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Quality of life is first step to success

Momma had her reasons for telling you to make your bed.

If you obeyed, taking responsibility for the space around you made you a better person.

You gained respect for a clean, tidy space, and, chances are, you grew to like it.

Now, years later, you probably respect a clean environment as well.

Even non-bed makers appreciate litter-free highways, trimmed grass and clear blue skies.

Most of us who are contributing to the society around us even want to see well-maintained buildings, beautiful flowers and groomed trees and hedges.

It just feels better to be in a pretty place.

Many psychologists, historians and even criminologists will tell you the opposite of that statement is true as well.

An ugly place is more likely to breed depression, crime and disorderliness.

Luckily, not much of Mississippi is ugly.

We have more blue skies than gray, more flowers than buildings and more smiles than frowns.

But some parts of our state are certainly prettier than others.

Madison has gained regional fame for strict code enforcement laws that forbid ugly buildings, many types of signs and eyesores in generals.

The brick city — from exit to Exxon — has exhibited phenomenal growth and success in the last decade.

Even power lines must be hidden underground in Madison.

The same school of thought is thriving in Oxford — another rapidly growing Mississippi community. Just last week the city announced the completion of a nearly two-year-long project to bury power lines along the town’s busiest street.

Now the city-managed electric department is preparing to start underground work in another section of town. The hope is to eventually bury all lines, despite challenges in several older parts of town.

Ordinances like some of those in Madison have existed in Natchez for years. They just haven’t been enforced.

And in the 1980s the electric company providing service in Natchez was to keep aesthetics in mind, the city said. Later, local leaders let them off the hook.

The eyesores in Natchez are sometimes far between, but they aren’t few.

Our historic town has magnificent beauty here and murky messes there.

Overhead power lines weave without pattern. Dilapidated properties and overgrown lots dot the town.

Our city has the good, the bad and the ugly.

And we don’t have the money to fix it, right?

Money matters, true, but it shouldn’t be the roadblock that keeps us from starting the engine.

A good priority list is the first step, with “Making Natchez a wonderful place to live,” at the top of the list.

Jobs, money, stores and activities come where people want to live.

People want to live where there are jobs, money, stores and activities.

It’s the chicken or the egg, yes, but the tiebreaker brings us back to momma.

We like pretty.

Natchez isn’t on an Interstate; we don’t have a major university; and Toyota isn’t coming here.

Recruiting a smokestack of 1960s and ’70s glory is an unrealistic goal anywhere in 2010.

Natchez must focus on what it can change.

Reducing crime, improving education and ramping up quality of life should be high priorities.

Making the needed changes won’t come, though, until we learn momma’s lesson and make our bed.

Julie Cooper is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or julie.cooper@natchezdemocrat.com.

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