I certainly don't want to step on toes but there are some things that simply need to be said. Come to think of it, I don't really mind stepping on toes and anyone who reads this column knows that. But well-intentioned, good citizens need to understand the state of our community and act immediately.
I was given an annual update this week from Sikeston's Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority. It is encouraging that this voter-approved action is at long last removing some of the worst structures in our community. LCRA has targeted, acquired or dismissed action on nearly 200 properties. The LCRA is currently trying to acquire 70 properties, has dismissed action against 52 property owners when they either renovated or demolished substandard dwelling and has acquired 57 properties.
By any definition, this is progress.
But the scope of the issue in Sikeston - I fear - far outpaces the noble efforts of the LCRA. And that's primarily because the problem grows every day while the solution takes longer to achieve. In short, I believe in some instances we are swimming upstream.
I'm afraid we are misspending our precious resources. By precious resources I mean the brain power, the energy, the creativity and the finances needed to return our community to a clean, respectful town inhabited primarily by hard-
working people who want a better life for themselves and their families. It has been 12 years now since the late Congressman Bill Emerson first stepped in to help Sikeston address the problem of drugs and crime and a declining population base. I can proudly point to countless achievements in the past 12 years. But I can also point with great dismay to a continuing expansion of our dependent population.
Once proud neighborhoods have been turned into eyesores. Basketball has become a sport of the city streets while cars park in front yards and worn couches rest on front porches. Trash has become an eyesorex we have almost come to accept. And respect for the property of others is far from ideal.
I honestly fear the problem is too big. I think many of those civic-minded residents focus their attention on other needs and issues within the city because they simply see little to no hope in addressing the larger picture.
How can we possibly spend those precious resources on stopping trains from coming through our city while we have streets unsafe in broad daylight? I want to remain optimistic and I try to focus on the positive aspects that are helping to fuel growth in our community. And yes indeed, for those pessimists among you, there are positive achievements occurring every day. But there still remains a concern that the changes in our population will eventually harm those positive achievements.
I have listened and kept my mouth shut this past month as I hear the concerns of city residents. A newspaper publisher is apparently an ideal venting point for citizen concerns. And I welcome those discussions. But all I have heard recently is concerns that our once-proud community is slowly giving way to a thug element that declines work, lives off the government and has no respect for others. And this growing element, I assure you, comes in all colors, shapes and sizes.
Houston opened its door to evacuees from New Orleans following the hurricane and is now paying a price from which it may well never recover. Our open door policy and lack of concern for those we welcome to our community could spell the same for us someday.