MOUNT VERNON — Nine months ago, we brought a new kind of engagement event to Knox County.

It was called “Talk the Vote.”

The purpose of the event was to give local voters a chance to shape the community conversation heading into the November general election.

Hour-long feedback sessions in Mount Vernon and Fredericktown last October gave local residents the opportunity to discuss the future of their respective communities – their hopes and dreams, their questions and concerns – and what role their local government might play in that future.

While those running for local offices were encouraged to attend, they could not participate in the feedback sessions. Only residents were allowed to talk.

Fredericktown Talk the Vote

The feedback we received from voters during these sessions informed our pre-election coverage in Mount Vernon and Fredericktown (home to most of the county’s contested races that fall).

And in January, once newly elected officials had taken office, it inspired our presentation of Citizens’ Agendas to governing bodies in each community.

Now, we’re ready to follow through on our third and final promise stemming from this initiative: Solutions-based accountability reporting that uses your feedback to drive the conversation forward.

Over the next two months, we will publish a series of stories aimed at addressing the core issues you discussed last October.

Mount Vernon residents raised questions such as: How can we reduce homelessness in the city? How can we increase affordable housing? How can we remedy the city’s child care shortage? And how can collaboration between public and private entities make our community stronger?

Meanwhile, Fredericktown residents raised questions like: How can we improve communication and transparency between the public and the local school system/government? How can these entities collaborate more effectively? And what can Fredericktown do to better prepare for anticipated population growth?

In the weeks ahead, we will look to other communities for potential answers. We’ll gather evidence of results, effectiveness, and limitations. Ultimately, we’ll cover how they responded to a problem, not just identified one. 

This solutions-focused reporting will shine a light on what’s possible, and in doing so, help hold our own elected officials accountable.

Stories will publish each Friday morning over the next two months. Here is the schedule:

July 15, 22 and 29: Finding ways to reduce homelessness – and increase affordable housing – in Mount Vernon

August 5 and 12: Finding ways to remedy Mount Vernon’s child care shortage

August 19: Finding ways to improve communication and transparency between Fredericktown’s government/school system and its residents

August 26: Finding ways to increase collaboration between Fredericktown’s government and its school system

September 2: Finding ways to prepare Fredericktown for anticipated population growth

None of the potential solutions we report on will completely solve the issues described above, even if implemented flawlessly here in Knox County. These are big, complicated issues – and, as such, there is no silver bullet.

But that’s not the point. Our goal here is to merely show what’s possible – by detailing how other communities worked to tackle this issue, and by asking our local officials if that’s possible here.

All of our Citizens’ Agenda-inspired solutions stories will be stored in a special section of our website, which you can find here. Make sure to check back next Friday for our first installment.

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