As the countdown to the Feb. 3 sales tax election in Sikeston nears, there is no shortage of suggestions for the future of our community. I have watched, listened and participated in the debate over Sikeston's need for additional money to finance some issues that are universally embraced such as cleaning up parts of the town and putting more cops on the street. If we were voting money strictly on these two issues, the election would - in my opinion - be a runaway vote in favor of the tax.
But the sticking point of the upcoming ballot seems to revolve the other funding portions planned with that added tax revenue. And now into the debate comes past decisions made by the city that look questionable in retrospect. But Monday morning quarterbacking is a relatively easy artform. Maybe this newspaper is even to blame for not being more diligent in watching the dollars and cents of city spending. If that's the case, we'll take the blame.
Actually, I have no intentions today of discussing what may or may not happened in a week or so when voters go to the polls. I want to point out a solution that was once used in Sikeston. And with my tongue firmly implanted in my cheek, I want to offer that very same solution today.
With far too much time on my hands, I recently came across a copy of the revised ordinances of the City of Sikeston dated 1920. Now I admit without hesitation that many if not all of these community laws no longer apply in today's society. Eighty years of change will surely alter the landscape enough to render these antiquated laws unreasonable in today's world. But then again, in some small ways, we can learn lessons from the past. Granted, we cannot duplicate past solutions. But if we can gain some insight into prior solutions perhaps it may help address current problems.
Hidden deep on those ancient city ordinances was Section 348. The ordinance name tells it all. Called "Stay Out of Town", the Sikeston city ordinance way back then said that every person convicted of a misdemeanor shall be ordered to pay the appropriate fine for that violation or, at the discretion of the city, that defendant convicted of a misdemeanor could leave the city at once for a time appropriate for that criminal offense.
So there you have it. If an ordinance violator lacked the funds or simply was given the option, they could decide to leave Sikeston instead of paying the fine. Now folks, that's one way to eliminate the riffraff, the ordinance violators, the chronic abuses of the rights of their fellow citizens, etc.
I'm most certain that legal challenges in our enlightened society today would render this ordinance unlawful, cruel, inappropriate, etc. But just think about it. It would seem a handy tool to use when you have a repeat offender who constantly violates the rights of others, who helps to bring down the quality of life in this community or who attracts other "trash" to our community.
Let the judge look this culprit squarely in the eyes and give them the option of a large fine or the "freedom" to leave Sikeston and take their wayward ways with them. That might well have a larger and more immediate impact than any action we now undertake.
Okay, so I'm dreaming. But sometimes those in the past understood solutions better than we do today. Politically correct it ain't. Effective it could well be.