COLUMBIA — When you live in Columbia, you live with "the good, the bad and the ugly." I know, that's a tired old cliche — and a movie title. After all, we learned in Reporting 101 to avoid cliches. However, for a lot of us in this town, what is happening "bad and ugly" to Columbia has "gotten old," and we are just tired of it. We yearn for the real Columbia to emerge.
The real Columbia? Well, you know, the one we picked when we moved here, several years back and bought a home and settled in here. The Columbia we chose in the toss-up with Baylor, University of Texas, University of New York, Harvard and UCLA. The Columbia nestled in the farmlands of the Midwest Heartland of America. The Columbia that was named as one of the "Best Places to Live" by Money Magazine.
We get glimpses of the real Columbia. Places where the hungry are fed. Places that provide overnight shelter for the homeless. The Columbia of private citizens who put on red shirts (to symbolize bloodshed) and stood between the funeral procession of a private citizen killed in Afghanistan and insulting interlopers who shout hatred and harass to crash-kill any common courtesy and respect shown to others, to tread on civil liberties of those who gave up their lives to serve this country.
There is something in all of us that wants that "good" we sought in calling this town our "home," and we yearn for it to be a daily reality as we move and live about this place.
So, why do we have the "bad and the ugly?" Why do we tolerate it and what can we do about it, as private citizens?
Well, we have the Lewis and Clark Trail dissecting our town. St. Louis has the Gateway Arch, but we have the point of the trail right through our town. All we have is a small green, unnoticeable highway sign on Providence. We should have a huge billboard there, as well as one at the entrance of I-70 into this town and at the exit, going out.
And, we should get rid of the tacky, spray-painted sheet metal attached to visible rusty bolts and concrete blocks in front of our public library. Across the street from the library is a school and a historical cemetery. In front of the library, we should have a larger replica of the small sculpture of humanity depicted inside the library.
Also, we should get rid of the keyhole "thing" in front of the Daniel Boone City Building. Put up a statue of Daniel Boone, pointing westward. We have local sculptors who can be counted on to complete this work.
Then, we have the oldest university west of the Mississippi. Why are we not announcing that to the world — in huge signs, websites and everywhere we can get the message out that we were "first and we are d--- proud of it!"?
Now, we get to "the ugly" in this town. We do not feel safe any more. Can that be laid at the feet of people we have trusted in key positions in our city? Do our mayor and City Council need to be overturned?
For example, the city has been told many times that private citizens request that sidewalks be properly sealed and repaired. Yet, some of us have been forced to give up workdays, suffered immense pain and racked up medical bills because a jagged, unsealed sidewalk tripped us while we were walking. Does the city need a major lawsuit, or several of them, to simply do what we have paid them to do right in the first place?
Another example: I was recently in the fire chief's office. The administrative assistant waved at me as I walked in the door and stood at the counter; therefore, she knew I was there. She turned her back to me and made a personal call to discuss someone's honeymoon. I waited more than 15 minutes. It was 100 degrees outside, and then I had to leave and go back to work. She was still on the phone with her personal call.
If these public servants cannot do their work, then there should be no such thing as tenure or someone who has been so long on a job that they no longer serve the public because of their own selfish ego and impulses of the moment. We need to "let them go" and get someone in there who can, and will, do the job for us.
Then, maybe we can feel safe again.
Let us consider this lack of response and lack of caring about public safety in crime-related incidents in this town. We all know that the chief of police has requested 42 additional officers and community substations. We still have nothing of the sort, do we? There should be a complete investigation of the Columbia Police Department from rank on down. They don't do their job right, and if someone gets hurts in any way, then those who hurt innocent citizens are gone, too. Let us replace them with those who can and will keep us safe from harm. The chief of police, no doubt, will be cleared and shown valuable to this town, and the facts will show that we need the 42 additional officers and community substations.
So, there we have it, "the good, the bad and the ugly." Well, then, "Let's just stick to the facts, Ma'am" and "get 'er done."
Speak up, Columbia. This is our town.
Delcia Crockett lives in Columbia and is a teacher, a writer, a composer and an active volunteer in the community and church. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.