Sikeston's newly-formed Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) was approved two years ago by voters to address the growing problem of substandard housing in Sikeston. By a nearly 80 percent approval, Sikeston residents indicated they wanted some mechanism to streamline the problem with dilapidated houses here and to remove those eyesores and health hazards that unfortunately plague some neighborhoods. And thus, LCRA was formed.
In the weeks ahead the LCRA will begin the task of systematically identifying those problem properties and begin their removal. But two things must first occur.
First, it's important that LCRA remains independent in many respects. Avoiding the political pitfalls of city government and having the ability to act rapidly are two important aspects of LCRA. Both are critical to the success of this group. And secondly, LCRA must also address the need for funding because without adequate resources, their mission is doomed from the very start.
Both of these elements are in question right now. It will take decisive actions by LCRA and some progressive thinking to accomplish both needs in the short term. And it will take dedication and some fierce battles in order for the LCRA to truly have an impact on our community's future.
Granted, most residents are less than interested in the inner-workings of city government. But LCRA is the nuts and bolts of the process that will remove many of these unwanted properties from Sikeston. And their task eventually will be to rebuild homes where appropriate. It will not all be smooth sailing.
The city has a list of some 70 properties here that have been declared as substandard and in need of removal. The property owners have little value in the structures and the homes drive down the values of other nearby properties. These houses have become health concerns, they house criminal activities quite often and they harm the entire community. But their removal comes with a price and right now there are limited areas where funding can be found.
Here, of course, is our dilemma. We have spoken loudly on the need for LCRA but we haven't agreed on where the money will come from to help them accomplish their mission. Before that question is answered, little progress will be made.
I, for one, believe Sikeston residents are committed to reclaiming our community from years of neglect. I'm less than convinced that we have enough funds available right now to get the job done. So where does that put us?
Who knows - it may take some combination of private and public funds to take down these properties. Or at the very least, it will take some hard decisions by our city to address this need that has been clearly identified by voters. If we put as much work into the LCRA as we did toward the move to the charter-form of government, the LCRA would now be active and removing eyesores. But LCRA has become the stepchild of this renewal. That must now change.
The public needs to clearly communicate to the city that we demand action and independence on the part of the LCRA. Until those voices are heard, we'll just have a good plan that gathers dust in some dark file cabinet. I think we deserve better.