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Springfield, MO

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Rusty Saber

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by Joe McAdoo

Whether or not you like it probably depends on your personal preference. The "it" I'm talking about is the fact that Springfield has become a city, as opposed to a small town.

When I moved to Springfield 30 years ago, it was a small town with more residents than most small towns, but with all the trappings of a small town. Today, that small town has grown into a city, albeit a small one in comparison to St. Louis or Kansas City.

Some like city living, others are strictly small-town people. I'm a small-towner myself; there's a lot about city life I don't like. However, it offers certain advantages that I do like.

The most obvious sign that our little town has grown up to be a city is the infamous Springfield traffic gridlock. As Springfield and surrounding communities grow toward each other, traffic patterns spew out in the same directions; it becomes more and more intense. In other words, we have city-like traffic.

Traffic is made worse by (drum roll, please) the notorious Springfield drivers who don't know Springfield has become a city, nor that there are traffic lights and turn signals. Only recently have local and state governments begun to create "city" streets and highways, and traffic-control methods.

The James River Freeway and Schoolcraft Freeway are "city" traffic ways. Unfortunately they hook up with Kansas and Chestnut expressways.

By definition, expressways are limited-access, high-speed highways. City expressways "move" traffic; they do not slow it to a crawl with stop lights and 40 mph speed limits.

If the number of fast-food restaurants and other franchise businesses indicate the size of a city, Springfield must be about the size of Chicago.

A serious disadvantage of small towns can be a lack of adequate medical care. Springfield is blessed with two excellent "city" hospitals and lots of physicians. It's a 10-minute drive from my house to both Cox and St. John's.

As in most cities, the Federal Communications Commission has licensed a glut of radio stations in the Springfield market. I believe there are more than 20. I suppose the free-market system will prevail and determine how many stations will survive.

What's missing is "city" format diversity. For example, unlike most cities, we have no all-classical or all-jazz-blues stations. To find these varieties of music, one needs know when they are scheduled on KSMU, our local National Public Radio station.

Considering the popularity of the Springfield Symphony and the number of jazz and blues night clubs, I'm surprised that no commercial stations cater to either. However, country music tastes are catered to up and down the radio dial.

The aforementioned KSMU, along with KOZK, Ozarks Public Television, are sure signs that Springfield is a city. If a geographic area has no public radio and TV, it isn't a city.

I believe Springfield TV newscasts compare favorably with other "city" markets. If you've ever watched small-town TV news, you know that our stations are not small-town. In fact, compared to many big-city markets, Springfield TV anchor teams seem to spend more time reporting hard news.

A sure sign that Springfield has become a city is demonstrated by the success of this newspaper. A business journal needs an audience, a big-city business community.

Should the successful SBJ not be enough to document Springfield's status as a city, visit the state-of-the-art Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce headquarters on John Q. Hammons Parkway. It takes a dynamic, big-city economy to justify a facility like this. A strong business community driving the local economy is good for us all.

Although Springfield's criminal activity can no longer be called small-town, I, at least, feel safer walking on Springfield streets than in any city I've ever visited. Maybe the "bad guys" haven't figured out that this is a city. It's also possible that the Springfield Police Department is committed to keeping big-city gangs and their ilk out of town.

Springfield is no longer a small town. It is a city that will likely continue to grow, unless there is some effort to curtail growth. Pressures of city living will heighten; so, too, will the benefits.

(Joe McAdoo is former chairman of the communication department at Drury College and a Springfield public relations consultant.)

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