By Michael Kleen
What is wrong with Southern Illinois? Open a newspaper on any given day, and you are likely to ask yourself this question. As Disclosurehas documented for the past several years, there is no shortage of political corruption, crime, substance abuse, and economic despair. Of the 34 counties south of I-70, 14 had unemployment rates of 9.5 percent or higher in September of this year, and just two years ago, Southern Illinois University tottered on the edge of bankruptcy. The situation is not hopeless, however. With the right leadership, things can be turned around.
You see, I live far up north in Winnebago County, and we have a lot in common with Southern Illinois. This area has the highest unemployment rate in the state (13.8 percent in September), and I believe that the same thing that is hurting us up here is hurting the people of southern Illinois: a lack of responsible and inspired leadership. A sense of entitlement and contentment with the status quo at the top, coupled with a “tax and spend” philosophy of government, is strangling the life out of our communities.
A Kleen classic at the Disclosure:
In 1895, famed educator and author Booker T. Washington cajoled members of his community to “cast down your bucket where you are” instead of seeking labor or employment somewhere else. Likewise, I firmly believe that more can be accomplished for the benefit of our community by casting our talents and our dollars where we live by buying and producing locally, as well as abandoning the “there’s nothing I can do” attitude.
The real problem is not a lack of business or services, the problem is the complainers who, when it comes down to it, do nothing to prevent businesses from leaving and whose solution to the problems they see is to uproot and leave, or spend their dollars elsewhere, convinced that nothing can be done. For a community to be successful all the members of that community need to act together to bring the kind of entertainment, businesses, and recreation they want to see, as well as support those places already in existence.