Carbondale is a college town; it is the gateway to the Shawnee Hills with its thriving wine industry, magnificent and varied natural areas, and cultural and historic riches that welcome locals and visitors alike. It has a remarkably talented, energetic, and engaged citizenry. It must create an environment that attracts university students and their families. Like the period when SIU was growing, it must again become a city in which young families, established professionals, and retirees make their homes. With a highly educated citizenry, it should be a city in which creative, dynamic entrepreneurs and technology intensive manufacturers establish their businesses. Unfortunately years of neglect of our neighborhoods and main business districts are eroding our community and undermining our potential.

It is time to renew Carbondale's neighborhoods and business districts.


Most of the housing stock and business properties in Carbondale were built before 1970. There is tremendous capital locked up in these older neighborhoods and businesses – capital that can be realized by reinvestment. Houses built with dimensional lumber cannot be replicated. We found stunning plaster work by a famed plasterer in a modest 1952 ranch house we renovated. Other architectural gems are often overlaid by cheap paneling and other modifications. But they can be restored, creating desirable homes and professional offices close to the major employers, Memorial Hospital and SIU, as well as Downtown and the Illinois 13 – US 51 arteries. Many of our current tax and code policies discourage renovation and restoration. Consequently, home and business owners see absentee-owned properties deteriorate around them and their property values decline.

We need to revise City regulations and taxes to promote reinvestment in our neighborhoods and commercial core.


An active, engaged, entrepreneurial citizenry must be the heart of Carbondale. We must engage the City's major employers, the University and Hospital, along with the schools and businesses, as partners in bringing new vitality to the City. We need to encourage a diversified economy, where inventors can commercialize their patents and where small enterprises can flourish. Our strengths lie in our highly educated and highly skilled population. Carbondale is a regional destination not only for shopping and sports, but also for intellectual and cultural activities. We must energize our enormous cultural capital.

Carbondale should be a beautiful city that attracts people to invest their hopes and dreams.

The kindness of strangers – The caring of neighbors

May 6th, 2016

At the community forum generated by Tim Beaty’s killing and the recent rash of violent crimes, two points were made by a number of participants:

  1. Many people don’t feel welcome here. One young man recounted his friend’s experience at Polar Bear when he was shot and no one would help him until his third or fourth attempt. Others said they experienced callous indifference from people they encountered, especially landlords, business people, the police, and others in positions of authority. They thought this contributed to a pervasive feeling that Carbondale isn’t safe.
  1. Combatting crime requires far more than official action. It requires that people feel – and act on – a sense of responsibility for one another. Tim’s spontaneous effort to protect partiers who fled the shooting was exemplary. He did not consider age, race, and other qualities, such as whether or not someone is a student or long-term resident, when he acted. They were neighbors; they needed help.

The weekend of April 22 to 25 we went to a truck camper rally in Gatlinburg, Virginia. That trip brought home, in a very personal way, the deep importance of the kindness of strangers and the caring of neighbors to my personal sense of security.

The kindness of strangers

Six a.m. Friday we packed the camper, hooked up our Suzuki Samurai, and took off in intermittent rain. Somewhere in Kentucky we breakfasted at a Waffle House.

Avon towing Suzuki

The catch: there was only one entrance/exit from the parking lot and while we were eating, cars parked where we needed to turn around. But, not to worry. A man came over to help us back our over-long rig around. He was a retired over-the-road trucker and knew exactly how to turn the wheels to give us clearance. Two points and we were on our way.


South of Fort Campbell traffic came to a screeching halt. D. jammed on his breaks and, as we stopped, we heard a loud crunch in our rear. D. inched the truck onto the shoulder. The tow bar had crumpled, pitching the Suzuki into our rear bumper. What to do? I said call our insurance company’s road service. Nope, D. fished out a hammer and screwdriver, disconnected the towbar, heaved it in the back of the camper, and we drove to the next exit. The fellows at the truck stop directed us to a Goodyear shop behind them. There, two helpful – and strong and smart – workmen made short work of banging our towbar back into shape and reattaching a cross brace. And they refused any payment. “They pay us good here,” they said, waving us on.

But wait, there’s more. We got to the rally and discovered that the headlights on the Suzuki were on. Permanently. As we set up our camper a couple of the other TC-ers came over to chat. They looked over the machine and figured out that a wire was caught where the front end pinched the wire into the radiator. They disconnected the wire and voila! lights out. The next morning the older man came back with a strap and come-along. Carefully placing it on the crumpled front of the Samurai and hooking it to our truck, he straightened out the bend, then made sure the hood closed, reconnected the wires, and it was like nothing had ever happened.

comealong2 comealong1

We had no other mishaps, in fact, had a delightful rally followed by a tour of Great Smoky Mountain National Park at the height of wildflower season, on an absolutely gorgeous day.

The caring of neighbors

As we headed out from home, D. realized he hadn’t arranged for his flower seedlings to be watered. I called a neighbor who said of course she’d water them.

Then, on Monday, we got a note from another neighbor saying he had picked up our weekend New York Times since he figured we wouldn’t want them lying around letting the world know we were gone.

He had, himself, been the recipient of observant neighbors who saw someone trying to break into his house while he was gone for winter break. They called the police and secured his door, leaving his home intact with nothing stolen.

I could recount many other ways that our neighbors have helped one another – when requested and through their vigilance, protecting neighbors from harm. “Neighbors,” in our neighborhood, include highly transient students and other renters as well as long-term residents.

Most of us long-term residents go out of our way to speak to everyone as we walk our dogs, work in our gardens, and walk about the neighborhood. We have mobilized when crime became prevalent; we have formal and informal picnics, parties, and meetings that we try to invite everyone to; and every fall we welcome the students who are moving in.

Strong neighborhoods won’t stop all crime, by any means. But strong neighborhoods can make strangers feel welcome and increase everyone’s sense of security.

To learn more about our neighborhood, visit the Arbor District website and the Arbor District Neighborhood Association Facebook page.

A neighborly community is an empowered community.


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