Each semester, my Western Kentucky University students and I visit the African American Museum of Bowling Green, where we learn about our city’s legacy of neglecting the desires of its residents – especially African Americans – in the interests of perceived development.
From Jonesville to the Shake Rag, our city has a long list of development projects that disregarded the voices of exactly those who stood to be most adversely affected. The Kenton Street rezoning threatens to add to this terrible history. As Kenton Street resident Deborah Anthony suggested, it is inconceivable that such a project ever be placed in a more “prosperous” neighborhood here in Bowling Green. Instead, the residents of Kenton Street have to put up with development that they do not support and from which they will not benefit.
As Wes Swietek’s reporting details, the Board of Commissioners vote took place under specious circumstances that probably should have halted any major decision. With Commissioner Brian Nash suspended and Commissioner Joe Denning recusing himself, a significant city decision passed with only two votes. Mayor Bruce Wilkerson and Commissioner Sue Parrigan cite the “great weight” they gave to the decision of the City-County Planning Commission, but that body wholly disregarded Warren County’s Future Land Use Map and failed to heed the voices of neighborhood residents.
Why should such weight go to a committee that so clearly failed to do its job? The greatest weight in city decisions should always go to the voices of those who live and worship in the neighborhood that stands to be affected. Our city leaders have the chance to take a different path than the one we have chosen historically. I urge both the commissioners and the planning commission to revisit this matter and to take the lead on development from the folks who live, love and want to thrive in their own neighborhood.