MANSFIELD: The Beautification Police

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One sure way to gain the enmity of some of your neighbors — and get branded by others as a nosy busybody — is to launch a one-man cleanup campaign around the community. Some folks reason it’s none of my — or anyone else’s — business if they allow the grass to grow knee-high in their yards. But they are wrong, for two reasons.

First, it’s a matter of money, more specifically, property values; no prospective homeowner wants to move into a neighborhood where some residents don’t maintain their property … and the fewer the number of people who want to move into a community, the lower the value of the properties of the current residents. Secondly, weeds (particularly dandelions) produce seeds and spores that spread to adjacent, better-kept lawns, thus making them harder to maintain.

One of the more amazing facts of living in Hough is this: I’ve seen families build new homes in the $250,000-plus price range and, after moving in, never mow their lawns. Indeed, one residence at the other end of the block from ours, on the much higher profile Chester Avenue, is inhabited by at least three or four professional adults who all drive expensive autos, and their lawn is always as raggedy as a bucket of chittlins.

I just can’t figure it out, but based on the outside appearance, I’d hate to see inside; my guess is they’re living like a bunch of Vikings. And yes, I hope someone shows them this column.

Slothfulness will beget more slothfulness. If residents don’t maintain their properties, soon other residents and institutions will follow suit. A gas station at the corner of E. 55th and Payne was notorious for the amount of debris on the property; the trash containers were always full to overflowing, and the same thing with the dumpsters in the back. Numerous calls to Cleveland’s Health Department (along with some photos) eventually rectified the problem, but I had to let them know I was dead serious. I honestly doubt the owners of the business would want all of that trash blowing around the community in which they reside.

Nor do I want it in mine.

The post office at 1660 E. 55th Street (just north of Payne Avenue) is my next target. For years the manager there has allowed the grass to grow very tall, but this year it’s setting new records, damn near knee-high, as the photo attests. I’m going to be all over him like a cheap suit until he cleans up his act. No suburban community would tolerate this, why should we tolerate it in Hough?

Back to the residents: For the most part the owners of newer and older homes in the community do a decent job of maintaining their property, and granted, some folks may be older, infirmed or too busy holding down two or three jobs just to make ends meet. Others, like residents of some of the newer subsidized homes, have never had to maintain a lawn. But that really should be pat of the contract to move into the house — that it’s maintained to a minimum standard inside and out.

There are a number of large nearby institutions that profess interest in reaching out to neighboring communities like Hough. And, while some have instituted helpful programs, others simply talk a good game, as if the residents of these neighborhoods are not wise enough to know that smoke is sometimes being blown up our butts.

Hosting an annual Gospelfest, and then pretending that’s community engagement, just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Over four decades ago, institutions like Temple and Brown Universities that were surrounded by poorer urban neighborhoods began reaching out to assist in stabilizing them, knowing that it was not just in their own best self-interest, but also the right thing to do. Also, Oberlin College has taken seriously their responsibility to their surrounding city of Oberlin by offering free tuition to any graduating senior qualified enough to get accepted academically. Cleveland’s cultural and learning centers, however, were very slow to adopt this mindset, and still do so somewhat begrudgingly in many areas.

As a known community loudmouth, emissaries from some of these institutions often approach me, querying me as to my thoughts on how they can help. To date, none of the suggestions I’ve put forth have been adopted, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop throwing them out there.

Here’s my latest: Similar to what Ward 4 Cleveland Councilman Ken Johnson does using block grant funds, these institutions could come together and sponsor a free lawn care service for residents who qualify based on age and income, and a deeply discounted price for others. Of course, excepting those bums who live at the other end of my block with all of the fancy cars in the driveway. They need to be ticketed and dragged into housing court and forced to maintain their property, which, as previously stated, will assist other residents in maintaining their property value.

Why should they be allowed to take money out of my pocket with their ghettoish ways?

 

mansfield250From Cool Cleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier mansfieldfATgmail.com. Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available again in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author by visiting http://NeighborhoodSolutionsInc.com.

 

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