The “State of the City” speech that I gave during the years I served as mayor was one of my favorites because it gave me an opportunity to point out the positives in Decatur including the projects planned and completed. The speech was delivered annually at the Chamber’s Business Expo at the Decatur Civic Center. I gave my first “State of the City” speech the morning after I was elected to my first term. I had been up all night finishing that week’s edition of the Tribune but I had no trouble finding positive things to present to the audience. After all, I had written and talked about them for decades before ever being elected mayor. Although it was not a “For This We Give Thanks” message that is part of the Chamber’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner it was, nonetheless a Thanksgiving message. The kicker on my “State of the City” message each year was that, after listing all of the positive things going on in our community, there wasn’t time left for the negatives. I think it is important, especially this Thanksgiving, to focus on all that Decatur and Central Illinois have for which to be thankful.
• FOR A MAYOR, city council or other elected officials to concentrate on a community’s positives doesn’t mean that negative issues facing residents are ignored. Obviously, in our community, like all communities across the nation, COVID-19 and its danger to residents and the impact on the local economy cannot be, and should not be, ignored. As I wrote last week, gun violence on city streets has also become troubling, and dangerous, for our city’s residents. These and other harsh realities of our community and world in 2021 are fighting hard to take residents’ thoughts away from the positive and good projects and acts that are taking place all around us every day. My feeling has always been, both as a public official, newspaper publisher and independent businessman, that concentrating every waking hour on what we don’t have, makes us less able to expand what we do have in our city. We must be defined by the positives in Decatur, or we will be unable to chart the right path in combating the negatives that take away from what we want to be as a community.
The people of our city and Central Illinois have tremendous hearts for helping others and there is ample testimony to that fact every day and stories about are told daily in our media. We should always, as a community, and as a person, let the positives define us, not the negatives. Although we have our share of grumblers and growlers who never see anything good in Decatur, every city has about the same percentage of naysayers. Fortunately, Decatur has a huge percentage of “yaysayers” and their actions can drown out the whining of the naysayers. That’s why I love this community and Central Illinois and I am thankful for the privilege or living and working here — especially this year.
• HELP WANTED — One of the big problems confronting our community is the lack of people who want to fill jobs. My wife was at Kroger East last Thursday morning and, when she got ready to check out, there was only one cashier manning one of the ten checkout lanes. The line waiting to check out was long and she indicated that she took back some products like milk, because she thought they might get too warm while she waited in line to be checked out. She timed her wait from when she got into the line until she got to her car and it was 30 minutes!! Five of the ten checkout lanes are dedicated to shoppers doing their own checking out, but I can assure you there are a lot of shoppers who do not feel comfortable going that route. The cashier apologized for the long line but added they couldn’t get any help because people did not want to work!
• SOME OF the grocery chains are having a hard time finding help in stocking the shelves. There’s a lot of empty shelves in those stores, not because products have not arrived, but because the boxes are stacked in the aisles with no one to put the merchandise on the shelves. It is a growing problem and it is a little hard to explain why it is so difficult to get help. How do people pay their bills if they don’t work?
• SOME PLACES I’ve been have taken down their “Mask Required” signs intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 even though the number of cases in Macon County and across the state, have been increasing. I stopped to pick up an order at a restaurant on Pershing Road one day last week and I noticed the mask sign on its door was gone and it was full of customers — and I didn’t see a mask anywhere. Maybe it is just me, but I don’t think you can be “too careful” when it comes to protcting yourself and others against COVID-19 infection.