Open Letter Offers Principle and Policy Suggestions for Shaping Eastern Kentucky’s Future | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth
Release Date: 
Tuesday, December 3, 2013
Press Contact: 
Elizabeth Sanders
KFTC member

Open Letter Offers Principle and Policy Suggestions for Shaping Eastern Kentucky’s Future

Download a copy of the open letter to Governor Beshear and Rep. Rogers

Additional Contact

Carl Shoupe

S.O.A.R. Info

S.O.A.R. website

Summit agenda

Facebook page

KFTC S.O.A.R. page

If you can't make the summit (or even if you can), you can submit ideas to the governor HERE.

Bright Future

Conference proceedings

Hopeful about the future, some eastern Kentucky residents have offered suggestions for principles, process and policies to guide future development in the region.

Offered in an open letter sent Monday to Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Rep Hal Rogers, the KFTC members acknowledged, “It won’t be easy, but we believe we can build a bright future here in the mountains.

“We hold fast to the hope that we, along with our children and grandchildren, will have opportunities to create good lives for ourselves right here at home,” read the letter signed by Carl Shoupe, a retired coal miner from Harlan County, and Elizabeth Sanders, a young woman from Letcher County. “And like you, we hold special and deep concerns about the economic conditions now facing so many people and communities in eastern Kentucky.

“It’s a painful time, especially for this region that has already sacrificed and struggled so much. But no one is satisfied for our story to end here. And, once we start looking, it is possible to find hopeful stories, creative people and promising ideas all around us.”

The letter is meant to help shape the conversation, already happening in the region, that will continue at the S.O.A.R. (Shaping Our Appalachian Region) summit December 9 in Pikeville. More than 1,100 people are registered for the event to be convened by Gov. Beshear and Rep. Rogers.

Shoupe and Sanders, writing on behalf of KFTC’s New Energy and Transition Committee, offer suggestions on “what it will take to build a thriving local economy in eastern Kentucky.” The ideas were developed over several years with input from hundreds of KFTC members.

They list several principles that should guide any development efforts, including: inclusion, participation and collaboration; innovation and self-reliance; good, stable, meaningful jobs; broad access to opportunities; and improved quality of life, among others.

“We must seek to create a just transition for workers and communities in eastern Kentucky. To us that means regional development efforts should be guided by and evaluated against these principles,” they wrote.

The letter also asks the elected leaders to commit to a longer-term and “inclusive public planning process aimed at shaping a shared vision and identifying key strategies.”

“We hold fast to the hope that we, along with our children and grandchildren, will have opportunities to create good lives for ourselves right here at home.”

“To build a bright future in eastern Kentucky, 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 stated. “It’s especially important, we believe, for you to encourage the leadership of young people, women, the unemployed and underemployed in this conversation. We can’t afford for their voices to go unheard when decisions are being made about the future of our region.”

Finally, the letter names more than a dozen important policy options to pursue. Those include:

  • an inclusive and diverse public planning group
  • a long-term fund to invest in regional economic development strategies
  • increased investment in training and support for laid-off coal miners and their families
  • support for the growth of worker co-ops and worker-owned small businesses
  • special attention to the growth of promising sectors (including local food systems, energy-efficient affordable housing, land and stream restoration, arts and culture, tourism, and renewable energy)
  • investments in efforts to improve public health, education and programs that make it possible for people to improve their quality of life.

“A just transition for workers and communities in eastern Kentucky will take leadership, long-term investment, and the efforts of many determined, creative people working together to make change for the better. Government won’t solve every problem; all of us have important roles to play. But public policies and investments are a powerful tool, and effective public leadership from the two of you and other elected officials will be an essential part of our success as a region.”

Many of these ideas were explored at the Appalachia’s Bright Future conference hosted by KFTC in Harlan earlier this year. That gathering of more than 200 people helped elevate and broaden the conversation about a just economic transition in the region.

The full letter to the governor and Rep. Rogers can be read here.