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Now’s the time to stop the population slide

The census numbers for St. Clair and Madison counties keep trending in an ominous direction: down.

The U.S. Census Bureau latest estimates show a continuing population decline, a combined 7,000 fewer people in the two counties than were counted in the 2010 census. It’s another drop from the bureau’s estimate a year ago.

St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern and Madison County Administrator Joe Parente stressed that estimates are different than actual counts, as if that makes the numbers less of a cause for concern. Kern, Parente and their fellow political leaders should be greatly alarmed by this trend. Instead of trying to discredit the numbers, they need to be redoubling their efforts to get them to trend upward.

Many people, us included, tend to blame a lot of the malaise on the state of Illinois with its deep debt and the burdensome costs of doing business here. But that doesn’t let our local political leaders off the hook; losing population means people are choosing to live elsewhere, and that has to be considered a failure of leadership.

Kern and Parente talk of bringing new business to the metro-east. They also need to pay more attention paid to the impoverished sections of the metro-east. The high crime rates in East St. Louis and surrounding communities stunts the growth potential of the entire metro-east. State’s Attorney Brendan Kelly is working hard to fix the crime problems, but what are other leaders doing to help?