County has many positive aspects

Saturday, September 30, 2017

“People have heard me refer to this as steel mill heaven. And the reason we are here is really because of the work ethic of Arkansans,” John Correnti, former CEO of Big River Steel.

From time to time readers tell me that they really enjoy when I write a “positive” column. So here goes.

I want to begin by saying that I am POSITIVE that we live in a city with many great people with extremely kind hearts, an unlimited potential, a geographically strategic location, incredibly fertile soil, thousands of extremely hard working individuals and a blindingly bright possible future. Our best days will be in front of us rather than behind us and of that I am absolutely POSITIVE…if…!

Our county is already one of the top steel-producing counties in the world and that will only get bigger as Nucor and Big River Steel continue with further expansion plans and with more auxiliary industries locating here.

Our county is already the number one row-crop producing county in the state (and maybe the nation).

We already have one of the best community colleges in the nation and some of the most innovative and inexpensive (in some cases free) job training programs anywhere.

But, I admit that we all must positively admit that we see plenty of discouraging things in our city as well: numerous murders, multiple armed robberies, ridiculously high illegal drug use and trade, a flood of thefts and vandalism, aging infrastructure, neglected buildings, car damaging roads and sidewalks that are in embarrassingly woeful condition. We have limited use of our city parks and ball fields due to tall grass and even the “Welcome to Blytheville” sign on the interstate has grass grown up blocking view of it.

We all personally know people that positively cannot afford to go to the doctor, or to buy their medicines, or buy their children the food, clothes or supplies they need. We all know people that honestly look for a job and have difficulty finding one. We all know people that no longer walk and enjoy their neighborhoods and have practically turned their homes into fortresses out of fear.

But…I am POSITIVE that it does not have to remain that way!

I am also POSITIVE that the solution to all that holds back our full potential is not the lack of cheerleading and positive energy. It is not that when someone accurately portrays what needs improvement that they are being traitors or causing our community harm. I am POSITIVE that what is holding us back is a lack of real leadership.

Real leadership recognizes and admits the challenges before us. Real leadership does not simply try to “spin” the facts to trick voters into believing some alternative reality in hopes of being reelected. Real leadership does not make decisions based upon the “good ol’ boy” system.

I am POSITIVE that real leadership is about making the difficult choices needed to stop the cycles of defeat. I say difficult because they will not be popular at first, because they are based upon common sense, not political favor. It is very easy to just demand another tax and throw money at a public relations scheme that is designed to fool area citizens into the false reality that our city leaders want to project. The difficult decision is to actually create hope and opportunity for everyone. Create an atmosphere where hard work and honest dealing can prosper. Lower the tax burden where we are more competitive and where those that create jobs can afford the risk of expansion so that more of our good citizens can go back to work, earn money and provide for their families. As a city we must actively pursue real economic development such as the possible museum/tourism venue being proposed at the former Blytheville Air Force Base alert pad. That project has gained the attention of the Chamber, the state, two Arkansas Universities, the Quorum Court and even the National Park Service…but not city hall!

Believe me, most people would much rather earn a paycheck than receive a handout or live without hope or opportunity. There will always be a criminal element that does not want to invest sweat equity into their own lives even once hope and opportunity is shown to them. Well too bad. Criminals must be slammed up and removed. The price has to be just too high in our community to do criminal enterprises. Blytheville must cease to be a hub of the Mexican ICE trade and a haven to violent criminals.

The bottom line is, we need to stop waiting for others to come save us. We need to stop falling for a false reality. We must stop letting public relations and good vibes be our highest aspirations. We must stop rewarding our slick elected officials with our votes, large salaries, retirement, and bloated budgets that may even include nice new vehicles without demanding significant, proper results. We must stop doing the same things over and over again, while expecting a different result.

We owe it to our children, our families and ourselves. If you agree, drop me an email or a note today and let me know.