Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Small Town vs Economic Growth

For those of you outside of my hometown, please bear with me while I cover a very important local race.

Fort Smith, Arkansas is a great place to live. Nestled on the Oklahoma border, it is a former gateway to Indian Territory and home of the famous Judge Isaac C. Parker, and it is rich in history. The cost of living here is as good as it gets.

Fort Smith is in an awkward position in its development. Some want it to maintain its "small town" appeal while others want to see it become an economic center in Arkansas and Oklahoma. Is it possible to achieve both? Not likely except in limited areas. So, what should we do?

This year's mayoral race features two candidates who exemplify the two philosophies for Fort Smith. The City is run by a City Administrator and Board of Directors, with the Mayor playing largely a public relations role.

Incumbent Ray Baker has been mayor for 16 years. He is a very energetic, fun-loving person who genuinely loves Fort Smith. He spends his days honoring citizens and visitors with awards, proclamations and keys to the city. Mayor Baker is a good Christian man who teaches Sunday School. Mayor Baker is a proponent of the "small town" vision for Fort Smith.

Challenger Steve Jackson says it is time for a new vision for Fort Smith. He says that the mayor's office needs to focus on promoting economic development and enticing businesses to locate here. Economic development and new businesses mean more jobs for Fort Smith (and surrounding area) residents.

This election will define the direction Fort Smith takes for the next several years. Are we satisfied with the status quo or do we want to progress as a city?

It is almost certain that our largest employer, Whirlpool Corporation will be leaving Fort Smith. The downsizing has already started. This will either force other businesses to move or close their doors. Beverly Enterprises may not be far behind.

It is imperative that we look forward to the future and plan for growth. If we do not grow, we will stagnate. And that will spell disaster for Fort Smith.

I am supporting Steve Jackson for Mayor this November.

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