Our hopes for the new year

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Twenty-five years ago, the Southeast Missourian voiced its editorial hopes for 1978. It is interesting to see what was considered worthy of comment then. And it is even more interesting to see how many of the items have come to pass.

In its nearly full-page editorial, the Missourian advocated a new public library, a new Fire Station No. 1, low-income public housing, orderly annexation, the Cape LaCroix watershed project, closer city cooperation (for Cape Girardeau, Jackson and Scott City), a port authority, a good balance of athletics and academics in our schools, a new university gymnasium, four-laning of the highway between Cape Girardeau and Jackson, a Riverfront Drive along the Mississippi River, markers on county roads, voting machines, industrial development, physician recruitment, a county health department and the preservation of old St. Vincent's Church.

Remarkably, every item on the list has been accomplished with the exception of the development of a spacious boulevard along the river.

Overall, the accomplishments in this area in the past quarter-century have been ambitious and have solidified the region as a hub for education, business and medical care.

There are hopes for 2003 as well -- as a matter of fact, there are two lists: one for local projects and another for the world we share with 5 billion other individuals.

Close to home, we can eagerly anticipate major accomplishments or completion of some huge highway projects, most notably the new bridge across the Mississippi. Soon, work will start on making the bridge accessible to Cape Girardeau's downtown area. Construction will continue on the new Interstate 55 bridge across the Diversion Channel. And Jackson residents will begin to see progress on the four-laning of Highway 34-72 through the western half of town.

Both of Cape Girardeau's hospitals are showing signs of expansion as steel-beam frameworks take shape to become major additions to the first-rate health care available here.

In 2003, the nation will begin observing the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition that explored the newly purchased Louisiana territory. One of the first events will be held in Cape Girardeau commemorating the explorers' overnight stay with Louis Lorimier, founder of the city.

Voters will make some important decisions about city finances in Cape Girardeau when the April elections roll around. Four tax and fee proposals will be on the ballot as the city seeks additional revenue for operations and major improvements.

Industrial development, which has served this area so well and provided hundreds of good-paying jobs, will continue to be the beneficiary of an aggressive effort in 2003, and efforts will continue to support existing businesses.

School facilities -- both public and private -- in Cape Girardeau County have never been finer, and administrators will face a challenging year in their efforts to make the most of pinched funding. Our schools offer tremendous opportunities for students pursuing college admissions or placement in the work force.

While this area can expect to remain vibrant and strong in the year ahead, much of the future hinges on world affairs.

The U.S. economy, which has been sputtering for two years, is due for a turnaround in 2003. While local businesses have managed to find ways to hold their own and even prosper, the impact of the faltering national and world economies has taken its toll.

America's war on terrorism will continue as threats from rogue nations demand the attention of our national leaders. The prospects of war in Iraq, long anticipated and now widely debated, appear to deepen with each passing day.

While the quality of health care in our area is second to none, the fact remains that there is a health-care crisis in the United States. Years of manipulation by the government and vast for-profit health-care organizations have resulted in high costs, nursing shortages and a regulatory climate guaranteed to deprive too many sick people from getting the level of care they need.

Of all the expectations for the new year, none will be discussed more than the topic we all know so well: the weather. Extremes in temperatures, the incidence of floods and droughts and the impact of the weather -- almost any weather -- on our lives are forces with which we all must reckon.

Whenever we step back from busy schedules, hard work and debates of every stripe, it is easy to see how we humans influence our own fortunes in ways that are both positive and negative. Thankfully, a sizable majority of Americans understand that the ultimate influence on the year to come has divine origins.

May we seek, as we enter the year of our Lord 2003, divine guidance and our Master's providence in all that we do, say and think. For it is in this way that we all will participate in the best of everything the new year has to offer.

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