It was interesting to read this week the public discussion concerning a potential merger between Sikeston and Miner. Anyone who is a longtime resident of either community will remember that similar discussions have gone on for decades.
On the one hand, the merger makes all the sense in the world. But emotions, power bases and community pride may override logic and common sense and the merger may be just more discussion with little if any action.
I well remember nearly 25 years ago being summoned to the office of a power broker in Sikeston who wanted to open discussions on a merger back then. The truth is the discussions never made it beyond that office meeting because of the opposition from Miner residents. We may find that is still the case as these latest merger talks progress.
But let me say here and now - there are substantial benefits from a merger in countless areas. But I believe Miner residents want some assurances from Sikeston that Sikeston may not be able to provide.
Sikeston Mayor Mike Marshall has been an outspoken advocate for improving the quality of housing and the appearance of Sikeston. And without a doubt, his efforts have been successful. In an address to the Sikeston Area Chamber of Commerce this week, Mayor Marshall reported on the removal of derelict vehicles and the explosion of property maintenance cases in city court. By any definition, we're seeing progress in Sikeston toward upgrading our community. Yet much remains on the table undone at this point.
First, we need to see condemned properties being demolished. The citizens have been promised this action and it appears to be just around the corner. But we must turn that corner! Citizens need to drive around town and see house after house being demolished to make room for improved housing. Some downtown commercial properties are currently being razed. But that's because of the efforts of private developers. They should be commended. And the city should follow suit on the private residences.
But second and most important is a change in the makeup of our community. In short, we need to depopulate Sikeston. Few communities would ever make that assessment. But I truly believe we need to put sufficient pressure to convince some residents here that Sikeston will no longer accept their lifestyle. We need to force some residents to move elsewhere. That is the only way we will bring back working families who want a clean and safe community and who will help to work and accept their share of the burden to make that dream a reality.
Once we make these moves and once our criminal element begins to migrate elsewhere, then and only then can we expect Miner residents to accept a merger.
The burden of a merger will depend on Sikeston making these promised changes. The overwhelming majority of Sikeston residents understand and support these changes. Now let's get even tougher and force this issue to resolution.