It usually happens to coastal towns, quaint little out-of-the-way places with nice quiet beaches. They're sleepy, family-friendly communities with sunny weather, wholesome pastimes and affordable prices – until someone “discovers” them.
That's when the others start coming. The first ones come because it's unspoiled, like the places they used to go to until everyone else caught on and started going there. Next thing you know, the whole world is in on it, the serenity that made it so appealing evaporates, and it becomes a garish tourist trap with all the attendant vices as prices skyrocket and the locals find themselves being bossed around by obnoxious outsiders and suddenly are unable to keep up with the cost of living in their own hometown.
Some of the locals make out like bandits, of course, and call it progress. The rest get left behind, remembering how it used to be and ruing the degradation.
Madison County may be landlocked, in the very center of the country, but it has gone through a similar transformation. Only, instead of nice quiet beaches, we had nice quiet courthouses, until someone discovered them and the others followed.
As we noted in an editorial last month, Madison County residents no longer enjoy precedence over outsiders in our own courts, the courts we pay for with our taxes. On the first day of December 2014, 181 asbestos cases were scheduled for trial in Madison County Court, only one of which involved a plaintiff from Madison County.
The totals for the year were not much better. Out-of-state claimants accounted for the vast majority of the 1,300 cases filed in 2014, over 91 percent. Only 109 of the 1,300 2014 claimants reside in Illinois, and only 12 of that number are Madison County residents (less than 1 percent).
We can only hope, with the fuzzy logic of Yogi Berra, that someday our courts will be so crowded that no one will come here anymore.