District 32 is comprised of a majority of small cities, towns, and villages. We are close enough to more metropolitan areas to not feel too cut off, but far enough away to enjoy the quiet and open space. I love my town and its sense of togetherness. I admire the pride everyone takes in their community, and I am inspired when we all come together for the good of our hometowns.
There is however an unfortunate piece of the tranquility and familiarity in our smaller communities. We do not always get the funding necessary to meet the demands of school, work, and communication. Our most rural community members often lack reliable high speed internet, which has a major effect on keeping up on learning in school and other skills/information that are integral to success. We often have longer commutes to healthcare or lack of options on who to see. It is unfair to be put in a position of leaving our communities where we have established roots and networks to move closer to the cities where better paying jobs exist.
We need an incentive system to bring more balance to our rural regions, ensure equity and fairness. Although our communities may not “bring in” the amount of money that larger cities often do, we deserve the same attention and opportunities to thrive. A great example of this imbalance between major cities and those of us on the outskirts and beyond, is high speed internet. In District 32 alone, between 18 and 25% of our population is unable to access high speed internet. This combined with longer travel times and lack of public transportation excludes many people from the life saving benefits of telehealth and getting the preventative health care to avoid emergencies. We must focus on our rural communities and their ability to succeed as they lead their lives the way they have chosen. High speed internet and options on providers helps with these goals. Additionally, as I mentioned above, as our schools evolve and career fields shift, we are doing our youth a disservice when they are unable to access the internet for school and crucial computer/technology skills.
Lastly, making these and other improvements to our infrastructure will allows ourselves and our future generations to continue to live in these communities that we love so much. By making investments in our communities, we will be able to attract more businesses with shorter commute times, we will be able to raise our property values, and we will make our areas not only a place we love, but a place we can continue to call home for years to come.