Public must make their opinions heard

Monday, March 13, 2017

I'm not sure how today's column will end. Heck, I'm not even certain how to start.

The future of our proud community has been on my mind lately - more than usual.

In the past couple of years, Sikeston has seen some substantial growth in terms of building permits and job creation.

For the first time in a long time, community leaders are able to tout our progress and compare our growth with other larger communities in our region.

There is no reason here to provide a laundry list of those projects but down the road we'll look back at this time as a source of community growth and pride.

That progress speaks well of our leadership and the vision that hopefully will continue long into the future.

So what's missing?

A couple of thoughts come to mind.

The fuel that provides the revenue to fund our growth comes largely from sales tax and, to that end, Sikeston needs retail growth. Yet in our recent experience with a lagging national economy, the push to bring retailers into a community is much more challenging and much more competitive than it once was.

And like all communities, we need jobs. Jobs provide the opportunity for newcomers to call Sikeston home. Those jobs also provide the stepping stone for families to improve their quality of life. And those jobs provide the income that is spent locally that completes that circle of spending and growth.

We also need quality schools to provide top-notch education for our youth. In just three weeks, Sikeston voters will decide the fate of a critically important bond issue to construct a new elementary school.

And that vote is just the first step in a long-range plan to upgrade our aging schools and take Sikeston into a new and hopefully growing environment.

I have long said that leadership is the key to a successful community. With some minor reservations, I believe we have the current leadership on board to plan and implement that growth.

I will admit I was taken back this week with the release of school enrollment numbers for our public school system. Our September student population count fell to 3,383 students which marks a decrease from last year. The high water marks in our school population was 20 years ago when during the 1997-98 school year we boasted 4,137 students.

That decrease is not a negative reflection on our school system but rather a reflection on some other factor that continues to keep our city population stagnant.

Is this erosion of population a result of housing needs? Lack of jobs? Quality of life?

What are we missing?

If I were to venture a guess, I would say public participation is the missing link in our progress. It takes an engaged populace to drive a community forward.

Leaders can lead but only when there is engagement from the public in all of the many issues that make a community successful.

Consider providing your input to those community leaders so that together we can grow our community.

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