Sackcloth and Ashes
Sackcloth and ashes is an old Hebrew custom, that by wearing this, sackcloth and ashes, we are saying that we are sorry and sad for things we have done wrong. I find myself thinking that Paducah is suffering from this sackcloth and ashes syndrome in our repeatedly negative thoughts as to why our population is declining instead of growing. More specifically we are compared to Owensboro, a city I know something about. I was born there.
In an effort to stem this flow of sorrow and sadness I would, at the risk of being Pollyanna, offer up a few thoughts on our less than moribund city downtown. I am centering my attention on this area since Owensboro has gained some bit of positive press as of late.
In the child’s game “I’m better than you are” we could offer many comparisons between our two cities. Though not downtown, we could start with the new Owensboro hospital with its 477 beds to our two hospitals with 732 beds. Both cities boast similar performing art centers and convention centers. Our National Quilt Museum is their Bluegrass Music Museum, good for both cities for these one of a kind museums and festivals.
While Paducah does not have the two downtown hotels that Owensboro has, it should be noted that Owensboro had three hometown developers to get the hotels and more, well, developed. Just because we do not have a downtown hotel now doesn’t mean this is the way it will always be. Not to make excuses, Paducah received only a quarter of the federal dollars for its riverfront park, yet, we to are on a path to our park, built and funded in our own way. I think you could point with pride to Crounce, Ingram, and the Paducah and Louisville Railroad in their relocations downtown. Owensboro’s Texas Gas Transmission just moved to their downtown.
I would be remiss in not mentioning several unique to Paducah places. The Maiden Alley Cinema is one of only four art house theaters in Kentucky. Paducah is the only city in Kentucky with a UNESCO designation. How cool is that. And then there is the National Geographic Travel top 50 cities to visit. And did I mention that Paducah is one of a little more than 100 cities nationwide to be awarded a National Main Street City. Add in The Market House Theater, Lower Town Arts District, Symphony Orchestra, floodwall murals, River Discovery Center, William Clark, Paducah Train Museum and the Seaman’s Church for Maritime Training Facility, and you would have an impressive list for any downtown, much less a city of 25,000 souls.
Am I happy about the status quo of no growth? Of course not. But I feel that Paducah and McCracken County will solve our growth problem. In our own way and yes, in our own time. Look, we have an enormously talented citizenry. We accomplish much, and will continue to do so. At this juncture I’m trying to provide some balance in our outlook. This sackcloth and ashes mentality is not productive.