Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Feb. 21

Published 7:36 am Tuesday, February 21, 2017

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Community forum on policing a great thing

Danville police and Boyle deputies did a good thing holding a community forum Thursday night, and they’re doing the right thing by planning for more forums in the future.

These kinds of public meetings help the public get to know their law enforcement officers and understand what they’re focused on and what problems they’re seeing in the communities they patrol. It also gives law enforcement a chance to hear any problems the community is having with crime or with law enforcement.

Attendees at Thursday’s meeting learned just how much of local law enforcement officers’ time is consumed with drug and drug-related crimes. They also learned how staffing levels can leave officers stretched pretty thin at times. And they got to tell leaders about things they want, such as improved training for officers on how to deal with people with special needs.

Law enforcement leaders are right to open this channel of communication and keep it going. The free flow of information will increase the public’s trust of and faith in their law enforcement officers to do their jobs right. And it will help leaders create the types of law enforcement agencies that the residents who give them their jobs want.

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Healthy discussion on parks master plan

Here’s a situation where our national elected officials could learn a lot from our local ones: There’s a lot of disagreement between city and county leaders about the need for a new master plan concerning Millennium and other area parks. But thanks to the ad hoc Parks and Recreation committee first assembled less than a year ago, those disagreements are out in the open and being discussed. And it’s apparent while both sides have their doubts as to the plans of the other, they’re also both willing to listen and — most important of all — change their plans or change their mind if the right evidence is presented.

Magistrate John Caywood was right to compare the situation to the one the city and county were in last year when considering whether they wanted a strategic economic development plan. In that case, once all the evidence had been considered, both entities wound up buying in despite earlier disagreements.

In the case of a master parks plan, it seems like both sides again have totally legitimate arguments. Those in favor of a plan rightly point out that continuing to spend money on parks without knowing whether what’s being done will be used by the public is an irresponsible use of taxpayer funds. And those against a plan rightly point out that local leaders should get their bearings as best they can before turning to outside folks for more expensive help.

We’d like to see a review and critique of the old master plan from 20 years ago completed. We suspect looking back on some of the things proposed in it — such as a BMX bike track — will now be laughable. It will become apparent that the “best used by” date on the 20-year-old plan came and went a long time ago and we shouldn’t be trusting it anymore. But we also shouldn’t just assume this is the case — perhaps there are a few gems in there that are worth pursuing.

We hope the conversation continues, even when it gets contentious, and everyone on both sides keeps an open mind and is willing to change their position based on the facts.

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Danville Independent wants to keep local control over school calendar

The Danville Board of Education has formally expressed its dissatisfaction with a bill that would incentivize starting school in late August, because it shifts some power away from local schools. We agree and join the school board in disagreeing with the current version of Senate Bill 50.

The law would change the rules for districts that wait to start school until the Monday closest to Aug. 26, allowing those districts to bypass the requirement of having 170 instructional days during each school year. The requirement of 1,062 instructional hours would still apply.

Such a scenario immediately raises questions about increasingly lengthy school days and school years that extend into and interrupt early summer plans. But the real reason we don’t think SB50 is a good idea is because it puts Kentucky’s school districts on uneven playing ground.

Under the law, which is designed to benefit tourism businesses in late summer, schools that opt for a later start date would operate under different rules from those that start at a normal time. And that wouldn’t be due to local choices, it would be due to a state-mandated law.

SB50 confuses things for local school districts that already deal with plenty of rules and regulations. And it devalues the importance of education in favor of businesses’ short-term economic interests — something that will come back to hurt the businesses in the long run when kids are less-well-educated and wind up in lower-paying jobs that don’t allow them to spend money on summer vacations in the first place.