LEAVE IT TO PEEVER
Cry me a vision
-Bumper sticker of the week: Rewording history does not make an idea innovative or creative.
-Quote of the week: “I thought I could change the world. It took me a hundred years to figure out I can’t change the world. I can only change Bessie, and honey, that ain’t easy either.” Annie Elizabeth “Bessie” Delany, age 104
-Steel Cages: Just about right when you think you have seen it all, I read about local steel cage fights sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings and the Mall. Two fighters put in a cage, the last man standing being the victor. The crowd surrounds the cage and cheers them on. Gee, where have I heard that before? In this modern version of Medieval barbarism, they stop prior to someone being killed. Or at least they hope so. This primitive violence appeals to people. It always has. When times are tough, it’s good to see others doing worse than myself. And besides, the contestants get paid. Here’s the deal: Maybe we should build a thousand steel cages? Unemployment would go down, and the rest of us would be entertained. And why limit it to just men? Let’s get women in on the act. After all, if we are going to embrace a barbaric mentality, we might as well do it with a bit of equality.
-Visioning session: I held my own visioning session. (No drugs involved). It pretty much ended the same as the one recently held out at Carl Sandburg College. I didn’t allow for any comments or questions, I kept it tightly scripted, and I reworded, or rewrote, the final report to fit my preconceived notion of where I wanted this whole thing to go. See what you think? It was well attended. One chair, one person.
1. Defining our progress, whether as a community, or economically, has been done by using essentially a fundamentalist position. We have been reluctant to look at, much less soar beyond, our rigid and uncompromising boundaries.
2. The downtown will not be revitalized by making it pretty. The downtown will not come back to life unless we put the businesses we are allowing to locate on our outskirts, downtown.
One Wal-Mart downtown, and things would be booming. That would necessitate removing many of the old buildings. What, no loft apartments? Did anyone happen to notice the O.T. Custer building while it was burning? Hello. Have we redone the downtown before? Hello. We are once again about to walk down the same used up visionary pathway that our economic development people have followed for the past fifty years. We are caught in the same trap that has kept us pursuing large manufacturing long after it has, for the most part, exited the United States. It is a vision that has fundamentally not been able to correct itself, exactly because of its fundamental, conservative orientation.
3. We have to improve our schools. They are in need of deep reform, not a surface glossing-over. We are woefully stuck in a fifties mentality of teaching. It’s not that the teachers are bad. It’s that the schools are bad, not set up right, teaching towards the test rather than towards allowing students to pace themselves, finding and using their strengths to allow for some creativity, which is now usually chastised. Our school system needs a revolution. From the top to the bottom. Our dropout rate here in Galesburg is an indicator that this revolution is necessary, and may in fact have started without us. The kids are smarter than we are. Now, instead of having that negatively effect all of us, we need to change it into a positive. Bringing back the alternative school is a crude way of doing so. A fundamental way. We need much more than that.
4. It is still unknown exactly how much money Galesburg has squirreled away for a rainy day. I’ve heard figures from $25-50 million. I can’t figure out truth from fiction, but I can tell you this: It’s pouring! If there is such an amount, what is it being held for? Who is accountable for this money? Where is it at? Is it to be used for the new water plant? To fix the pipeline? I haven’t heard anyone speak with any intelligence about any of it. The whole thing is hard to understand. Secrets, the hallmark of Galesburg’s incestuous city administration. Our current needs are many. If we got it, we better use it.
5. We need a full-time mayor. Our city manager-mayor-council form of government has not worked. We have been lost in the wilderness for fifty years. It is time to recognize this fact and return to a strong mayor-council form of government. The single biggest factor regarding our lack of economic success is the fact that no one is in charge in Galesburg. The buck doesn’t stop anywhere. Consequently, no one ever is to blame for anything. We need a referendum to change this. It’s time!
We have strengths. We are small; living here is cheap, all things considered; our crime rate is not terrible; we have two hospitals, which we have not capitalized on; our parks aren’t bad; we have a lot of golf courses in the area; we have a rich history; many of our buildings and homes are well maintained; our city services are not bad; we have numerous capable and creative people. Suffice it to say, we have strengths. So far, we haven’t had the leadership to pull it together. That we desperately need. We are in a precarious position. The odds are 70-30% in Vegas that we are not going to be able to pull it off. We’ll see.