The East St. Louis residents behind the move to save students from the bad examples at the liquor stores have some valid concerns and ideas, but it is easy to see those ideas quickly colliding with reality.
To keep school students from seeing the drunks and drug dealers, they would limit the liquor stores and quick marts. They would also want to add neighborhood grocery stores offering healthy foods.
The city and Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks deserve credit for making the liquor application process into a public hearing. Not too long ago that process was a private payday for politicians. Still, the residents are right that city leaders should cut the number of liquor licenses, especially when they only issued 47 out of the 81 available.
As far as swapping “bad” businesses for “good” businesses, that’s a process that is troubling. When government picks winners, it is always at someone else’s expense and rarely does more than create the potential for corruption.
If there is a demand for healthy food rather than cheap, empty calories that make our children fat, then some smart businessperson will fill that demand. That requires education of parents, or education of the child making food choices.
Rather than hiding those corner drunks, make them cautionary tales about success through education and hard work.
If the stores do not discourage loitering and litter, then the city has a legitimate role. It can step in and enforce existing ordinances.
It is hard to change a community by simply limiting the businesses that tell you there are economic and societal problems. Maybe the better path is to ensure businesses all play on a level field, that city leaders and workers deal honestly with the business community and that those businesses and their customers feel safe.
That path is long.