Depending on how you measure success, the city of Sikeston's Roundtable discussion this past week was a successful opportunity for residents to share their views and suggestions on the direction of our community. Though the discussion failed to generate concrete solutions, it clearly showed that residents here are interested in housing improvements and public safety. That should come as no surprise.
I have long argued that the key to a revival in Sikeston revolves around the issue of housing. Sikeston residents agreed with that point as well two years ago when the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority was approved by a massive 8-1 margin. But as with all issues, one key element of this push toward improved housing is the issue of money. Few solutions for that question were offered during the Roundtable.
What many residents here have failed to recognize is the fact that momentum for housing improvements is coming from all segments of the community including specifically those in the neighborhoods under discussion. Too many have felt that the push to remove problem properties is generated by the affluent segment of our community and not those directly impacted by poor housing. That clearly is not the case.
To make legitimate strides toward a solution to the housing issue will take the cooperation and work of several groups and neighborhoods. But more importantly, it will take radical solutions that can be accomplished in a relatively short period of time. I fear that time is working against us in our quest to remove condemned properties.
The only issue that bothered me resulting from the Roundtable was the discussion of solutions and specifically financial solutions. The discussion leaned heavily toward outside help in the form of grants or government assistance. That's an important avenue to travel but it will take local money and local solutions. We cannot and must not look to the government - state nor federal - to fully fund improvements here. It will take the private sector and it may well take voter approval to arrive at the needed funding level.
But let me state clearly where I feel the ultimate solution lies. The landlords of this community - and there are literally hundreds - hold the true key to any long term improvements in our housing issue. Landlords have the power to decide the caliber and character of the residents they chose to utilize their houses. Without the cooperation of the landlords, we'll fight a losing battle.
Another Roundtable is scheduled in October. I hope that meeting concentrates on the issue of housing and public safety. And I hope that meeting is geared more toward solutions and less toward the recognition of the problem. It may not be fully possible but I'd like to have a timetable and game plan come from that next meeting. And then I'd like for us to stick to our guns and make the improvements that have been long discussed.
Talk is cheap. Solutions are expensive. In Sikeston, the bill has finally come due.