July 4, 2004, finds the nation returning our flags to full staff after the 30 days of official mourning for President Reagan, which ends July 5. As we remember President Reagan's optimism and move ahead on our nation's birthday, we as a community have three self-evident truths that we should address with optimism. These self-evident truths include decisions regarding the expansion of Soldotna Creek Park , the condition of our public school system and our need to fully participate in our democratic institutions.
After more than a decade of lengthy discussions, it is time to decide how to develop the expansion of Soldotna Creek Park. The city of Soldotna was granted ownership of the adjoining Department of Transportation land this year, and the opportunity now exists for the entire community of users to shape the development. The five acres of Soldotna Creek Park and the eight acres of the DOT land now comprise a single tract. We are now making final plans for the trail to Binkley Circle, which includes bank stabilization.
On July 25, the Soldotna Progress Days picnic will include a tent with future options and methods for providing input regarding the options. Our city Web site also will provide access to options and input. There has been a suggestion of naming and designing part of the site as the "Ronald Reagan Peace Park." We need the input of all users as this land is not only an awesome site overlooking the Kenai River, it also is the cornerstone for tourists' perception of our community.
The second self-evident truth is that our community needs to move forward regarding our public school system. July 4 represents the middle of summer. School is only six weeks away. The hard-fought bill to increase the foundation formula was signed by the governor at the Soldotna Sports Center on June 15. Our school district has been negatively impacted by cuts in education and enrollment, but it is now time to move ahead. Our teaching must catch up with our technology. Our attitude about our kids must be as high as our flags fly.
Each student, parent and community member must remember that the public school system is the foundation of American democracy. If we do not teach our children to vote intelligently, our republic will fall. Our schools are not only centers of learning but also sites of culture and recreation. Without the human and physical resources of our school system, we could not host the 2006 Arctic Winter Games on the Kenai Peninsula, which will bring international recognition to our entire area and peoples and economic prosperity for years to come.
The third self-evident truth is that all citizens must participate by voting in local, state and national elections. The bloodshed at Lexington and Concord is not different than the blood being shed at Baghdad and Kabul. The right to vote comes with the obligation to be informed.
Both sides of the political spectrum are using new methods for indoctrinating the apathetic and undecided voter. The idea that citizens are now paying to watch political commercials like "Fahrenheit 9/11" should be of concern. Psychology tells us that the positive reinforcement of paying before the movie is seen greatly increases the probability that you will want to agree with the content of the movie and thereby avoid the negative reinforcement that you wasted your time and money. Going to the movie or answering a "citizen survey" by phone has now become a willful corruption of the public process.
The American work ethic has always assumed that the aware buyer should not have to pay for a service which is not desired. One nation under God should not require singularity of thought. If each person is not allowed to vote according to their own conscience and view of the world, celebrating July 4 would be meaningless.
July 4 is a great day for reflection. Reflection is most meaningful when it leads to activity. Our parks, our schools and our nation need our activity. Please do your part.
Dave Carey is mayor of Soldotna and a teacher at Skyview High School.
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