Pressing issues in Cape Girardeau

Friday, January 27, 2012

Many Cape Girardeans have taken an interest in two important issues of late: dress code revisions in the public schools, and a plan for turning the downtown portion of Broadway into a more aesthetically pleasing thoroughfare.

That's good.

Too often important -- and expensive -- decisions are made with little public input. It's good to know that there are still some issues that will ignite public debate.

I will tell you right off the bat that I favor a school dress code that, to many, sounds like a requirement to wear uniforms in classrooms. There is, however, a difference between a policy of requiring uniforms and a policy requiring a uniform standard of acceptable apparel for students. What has been proposed for Cape Girardeau's public schools falls well short of requiring uniforms like those worn at many parochial and private schools in this country and in most public schools in the rest of the world.

The important thing about the school dress code proposal is the dialogue that has developed among parents, students, teachers and administrators. If you made a list of all the comments that have been made at public hearings and school board meetings, you would be impressed with the number and range of good ideas that are being discussed.

Many of us no longer have children in the public school system. But we have an interest in the school dress code even though we won't be buying any special duds if a new policy is adopted requiring certain types of apparel. We pay taxes that support our schools. We see the quality of our schools as a reflection of the community in which we live. And we understand that the future of programs that benefit us in our later years depends on the success of an educational system that produces tomorrow's business and industry leaders.

And, yes, many of us will be depending on those bright students who become doctors and make our remaining years a bit more endurable.

A dress code is just one aspect of today's education. Whether it's uniforms or something else, every school in the nation has a dress code. If the proposals being made in Cape Girardeau help students succeed in their academic endeavors, then I'm all for it.

I am trusting that everyone involved will speak up and have their say so the best decision can be made. That's the best outcome possible.

As for the plans to redo the downtown portion of Broadway, it's good to see that city officials have taken a step back to consider concerns about parking.

The current plan calls for parking on only the south side of Broadway from Pacific Street to Water Street. Several business owners worry that this would create hardships for customers. Instead of just hoping for the best, the city wants to take a more thorough look at these concerns.

Good. That's how to get things done. Instead of grousing at coffee about these concerns, some business owners took the initiative to contact council members and other city officials to voice their viewpoints.

City officials surely will keep in mind that many of the downtown businesses occupy rented space, and the views of both the property owners and business owners should be weighed.

I don't know how the school dress code or the Broadway face-lift will turn out. I'd like to think that the more input we have from everyone involved the better the outcome.

This is how government should work. We are fortunate to live in a community that recognizes the government is not just those elected and hired officials who run things. The government is still we, the people.

Joe Sullivan is the retired editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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