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Mark W. Schwiebert

Mark W. Schwiebert

Within the Quad Cities community, we’ve experienced some of our greatest successes in recent years from working together on common goals. In the 1990s and early 2000s, joint efforts from both sides of the river working through the Quad Cities Development Group, allowed us to defend and preserve the Rock Island Arsenal – at the time, the area’s largest employer – against repeated base closings that swept the country.

Cooperation through the Bi-State Regional Commission gave our area among the best bike and hike trail systems in the country along with many other regional benefits. And working together brought us the new $1.5 billion I-74 bridge – and, hopefully someday soon, a return of passenger rail service to the Quad Cities.

In the Quad Cities there are certainly issues that can divide us. Cities sometimes compete for the same businesses, though intergovernmental agreements not to "raid" each other’s territory have greatly limited this.  There is also a disturbing tendency on the part of some to criticize or belittle Illinois and its communities. While certainly criticism can be due on both sides of the river, such comments are not well received by those of us who choose to live and work in one state, nor do they advance our regional prospects.

Fortunately, we learned a long time ago in the Quad Cities that there is much more that unites than divides us and much more on which we agree than on which we disagree. And we’ve all benefited from acting on that principle.

Which leads to the question of why it is so seemingly difficult at the national level to find areas of agreement and then to build on those shared interests.

For example, watching the Democratic presidential debates, I’m struck by divisions surrounding several recurring and consistent themes. The debates and ongoing public dialogue will hopefully lead to a growing consensus around these themes – not only by the candidates themselves but by those of us called upon to vote.

For example, there seems to be a growing consensus that decent affordable health care should be considered a right for all and not a privilege for some. Since all other industrialized nations in the world already offer universal healthcare coverage, it is odd that our nation – which has long cherished its role as a world leader – does not have this.  Whether adoption of "Medicare for all" or some variation of this, the right to affordable health care is something we should all agree on.

Likewise, there is growing concern that the economy isn’t working for many Americans, while rewarding a few with extreme wealth. Without suggesting everyone should have equal wealth, since different skills and efforts are required for different jobs, we certainly should agree that everyone in our land should have an equal opportunity to realize his or her potential. This requires better funding for education – from preschool through trade school or college. Making education more affordable and available, funding it at least in part by taking back the ridiculous tax cuts given the wealthiest Americans in 2017, should also be something we can all get behind.

Finally, everyone - seemingly except the current occupant of the Oval Office and his ever-changing circle of yes-men - recognizes climate change is real and dangerous. Devastating whole communities with fire or flood; triggering terrorism and political instability in drought-ravaged parts of the world, climate change demands dramatic action now. Major building projects to create more environmentally friendly energy grids, transportation systems, and buildings will create a vast number of jobs and help leave a habitable planet behind for our children and their children.

Hopefully in the days ahead, a consensus on these and similar issues will set our country on a path where we can be a world leader once again, and not simply a belligerent outsider as we’ve too often become over the last couple of years.

This path will require applying lessons we’ve learned here in the Quad Cities, both on a national and global stage.

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Mark Schwiebert, a lawyer, is a former mayor of Rock Island. Voices of the Quad-Cities, which features the work of local writers, appears on Tuesdays.

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