Editorial: Downtown parking garage will bring jobs to the community

September 21, 2003

It shouldn't be necessary to defend a member of Congress for doing something good for one of the communities in his district - except when that congressman is running for governor.

U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher recently was successful in getting $1.75 million for a Danville parking garage in the House version of the federal budget. U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning previously had succeeded in getting the same amount in the Senate version of the budget.

Isn't that something deserving praise from local officials? Heart of Danville, the local Main Street program, thought so and has commended Fletcher and Bunning for their efforts on behalf of this community.

In normal times, that would have been the end of it. But Fletcher, a Republican, is running for governor and his Democratic opponent Ben Chandler has sought mightily to blame Fletcher and President George W. Bush for the downturn in the U.S. economy. Chandler's also trying to make hay out of the health care issue. (Last week, he filed a lawsuit against some pharmaceutical companies, denying, of course, any connection to the governor's race.)


In an apparent attempt to localize the Chandler campaign message, a letter writer last week said Fletcher shouldn't be "commended" for securing the parking garage grant because a lot of local people have lost their jobs in factory closings in the past few years and because health care costs are high.

The health care issue is too complicated to go into much detail here, but the record shows that Fletcher, a physician, has worked as hard as anybody in Congress to improve health care benefits and keep health care costs under control. He's the chairman of the House Health Policy Subcommittee where he has had a major impact on health care issues. There's no way Chandler's record on health care can match up with Fletcher's.

The jobs issue is a complicated one, too. American manufacturers have been operating for a number of years in a super-competitive world market. Although the local economy has held up pretty well, Danville and Boyle County have not been immune to the impact of world competition, and some factories have closed, resulting in painful adjustments for many local families.

That's not, however, a reason to criticize efforts to build a parking garage in downtown Danville and the use of federal funds for the project. In fact, just the opposite. The parking garage is an economic development project that is intended not only to help preserve buildings in Danville's historic downtown, but to bring new jobs to the community.

Heart of Danville estimates that redevelopment of the old Hub building at the corner of Main and Third streets (the parking garage would be constructed behind that building) would create 100 new jobs for the community. Filling up the adjacent Gilcher Hotel building with tenants certainly would add as many, but Heart of Danville officials, to their credit, are reluctant to make an estimate on new jobs for that project, which is farther down the road.

At any rate, that's a hundred people who could expect to receive permanent employment as a result of a parking garage. That doesn't count the many other workers who would be employed in the construction of a parking garage and the renovation of the Hub-Gilcher buildings.

Clearly, the local economy can't be totally dependent upon on manufacturing companies. We have to do our best to create some home-grown jobs, too, and one way to do that is to build on our local assets, such as a unique, historic downtown area.

For helping the community grow those local jobs, both Fletcher and Bunning certainly deserve to be "commended."

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