The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Columns

July 10, 2011

Carol Stark: Vision could be reality

Fred Osborn says he thinks the people who live in Joplin have before them a blank sheet of paper. How they decide to fill in that page should be up to them.

Osborn is the president of Commerce Bank, but on Tuesday he won’t be in his bank. He’ll be at the Memorial Middle School gymnasium, and hopefully you’ll be there talking with him about your ideas for the long-term recovery of Joplin in the wake of the May 22 tornado. He won’t be alone. Other members of the newly formed Citizens Advisory Recovery Team are Jane Cage, Clifford Wert, Amanda Bilke, Doug Doll, Matt Moran, Kim Cox and Randy Moore.

Like Osborn, each of these people work in Joplin. Why are they on this team? Because, when asked, they said “yes” and the wheels were set in motion. I think who’s on the advisory team is of little importance. Fred told me they weren’t there to represent government or the Chamber of Commerce. Their goal is to represent you.

On Tuesday, they will be divided into four groups: infrastructure plus environment; housing plus neighborhood planning; schools plus community buildings; and economic development.

Let’s put that in the language we all speak. They want to hear your ideas about rebuilding streets, replanting trees, planning new neighborhoods and schools and creating and keeping jobs in Joplin.

“We hope people will focus on the future,” Osborn said. “We all know what has happened to Joplin, but what we need to do now is decide what’s going to happen next.”

In comparison with other communities that have experienced disaster, Joplin has moved along with real purpose. I think a potential barrier to recovery — the 60-day moratorium on rebuilding houses — got a shove last week when the city announced it would allow rebuilding in portions of the city where a large part of the debris has been cleared away. It was a good decision and one that I hope will be followed quickly by the reissuing of building permits throughout the tornado-devastated area.

Planning for a city full of people only works if the people return to their neighborhoods and have their property rights intact.

That being said, no one wants to see a jumble of houses, fast-food restaurants and convenience stores going up in no particular order.

I’ve listened as Joplin residents have described to me their hopes for a return to their community. They provide details of how they will plant trees, how they would allow businesses to develop, how they think they should look and what they think they should sell.

Their ideas are what will make Joplin whole again.

Two meetings will be held on Tuesday at Memorial Middle School, 310 W. Eighth Street. One begins at 1 p.m. and the second at 5:30 p.m. You are invited.

The people who live in Joplin should be the ones who fill in the details on that blank sheet of paper Fred Osborn’s talking about. Sadly, the picture can’t ever be drawn so it looks like it did on May 21 — lives are irreplaceable.

But those who are still here shoulder the responsibility to be the caretakers of their town. I think that we can all agree it’s not a job Joplin wants to pass off to someone else.

Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email cstark@joplinglobe.com.

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Tornado: Columns
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