Persistence Pays Off: Caruthersville Rallies to Pass Livable Streets Ordinance

After nearly one year of public meetings, persistence, and a lot of hard work, a Livable Streets ordinance was passed in Caruthersville in April 2017. Dawn Jordan, Caruthersville Healthy Communities Coordinator for Pemiscot County Initiative Network, led the effort to bring Livable Streets to Caruthersville. “The motivation was to make sure the streets are livable, useable, and resident-friendly,” Jordan said.

It took hitting the streets and a community-wide effort to make the passage of the ordinance a reality.

“We had meetings. We went to several businesses. We went to residents as a whole. I went to some of my committee members that are on the Caruthersville Healthy Communities Board, so they were able to voice their opinions as well,” Jordan said. “Abby from PedNet came in and met with residents, business owners, the mayor, and some council men and women as well.”

As one of the leaders for the Walking School Bus, Dawn Jordan has seen first-hand, the need for safer sidewalks, especially for children walking to school, “Some of the sidewalks have trees that are uprooted and moving the sidewalk. There’s so many kids that are tripping on uneven sidewalks and some streets don’t have sidewalks, so we have to walk into the streets to get to school.”

Creating opportunity for the community

One of the main concerns about the ordinance was what it would cost the community. Inserting language into the ordinance that specified that it would apply only to new development was key to sealing the deal. “We’re not a big town. And the council was concerned about the financial aspects of it,” said Jordan.

Another selling point for Livable Streets in Caruthersville was the opportunity to attract new funding streams to improve older streets and sidewalks.

“We want to be able to redo the sidewalks and streets, but like a lot of rural communities, we do not have a budget for that. If you want grants to help with redevelopment, you have to have something in place to say that it is an important issue to your community— ‘our streets are important and the sidewalks are important.’ Now that [Livable] Streets has passed, we can say we have a [Livable] Streets Ordinance and we need help.”

Jordan had encouraging words of advice for advocates who want to make their communities safer with Livable Streets policy:

“Don’t give up. One of the council members said that it was because of my persistence that the ordinance was passed. I did not let a meeting go by that I wasn’t there bringing up the issue. So even when it looks like it may not be approved, just go to the meetings and keep going. It may take awhile for it to be approved, but never give up.”