There is a phrase that has been spoken in the past that owes its origin to a Chinese proverb, “may you live in interesting times.” For better or worse, we live in interesting times in St. Joseph. There is much to be optimistic about and there is much to be concerned with. That said, I believe as a community we find ourselves at a turning point in our history. Do we seize the opportunity to be better or simply allow it to pass us by?
The challenges we face in St. Joseph are becoming clearer and more understandable. We need to make our city a place where people want to move to and stay. This means addressing the condition of our older neighborhoods and housing. Requiring inspections, holding rental property owners responsible for the condition of their property, ensuring safe and reliable housing, and finding an effective way to collect and remove trash and debris from the community. These issues must be pursued. This is not a unique challenge or unattainable. Successful communities across the nation have programs that address neighborhood revitalization, safe housing and solid waste disposal. Why not here? Why not now?
To make St. Joseph successful, you must have a successful educational system, public, private and parochial. Taking the attitude that “it’s good enough” for St. Joseph is just not going to cut it. We are in competition with every other community in the country for talent and jobs. Talent is and will be in the future, the most important commodity for business attraction, growth and success. We need to grow the talent, attract the talent, and keep the talent. This begins and ends with an outstanding educational system in St. Joseph. If you do not believe me, ask any business in town. We must get this right and every day we waste bickering about it simply means we get further behind in the race for talent.
An issue that most communities do not like to think about is poverty. We can no longer ignore those who live in poverty in St. Joseph. Aside from the human toll of those in need, it undermines our future success as a community. Good jobs are part of the solution, but education, housing, transportation and finding ways to connect with those in need are part of the solution as well. Poverty in our community may be our toughest challenge but recognizing it and working to solve it is fundamental to be a community that people want to be a part of.
The community planning initiative Imagine St. Joseph 2040 will offer a vision for our future and create a path to get there, but it will be up to us to bring that future to life.
Yes, these are interesting times in St. Joseph, but it is also time for us to come together and muster the courage to pursue a better community and a brighter future. It can’t get more interesting than that!
R. Patt Lilly