Census numbers will tell us much

Friday, December 31, 2010

This past year was a special one in Sikeston as we celebrated the 150th anniversary of our founding. This sesquicentennial celebration was low-key compared to the massive centennial celebration in 1960 but it was successful nonetheless.

There's little way of knowing just exactly what lies ahead for our community but, rest assured, the path will be filled with both challenges and opportunities.

I've spoken at length in recent months over the upcoming release of the 2010 census numbers for Sikeston and other towns in this region. On the statewide level, we've already learned that Missouri grew at a much slower pace than the rest of the nation. That slow growth will cost Missouri one congressional seat and regardless of how you view it, that is not a positive move for our state.

In the 2000 census, Sikeston suffered a bit of a bombshell. Our community reversed an historic trend as our population decreased from the 1990 census. I fear that trend will continue when numbers are made available in early February.

But other trends in the last census were more troubling. Sikeston's low-income population took a substantial jump in the last census which put additional pressure on our resources to deliver services to that population. That additional pressure to provide services strikes the school system, the health delivery process and the housing community.

I put great value in the upcoming census numbers because they will tell us how effective we've been in addressing our issues and it will give us a challenge on how to address future issues.

The new year will provide our community with an opportunity to step back and assess where were are and where we hope to go in the years ahead. These soon-to-be-released census numbers will either be a wake-up call for additional actions or vindication that past actions have made progress.

Regardless, we step into a new chapter in our community's history as we pass the milestone of 2010. Our future is neither bright nor dim. Our future is exactly what we choose.

Here's one final lesson I have learned from past experiences. If a community - any community - wants to set goals for the common good, the city government alone can do little to achieve those goals. It takes the entire community - starting with each individual - to chart the course for a community.

Sikeston is no exception.

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