It is time to realize that the days of budgeting for local services can no longer be linked to mineral severance taxes, especially coal severance taxes which are diminishing each day, each month and each year as a result of the worldwide shift from coal to other energy sources, including renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. It is time to realize that even if 100% of all coal severance tax dollars were returned to the coal producing counties, a matter which necessarily would have to be approved by the legislature, there still won’t be enough dollars to fund all of the local services which we take for granted and rely upon each and every day.
As a result of the shift away from a coal economy, it is time to plan for a future, in fact it is time to race toward a future which is fueled through innovation and an economy driven by new jobs, jobs which can be created with dozens of small businesses, businesses which can be built on the shoulders of the thousands of skilled tradesmen who live in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.
It is time to realize that there are few choices as the mountain economy races toward the future. One choice is to sit idly on the sidelines and do nothing, or the better choice for the people of the mountains is to adopt the words of W.C. Fields when he said, “There comes a time in the affairs of man when he must take the bull by the tail and face the situation.” And better yet, the people of the mountains can adopt another great saying which goes hand in hand with the words of W.C. Fields, the words of former Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder when she said, “You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.”
So, what can be done as the people of the mountains move from a coal economy to an economy driven by new ideas, new businesses which create real jobs, not just promises of jobs. Well, simply stated, the new economy will never be created by those who are only interested in wringing their hands as they complain about the past. Instead, the new economy will be created by those who roll up their sleeves and race toward the future, a future which will be defined through dozens of small businesses, small businesses owned and operated by the people of the mountains, the people who have invested generations of sweat and hard work to provide for their families, their children, their grandchildren and future generations.
Yes, there will be those who will stand along the sidelines, wring their hands, and criticize those who dream of a future economy, an economy which no longer relies on coal. Yet, despite the hand wringers and critics, there should be little doubt that future of the mountain economy, the very survival of dozens of small towns and communities will be written not by the hand wringers, but instead, the future of the mountains and the race toward the future will be defined by the hundreds, no thousands, of people of the mountains willing to roll up their sleeves, those people of the mountains willing to take the bull by the tail.
Admittedly, the solutions which will fuel the mountain economy of the future will not be easy, but those solutions will begin one business at a time as the economy of the region races toward the future, one dream at a time. With that said, before wringing your hands, take a moment to consider the words of “I dreamed in a Dream,” a famous poem written by Walt Whitman, a poem which could have been written for the people of the mountains and the future of the mountains.
“I Dreamed in a Dream” by Walt Whitman
I dream’d in a dream, I saw a city invincible to the
attacks of the whole of the rest of the earth;
I dream’d that was the new City of Friends;
Nothing was greater there than the quality of robust
love—it led the rest;
It was seen every hour in the actions of the men of
And in all their looks and words.
In the end, there is really only one choice for the future of the people of mountains and the future economy as they race to the future, and that choice is simple, it is time for everyone to take the bull by the tail, it is time for everyone to roll up their sleeves, and it is time to turn dreams into a reality of a new economy built on the shoulders hundreds of small businesses, businesses created by the hard working skilled men and women of the mountains.