What Next!

What Next!

Wonder what else could go wrong for us here in dear old Madison, IN? Factories closing or laying people off; the local hospital announcing a move to a costly new hilltop facility that will devastate the downtown — then letting 50 employees go to “save money”; a much-needed new Madison-Milton bridge being put on the back burner again and again.

The Madison school system is looking at layoffs or the elimination of 12 teaching positions, again because of financial difficulties. I can remember when similar, but larger, school layoffs were announced due to an alleged General Fund shortage in 1988. Angry parents filled every seat in the Sherman Auditorium at the next school board meeting to protest. By the way, that “General Fund shortage” turned out to have been a hoax.

But now, so many things have hit us all at once that we’re numb. We’re like a prize fighter who is still on his feet, but whose brain has been scrambled by his opponent’s punches. We’re just waiting, semi-comatose, for the next blow to land.

That may have been the announcement this week that semis, or “tractor-trailer rigs” to use the technical term, will not be allowed to use the Madison-Milton bridge anymore, because of the 80-year-old span’s rickety condition. Many have expressed satisfaction that only lighter vehicles will be able to use the bridge in the future. But this may just be a ploy on the part of the government to “fix” the bridge so it can supposedly bear the weight of those big rigs again — then announce that since it’s “fixed,” no new bridge will be built at all. And S.R. 56, which is not in the best of shape, will start receiving a huge load as trucks rumble down it from the Markland Dam bridge to Madison.

City and county government officials can be pardoned — to an extent, anyway — if they seem as punch-drunk as the rest of us. Without money, which they have little of in this national economic meltdown, they can do little to solve our problems. Perhaps they are anticipating Madison’s share of the federal stimulus package. But how much can that be for a town of 13,000, with thousands of other cities and towns across the country grabbing for their share also?

The local news media traditionally have provided some guidance and moral support for communities in distress. But The Madison Courier hasn’t been very good at that for a long time (except for when they “saved us” from getting a gambling boat). Opportunities for doing some in-depth investigative reporting about the bricks-and-mortar of how this community is being run, and for some informed editorials about how we got into this mess, have been fumbled or ignored. Editorial mush does not inspire any confidence in a newspaper’s readers, and that’s what they’ve been getting from the Courier for a long time.

So what do we do, fellow citizens? For one thing, don’t give up hope. Things will get better; they always have. We just don’t know how soon. In addition, start taking more of an interest in your community. Attend some meetings of public bodies, and ask questions of your elected officials. They aren’t necessarily trying to hide things from you, but they’ll be more forthcoming if they know you want some answers about what’s being done to try to get us through this crisis.

Remember: This national crisis isn’t “their” problem, whoever “they” may be. It doesn’t help any to talk about “inheriting” bad situations from some previous administration. Our local woes, which are the national ones in microcosm, are “our” problem. “They” can’t solve them. But maybe “we” can.

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