I received this op-ed letter from Brad Parke of Knott County. Brad graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with degrees in Political Science and Public Administration. He works as a consultant in Hindman.
I should mention Brad was recently added to the East Kentucky Leadership Foundation Board. I am also a member of that board.
Misperceptions of Operation UNITE: Local Governance Empowered by Federal Resources
Consistent campaign rhetoric in this year’s U.S. Senate election has diverted the public’s attention away from the true nature of Operation UNITE. The anti-drug coalition has been depicted as a federal organization seeking to combat a problem best left to local officials. In fact, UNITE offers a middle ground between the heavy hand of the federal government and the weak hand of county/city government in Appalachian Kentucky. It is a local organization, but local in the regional sense, rather than in the county/city context. This is what makes the organization unique and effective.
UNITE is a hybrid organization that shares authority between local and state officials. Given the magnitude of challenges drug abuse poses to our state, particularly in East Kentucky, a program such as UNITE is necessary to provide essential resources for local officials who otherwise would be unable to combat this problem.
UNITE provides funding, leadership and organizational know-how in the ongoing war against drugs. Additionally, it provides trained, local officers for street level interdiction; vouchers for drug treatment that can be used by petty criminal offenders whose problems are primarily addiction related; and it works to create local community coalitions that serve to educate the public of the dangers of drugs as well as provide alternative recreational opportunities for regional youth.
During a time when many in our country are calling for a reduction in the size of government it is important to understand the complexity of issues like drug abuse in East Kentucky and the need for cooperative government intervention. Regardless of one’s ideological stance on what government should or should not do, sometimes we need the federal government to provide resources- in the case of UNITE mostly financial- to help us solve our problems locally. Simply put, officials need these resources from the federal level to enable them to do their job effectively locally. Moreover, UNITE is not run by a bunch of Washington bureaucrats, but rather, our neighbors here at home. However, not just any neighbor can tackle this problem: it takes an organization with a regional focus and the ability to make decisions without being subject to the whims of politics in East Kentucky. By weaving a middle ground between a myriad of local counties and cities and both state and federal government, UNITE empowers locals who understand the problem with the tools needed to address it.
Brad Parke, 25, of Knott County, is a student at the Appalachian School of Law
This is one of the topics we will discuss with the U.S. Senate Candidates. Rand Paul is our guest on Issues and Answers on October 4th. Jack Conway will be here on October 11th. Issues and Answers: The Mountain Edition airs every Monday night at seven and again Sunday morning at seven.
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