* This NPR story on Cairo is a very good read, so go take a look at the whole thing…
There is a lot of talk right now about how best to try and bring back struggling small towns, especially in the rural Midwest which Donald Trump carried easily. Many of these places would also see steep cuts in aid if the president’s budget gains traction in Congress. Visit Cairo, and at times it feels like a town on life support.
“You know, you say to your government, we want to clean it up,” Matthews says. “But we need help.”
In Cairo, there is a lot of anger and many people feel slighted. A few years back, then-Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn visited with reportedly great fanfare at the time and designated Cairo as a port authority. The idea was that the town could once again take advantage of all the barge traffic on the rivers. The governor left town, and so did the promise of funds.
A frustrated Tyrone Coleman, Cairo’s mayor, says the town is well positioned to take advantage of the expected increased barge traffic due to the Panama Canal expansion. After all, it’s what put the city on the map in the 1800s.
“Strategically, geographically, this is one of the most untapped resource areas in the country,” Coleman says.
Lately some state lawmakers have made renewed commitments. In a statement, Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office says he is working to make Cairo and other small Illinois towns competitive. But in Cairo, that’s a tough task.
* By the way, the area’s new state Senator, Dale Fowler, has been making Cairo a priority…
* Fowler makes sixth trip to Cairo since election, discusses river development: “All I saw was potential,” Fowler said of his first trip. He has been back five more times, including Friday with Cairo Mayor Tyrone Coleman, Illinois Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno, of Lemont, and a busload of other local leaders. The group hit the highlights of town — Fort Defiance, the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and Magnolia Manor.
* Editorial: Fowler’s presence in Cairo a sign of hope: Over the years, leaders have come to the city with promises. Driving through Cairo, it’s evident most of those promises were empty. But, Cairo Public Utility Manager Larry Klein, who said in Sunday’s story that he’s seen at least 50 similar trips by politicians, this feels different. He saw something that he called “a ball of fire” in Fowler.