Most of you have heard me say many times that the overall objective of our administration is to build a Kentucky where economic opportunity and the quality of life is on a par with the rest of the nation.
I know this can't be done in one year or four years, or even eight years. We're talking about a generation at least and probably even longer.
After all, it took us a hundred years to fall this far behind the rest of the nation so we can't realistically expect to catch up in a day. But we can start.
I would hope that during the time that I hold this office, we can lay the foundation from which we can reach that goal of parity with our fellow Americans and I would hope that we can do that in 20 years.
To do this, we have to make fundamental and lasting change and that's the reason I've pursued major initiatives like workers' comp reform and improvements in postsecondary education.
But just as major changes are important, so are the other needs, perhaps not so visible or controversial, but equally important.
If we're going to have equitable economic opportunity we must have a competitive business environment and a productive work force.
But if we're going to have an improved quality of life, we must have a clean environment, safe streets, cultural and recreation facilities, quality healthcare, and the basic safety nets of a modern society.
Many of the things we value in today's world can only, or least can most economically, be provided in an urban environment.
While some activities like farming, timber harvesting, or mineral extraction must be carried on in a rural setting, most activity which creates economic opportunity for people can most efficiently be conducted in cities.
And most services people need or enjoy, like healthcare, entertainment, or education, benefit enormously because of economies of scale which can only be achieved by urbanization.
Even though the concentration of people in relatively congested areas causes social problems, the advantages of properly managed urbanization greatly outweigh the problems it creates.
The key phrase in that sentence is "proper management."
That "proper management" is achieved through municipal governments, the governments whose leaders are in convention here in Lexington this week. The governments upon which more than 60% of all Kentuckians depend for the provision of basic governmental services like police, fire protection, city streets, water, sewer, garbage collection, parks, recreation programs and cultural facilities; the government which touches their lives directly every day; the government upon which their very lives depend.
Yes, our cities are vital to our economic opportunity and our quality of life.
But city government shouldn't be expected to assume all the responsibility for the extra measure of government mandated by urbanization.
State government also has a role to play as a partner in meeting the challenges presented by the demand for extra services created by urban life.
It's our goal to make Kentucky State Government your partner in this vital enterprise of municipal government, a supporting partner, but a strong supporting partner.
So it's our commitment to use the gasoline taxes your citizens pay to not only build and maintain the rural roads that connect our cities with each other and the world, but also to provide for intra-city thoroughfare and urban development corridors as well as returning a fair amount of that revenue directly to the cities to build and maintain city residential streets.
It's mandatory that state government provide an efficient and effective criminal justice system to rid your town of lawbreakers arrested by your police officers.
And we're not doing a very good job of that.
We have a group studying ways we can serve you better by improving our system of criminal justice.
When you have major capital needs with your water or sewer systems, it's appropriate that we provide some financial assistance.
And yes, when you attempt to revitalize the downtown heart of your community, it's our responsibility to be a helping partner.
That's what our Renaissance Kentucky program is all about.
During the greater part of the 20th century, we in the United States developed a throw-away society.
We built cars to last 3 years. We build buildings to last 20 years, we planned development 10 years ahead, if we planned at all.
For many years we didn't worry about the effects of economic and social changes on our downtowns. If it was more economical and convenient for our retail establishments to move to suburbs, so be it.
We thought we could "throw away" our downtowns.
But we soon learned that old vacant, downtown buildings that had lost their usefulness couldn't just be ignored because they breed the conditions that make our downtowns uninhabitable.
They become fire hazards, attract lawbreakers, and foster economic activities not generally considered to be desirable or adding to the quality of life of our citizens.
We've discovered that when it comes to the downtown areas of cities we can't just let natural economic and social pressures take their own course.
We the people, acting through government, must combine our resources to guide the development and use of our downtown towards a safe and productive use.
And so we've developed our Renaissance Kentucky program to allow state government to form partnerships with city governments to revitalize their downtown areas.
Let me outline briefly how we envision this program working.
The objectives are to recognize and honor those cities which have maintained or restored their central downtown areas as safe, vibrant, efficient and functional urban cores and to provide support and assistance on development strategies for those cities who want to improve their downtowns.
We will create an Alliance between the Kentucky Heritage Commission, the Kentucky Housing Corporation, the Kentucky League of Cities and the Department for Local Government.
An office located at KHC has been set up to have one central place for coordination of these efforts.
The Renaissance Committee will establish criteria for a "Renaissance Kentucky City" and will recognize cities which have met the criteria.
Cities wanting to participate in this program will form a local "Renaissance Kentucky" committee which will consist of the major stakeholders of the downtown area.
The local committee will define the "downtown" area to be evaluated and develop a plan for their downtown area to meet the criteria for a "Renaissance Kentucky City" established by the Renaissance Committee, which will determine when the city has met the criteria and confer the title "Renaissance Kentucky City" on those cities.
Cities meeting the "Renaissance Kentucky City" criteria will be recognized as such at the annual Kentucky League of Cities Convention and will be provided appropriate signs for each entrance to the city, an appropriate visual recognition to be placed in a central location downtown and promotion as a "Renaissance Kentucky City" in appropriate state and national publications.
Certification as a "Renaissance Kentucky City" shall be for a five-year period.
Cities not meeting the criteria will be assisted by the Renaissance Committee in developing a plan of action to meet the criteria and will be assisted by the state in implementing that plan.
Applications for grants which are a part of an overall plan will obviously be rated higher than applications which are random and taking a shotgun approach to revitalization.
I would expect that in developing the criteria for a "Renaissance Kentucky City" the Committee will evaluate such things as occupancy of existing buildings, use of street-front building space.
The appearances of the facades of buildings, the condition of the streets and sidewalks, the absence of unattractive utility services, appropriate aesthetic enhancement like trees, benches and pedestrian amenities, adequate lighting and the absence of inappropriate activities and people as well as the presence of activities which the causes the downtown to be used by city residents, especially at night.
To assist cities to meet the Renaissance criteria, I propose the following programs as concepts.
Our staff is in the process of working out the details and preparing legislation for the 1998 regular session of the General Assembly if legislation is necessary.
We will instruct the Transportation Cabinet to work with the cities to develop appropriate improvement plans for state routes in downtowns and then work towards funding those plans to which the Transportation Cabinet has agreed.
Sidewalks and gutters will be considered as part of the state route.
The Transportation Cabinet will work with cities to prepare ISTEA grant applications which meet the ISTEA criteria and are a part of the city's approved Renaissance plan.
The Department of Local Government will be instructed to assist cities to prepare CDBG and other grant applications for projects which are a part of a city's Renaissance development plan.
State agencies have already been instructed and will continue to be urged to use downtown locations for their activities unless such use is clearly too expensive or inappropriate.
I propose these new programs to be used as a part of this program.
Let me express my gratitude to all the members of the Renaissance Committee for their work on this effort. Thank you all.
We must accept the fact that the world is changing and we can't make our downtown something that goes against our economic and social desires but we can guide our downtowns to be the best they can be and keep them a safe and efficient part of our constantly evolving society.
We can do that if we have vision and are creative, and are willing to invest, and do it together.
This concept can work, but it can only work if we do it together, private citizens, private businesses, churches, schools, government agencies, and, most especially, state and city governments becoming partners to serve our people better.
I know you're ready to form that partnership and I'm here to tell you that your state government is ready also. Let's do it!
Thank you and God bless you.