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Editorial: Early planning has been key to tax success

Saturday, October 4, 2003

Cape Girardeau's Transportation Trust Fund, which keeps Cape's streets paved and in good shape, has to be one of the most successful tax issues ever taken up in Southeast Missouri. Twice, voters have given the nod for a half-cent sales tax.

Thus, there's no reason for the city's planning and zoning commission to delay discussing some possible projects to be funded by the next round.

Consider why the Transportation Trust Fund has worked so well. When the idea was introduced for the first time in 1995, residents headed up the effort to get voters motivated about going to the polls. They were a cheering section for months, remembering well the opposition that killed a similar measure in the 1980s.

They gave the tax a sunset provision -- five years -- and they outlined 20 specific projects to be funded with the $16 million to be raised in those five years. The 20 were picked by the city, Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce and Vision 2000, a community improvement group that became Vision 2020 after the turn of the century. The projects were listed by priority and included sidewalk repairs, paving of two miles of unpaved city streets and curb-and-gutter repair. The case was made clear: Vote to spend this much money, and you will get these results.

Cape Girardeau voters duly went to the polls and passed the issue, with an overwhelming 68 percent voting yes.

As promised, the tax expired in December 2000, but many months before, city officials were considering how to keep it going. They produced a list with the status of those original 20 projects, all of them either done, currently under construction or, at a minimum, in the engineering phase. TTF-1, as it came to be called, is what made the ill-named Broadway more broad from Clark Avenue to Kingshighway, for example. And the city produced a list of 13 more projects.

As a result, voters went to the polls in August 2000 and taxed themselves for another five years, even though the results weren't quite so overwhelming: 54 percent yes, 46 percent no.

Which brings the community to some extremely early planning for TTF-3, which started with six members of the planning and zoning commission last week. They met in the city council chambers, spread out some maps and started talking about what needs to be done next.

An early idea: Improving a large portion of Sprigg Street in three phases.

Other ideas included constructing a road into the city from the new Interstate 55 interchange to be constructed north of Center Junction, improving Bloomfield Road between Stone Bridge Drive and Highway 74 and extending Vantage Drive to become a service road alongside I-55.

Many of the same people involved in the first tax issue will be involved in this one, including Harry Rediger, a retired J.C. Penney manager who has developed a sterling reputation for promoting Cape betterment. Another vote on the Transportation Trust Fund may come as early as November 2004, although it's far from decided.

Since the planning has begun, it's not too early for residents to start considering what projects they would like to see done and talking to the commissioners about those.


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