The occasional hate mail from the newspaper-reading public has forced me to develop a thick skin when it comes to facing criticism. Occasionally, I will read a comment that really makes me think about the way I approach expressing my opinions in the newspaper. That happened to me late last week when someone asked why I am always so negative in the way I talk about this city, this area and this state. This emailer wondered if I had any actual ideas to move this area forward instead of just criticisms of the direction it’s headed.

I am afraid that if am seen by the public as a totally “glass-half-empty” type of guy they will end up voting me onto the Chanute City Commission. So, since I definitely don’t want to be accused of criticizing this area without coming up with ways to fix it, I’m presenting a list of suggested improvements.

 Put a big playground at one of the parks. Local children need somewhere to hang out this summer besides the pool that costs us so much money. Or maybe, in the interests of cutting down costs, we could just use old tires on city and county vehicles to make swings for the kids in trees at city parks.  

Keep City Commissioners, County Commissioners, and some of those who regularly comment at their meetings hooked up to a lie detector. That may be the only thing that would really keep them honest.

Install an electronic device that immediately calculates and displays the cost of what is being proposed in the rooms where they have the City and County Commission meetings. This feature would also come in handy in the U.S. House and Senate, any state legislature, and on TV whenever the President makes a speech.

Draw some decorations on Road Closed signs and traffic cones. Maybe they could be painted in zebra stripes or be made to look like a giraffe to promote the Safari Museum. If I am going to have my route of choice blocked so often by road construction, city, county and KDOT work crews could at least give me something new and fun to look at when I am fruitlessly searching for a detour.  

Add two more stop signs at 3rd and Santa Fe.  Making this a four-way stop would be the only thing that would make sense of this ridiculous nightmare of an intersection.

Install parking meters downtown. We have government programs that need funding and a downtown area that is chock full of free parking. We could charge money for parking at spaces along and just off of Main Street and in some of the adjacent downtown lots. Not only would the installation, maintenance and enforcement of the meters create some much-needed jobs in this area, but the proceeds could be used for much-needed funding for services that citizens demand be available but don’t seem to want to pay taxes to provide.

Hire a county administrator. Neosho County is currently being run by three Commissioners who can’t really communicate outside of their meetings, which mostly consist of them examining every single voucher and bill from every single department. It’s a monstrously inefficient process that leads to five-hour meetings that department heads are required to sit through instead of getting any actual work done. Instead of these meetings that provide a weekly example of the negative effects micro-management can have on employee morale, an administrator could be hired to do this kind of work behind the scenes and present information about county finances to the Commissioners in a far more efficient format. That way, Commissioners would be free to concentrate on what they’re actually voting on, and department heads and local newspaper reporters wouldn’t have to spend the entirety of every Friday suffering through a seemingly endless meeting.

Build a train to nearby cities. Living in this area generally involves spending a lot of time in a car, driving two hours in any direction to bigger cities, whenever amenities or entertainment are needed. All of this driving causes pollution and is rough on basic automobile maintenance. Instead of spending so much time in our cars, we should consider getting together with other towns in the region and starting a passenger railroad through this area that could get us to nearby cities. This idea is especially appealing if we could have one of those old fashioned trains with a bar in it, which does seem like the most sensible way to travel.

Local lawmakers should feel free to steal from this list and start adopting these as actual proposals. It can’t be any worse than some of the stuff they’ve come up with on their own.

Please send all questions, comments, hate mail, marriage proposals, or job offers to be the city’s official meter maid to brian@chanute.com.

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