Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Grant St. vs Main St.

First the paddlefish and now this story about the mayor suing the owner of a property in Larimer and threatening to seize it because it is a nuisance property. The problem is that some neighbors "went to bat" for the house and didn't want the little candy and pop store that operated out of the abandoned house to be bothered. The issue that this story raises to me is about who defines nuisance properties and who defines "development".

The mayor's 311 line was set up to handle just this sort of complaint about a nuisance property. Was the mayor responding to calls on the 311 line? It isn't clear.

Lord's article suggests that neighbors don't seem to mind the property.

Several neighbors had no complaints about the house. They said no one lives there, but someone operates a candy and soda shop inside.

"People, they just be chillin' there," said Omari Thompson, an 18-year-old security guard who lives nearby. "A cop drives by, sees them outside, and then they go inside, and [the police] think something's wrong."
This young guy lives nearby and doesn't seem to think there's a problem. He suggests that police suspicion is the nuisance because the little store is serving some function in their corner of Larimer.
Twanda Carlisle thinks:
"I can name 100 [properties] in council District 9 that should be on the most-wanted list and are in areas that are slated for development," said Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle, who represents the neighborhood.
Well, we'll dismiss that on grounds that she isn't a credible source.
Larimer community activist and council candidate Ora Lee Carroll, though, said there's "more than candy going out of there. ... I view that property as blatantly blighted and it needs to be [demolished]."
Now that seems like another credible source for the neighborhood.

The issue is who decides on what is a nuisance property. We'd like to think this occurs on Main St., by the members of a particular community or residents who live near the property in question. That way members of a particular community are actively addressing needs in their community and contacting the city to do something about it; maybe through the 311 line. In this case, it appears to be Grant St. making the decisions. In this way, community members are passive onlookers of what is happening in their neighborhood. And, when you look at the photo from the PG above, a bunch of white folks from city hall are coming in to Larimer to say what can and can't happen. Where some stakeholders feel that this abandoned house is serving a neighborhood function, others see it as a nuisance and an obstacle to development.

If you want to learn more about what "development" around East Liberty (near Larimer) or 'Eastside' means to folks in that neighborhood I'd recommend watching the excellent documentary from Chris Ivey, "East of Liberty". Interesting perspectives on Carlisle, Ferlo, and East Liberty Development Corporation.

UPDATE: A press release from the mayor's office:
“We will insist that all of these properties are shut down, boarded up and torn down, if need be. They are blight to our neighborhoods and our way of life. If the owners won’t correct the situation, on behalf of all law abiding citizens and property owners, we will.”
I take issue with the mayor feeling that he has the right to liberally state "our way of life". What does he know about life in Larimer on Shetland St.? I think my point about "doing for" instead of "doing with" is pretty clear after reading this statement.

I think the look on this woman's face, whoever she is, captures the skepticism about the mayor's intentions I tried to explain in the paragraphs above.