Dec. 9, 2013 —
Before the summit even began, Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies based in Whitesburg, wondered aloud and in an op-ed piece for the Lexington Herald-Leader if it was realistic to expect solutions from the same class of politicians and industry types who “got us here.”
But Davis also said the night before the summit that he is hopeful this time office-holders like Rogers and Beshear are sincere.
Beshear welcomed attendees Monday and told them the issues facing eastern Kentucky “aren’t political ones” but issues which hold back all of Kentucky, not just eastern Kentucky. He said organizers are “here to listen.”
Rogers and Stivers also said politics should be put aside in the search for common ideas to produce a brighter, long-term future for eastern Kentucky.
“We will blur the lines; we will put aside the politics,” Stivers said to applause from the crowd.
Still, some were doubtful.
Stanley Sturgill of Lynch, a member of the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, was arrested last year in Washington for refusing to leave Rogers’ House office when he and others sought an audience. He was also in a contingent of environmentalists who occupied Beshear’s office three years ago.
“I can’t understand a man arresting me one day for wanting to change things and then stand up in front of a crowd of 1,500 people and say he wants to do the same thing I wanted to do,” said Sturgill. “But I’m listening, and I’m optimistic. We’ll see.”
Sturgill hopes the 41-person planning committee made up of mostly business and industry representatives will listen to groups like KFTC as well.
“I’m hopeful they will,” Sturgill said. “But we’ve worked a lot in this area over the years, and so far, they haven’t listened to us a whole lot.”