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Opinion: Time for kudos

Sunday, July 3, 2005

If retail business success is often about location, location, location, then the creation of another entrance to Cape Girardeau and Jackson represents new opportunity for the region.

Mayors Paul Sander of Jackson and Jay Knudtson of Cape Girardeau, as well as county officials and the university, deserve plaudits for working together in finalizing a sensible and fair financing package that will match Missouri Department of Transportation funds to build an Interstate 55 interchange north of Center Junction.

Land for the interchange was donated by local developers, including the Southeast Missouri State University Foundation, and they will no doubt benefit from the deal. More importantly, the residents of the two towns will benefit as each city grows to the new interchange (already underway) and as new jobs are developed.

The final cost of the project to each municipality is uncertain, although the maximum exposure isn't. That's because the financing package includes establishment of a transportation development district, which will generate funds from businesses that locate at the interchange, off-setting the cost. There also remains a possibility that federal funds will be designated, which would further lower Cape, Jackson and the county's costs. So, even though the deal makes sense as it stands now, it may get even better for the local governments. And the upside potential is large.

This region is on a wave of impressive development, which can be tracked in part to the vision of residents who have supported important local initiatives like the Transportation Trust Fund in Cape Girardeau, new schools, sewer projects and fire sales taxes. Not to be underestimated is the vital role that the University Foundation -- which raises money from private individuals and does not include state tax money or student fees -- plays in such development. Stay tuned to this newspaper. My guess is you'll be hearing some other important announcements soon.


Litter-free Liberty Day: Talking about the mayors of Cape and Jackson, both turned out last weekend along with several council members, firefighters and Cape city manager Doug Leslie to pick up litter at Center Junction. Not long ago, the two mayors challenged this area to be litter free by Independence Day. By joining a cleanup themselves, they showed they not only talk the talk, but they walk the walk -- uniting with hundreds of civic-minded residents who have participated in some kind of cleanup the past few months.

The event begged a question, though. Mayors, next time you organize a litter pickup, can you choose a time other than the middle of a 95-degree day?

The cleanup marked my second of the week. A few days earlier I joined Southeast Missourian employees in picking up litter from several blocks downtown. The activity certainly brought several points home to me.

One, the number of cigarette butts people throw out is staggering. And, while they may seem small, when they gather together on the side of roads, the butts look ugly.

Two, I was amazed at the number of beer cans and liquor bottles that people discarded both downtown and just off U.S. 61. I have always been proud of where I live, but what does this say about our area?

I realize if you're reading this column, you're probably not someone who tosses a beer can or liquor bottle out the window. But recently, I was driving on Kingshighway when I saw a straw wrapper come out a car window. You might be shocked at who did it.

(I didn't know the person, but I bet if I did and listed it here, some of you might be shocked. I did talk with her when we both stopped at an intersection.)

My point is, Pass the word. Educate your kids. (Or educate your parents.) Don't litter.


Local hero: The third annual Southeast Missourian Spirit of America Award will be officially awarded tomorrow at Libertyfest to local dynamo Melvin Gateley. I'd like to congratulate all who were nominated. The stories about each were inspiring, and selecting the recipient is no easy task. Thankfully, although I was part of the early round of judges' reading, I didn't have to make the final decision.

Mel Gateley is no stranger to the readers of this newspaper. For years he has been a spearhead for community improvement, taking a hands-on role in diverse activities from Vision 2000 (and Vision 2020) to United Way fund raising, church work and the city council. No matter what he's doing, Gateley does it with an optimistic can-do attitude and upbeat -- if at times frazzled, but always genuine -- demeanor.

I have fond memories of growing up with Mr. Gateley as my Schultz School principal. He helped guide me as student body president as many of us learned about representative government.

If you're at Libertyfest tomorrow -- which promises to be a great show -- be sure to cheer for Gateley. He's a true American hero. And to all the nominees, again, my congratulations. You provide proud models of the American spirit to all of us.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian. E-mail: jrust@semissourian.com.


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Jon K. Rust
Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications. He serves on the board of directors for the Associated Press. A native of Cape Girardeau, he has lived and worked in New York City, Boston, San Francisco and Moscow, Russia.