Bowling Green and the barriers to acculturation. Other states had better, more affluent support programs; so why stay here? The overwhelming response was safety. Many reported they wanted a better life for their children and a safe place to raise their family. They reported they felt safe in a smaller town and were told their children could play outside and nothing bad would happen. Others reported they had been farmers in their homeland and hoped one day to become farmers here. The biggest barrier to acculturation was the language. The biggest adjustment was the food. To address language issues, many participated in the ESL classes offered at the Refugee Assistance Center while also working low paying, labor intensive jobs. One man recounted going to milk cows in the morning, working as a custodian in a school during the day, and attending ESL classes at night. He was smiling widely saying he was just grateful to be in our country.

When I look around our community so many years later, I am thankful for Marty’s efforts. I recently went for lunch at India Oven and when I looked around saw a young family with their small children, an Amish man, young men who looked to be of college age who appeared to be International Students, an older man in a wheelchair with a partner, and a former local magistrate. A diverse group of people all in one place. No drama, no pundits, no one telling us how we should feel or trying to incite intense negative emotions about a group. Just people with their friends all enjoying a nice meal. My first thought was we are the change we wish to see. Here in this microcosm of our town, there is peace and harmony. Why can’t everyone have this?

I had the opportunity to talk with the owner, Mr. Moti Acharya, and asked about his immigration story. Mr. Acharya immigrated from Nepal in 2010, having a career in academia with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics and a Master’s degree in Planning and Management. Mr. Acharya wanted a better life for his wife and son and so he moved to Eastern Kentucky to work in a restaurant with his friend. After a few years he and his family moved to Bowling Green and opened India Oven. When I asked how he chose Bowling Green, he said it was due to the diversity, location, and growth. When I asked about the difficulty of leaving one’s home and roots and taking the 22 hour plane ride to a different life, he became quiet, but in a quick beat said it was good to be here.

Marty sewed the seeds of change. Providing a new home for people fleeing persecution, opening up a community that allows for putting down new roots. These new roots have added to our social fabric. Others have come to our community through business bringing factory jobs with them. If you’re a local, you skip the franchises and go to the Great American Donut Shop, Novo Dolce, Puertos, Que Bueno, Thai Express, India Oven, etc. These restaurants are the easiest examples of how our community has been positively influenced by immigration. But more importantly, by having a community of diversity we find we are really not all that different. We all want a better life for our children. We all want a safe place to live. We all want to live in a place that gives the opportunity to achieve our dreams. I am thankful for all the people who have chosen to make Bowling Green their home and for Marty Deputy for sewing the seeds.

Respectfully,
Victoria Golden-Thompson

Mayor Asked Me to Not Campaign During Meeting

I attended the City Commission Meeting to explain why I was running for their seat and how they influenced my platform.  My platform is Term Limits; Transparency; and No New Taxes. After a long meeting, the Mayor called a 5 minute break and the only thing left on the agenda was my 5 minutes of comment. The Mayor told me at the break campaigning was not allowed. That a City Commission meeting was not the place for this. Apparently, free speech is not something that is allowed at Commission meetings. I did explain the events that lead up to my candidacy. Those reasons are:

  1.  The road where my family home is located was widened and no one in the area was notified. We only learned of it when workers started spray painting our yards. I called the City and County governments and the workers could not tell us who gave them the orders. When I went to the City Commission Meeting to ask, the plans for development were on the screen and the presenter had the audacity to say, the plan came together late and no one had a chance to talk to the residents. Apparently blueprints can be formulated in a couple of hours. I wonder what engineering companies would say about this? (Thus-Platform of Transparency).
  2. A year or so later, I was notified sidewalks would be built and part of my front yard would be taken for the sidewalks.  On the other side of the street are commercial businesses. There are paved concrete parking lots, no trees, and commercial buildings. I asked the City Attorney to approach the businesses across the street as it would seem easier to put sidewalks there and made more sense than cutting down my trees and taking part of my yard which wasn’t level anyway. I was told if I did not agree, my house could be condemned under imminent domain and the sidewalks would be put in place any way (Thus-Platform for Term Limits). Bullies should not be allowed in positions of public trust.
  3. Then we all have had to pay the price of the WRAP debacle. County floats bonds. Contractors not paid. City picks up the bill. No effort to regain the funds from those who misappropriated it. All taxpayers footing this bill. No input from residents; just an agreement with the County Judge Executive(Thus Platform of Transparency and Term Limits and No New Taxes).
  4. CSX decides to close Robinson Avenue. City Commission says the railroad has the right and gave the City $50,000 to do so. The closest fire station and ambulance are on Morgantown Rd. Closing the road hinders those across the tracks from getting help when needed. Local businesses on Russellville Road would lose traffic coming from residents living in the subdivisions on the other side of the track. The neighborhood members went to the Commission meeting and asked for a different option for parking rail cars-which was the purpose for closing the road. Considering the focus on beautification, it didn’t make sense to park rail cars next to the WKU Softball field and new parking structure. The City kept with the original plan of closing the road. The citizens’ concern did not sway the Commission from its pro business stance. The deal was done without any consideration for the residents. (Thus Platform of Term Limits and Transparency). The Commission needs to listen to the input of the residents.
  5. It took a private citizen suing the City and CSX to keep the road open. If that David had not taken on Goliath, we would have a train parked in the middle of town all day, traffic stopped, with rail cars stacked about. It would’ve been an eye sore to say the least and would hinder ambulance and fire crews from rendering assistance when needed.
  6. Anyone near  Robinson Ave. uses it as a cut through road to Russellville Rd. and Nashville Rd, WKU, and Morgantown Rd. Blocking the road was a bad idea on many levels.

The current Commission is only focused on development. They are ignoring individual property rights and courting business interests at the expense of individuals.

Please vote on Nov. 6 and let the Commission know that PEOPLE elect them, not businesses.

If I am elected, I will be a representative for the people. When you take care of the people, the rest will fall into place.

 

4 Million Dollars Approved for Downtown Beautification

I attended the City Commission meeting tonight where 4 million was approved for a beautification project downtown.  They said the funding was available and no need to generate funds. Let’s see how long this holds.  The good news is Scott-Murphy, a local business, was awarded the contract. Hopefully, local residents will be employed to work on the project.   Let’s hope it doesn’t go the way of the WRAP Project.

BTW, can you name a multi million dollar project that came in under budget?