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    Many Paths: 4 reasons Galesburg's population is declining and how we can stop the trend

    By Bruce Weik,

    25 days ago

    After five decades of population decline, let’s look at how we are doing.

    Four areas have been identified to explain why people leave a city.

    1. Cost of living-high property taxes: The cost of living is up everywhere, spurred on by the pandemic, a shortage of consumer goods and corporate greed. Many items have gone up double and triple, and it does not appear likely they will go back down anytime soon. Being able to afford a starter home, once the American dream, is just about out of reach for an average income family. The mortgage itself might not be any higher than renting, (median rent in Galesburg was recorded as $650 in the 2020 census, which is more than likely $750 now). After adding property taxes, and property insurance, that once affordable mortgage goes to $1100-$1300 per month, well outside of the range for a medium income family. We brag that we are a low-cost town. That mostly is an illusion.
    2. Infrastructure concerns, primarily roads and sewers: If roads are a major concern for people moving into or staying in Galesburg, we’re doomed. Our roads will never be what they once were. The expense has become too great. I may be wrong, but I do not believe good roads are a way for Galesburg to prosper. Sewers are another matter. Our storm sewers have a terrible time when we receive any amount of rain. Many roads and basements continue to flood. Once again, this is a terribly high expense to remedy. Putting our money into developing to the North only increases our liability for future generations, rather than fixing what we have. It would take a considerable amount of our discretionary money, probably over at least a ten-year period, to bring our storm sewers up to date. With development to the North, we only get more storm sewer liability, as well as street liability, for our future generations. It is a recipe for insolvency.
    3. Crime and safety: Our crime rate is high for a small, rural community. Our crime rate has seen a rise in violent crime and property crime, mainly attributed to drug use and sales, and a high poverty rate. The safety factor for residents has gone up. On the positive side, our officers have increased from 42-55; our officers of color have increased from 4-10, and number of female officers from 3-11. People wanting to move or stay in Galesburg will take notice of our efforts in this area. We must confront this rise with ever increasing vigilance.
    4. Quality of life: Quality of life includes such factors as healthcare availability, job possibilities, a sense of security and safety, good governance, racism, discrimination of all types, good educational opportunities, lively neighborhoods, good parks, affordable housing, and opportunities for people to gather, meet, and support one another. We have made good progress on some of these over the last three years, primarily due to a shift from right-wing austerity, stressing promotion of the status quo, to shifting to a growth mindset.

    I personally believe quality of life issues are foremost on the mind of anyone wanting to relocate to Galesburg or stay in Galesburg. This is where we should be spending our tax dollars.

    This is what will end a five-decade old loss of population. Not more fast-food establishments, tobacco stores, coffee shops, gambling parlors, liquor stores, or sheltered parking downtown.

    If something isn’t working, you must change, or be willing to pay the consequences. That would be six decades of declining population.

    Bruce Weik was a longtime columnist for The Zephyr and is co-creator of Many Paths Galesburg since 2019.

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