Let’s tackle the blight, to­gether

The Standard Journal - - Commentary - KEVIN MYRICK

I’ve been work­ing in Polk County long enough to learn one thing: ev­ery­thing hap­pens here at a much slower pace than I’ve be­come ac­cus­tomed.

Maybe it’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween writ­ing for the daily news­pa­per in Rome ver­sus writ­ing for the paper here on a weekly ba­sis, but the work some­times – not that I’m com­plain­ing – is def­i­nitely slower here.

Progress al­ready tran­spires in Ge­or­gia at a gla­cial pace, it seems to slow down more in Polk County.

There are def­i­nitely pos­i­tive things hap­pen­ing in Rock­mart, Cedar­town and Aragon. Or­ga­ni­za­tions are work­ing to­ward pro­vid­ing more op­por­tu­ni­ties for people here to work and play, to­ward clean­ing up the blight and bring­ing about safe, drug-free streets through­out Polk County.

Blight is one of the up­com­ing tar­gets for the City of Cedar­town, who looks to tar­get ab­sen­tee land­lords in a new or­di­nance with tax hikes for not keep­ing their property up to snuff.

I think city com­mis­sion­ers are do­ing the right thing by work­ing on the or­di­nance to pun­ish land­lords who aren’t keep­ing their property in good shape, not be­cause I’m for over­bur­den­ing taxation. Nay, I’m for this be­cause no one should have to live in or next to a house that is lit­er­ally fall­ing down.

City com­mis­sion­ers took a tour fol­low­ing the July 4 hol­i­day with build­ing in­spec­tor Joseph Martin to see ex­actly why the or­di­nance was needed. What I saw on the tour with the com­mis­sion­ers last Mon­day would have shocked any- one.

Beau­ti­ful old homes in de­cay and people liv­ing in what is best de­scribed a squalor. Roofs were caved in on at least half a dozen of the houses we passed by in the city’s hand­i­capped bus. Even worse, many of these places still have power lines con­nected to the me­ters, and wa­ter ready to be turned on and fill the pipes.

I won’t pre­tend to un­der­stand the forces that brought Cedar­town to this point. In fact, I will ad­mit that at times I still feel like an out­sider look­ing into a snow­globe sized ver­sion of Polk County, won­der­ing what I might find next.

But some­times, people need an out­sider’s per­spec­tive to re­mind them of the grow­ing list of is­sues that need to be ad­dressed.

Here’s one to start with: un­der no cir­cum­stances, new­comer or long­time res­i­dent, should any­one have to look at those houses in South­east Cedar­town. No one should have to live next door to them ei­ther, but they do.

Many people in Cedar­town take pride in their property. They do well by main­tain­ing their homes and keep­ing the ex­te­ri­ors beau­ti­ful.

By no means is South­east or South­west Cedar­town, or the West Av­enue cor­ri­dors the only prob­lems we have in the city or in Polk County as a whole.

Rock­mart and Aragon have their own sets of di­verse is­sues. The lat­est is the City of Aragon’s clos­ing of their fire depart­ment. Home­own­ers will face the long term con­se­quences of that de­ci­sion when their ISO (In­sur­ance Ser­vices Of­fice) rat­ings are ef­fected, thus rais­ing their home­own­ers in­sur­ance pay­ments at the same time.

Drugs, most of all, re­main every­where in Polk County. The Drug Task Force is try­ing to tackle the prob­lem one bust at a time, tiny chips taken from a large stone that, with cur­rent re­sources, might never be enough.

Every­where I turn, I seem to find some­thing else that both­ers me. It’s alarm­ing to see so much work to do with so few hands will­ing to get dirty and do what it takes to make Polk County beau­ti­ful again.

Here’s what it comes down to, folks. If you want in­dus­trial part­ners to come into the com­mu­nity and pro­vide jobs and tax in­come for lo­cal gov­ern­ments, it’s go­ing to take more than just fix­ing up the schools or tear­ing down old houses. It’ll take more than im­prov­ing test scores and open­ing lo­cal businesses in the down­town ar­eas. It takes a com­mon dream and vi­sion that all of Polk County can get be­hind.

Bring­ing de­vel­op­ment will re­quire do­ing all of these things and more at the same time, forc­ing lo­cal lead­ers to hold spin­ning plates above their heads un­til Polk County’s many prob­lems are brought un­der some con­trol. They can dream, and scheme and an­nounce plans for projects left and right. It does noth­ing if no one is will­ing to step up with them to do some­thing.

Noth­ing in this world ever comes easy, in­clud­ing progress. Ev­ery­one has their own in­di­vid­ual crises come along to bring life to a halt. I ex­pe­ri­ence them on a daily ba­sis lately.

Its all in how we de­cide to han­dle the stum­bles we take, both as in­di­vid­u­als and as a com­mu­nity, that will make a dif­fer­ence in the long run.

The eas­i­est so­lu­tion of all for ev­ery­one would be if we had erasers that could strike out all the prob­lems and al­low ev­ery­one to start fresh on a daily ba­sis. Yet it is do­ing the right thing, not al­ways the eas­i­est thing, that makes tri­umph over prob­lems the great­est feel­ing in the world.

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