The story is told of a famous typographical error in a weekly newspaper located in the Great Lakes region of the United States.
During the same week a fire destroyed a vacant building on the town’s Main Street, one that had been unsightly and a community problem for decades, and an elderly woman prominent in society passed away.
The paper ran a photo of the fire and a large photo of the lady on the front page. But the captions got reversed. Under the fire photo it said “Rest In Peace.” Under the lady it said “Old eyesore finally gone.”
There are times when it seems like only a few timely fires will ever get rid of some of Rockdale’s old eyesores, buildings that certainly mar first impressions, along with any subsequent impressions.
It’s frustrating to many on the city council and Municipal Development Board, who have now appointed members to a joint task force called Operation First Impression.
The slow pace of sprucing up any town in a democratic republic like ours is part of the price of freedom. Mussolini or Mao would have had no problem making unsightly structures in Naples or Shanghai go away, along with the people in them if so desired.
Here it’s trickier. The city cannot go clean up the yard of Citizen A for them. Citizens B, C and D might rightly ask “why not mine, too?”
But the city can establish minimal standards in safety, cleanliness and health, give owners the opportunity to meet those standards and let due process take its course.
It will take time. In fact, City Attorney Michelle Lehmkuhl reported Monday to the council that four pieces of property are at various stages in the due process chain, but it takes months.
Bottom line. There is something being done. Most “old eyesores” don’t go away in one night.—M.B.