News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 7, 2013

EDITORIAL: Drive to improve Valley community alive and well

Bold rebirth seems real in Sullivan

The Tribune-Star

---- — Just a day or two after Clint Lamb assumed the Sullivan mayor’s office in 2012, we wrote, “The beginning of a new mayoral term in any community is — or should be — a time when the talk of the town is rife with ideas, improvements and changes.”

And then we allowed as how, too often, enthusiasm fades and good ideas join others on the scrap heap when the reality of getting things done against opposition overwhelms. Still, we hoped Lamb would not fall prey to dashed enthusiasm.

He hasn’t. Eighteen months into Lamb’s first term, the drive to improve his city seems very much alive and well, as was ably chronicled on last Sunday’s front page by Tribune-Star reporter Arthur Foulkes, in a story headlined “Shakin’ Up a City.”

Sullivan — the seat of a county of the same name — seems to be making steady progress toward goals Lamb and a group of townspeople have set forth to engender the city’s redevelopment. It’s, we’d suggest, more than hype when Lamb asserts: “What you’re witnessing, you’re seeing the rebirth of a city, a city that has been deteriorating too long.”

Some might take offense at that characterization as a deteriorated community. But, really, it’s just a frank assessment of weaknesses that Lamb and others are working to convert into strengths. To improve, one must first assess — and not sugarcoat the findings.

Sullivan has been assertive in advancing city initiatives, such as demolishing the old Central Elementary School to make way for a new park that can become a center for community activity and pride. Lamb also wants newly paved streets and sidewalks, the kind of solid improvement that sends a message about any city’s self-image. Would a city prefer crumbling and pock-marked or fresh and smooth?

That’s not to say everything Lamb advocates — such as annexation of more than 1,000 acres that some property owners strongly oppose — will succeed.

But what does seem to be succeeding is a spirit embodied in the city’s new slogan: “Take Time to Care.” That, like Terre Haute’s “A Level Above,” can inspire those who care to act in the better interests of a community.

Certainly, it takes more than slogans. But if the devoted work of a young, transformative mayor, a city council, a redevelopment commission and a populace can bring truth to a slogan such as Sullivan’s, it will not only be painted on city-owned vehicles but also be stamped on a city’s heart and lead its citizens to act more forcefully in the interests of the community’s needs, pride and resolve.

What’s happening in Sullivan has impact beyond city, town and state limits — which is one of the reasons we are so high on the developments. Other communities, bigger and smaller, can profit from the example Lamb and his cohorts are setting. They are assessing a community’s needs, building coalitions across political party lines, prioritizing projects into a cohesive plan, seeking grant money where it applies and moving assertively forward. That is a formula that would benefit any community.