If all goes according to plan, the city next month will begin the demolition of condemned houses in Sikeston that have been identified by the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority. And this week, the LCRA hopes to identify another 50 homes for the second wave of renewals here. Residents should begin to see immediate, visible progress in June and the demolition should continue monthly for about two years. In the end, we'll be much better off than we are today.
I was told this week that in the first three days of the zero tolerance policy on abandoned vehicles, 45 junked vehicles were removed from our city. That number will climb in the days and weeks ahead.
I believe the residents of Sikeston have demanded improvements and I also believe the city has begun to deliver on the promise to make those changes. I believe the city court is taking a different approach to those who violate maintenance and public nuisance ordinances. For those truly paying attention, the progress is already visible. But more is needed as is always the case.
In a curious twist, I was rummaging through some long-abandoned paperwork this week and came across a letter to Congressman Bill Emerson dated exactly 10 years ago. In that letter, the city of Sikeston sought guidance and assistance from Emerson for a growing problem of subsidized housing concerns and criminal violence in Sikeston. Ten years ago!
There was not a great deal of support or public concern a decade ago. Some residents here saw a growing problem and worried that our community was fast becoming a haven for a criminal element. And to his credit, Emerson began the process that ultimately resulted in the recent actions here. The job is far from finished and, in fact, is in the early stages still today. But the resolve in our community today is so much greater than it once was and that resolve is bringing changes.
The real pressure, I believe, will come in the months ahead when slowly, neighborhoods will shrink as houses are removed. That will put pressure on landlords and residents to join the improvement effort and, in all honesty, some will not join the effort. And there will be resistance. But in the end, the majority of Sikeston residents demand these changes and, by golly, they will come.
I was accused this week of prejudice in my near-obsession to remove problem property and problem residents. Well, prejudiced I am. I am prejudiced not based on race, nor gender, nor income. I am prejudiced on lifestyle - against those who conduct a behavior that is counter to the wishes and laws of our city, against those who blight entire neighborhoods with eyesores and against those who prey on the weak and call Sikeston their home. I want those residents to leave this community and allow the good citizens, the good neighbors to live in a vibrant, progressive town with pride. In 10 years, progress has been made. I hope that in 10 more years, residents can look back at this time as the period when our community experienced a renewal in spirit. And I firmly believe that will be the case.