JEFFERSONVILLE — My city, my mayor, not long ago welcomed yet-more commerce to come. A Starbucks is among what is on the way.
People really like Starbucks, the mayor said.
The mayor seeks re-election this year. So do mayors in New Albany and in Charlestown. Many top leaders in Clarksville and in Sellersburg, likewise, hope to stay put. All keep busy keeping up with exciting groundbreakings and ribbon-cuttings.
Bigger is better. Growth is good. Starbucks signals success, Grande-sized.
I would be a hypocrite to complain. I, too, like new stuff. Another rumor of a Costco makes my day.
Let me remind why most of us live in Southern Indiana, though.
We do not like Louisville all that much. It's just not us.
We do not want to be Louisville. We do want to be near it. Louisville is loaded with upsides, ones on which we depend. Smaller fits better, however. It suits us unapologetically. New Albany and Jeffersonville and Clarksville remain mostly as handy antidotes. Sellersburg and Charlestown and Floyds Knobs attract those who prefer still-smaller. For some, the more rural the better.
Few in Nabb dream of living in New York, I'd guess.
I am a fifth-generation resident of Jeffersonville, at least by post-office definition. My ancestors settled, and stayed, despite there being no cool coffee shop, not so much as a single grocery that also sells sneakers. If my family felt looked down on by Louisville, it coped.
It believed smugly like do many of us: We have the best of both worlds.
Still, I worry that Southern Indiana is turning into Northern Louisville. Our beloved smallness seems at risk. We are less and less like Mayberry. Our police are overwhelmed. Our courts are overloaded, our jails packed. Our streets jam and crumble from so much use.
Our historic role as bedroom communities might go the way of Jeffboat and Colgate and New Albany Box and Basket and the Southside.
Granted, be it with Starbucks or whatever, Southern Indiana now meets more needs. My parents celebrated special occasions in Louisville. They went there, as well, for care from physician specialists and to see shows and ballgames. How much choice did they have?
By contrast, I went to Louisville far more often in 1979 than I will in 2019. Thank goodness I can get a good meal, hear a good concert, buy a good shirt, and be checked by a good doctor without paying a good-for-nothing toll.
And if I still needed a good job, more of them, too, now exist on our side of the Ohio River. The incredible transformation at River Ridge must make Louisville drool.
Thing is, growth and convenience come at a steep price. Losses accompany gains. I blame no one. Changing without changing is Houdini-like tricky. Few of us in Southern Indiana can master the trick.
Our communities look more differently than they feel. But they have begun, too, to feel differently. More faces mean more unfamiliar faces. Neighbors come and go like Amazon deliverers.
All of this screams reasons to vote in the upcoming city-and-town elections. We are choosing leaders who are crucial to follow. They decide which roads next to pave and whose swampy neighborhoods most deserve a drainage fix. Stray dogs are on their agenda, same with broken swings in parks and delinquent sewer bills.
They are counted on to see to it that low-income families are housed and that police officers and firefighters can be both here and there in a jiffy.
While members of Congress do whatever members of Congress do, local mayors and council members pay attention to matters that most may matter. We ask a lot of these leaders and, yes, we can ask. Most seem as reachable as all should be.
Ask them which businesses are coming. I get it. It too is fair, though, to ask both them and ourselves when is enough growth enough? Can we overdose on progress?
Louisville is our neighbor to stay. Hassles stay along with it. Not just big-city fireworks come with the geography. Big city sprawl does. too.
What really is best for us? What makes us happiest and proudest? If I knew answers, I could run myself.
Instead, affording Starbucks will do as a challenge.
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