Editorial: In 2009: Keep sights set forward

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2008

When the Post asked online readers what goals local leaders and the community should set for this new year, the responses were few but strong.
“Bring in more jobs and industry!” said Arte.
“A countywide comprehensive land-use plan, more funding for schools, and job creation….period,” said Citizen X.
From Keep It Simple came this: “Our local leaders should re-examine the tax giveaways they have spent like drunken sailors. Our goals should not be to advance the ‘Charlotte Region,’ but to advance Rowan County ….”
JB suggested community leaders try “increasing our employment base through diverse entertainment,” such as a water park.
And annexation opponent Larry Wright continued to champion his cause: “A worthy goal would be to support our efforts to change the state law on annexations to allow a vote on forced annexations.”
Those responses touch on some of the major issues of 2008, issues everyone expects will still be around in 2009. This is the year to resolve some of them.
2009 begins with low expectations because of the economy. Last August, Rowan’s jobless rate hit 8.1 percent, the highest since Pillowtex’s 2003 closing. The rest of 2008 brought bad economic news on a global scale, so it’s hard to focus on lofty goals.
But sometimes keeping sights set on a distant destination helps travelers navigate difficult paths. So may it be for Rowan County as we work our way through 2009.
Jobs continue to top the list of priorities, and local officials need to focus on them more than ever. The responsibility goes beyond the Economic Development Commission. Without giving away the store, elected officials need to ensure Rowan County presents a friendly face to the business world, including businesses that already call this home. No one on the County Board of Commissioners or City Council can influence the demand for Freightliner trucks or Food Lion groceries, for example, but they can influence the services that affect businesses ó maintaining a high-quality water supply; keeping taxes and fees fair; improving education and training opportunities and, if at all possible, supporting quality-of-life services like parks and the arts.
It’s belt-tightening time, but let’s not cut off the community’s circulation.
A land-use plan should also be part of that business-friendly face. The test is balancing different business interests ó residential developers, farmers, preservationists and site-selection consultants looking for progressively minded communities. Rowan has to reach consensus on some form of plan that moves the debate forward.
You can’t please all the people all the time, of course. Some people don’t want any land-use plan. One reader, “Need a Plan Alright,” went the satirical route and suggested Rowan come up with a plan for everything ó ” … Plan for the poor, Plan for the rich, Home Plan, Education Plan, Workplace Plan, Landscape Plan, Sign Plan, Food Plan, Road Plan, Pastime Plan” and so on. “Oh, so many plans, so little time.”
Considering we need only a plan for land-use, maybe 2009 will have plenty of time after all.