News last week that $2.5 million in multi-county coal severance tax money is being used to renovate Rupp Arena has ruffled quite a few feathers in the mountains, but the foremost question is: Has Eastern Kentucky had enough, yet? Eastern Kentucky has a long and not too terribly proud tradition of watching as the wealth created by our natural resources is hauled away by the trainload for the benefit of someone else, someplace else. This is not a new story. Still, at a time when coal miners are being laid off by the thousands, when county governments are on the brink of financial disaster because of coal severance shortfalls, when the popular belief is that the coal industry is locked in permanent decline, and when more and more people are growing frustrated by ineffective state and local efforts to diversify the region's economy, watching as $2.5 million is spent to fluff up the cushions for millionaires and future millionaires is more than a bit too much. We simply cannot understand how mountain legislators did not stage a revolt over this outright theft, but they didn't. Instead, unfathomably, unconscionably, they allowed it to happen. It appears they didn't think us poor, ignorant hillbillies would mind as long as the money went to gussy-up the basketball palace. What is Eastern Kentucky going to do about this? If ever there were a moment that could serve to unite the region in pursuit of reform in economic development efforts, or the lack thereof, this is it. Will mountain residents seize this opportunity to at long last demand fair treatment? Or will they be content to accept more of the same?
The Floyd County Times