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Work of Natchez Inc. is model

With rare exception, the problems in our community are our responsibility.

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and throw rocks and verbal barbs, but few community issues have ever been resolved by simply complaining about something.

Natchez and the surrounding area have been more prosperous in the past. That often prompts people to simply complain about today, longing for the bygone days.

But despite what some of the Debbie downers in our community may say, Natchez’s future is definitely not behind it.

Our area has many headwinds blowing against our progress.

The recent Census data showing significant declines in population gives outsiders the belief that our area is drying up. It’s easy to believe that the trend is simply unstoppable and inevitable.

Population losses are, in large part, due to the number of industrial jobs that vanished in the last 10 years or so.

Our public schools — particularly on the Mississippi side of the river — are far from stellar.

We have far too much drug use in our community. Those problems lead to the bulk of most of our crimes.

Our leaders often say and do things that make many of us embarrassed for our community.

But none of these problems happened overnight. They each developed slowly over time.

Each problem seemed to worsen over time, particularly when we — the community — simply didn’t bother trying with all possible efforts to reverse the trends.

Public schools have been substandard for years, yet, we largely still operate the schools as we did decade ago. We still teach in traditional ways — regardless of whether it’s the best system — and we do so in really antiquated school buildings, too.

Imagine what could have happened had we really gotten aggressive on righting the public schools 20 years ago.

Ditto with crime. Almost each week when our staff publishes court conclusions, someone is listed who seems to be getting a slap on the wrist. A recent case was of a man who was convicted of armed robbery. His sentence was light, minimal prison time and several years of probation. How much lower would our crime rates be if the judicial system truly threw the book at the criminals?

Even the man who pleaded guilty to the brutal beating and armed robbery of an elderly couple may only face three years in prison.

Something seems wrong with that.

Our elected leaders often embarrass us, yet we continue to elect the same folks over and over again.

But there’s hope. Our community has proven it has what it takes to work together to change something important — economic development.

Last week, in a little more than a year after it was formed, Natchez Inc. announced the second business relocating here in as many months.

It’s impressive, but not just because of the much-needed jobs the two developments bring.

Natchez Inc.’s success is important because it clearly shows that some of our community’s toughest, most difficult problems can be solved. It just takes time, togetherness and tenacity.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3539 or kevin.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.