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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Education of voters should begin now

Monday, January 21, 2002

Maybe I'm missing the boat here but the supporters of the recently completed Sikeston Charter need to start their educational and promotional efforts ASAP. I'm certain that those promotional plans are in the works but the election on Sikeston's new Charter will arrive all too soon and without ample explanation, the Charter may well fail a vote of the people.

I have attended some but not nearly enough Charter meetings to fully explain what the document will mean to the future of our city. I do know the "meat" of the Charter is the move to a ward system of government. That, after all, is what got the Charter movement up to speed in the first place. But simply changing to wards in an attempt to spread the representation is in itself not enough to justify approving the Charter.

I don't mean to imply that the Charter is without merit because that is far from the truth. But it will be the burden of the Charter authors to "sell" the concept to the citizens of our community. Though I think that task is most certainly attainable I also don't mean to imply it will be an exceedingly easy task either.

On a very interesting note last week I read an interview with Cape Girardeau's outgoing Mayor Al Spradling III who was on board when the ward system was implemented in our successful sister city to the north. Spradling, for whom I have great respect, said it was a mistake to move to the ward system in Cape Girardeau. He pointed out that some wards did not field a candidate and he implied that some ward candidates were less than ideal representatives for the city. At least that's the way I read it, though Mr. Spradling may take me to task for that interpretation.

The point of all of this rambling is this. About a year ago Sikeston residents gave the go-ahead to move to a Charter form of government. But the first step in that movement was to write a Charter that would outline the organization and thrust of city government in the years ahead. Once written, it falls on the voters to approve or reject this new Charter document.

We have reached each of these steps and it has taken countless manhours by some very dedicated volunteers to draw a Charter and to pound out the thousands of details. That task is now complete and the job of "selling" this to the public is about to begin. With January almost history, that leaves two months before the April elections when all of this work will be put to the test. The jury remains out of what that election day will bring.

I want to support the Charter and most likely will. But I want to hear from those involved how this new document will improve our city and pave the way for progress in the years ahead. I believe in my heart this argument can be made. But I still want to hear those arguments and judge for myself.

Win or fail, the Charter is not the ultimate answer to the shortcomings or strengths of our community. But I will accept progress in any form if it has a reasonable chance of success. Let's all listen with an open mind and ask the questions that are appropriate.

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