Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Neighborhood's need from this new Council

Our new city council priorities should be neighborhood stabilization and improvement not demolition

When you are fortunate to live in a neighborhood with houses dating as far back as 1845 and home to carious historic places and events you would expect that neighborhood would be something to cherish and improve.

The key to neighborhood revitalization and redevelopment lies in good infrastructure. Neighborhoods need support, not demolition.

Last week our neighbor came across a sign. Its a sign of history, but more importantly a sign that many neighborhoods like ours have been forgotten by an uncaring city government.

In case you have never seen a sidewalk sign, it is a rare thing. In fact in many cities original sidewalk signs are protected by ordinance and preserved when new sidewalks are put in because they represent a piece of history.

The sign reads “John Lipps, Artificial Stone Cinn.O”. The sidewalk it is stamped on was put in, in 1909! That’s right, the citizens of Knox Hill have paid property taxes for decades and some of our sidewalks are 103 Years Old. While the city has updated corners for ADA compliancy ( because they no doubt fear federal lawsuits), The sidewalks those ADA ramps connect are over 100 years old. IN FACT, we have areas with no sidewalks and parts of Knox Street are ONE LANE wide.

While our neighborhood moves forward, with millions in private historic preservation investment by people who want to move to our neighborhood, we must still engage in a battle with our “Rubber Stamp" Urban Conservator Larry Harris and the non-preservation trained, city inspection staff under the direction of Ed Cunningham, to prevent demolitions. We need a stop to VBML’s passed out like candy, and ‘nuisance declarations’ placed on buildings that are structurally sound that neighborhood want to preserve. We need a qualified Urban Conservator with the best interest of Preservation, not demolition contractors. Demolition should be reserved for buildings that really need it, such as non contributing Apartments Buildings, not single family homes that represent the future of our urban neighborhood as more people move back to the city.

The city building departments ‘addiction’ to Federal CDBG funds to pay for a bloated staff, needs to stop, and more importantly, we need to stop using the VBML and nuisance declarations to demonstrate “Need” for more Federal funds. It is this abuse of those policies that are resulting in the Redlining of neighborhoods and denial of housing opportunity that, if the council doesn’t address the out of control actions of city inspections, with the help of the Urban Conservators , whose job it is top protect historic assets, it will most certainly result in Federal Redlining complaint that will result in the city losing millions of dollars in Federal funding, for a very long time’ and punitive actions that could cost millions of dollars.

It was Knox Hills Federal HUD citizen complaint that resulted in the city now 're-evaluating' those properties on the nuisance list because the Urban Conservators office FAILED to seek public input as required by Federal law and that did result in hundreds of properties demoesd that may have been historic eligible. We have a new process as result but if it will be one of  the Urban Conservator "rubber stamping' everything Ed Cunningham sends him,  and ignoring public input. That, will result in more federal complaints, and this time, Federal lawsuits.

Neighborhoods intend to hold city officials accountable for abuse of federal law in 2012. The council can be proactive, or, as is the case of council's past, be reactive and in denial.

We need stabilization, not demolitions. The council needs to cut the purse strings on senseless demolition of viable homes in viable neighborhoods and use those moneys for stabilization and maybe some sidewalks that are not over 100 years old. Vacant lots do not improve our quality of life, investment in history however does.

CDBG stands for "Community Development Block Grants' NOT Comminity DEMOLITION Block Grants. and the council needs to direct city agencies to respect the wishes of the neighborhoods and residents it claims to serve.

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