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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2016

Cooperation brings community victory

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

The decision last week by the Union Pacific Railroad to abandon their efforts to increase rail traffic through Sikeston is welcome news indeed. We have long said that an alternative to the Sikeston plan was by far a better solution for all involved. It seems that Union Pacific took notice of that local opposition and conceded that the alternative would better suit their business.

Now to be honest, there's ample praise and credit that can be spread around on this victory for our community. It certainly helped that city officials and activists were able to present a petition with over 2,600 signatures from area residents who felt the increased train traffic here would be harmful to our community. Surely that significant impact was neither lost on political nor railroad officials.

But it takes leadership to drive home the point and Mayor Mike Marshall provided that leadership and then some. Marshall is both passionate and outspoken when it comes to issues that impact this community and he showed his true colors as he faced down railroad officials and made his case to political leaders.

Marshall was both smooth and forceful in his discussions with those decision-makers. That combination obviously had an impact and our community owes him a tremendous debt of gratitude for never wavering from the community's interests or objectives.

City Manager Doug Friend was not bashful to voice his concerns as well. And Friend did his homework and helped to convince others the increased traffic was not in the best interests of Sikeston.

Former Mayor Josh Bill, too, deserves a great deal of credit. Bill's background didn't just come in handy; it was the guiding force to meander through the bureaucratic maze and get the ears of those who ultimately made this timely decision. Josh Bill never once gave up, never once blinked and never once took no for an answer. He knew our community was right in this case and he worked tirelessly - often behind the scenes - to drive home the point that this increase in rail traffic would have a negative impact that could have far-

reaching consequences for our future. In the end, Bill and Marshall and Friend were right. There were certainly others, but the bulk of the credit goes to these leaders.

We hear that this may indeed be the first "victory" by a community in the face of the massive rail industry. I'm not sure if that's fact or fiction. But without gloating, we won a case we should have won. Our community was right on this issue and the impact it could have had on our future. But being right alone means little without the leadership, the determination and the drive to have our voices heard.

And our voices were heard.

Now the challenge is to harness that same energy, that same spirit of cooperation on a host of other issues and challenges facing our city. We did it this time and we can do it again.

Individually, we have voices. Collectively, we have voices that will be heard and positions that will be considered. We need to keep that in mind in the months and years ahead.

Something tells me we've learned an important lesson. Other communities, I assure you, are envious of the collective will that was demonstrated by Sikeston. That lesson needs to be repeated time and time again on issues that are perhaps less pressing but no less important.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen