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Old 11-29-2006, 02:07 PM
 
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We are contemplating a job possibility in Carbondale, Illinois. What can you tell us about the town itself, the university, public schools, and activities for kids? Are there arts programs for middle and high school students? Drama/dance/music/sports? How is the shopping there? Is the relationship between the university population and the town good, or is it strained? Is Carbondale safe and clean? How about housing? I read an article in CNN online recently about how houses there are nearly impossible to sell--is that still the case? How about the surrounding towns--Murphysboro, Herrin, etc? Better, worse, or indifferent? (Public schools in those towns would factor into the equasion as well.)

Sorry for the many questions, but this is a big decision...even if it may not even come to pass. Better to have all the facts before being faced with a choice.
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Old 11-30-2006, 08:28 AM
 
Location: Carbondale, IL
29 posts, read 195,025 times
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Default Perspective form 2 Years in Carbondale

Hi. We moved outside of Carbondale two years ago from Houston. We were driving through, fell in love with it, and bought a house on five acres with a large pond. We don't have kids, so I can't tell you too much about the school programs, but I'll do my best.

First let me say, what attracted me was that I thought it was a good blend of North/South (four seasons, but relatively mild) and rural/urban. The area is definitely small town/rural, but the university offers many cultural and recreational amenities, as well as ethnic restaurants and probably 75% of basic chain stores: Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Lowe's, Bed, Bath & Beyond. For a Target you have to drive to Marion.

Again, I don't have kids, but my grand-nieces love to visit. I know there is a great deal of support for high school sports and parents seem very involved with their children. SIU has an excellent art school. As a result a lot of artists settle in the area, so art is woven all through the community. There is also a city beach, nature classes for kids at Giant City State Park, lots of places to fish, hike, ride horses, camp etc. I believe there are seven lakes within a 30-mile radius, most of which are undeveloped. I can't speak to specifics on drama and dance, but I'm certain they have something. This week my 3-year-old grand-nephew will be at his first Christmas pageant at City Hall.

The relationship between SIU and the city is excellent. For one it is the major employer, plus it does provide so many cultural opportunities for residents to enjoy: public policy lectures, concerts in the park, symphony, theater, etc.

Carbondale is safe and clean. It has its problems like anywhere, but in general I feel safer than I did in the big city.

Housing is interesting. Saw the article you mentioned and, well, quite frankly they built a house in an area that doesn't support many houses in that price range, because salaries tend to be lower here (but so is the cost of living). My understanding is that Carbondale actually suffers from a shortage of housing. Overall the cost of housing is low and ranges from old farmhouses to new subdivisions. And there are some lovely subdivisions in Carbondale. The kicker is that you have to know where they are. In fact most of the best houses are tucked away off the beaten path.

We actually live half way between Carbondale and Murphysboro, with our address being Murphysboro. Again, I can't speak to the relative quality of the schools. But it does have one of the top Key Clubs in the nation. Recently I have gotten involved with helping the community on its new website. You might check it out at www.murphysboro.com It's still a work in progress, but may help give you a sense of the town. The town's pride and joy is the the Apple Festival, which boasts the largest parade in Southern Illinois. I can't speak to Herrin, but once you go north the land begins to flatten and it's not nearly as pretty as where we live.

I guess in summary, I can tell you two things I hear often around here. One is that Southern Illinois is the "North of the South." Its feel is more southern than northern. There is a definite attitude of southern hospitality. Secondly many people, leave have a career and move back here. Others come to work for a few years and never leave. You hear it over and over.

If you come to visit, stop by Main Street Carbondale in the old train station downtown. They are a wealth of info on the area.

Last edited by ratbert; 11-30-2006 at 09:33 AM.. Reason: correct grammar
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Old 11-30-2006, 11:16 AM
 
Location: Austin, TX
944 posts, read 3,575,198 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbert View Post
The relationship between SIU and the city is excellent. For one it is the major employer, plus it does provide so many cultural opportunities for residents to enjoy: public policy lectures, concerts in the park, symphony, theater, etc.
Thanks for the great information. I gave Carbondale some thought when I was looking at random small towns to move to where I'd have access to culture and natural beauty and you have confirmed my suspicions.

Your comment (quoted above) about the university and town is really interesting and a stark contrast to Austin, where the university is massive but seems walled off from the rest of the city. It's right in the middle of town but it's not a good "citizen" --- they don't interact well as an institution with any other entities, they barge into neighborhoods and do whatever they want without getting public input, they prevent the extension of our hike-and-bike system simply because they own so much land and they don't want the public using it (and they have no good reason for this anti-community policy.)

But the thing I notice most is how difficult it is to filter my way through the information systems in order to find events that are open to the public. On any given night of the week I could be hearing lectures by world-reknowned scientists or historians, listening to world-class music, seeing theatrical or dance performances, etc., but I have NO CLUE what's going on there because it doesn't get published much outside of the individual colleges that comprise the university. Our local daily newspaper and the weekly alternative paper are both void of information about almost ANY event taking place on campus, which is really sad. Not that there isn't a ton of stuff to do already in Austin, but I'd love to be attending more events at the U.
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Old 11-30-2006, 01:19 PM
 
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Thanks for this good information. Interesting contrast to Austin; I spent several years there as a walled-off college student years ago. I thought that the new "keep Austin weird" campaign (or whatever it is) was to keep the cool, funky, private-owned businesses...that I assumed the college students frequented. I guess I was wrong. Sorry you have trouble finding what's going on at The U. (I was taught that "THE" is part of the the name and thereby warranted capitalization.) I'm surprised the (oops...I mean The) university website isn't more helpful.

Anyway,keep those C'dale comments coming! :-)
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Old 11-30-2006, 01:58 PM
 
Location: Austin, TX
944 posts, read 3,575,198 times
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Originally Posted by Chloe07 View Post
Interesting contrast to Austin; I spent several years there as a walled-off college student years ago. I thought that the new "keep Austin weird" campaign (or whatever it is) was to keep the cool, funky, private-owned businesses...that I assumed the college students frequented.
I have a "keep Austin weird" bumper sticker on my car, coincidentally. That campaign is, indeed, about supporting local businesses and staying away from the chain stores that make every city too similar to one another and ruin local culture. We have a thriving local business culture with (for example) at least 25 independent funky coffeehouses, hundreds of funky retail shops, a remnant of the extremely minimalist funky music venues (which peaked about 20 years ago), and a high tolerance for weirdness in many forms. But it's really not connected to the university at all. I don't think the students or the U are the force behind keeping Austin unique, it's the people who live and work here because they love the city, not the kids who are here to party and maybe get a bachelor's degree in sociology between hangovers .
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Old 12-01-2006, 08:36 AM
 
Location: Carbondale, IL
29 posts, read 195,025 times
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Default Carbondale & Austin

Hi again. I was checking out some art openings tonight and came across the fact that they have a young artists program through SIU starting at age 5. Thought that might be something you'd be interested in knowing Chloe.

Coming from Texas, we too are familiar with Austin, but mainly from what we know from friends and occasional visits. I did comment to my husband when we came here that Carbondale reminded me in some ways of a much smaller version of Austin. SIU is considered a liberal school, and with the art school, there is a fair amount of "funk factor". In fact, in the recent governor's election, 20% of the county voted for the Green Party (of course he was a local candidate too.) But there are very small town conservative pockets too.

I think the University does a pretty good job of letting the community know what's going on. Things are always advertised on the marquee at the entrance and there is a calendar. You do have to remember to check on certain things, but the info is readily available. One of the things that most impresses me is the public policy institute founded by Paul Simon. Tom Friedman spoke here the week his book "The World is Flat" was published and the lecture was free! We would have paid $50 to see him as members of the World Affairs Council in Houston.

Most recently the university has a new president, a local boy, and he is making big strides in economic development for the area. Access to broadband is an issue for much of Southern Illinois, so SIU is backing an effort to push for coverage.

In fact, the biggest "gripe" I've heard from locals is how traffic gets heavy when the students come back in the Fall. Traffic!!! Makes my husband and I want to roll on the floor laughing. Of course my route is about to get worse. Amish just bought the big orchard to the south of us, so that'll be slowing down my favorite commute.
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Old 12-01-2006, 08:42 AM
 
Location: Carbondale, IL
29 posts, read 195,025 times
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Default Big Snowstorm

And for the record...we didn't see a single snow flake.
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Old 12-01-2006, 08:54 AM
 
Location: Austin, TX
944 posts, read 3,575,198 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbert View Post
...they have a young artists program through SIU starting at age 5.
Wow, that is fantastic! I hope Chloe sees your post.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbert View Post
I did comment to my husband when we came here that Carbondale reminded me in some ways of a much smaller version of Austin.
I'm listening!
Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbert View Post
...there is a fair amount of "funk factor". In fact, in the recent governor's election, 20% of the county voted for the Green Party... But there are very small town conservative pockets too.
Fantastic! I love that type of mixture of people, as long as they're generally friendly and accepting of differences. That's something I really enjoy in Austin. My social circles on the west coast are so uber-PC-leftist that it feels like an exclusive club where new ideas are not welcome (I'm exaggerating), whereas in Austin you can find lots of people who don't identify with a political party or the "left vs. right" debate. Many of us enjoy exploring ideas from as many viewpoints as possible and simply trying to come to the most logical or appealing conclusion, but even after coming to a conclusion we'll stay open to new information that will change our minds.
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Originally Posted by ratbert View Post
Tom Friedman spoke here the week his book "The World is Flat" was published and the lecture was free!
I'm actually listening to the audio book version these days, it's taking a while because it's 15 discs and I only listen while driving, but I'm on disc 11 and it has completely changed my views about the global economy. In the "other topics" section of the city-data forums there is a thread about Walmart in which I advise people to read or listen to that book because it is so good at helping explain the global economy from a non-partisan perspective. Friedman made me feel OK about shopping at Walmart again! Coincidentally, right after posting my pro-Walmart comments there were major stories on cable news about new protests against Walmart because of their terrible labor practices. But I believe this is how it all works, Walmart gives us low prices, we protest some of their policies, they'll eventually be forced to play fair or they'll be hurt financially, it's just evolution .
Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbert View Post
In fact, the biggest "gripe" I've heard from locals is how traffic gets heavy when the students come back in the Fall. Traffic!!!
It's surprisingly bad in many small towns because those towns usually don't have the ability to provide adequate infrastructure. I doubt you have a selection of 6-lane freeways to choose from when you "commute" from one end of town to the other .
Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbert View Post
...my route is about to get worse. Amish just bought the big orchard to the south of us, so that'll be slowing down my favorite commute.
I would welcome that. Look at it this way: you're going to have the opportunity to see something unique that makes you slow down, be more careful, and look around you to see the little things that you miss when you're driving with only your destination in mind. There is so much beauty to be found in even a flat piece of grassland. Then again, if you're driving through endless corn or soy fields you might want to focus on trhe beauty of the sky instead .

Why did you choose the name Ratbert? I love that character!
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Old 12-01-2006, 09:00 AM
 
Location: Austin, TX
944 posts, read 3,575,198 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ratbert View Post
And for the record...we didn't see a single snow flake.
Amazing!!! You dodged the proverbial bullet, cuz people in all directions from you are without power, shoveling snow or scraping ice, etc. At least that's how they're making it look on TV...
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Old 12-01-2006, 09:53 AM
 
Location: Carbondale, IL
29 posts, read 195,025 times
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Quote:
Why did you choose the name Ratbert? I love that character!
I work in marketing with engineers.

Quote:
I would welcome that. Look at it this way: you're going to have the opportunity to see something unique that makes you slow down, be more careful, and look around you to see the little things that you miss when you're driving with only your destination in mind. There is so much beauty to be found in even a flat piece of grassland.
Actually the hills, curves and the deer make traveling at high speeds impossible. In fact, one route is so hilly, your stomach will drop if you aren't careful. I was joking about the Amish. We are delighted to know the orchard will be well maintained. That route is just an incredibly beautiful drive and it was marred by some pretty awful housing used by the "field hands" and migrant workers. I'm glad to see the houses go, but can't help but feel sad about the residents.

Actually I can take State Highways all the way into and through town, but it's so much prettier to go the back ways...the thing that I enjoy most is that every month it is different.

Quote:
But I believe this is how it all works, Walmart gives us low prices, we protest some of their policies, they'll eventually be forced to play fair or they'll be hurt financially, it's just evolution.
I agree with you. This is a big issue in Murphysboro right now. Friedman had a big impact here. This area has so much going for it, but jobs are scarce. The thought is that cost of living is low, wages are low, and there are lots of educational, cultural, and natural resources, the missing piece is having the broadband infrastructure to attract business. That and marketing.

Quote:
I love that type of mixture of people, as long as they're generally friendly and accepting of differences.
I grew up in a small town and diversity was a big issue for me, especially coming from Houston. Some people say that they feel like they were never really accepted by the locals here, but we don't feel that way. I think in part because we've gotten involved. Getting involved with the Murphy website, for example, was a fantastic way to get to know everyone and everything going on. I always chuckle at the fact that everyone calls the mayor "Ron", not "Mayor Ron", just "Ron".

Quote:
I'm listening!
I could go on and on. Obviously this was our choice and we love many, many things about it. I never thought I would ever live in a small town again, but here we are. The best part is when my hubby has a tough day, he can walk out and cast a few lures in our pond/lake. It hasn't been without its adjustments, but when we need a city fix, St. Louis is just 2 hours away.
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