Why did you visit today? Maybe because you read the op ed piece in this morning’s Tribune or maybe because of an ongoing interest in the future of Warren. Maybe you’re just sick of looking at the 1000 houses in Warren that need to be torn down.
Well, now is the time to act. If you don’t Warren may fail to raise the $2 million needed to get matching funds from the State of Ohio so that we can clean up this city. Or we only get a part of the money, which will lead to a nasty and protracted fight – neighbor v. neighbor – over which houses come down and which remain like a cancerous tumor left to continue poisoning the city.
Making a difference requires no heavy lifting. Here is a link to addresses and phone numbers of City Council members. Let them know how you feel; but when you write or call don’t assume they are bad people who have to be bullied into doing the right thing. Many — maybe even most — of them agree that now is the time to act. Your support gives them the ammunition they need to fight.
Warren doesn’t have to look like a post-industrial wasteland. We can make it better and the tools to do that are close enough to touch if we reach for them now.
* The Tribune piece is printed below.
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On Friday a group of twenty Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership volunteers and city employees spent the day clearing over 1000 automobile tires from an abandoned house on Burton Street.
That lot was an apt metaphor for Warren, which is littered with 1000 deserted, dilapidated houses that create an image for our city that no city wants. A great opportunity to rid these eyesores for good is within our grasp, but it is not at all clear that we will seize it.
Two situations with important implications for Warren’s future are coming to a head now. The first is the effort to find local funds in order to get a matching grant from the Ohio Attorney General’s $75 million residential demolition fund; the second is the renewed effort by the city to market a $23.8 million bond offering.
These two initiatives are in direct competition for scarce resources. The revenue from the bond issue would be used to refinance some existing bonds at a lower rate, buy some new capital equipment and to pay for some street repairs. The biggest piece — $9.5 million would be used to build a new city government “one-stop” building.
Competing for funding is the $2 million we need, which would be matched by the OAG fund and leveraged into a $4 million budget for demolitions — enough to tear down all the vacant houses in Warren that are beyond saving.
I don’t question the need for the projects funded by the bond issue, but in these challenging times we must be sure that first things come first, and attacking blight should be our first priority.
Blight depresses everyone’s property value. According to research done at Michigan State University it is possible that the blighted houses in Warren are depressing the value of our remaining properties by over $100 million. This is reason enough to make investing to eliminate them our first priority, but there are other compelling reasons – both economic and social.
Abandoned houses are dangerous for the children who play in them, the firemen who have to fight fires in them (often several times) and the police who have to enter them in pursuit of the drug dealers, gangs, pedophiles and prostitutes who use them as safe havens.
Blight scares away investors of all kinds; from homeowners who don’t want to make improvements they can’t recoup, to people moving into the area who won’t invest where property values are falling, to business people who seek a growth environment where their business is swimming with the tide and not against it.
Blight depresses everyone. In a recent study 90% of people in Warren disagreed with the statement “Warren’s physical appearance creates an image of a prosperous and growing community.” Two-thirds of them “strongly disagreed.”
We must do something to turn this problem around if Warren is to ever grow again, and the OAG’s demolition fund may be the last, best chance we have to rid ourselves of this blight for a generation or more.
We should not skimp by demolishing only “the worst-of-the-worst.” Blight is a cancer; it spreads in all directions destroying neighborhoods in its path. You would not tell your doctor to remove 50% of the tumor; you have to get it all.
In the past couple of months I’ve asked more than a hundred people for their money to help an organization called gregg’s gardens convert vacant, weeded lots into wildflower and native plant gardens, and a surprisingly high percentage of them have helped.
What has surprised me even more is that nearly everyone spends a few minutes telling me why it is so important that we do something to eradicate the blight from our community. It doesn’t matter if the speaker is rich or poor, black or white, westsider or eastsider – cleaning up the city is nearly everyone’s first priority.
I’m not opposed to the bond issue or to a new city building; if done right a new building might be a catalyst for additional development downtown.
But I am opposed to misplaced priorities. When the roof is on fire, adding a family room should take a back seat to extinguishing the fire.