You don't have to look very far sometimes to see a dumb idea. State Rep. John Bowman of St. Louis takes the cake this week with his proposal to create a new state Department of Urban Conservation. Bowman thinks by creating yet another level of state government bureaucracy that more attention would be drawn to the problems of the inner city and more creative ways to address those problems would surface.
And by the way, did I mention that Bowman wants to increase the state sales tax to fund his new department? And he wants half the interest earned on all state deposits to be earmarked for his urban dream. If you give government officials an opportunity they'll always come up with a way to expand government. Go figure!
Why is it that when we have a need in our society some believe that only the government can satisfy that need. If inner city St. Louis is losing population it seems to me that the city of St. Louis needs to address that problem. That's not to say that the state doesn't already pump dollars into that region. In fact, the Department of Economic Development has a host of tax credits geared strictly for the revitalization of older parts of the city. And, to some extent, those programs are working.
Why don't we propose a Department of Revitalization for Rural Communities with a Population of 10,000-20,000 to be funded by an added tax on mass transit in the urban areas? It makes just as much sense as Bowman's idea.
Here's the problem with the urban centers. They are home to a disproportionate amount of low income residents, they are plagued by high crime areas and they are extremely costly to revitalize. It is much cheaper and more productive for businesses and individuals to seek out new areas that are undeveloped and develop them. Now granted that means abandoning the inner urban cores but it's a better personal or business decision hands-down.
Bowman's idea has been floated before and failed. We certainly hope it has the same fate this time around. Government is not the answer to all problems. The private sector and the residents of those areas themselves hold the key to their future. If you compare the St. Louis problem with Sikeston's west end concerns, you see a striking difference. Our community is not asking for a government bailout to assist the west end. Instead we are encouraging private donations, churches and the residents themselves to help solve the problem. We are removing eyesores and turning that property over to individuals who hope to rebuild businesses and homes there.
It takes hard work and cooperation. But it doesn't always take more tax dollars and more government bureaucracy. I wish St. Louis were listening.