Clouds in the crystal ball

Friday, December 28, 2012
News editor Murray Bishoff

The events of 2012 have clouded the crystal ball for 2013. A few prognostications are in order as we try to see through the haze.

The biggest fogger has again been the economy. We expected a real rebound once 2011 turned the corner on the 2010 doldrums, not the leveling off we experienced. The local economy seemed more likely to shake off the dragging national side effects, but with Hydro's division closing and no real revival in housing construction, even Monett sputtered in its economic relaunch.

There's every reason to think 2013 will be better than 2012, but not by much.

The opening of the Monett Area YMCA in 2013 will provide a shot in the arm for the community. The Y will draw people to Monett just to see what's new, and it will keep them coming back.

Monett Main Street and the Downtown Revitalization and Economic Assistance for Missouri (DREAM) Initiative will add new signage for Monett's historic shopping district. More storefronts will see improvements, inching the center city back toward the center of community life.

If the pattern of flooding downtown holds off for a five-year period, as it did in the 1990s, a little more time remains to do something about Kelly Creek. It's also likely that another year will pass before the Barry-Lawrence Regional Library makes a hard decision about which way to go with a new Monett Branch.

Drury University may wait another five years before committing to its plan for a downtown campus, a plan on which a new library now pivots. In the middle of both discussions is Monett's flood control strategy, which could easily take five years to cement a deal. The library will not have that much time.

Movement toward an ultimate outcome on all three projects will take place in 2013. A final decision on any of them is not likely.

One thing we were right about a year ago was that the political season was ugly. The Republican party is still a mess, with ultra-conservatives and Tea Party activists locally squeezing traditional party leaders for control. One-party rule in Barry and Lawrence counties raises concern among moderates in the general public about whether the Republicans really represent them any longer, especially if there's nowhere to turn.

How far local lawmakers are willing to swing to one side in the next Missouri General Assembly will show the future of bi-county political debate.

It seems unlikely that Monett's tax increment financing (TIF) litigation will resolve in 2013. It now looks like summer before a hearing is held in front of the Missouri Court of Appeals. An appeal to the Missouri Supreme Court could easily push the resolution to 2014.

So, in the end, 2013 looks like a year of incremental steps. Like the new storm shelters at the Monett R-1 School District, steps will be taken that draw new and better resources for the community closer. We just won't see them finished in the next 12 months.

That means the key for the coming year will be courage, the willingness to take bold initiatives. We've seen that from Monett's city and school leaders. We know Monett's industrial leaders are bullish on an economic recovery and ready to put their people fully to work. Those willing to act in unlikely times win big when times improve. In 2013, it may take faith to move ahead, but the time is coming closer when those risks will pay off.