Officials don't understand
Two newspaper articles point to the failure of community leaders to promote a sustainable, high quality of life for regional residents.
One titled "Timbering project sparks mele" and another "Survey: Young people not fond or Schuylkill" reveal how local economic development organizations destroy the environment and community while driving out educated youth.
The internal dispute between factions in the City of Hazleton and it's Water Authority over details of the timbering plan demonstrates that both sides overlook the real issue.
It simply doesn't make sense to destroy watershed forests to get a one-time, $200,000 shot of operating revenue. Not when that land could be the centerpeice of nature-based recreation that would enhance the quality of life for the whole region and serve to retain and attract high-tech professionals.
The timbering plan is especially counter-productive considering that in 2001, The Great Valley Technology Alliance hosted Richard Florida, the internationally renowned guru of tech enterprse on how to build the community of the future. His number one peice of advice: preserve natural land and promote outdoor recreation.
Instead, from Lackawanna to Luzerne to Schuylkill County, economic developers did just the opposite. Along the I-81 corridor, CAN DO and SEDCO, in collusion with Robert Mericle of Juvie Scandal infamy, cut down pristine pine barrens to host low paying warehouse jobs. The result: a massive influx of unskilled job seekers has overwhelmed cities like Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton and Shenandoah.
Now we lead the state in unemployment, gang violence, failing schools and distressed municipalities. And our brightest and best young people leave as soon as they finish their education.
This is confirmed by the Schuylkill County VISION survey of their high school students. In short, 55 percent don't plan to live here after graduation.
What they want, according to the survey, is quality of life, good jobs and public safety. Obviously, neither CAN DO nor SEDCO's utilization of the KOZ program has provided those things. Instead, the desperate City of Hazleton will furthur destroy the environment to fund it's police and fire departments. Franz Kafka couldn't make up that crazy scenario.
Try this as a vision for Hazleton and Schuylkill County: instead of lobbying for 30 million in highway dollars to expand Humbolt Industrial Park and accomodate the proposed cargo airport, partner with the DCNR and private conservancies to preserve the airport site for outdoor recreation.
Then young techies will have a reason to stay and create information highway jobs, thereby making CAN DO and SEDCO irrelevant and obselete.
Perhaps POWER and our elected officials can understand and support that vision. Our ossified economic developers obviously don't.
Conservationists are interested in hearing about ideas others might have.