In recent days a pair of noteworthy recreational improvements have taken shape in Pine Bluff. The first is the installation and painting of a new bridge at the present terminus of the Lake Saracen Walking Trail and the other is the re-opening of a vastly improved Jaycee Golf Course at MLK Park.

In recent days a pair of noteworthy recreational improvements have taken shape in Pine Bluff. The first is the installation and painting of a new bridge at the present terminus of the Lake Saracen Walking Trail and the other is the re-opening of a vastly improved Jaycee Golf Course at MLK Park.

Perhaps you don’t play golf or you have no interest in a walking path. Many residents will never make use of either facility. Even so, their existence adds a tangible benefit to our community. In a recent online survey of successful cities, Business Week, along with Bloomberg Rankings, published a list of the best places to live in the U. S. The ranking was based on an assessment of 16 criteria, which included: the number of restaurants, bars, and museums per capita; the number of colleges, libraries, and professional sports teams; the income, poverty, unemployment, crime, and foreclosure rates; percent of population with bachelor’s degrees, public school performance, park acres per 1,000 residents, and air quality.

Of these, Pine Bluff is shut out of only one category — professional sports teams. Even then, readers may recall the ill-fated professional baseball team, the Locomotives. Pro sports isn’t impossible, but realistically we won’t be attracting the Lakers anytime soon. That said, there’s probably a single-A farm team out there that would find a nice home here.

To the rest of the list, we’ve just made considerable gains in the parks and green space category. Obviously, we could do better. Thanks to the able leadership of Angela Parker and the Parks Department, progress is evident. The Jaycees also deserve a word of thanks.

To the other 14 items, there is much work to be done. Much work is being done. Unfortunately, some of what needs to be done is being hampered by entrenched grudges, bad habits, myopic leadership and political subterfuge.

While the November elections will likely provide some remedies, the broader program of public improvement rests in the hands of the citizens themselves. Museums, colleges and libraries exist only to the extent they are funded, attended and otherwise valued. Educational attainment and public school quality are similarly influenced at the individual level. The administration of our largest higher educational institution, UAPB, has recently recognized ensconced bad habits and is moving to address them. So too, are the Pine Bluff and Dollarway school districts.

While the political furors of late do not paint these institutions in particularly flattering light, at least the problems of the past are being acknowledged and discussed. This is the first step toward betterment. With regard to the twined issues of economic development, income, poverty, unemployment and foreclosure rates, we see reason for metered optimism. Retail developments, both at The Pines mall and along South Olive Street, suggest increased economic stability and vigor. Air quality is one area of social health that doesn’t raise much ire here. Even the casual observer knows we have a few problems in that regard. These problems owe to development choices made long ago. Fortunately, external regulation is compelling progress in these area. At least our water quality is very good.

With regard to the remaining issue — crime — we are forced to face a less promising reality. Despite protestations from an increasingly unavailable police administration, local crimes against persons, property and society appear to buck national trends. Moreover, the police administration seems to want to self-immolate at every public relations juncture. This combines into a pair of ugly problems: the factual reality of local crime and the tailspin of negative image brought on by recurrent administrative lapses.

Yes, in every one of the aforementioned areas we could do better. We must do better. Even so, there are positive things happening in the community and we should acknowledge them, celebrate them and encourage additional efforts of a similar kind.