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May 2, 2000

I well remember the first time I came to realize what a forward-looking, progressive little city we have here in Perry. Toward the end of World War II, while I was still serving in the Army in the Pacific Ocean Area, a copy of The Perry Daily Journal arrived at mail call. Prominently displayed on page one was a story about a local citizens' committee laying plans for bringing Perry into the post-war era. The war wasn't over but it was obvious that the Allies were going to win. The committee was asked by the city council and Mayor G.A. Ley to determine what Perry needed to be ready for returning veterans and their families. A post-war baby-boom growth was correctly anticipated for most of the country. Perry was just beginning to brace for the impact.

The special Perry committee came up with this laundry list of badly needed projects: Extension of the sewer system, extension of water lines, a municipal hospital and a new white way lighting system in the business district. The price tag for all this was $494,000, a very considerable chunk of money at that time. It was an ambitious program for a city of any size to tackle all at once. My first guess was that voters here would never approve the entire package. Too much money.

The local planning group knew that Perry, like every community in the U.S., had to play catch-up just to stay even. Wartime needs had come first for the better part of three years. Capital expenditures had been shoved aside ever since the Japanese empire launched its sneak attack on Hawaii on December 7, 1941. Improvements and additions to city equipment had been shelved. The war was not yet over but the inevitable conclusion was very clear, and the planning panel realized that the community had to prepare for a return to peacetime.

Details of the improvement package were analyzed and debated in public meetings and in the newspaper. In due time, the council and Mayor Ley called for a city bond issue to finance the entire package. Ultimately an election was held and the ambitious program was approved. It was an historic decision. Our town thus was better prepared for the influx of returning veterans, their young families, new merchants planning to set up shop, existing businesses, and the provision of medical services for everyone. It was a time of general prosperity. Think what we would not have today if that program had not been approved. Do you see a parallel between now and then?

One of the prime movers of the planning commission appointed by Mayor Ley and the council was W.K. Leatherock, publisher of The Perry Daily Journal. He was my boss before the war and again after I returned home from service. I told him that my first reaction to the package had been skepticism and doubt that it would ever fly. He told me something then that I have found to be unfailingly true. He said: "If you can demonstrate to the people of Perry that a need truly exists, they will approve a tax or bond issue to solve the problem." He was correct. The truth of that axiom has been demonstrated time and again, in city projects, school bond issues, and elsewhere - wherever a real need was shown. Voters have approved all issues of that sort when the need was proven. Perry can be very proud of that record. On Tuesday, May 9, citizens of Perry will be asked to keep this community moving forward by approving a sales tax for an adequate water supply. Let's keep the record intact by voting "yes." Perry's future is hanging in the balance.