City officials say they are going to do whatever it takes to get vacant, dilapidated buildings and lots into the hands of owners who will take care of them. That statement could have come from dozens of communities including Sikeston. It was a statement from city leaders in St. Joseph.
Officials in that community have an advantage over Sikeston. For starters, they have revenues from their casino which will help pay for the $15 million, 10-year program. But regardless of the money, the city also has a strong commitment. Sometimes I wonder just how strong our commitment truly is.
St. Joe civic leaders will soon have much broader inspection powers over rental properties. That tool alone would go a long way toward solving a problem for any community. All too often I fear we give lip service to our problem and try to back it up with court statistics that indeed show some progress. But when the problem is as immense as ours, small steps of progress are just not enough.
A year and a half ago city voters by an overwhelming margin approved the formation of a Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority. That new body was to gain new powers to take possession of problem properties and begin a systematic renewal of decaying neighborhoods. The authority has been formed but no action has yet begun.
The city will tell you the problem is money. So soon you'll undoubtedly hear of a plan to tax utilities here to generate money for this and many other projects. We'll share our opinion on that issue at another time.
I don't think the problem is one of money however. I think it's more an issue of commitment. Until we face our problem and address it immediately, we'll continue on the path we've followed for the past decade.
We cannot afford to continue this approach.