I feel a need to respond to the Litchfield News-Herald "Break Time" column of Nov. 8 to offer a different view to some of the comments. This letter is direct response to the editor for the Litchfield News-Herald.
Thank you for acknowledging my presence at the first school district community listening session, and for noticing my absence at the second, as well as that of other city officials. It was one of seven meetings that I had scheduled last week and I am sorry that I wasn't there. However, there are many obligations and responsibilities placed on public officials. Several aldermen and officials have other meetings and responsibilities that make it difficult to be everywhere. Their families always have need for their presence as well. Our city administrator spent the day at a meeting in Springfield in hopes of obtaining grant funds for needed infrastructure to add to the more than $6 million in grants that the city has successfully requested in the last six years.
The city is not oblivious to what is happening in the school district as we are regularly up-dated by Dr. Fuerstenau in our monthly Economic Development Commission meetings. I have had many personal conversations with him as have several aldermen. We are excited to see his leadership and plans for the district. We also trust the current membership of the board to make the decisions necessary for the future of our children. Conversely, I assume the board trusts the city to make the right decisions as the board also does not attend city meetings and should not be expected to do so.
Had I been in attendance, I could have answered the questions about the need for economic development. I invite you to take a trip to the west to see the progress on the city's new industrial park. Ask local businesses such as Dometic, Worksaver, and McKay about the role that the city has had in keeping and growing jobs here. And by the way, all major employers are searching for employees. In the last six years, more than 400 jobs have been created and hundreds more retained due to the efforts of the city. Jobs are here if you can be trained, are drug free and will show up for work. The unemployment rate in the county has fallen to 4.4 percent and I would project even lower in Litchfield.
Litchfield has identified many concerns. They are being addressed by all responsible taxing districts and community groups, all volunteers in the truest sense. Poverty, drug use, housing and building blight are high on our lists. We meet often, we plan, and we search for funding in the hopes of not increasing taxes. And we attend as many meetings as possible to learn and contribute.
Lastly, I would like to point out that cities need positive approaches and reporting on social and printed media to become a dynamic community. Negativism is a national poison that I hope can be eliminated in Litchfield. With all of the "doom and gloom" coming from the closing of the coal mine and power plant in Montgomery County, Litchfield is posed for a bright economic and scholastic future for our children. I hope you will agree and that you join the effort. You mentioned that 40 years ago "several of us old people" were community "activists." I'm interested to know your concerns at that time and what successes you can attribute to your activism.
Again, city officials cannot be everywhere all the time, however that does not mean they lack interest or involvement. This meeting was an opportunity for residents to ask questions of the school board, not for city comments. We think this is a great way for the public to have time with the school board to voice educational issues. The city will attend future meetings as best it can, but be assured the two partners are communicating and interacting on issues that impact the community.
Mayor Steve Dougherty