Rick Ortiz, Belleville, ILI think it’s time for this blog. It’s time for a different message about this town. I feel like Belleville’s history and future really need it to be told. It’s time for a different story of Belleville, Illinois. It’s time for our story to be told.

People who know me know that I’m all about my hometown. Why? Because I want to feel like a traveller even when I’m home; especially when I’m home. I want to be engaged and entertained by newness. I don’t like taking the same path day in and day out, but sometimes I like to feel welcome and familiar. That’s the way Belleville, Illinois makes me feel.

I enjoy the people you meet in this town. I like drinking in a bar that’s been a tavern for a long long time. I like heading down a newly-discovered alley on my daily run and seeing this town from a new perspective. Even though I’ve lived here for half a century it seems like I discover something new every day, and I think when you discover something new every day it makes for a happy life.

I like to know who the city leaders are whether they are elected officials or sports legends, musicians, business people or artists. And you won’t be long in Belleville before you start to figure out who you need to talk to to get something done. Everybody here has their go-to contacts and Bellevillian’s love to share their knowledge of this town.

I had to buy new tires this week and off-hand 5 or 6 different mechanics came to mind. Guys I know and trust who do what they do really well. And you know them by name and you recognize each other when your out to dinner with your family or when you bump into one another at a Main Street bar.

The City put together a 20-Year Plan and I read it because I wanted to know where we say we’re heading. It’s won awards. It’s good, but the prediction that got me thinking was the number 55,145. According to predictions that will be our population in 20 years – an increase from today’s 42,200. An increase of 25%

Now, one of Belleville’s problems as I’ve always seen it is that we collectively don’t tell our story very well – everybody’s got their Belleville stories but in these days of “newer is better” sometimes the old time-tested stories don’t get heard as well. Sometimes Belleville doesn’t even recognize ourselves in a mirror. A Historical Preservation expert came to Belleville a few years ago and did a presentation about Belleville’s historical treasures. The place was packed. But what amazed me was that he simply played a slideshow of everyday features of our town all the while telling us why we’re beautiful and should be preserved. You can always tell the person from out of town because they’re smiling from ear to ear as they take in a show at the Skyview Drive-In, or enjoy our historic but unpretentious Main Street. Sometimes Belleville just needs to be reminded.

So, I figured: 55,145!  People are coming our way so we should let them know what to expect when they get here. We should tell them where to get their tires, who to call.  We need to put our story out there so that the people who will get us and appreciate us find us and come to claim their place in our town.

So, if you already live here, I hope this first blog post makes you want to read more about a cast of characters you already know and love played out on a beautiful stage. I want you to tell your story too, so contact me here.

If you are just passing through I hope you discover what we love about our city and I hope you and your family feel good about knowing that this isn’t just a place to live, it’s a way of life. It’s a tribe, a family, a beautiful town.

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U Speak Belleville? seeks to ask questions and hear stories and points of view of all residents, artists and business people in and about Belleville, Illinois. Comments are moderated. We welcome thoughtful discourse and comments. Critical is fine but if you're comment is rude it will be deleted. No name-calling. Have fun and thanks for adding to U Speak Belleville?