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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tackling local blight must be a priority

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I'm guilty of worrying disproportionately about the housing concerns in Sikeston. Call it a personal crusade or a personal obsession.

But, as I have tried to explain in this column countless times, we have had and continue to have far too many condemned properties and far too little money to address the issue.

I read an interesting news article on Detroit this week. The article outlined all of the massive problems facing that urban nightmare and voiced little hope that those problems could be solved.

OK, they can be helped by taking billions of your tax dollars. But that won't solve the problem.

One statistic struck me. Nearly 25 percent of the buildings in Detroit - commercial and residential - are vacant and abandoned. Huge swaths of former neighborhoods are vacant and in waste because of generational neglect.

Now Sikeston's problems are not nearly as overwhelming. But at one point, there were nearly a thousand properties here in the same shape.

The Land Clearance for Redevelopment process approved by voters a decade ago has gone a long way toward removing these eyesores.

But much work remains.

And if you look at the current available funds for property removal, this problem will remain for another generation or more.

There is also a movement in town toward developing an "affordable housing" subdivision to offer additional housing opportunities here.

Though that may be a noble goal and extremely well-intended, it would seem we need to clean up our house before we add more properties to the mix.

There is this lingering debate in Sikeston on why some people who work here choose to live in some other community.

The answers are varied.

I fail to fall on the side of those who believe people live elsewhere because we lack affordable housing.

I believe there are as many reasons as there are people.

But let me be the first to admit, I could well be wrong.

So let's say we spend tax dollars to help assist in constructing new subdivisions.

When and how will we address the remaining issue of hundreds - literally hundreds - of condemned properties that blight existing neighborhoods?

Do we simply acknowledge that these neighborhoods are "lost" and continue our flight elsewhere?

Do we throw our hands in the air and abandon efforts to clean-up existing neighborhoods?

It seems more appropriate to me to address those issues that make our community less appealing before we venture into new arenas.

At the end of the day we must decide if the top priority is to rid our community of crime-infested, eyesores or ignore those issues and reach for something bright and shiny on the other side of town.



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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen