I have always prided myself on being a realist. I look at the situation as it is and try to make the best of it.

Sometimes it is hard. Some of those hard times, I do allow myself to dream. And, oh, when I do, what I envision for the Mid-Mon Valley and its people!

I watch and read every day and see the struggles our communities, school districts and boards face in trying to provide the best they can for their taxpayers and members. And it is not an easy chore.

It often seems like for every small, painstaking step forward earned there is usually a huge, debilitating step back that follows. Finally pay off one debt and then put together a budget that often includes a deficit so wide that taxes must be raised.

Build this … lose that.

Again. And again. And again.

A vicious cycle.

That’s pretty much life with small communities.

But does it have to be that way? Do we always have to be like baby birds in a nest fighting for a little piece of the worm just to survive another day?

And that’s when the dreamer in me sometimes pops up.

What if, instead of all these little cities, boroughs and townships that make up the Mid-Mon Valley, there was just one big city?

Mon Valley, Pa.

Instead of these little towns trying to make ends meet you have one huge city. From Elizabeth to Donora to Monessen to Rostraver Township to Charleroi to Perryopolis to Brownsville.

Instead of communities with populations of 2,500, 7,000 or maybe 10,000 people, imagine one Mon Valley City – population 95,000-plus. That’s the population of the little more than 20 communities that make up the Mid-Mon Valley region.

That would give you the fourth largest city in the state behind Philadelphia, Allentown and Pittsburgh and just ahead of Erie.

When the leaders of Mon Valley would talk, the rest of the state would have to listen.

Just think of how much stroke Mon Valley would have in the state. How much more we could be getting in funds and services. And how much better we could manage what we have and spread it around where needed most.

We would not be getting the short end of the stick from the state. Heck, we’d be at the front of the list.

Putting all of our pieces together and having so much less government, so much less red tape and boundaries and so much more resources to draw on.

Instead of all these school districts trying against odds to offer the best education to their students we would have one Mon Valley School District that would include several branch campuses. Again, more resources and less limitations.

That’s my dream, in a nutshell. But the realist in me says it would not happen – not because it would never work, but because we have too many set in their ways small thinkers in charge who won’t give the big picture a chance. Everyone worries about losing their identity.

But, look around, what IS our identity?

Everybody wants to be the mayor, the chief, the coach, the boss. And that’s sad.

Some may laugh at my dream. But at the same time, they will all complain about how their little piece of Pennsylvania gets too little respect, too little help, too little services.

Yep, I’m a realist. And the realist in me says this concept will never happen in my lifetime. Our differences within or own communities are so great, let alone trying to break down the boundaries we have all known all of our lives.

But, still, I can dream. And sometimes I do.

The things I sometimes dream about have worked other places. Why not here?

I just wish more people would at least take the time to at least think about it.