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Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016

You must speak up to change Sikeston

Sunday, April 20, 2003

By all reckoning, a lot of eyes are focusing on the Sikeston City Council now to produce results on a host of issues within our community. A new mayor - the first in more than four decades elected by popular vote - and two new council members may well signal a new beginning for our community. Combine that with the emergence of the Land Clearance Redevelopment Authority and you have a formula for change. But sometimes, words and actions are different.

Public Safety personnel have responded on virtually every weekend this spring to large crowds gathering on the west end of Sikeston. These unruly crowds have posed problems for motorists and have resulted in extra public safety personnel being called into action. This trend is not limited to this year alone. For a number of years now the very same problem has erupted during warm spring afternoons, especially on weekends.

At the same time, the LCRA is beginning the nuts and bolts of removing dilapidated properties that have become eyesores and sources of criminal activity. But LCRA will need on-going funds to effectively remove dozens of targeted properties.

Throw into this mix a need for job creation in the wake of a declining employment base in Sikeston. The former Fleming Foods warehouse remains empty and now Essex Wire has announced their upcoming closure. Just today we've learned that Charter Communications is downsizing their call center here.

The result of all of this news is a growing concern that Sikeston officials and city leaders must force a turnaround in the prospects for our community. And the eyes are focused on the leadership of the city to bring about these much-needed changes.

But for so long I have argued that these changes will come about only when citizen involvement forces change. Unless the public speaks up in loud voices, I fear the change will come slowly - perhaps too slowly to truly make a difference. And as of yet, I have not heard those voices.

It's time to name names and force the hand. The north end residents of Sikeston - those in the affluent neighborhoods with power and money and influence - have been silent for too long. They may discuss change in the coffee shops, bars and country clubs, but when it comes to putting manpower to the issue, they have failed the task.

Change in Sikeston will not come when the voices of concern are limited to those in the impacted neighborhoods. Like it or not, that change will come about only when the people of influence put their collective spirits into the debate. City leadership responds to a variety of constituencies. But the voices of influence are the ones that more often than not generate the response.

Here's my plea. Those who can truly bring change in Sikeston - and I'm convinced you know who you are - must now roll up their sleeves and enter the debate. Only when those voices of influence are heard will that change begin to take place. I've danced around this issue for years now. But it's time to end the dance and change our community.

Organizing benefits for charity is a noble cause. I have been second to none in that involvement. But the people who possess the power and influence and financial resources in Sikeston must now step forward and demand change. Up to this point, those voices have been little but background noise. That time has ended and a new day has arrived.

The ball's in your court ladies and gentlemen. Either demand change or accept your fate. And in your heart, you know what that eventual fate will be.

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