I watched the city council meeting on Tuesday to discover what goals the city council are prioritizing. It was a somber, kind of depressing discussion because, though were goals expressed, I didn’t sense much confidence that any of them are going to happen any time soon.
Every council member was in agreement that the city would benefit from constructing an overpass on MLK over I-72 to open the area up to development and ease traffic along 51.
Another issue that was brought up was parking in downtown. Though there are several thriving restaurants, there’s few retail shops. One of the reasons for this is that there isn’t enough available parking. Downtown parking has been an issue forever with no easy or cheap answers. Parking meters were removed a few years ago and angled parking was added but there’s only so many areas to park a car. Nobody offered any solutions but the issue was brought up.
Neighborhood redevelopment, infrastructure, the Us-51 bypass, and the need for major road improvements on Brush College Road were also echoed by many but overshadowing everything was the need to attract more jobs.
Finding money for the goals is tricky. Increasing taxes and fees is out the window because the city has already been there and done that too many times. For neighborhood redevelopment, the key is likely public/private partnerships, and possible state/federal grants. Residency requirements for city employees will definitely be discussed further when union contract talks come up, which I’m sure will go over well! The city would like to keep city workers here to keep more revenue here. Residency requirements for new non-union employees has already been approved. The city is bleeding upper-middle income families to nearby communities, leaving older and lower-income people behind to financially support the city. That kind of math just doesn’t work. It’s a tough, tough issue but not unique to Decatur.
I hope I didn’t thoroughly depress everyone. I’m still optimistic and I am an out-of-the-box thinker, for better or worse. I think there’s things we can do.