Just a few days ago, the Associated Press sent out ballots -- as it does every year -- to members around the world asking them to rank the top news stories of 2004. There is always a disquieting sense of foreboding that, with a couple of weeks left in the year, the biggest story might be just around the corner. That was the case this year as news of the devastating tsunami in the Indian Ocean arrived along with results of balloting on the AP's top 10 news stories of the year.
The AP also ranks the top 10 news stories in Missouri, and that list is always one of the Southeast Missourian's year-end stories, along with our own survey of the top local stories.
Everyone's list of top local stories is likely to be different, depending on how each of us was affected by the year's events. But some of the most important news of 2004 was Cape Girardeau's passage of a sales-tax increase to pay for police and fire needs and the November elections that thrust three area legislators into key leadership positions in Jefferson City, Mo.
The sales tax will provide revenue for much needed improvements in the city's police and fire departments. And the new revenue will allow the city to use existing revenue sources for long overdue pay increases for city employees across the board. City workers have gone without raises for a long time, and a new pay plan that goes into effect next month addresses that situation.
In the state Capitol, Republicans strengthened their control of both legislative chambers. As a result, state Rep. Rod Jetton of Marble Hill, Mo., will be the next speaker of the House of Representatives. Peter Kinder of Cape Girardeau will be sworn in as lieutenant governor, a post whose official duties include presiding over the Senate. And Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau, who is moving from the House to the Senate, is expected to continue his leadership efforts with his new colleagues.
There were other key stories in 2004: the demolition of the old Mississippi River bridge, the opening of the Marquette Towers, a new superintendent for the Cape Girardeau School District, local troops going to war zones in the Mideast, the start of construction on the new federal building in downtown Cape Girardeau and the completion of the amazing mural project on the floodwall, to name a few.
What's ahead for 2005? Let's just say that this area has a bright future as a trade, medical, employment and education center. Thanks to the innovative and positive ideas of local residents, our area continues to thrive. This next year is likely to add to the area's prosperity and betterment.
Happy new year.