Sunday, September 23, 2007

"Blight" or "Beautiful"

We all know what "beautiful" is. In terms of a neighborhood, it means well kept lawns, landscaping, beautiful trees and a nicely painted home. It means good sidewalks and streets which aren't covered in litter, and a place where you really want to be. I took a brief bike ride with my son today, and saw a lot of beauty, thankfully.

"Blight" on the other hand, is everything you don't want. Graffiti covered walls, unkept and unwatered lawns, weeds and trash more prevalent than landscaping. It means homes in disrepair. The epitome of this would be an abandoned property with the windows all broken out, and trash covering the ground. Blight spreads, quite insidiously. During the Maeser school renovation, some local "bums" took it upon themselves to break out a few of the old window panes. Soon, there was hardly a sound window left in the building. We don't currently have such an extreme example in our neighborhood, but we have lots of small ones that I'm concerned about.

Those "little" ones are small and large graffiti tags on electrical boxes, and buildings. They are homes and buildings owned by absentee landlords that don't really care about maintaining the building or the grounds. A few years ago, I took Midge Johnson and her husband on a walking tour of the neighborhood to point out the positive and the negative. It didn't take long for her to see the difference between owner occupied structures and absentee owned rentals.

Though things have improved, the struggle is far from over. Sometimes, we just get "used" to blight, and put up with it. This is something we really have to avoid if we are going to improve our neighborhood. Putting up with problem properties isn't a solution.

So, I ask for your help. Please let me know about problem sites, and don't hesitate to use our community resources. If a landlord isn't taking care of a place, look up their contact information on Utah County's website, and call and write them. ( If you can't contact them, let the city do it. Our city has a weed abatement ordinance, and of course, a nuisance ordinance. You can reach Community Development by calling 852-6400. Ask for David Heath, or Reta Trimble. David is assigned to our neighborhood, and Reta is his supervisor.

If you see graffiti of any kid, no matter the size, please call 85-CRIME and report it. Provo City will clean off the graffiti, though perhaps not as fast as we would like. Put them to work.

Working together, we can rid ourselves of a lot of "blight," and create a lot more beauty.

Friday, September 7, 2007

New Memorial Park playground

I'm happy to announce that the new Memorial Park playground is not only complete, but already being actively used by neighborhood residents. The playground is intended for younger kids (5 and under) and provides something that we were missing in the neighborhood. It has slides, swings, and other fun, along with some nice benches for Mom and Dad. The playground is on the West side of 800 East, which divides the park in two. It is near the north end of the park, surrounded on 3 sides by large pine trees.

I was thrilled yesterday to see it already filled with children and their parents as I walked by at 8pm. It only took 5 plus years to see it from idea to reality. Thus are the workings of a city government.

Please enjoy and treasure this resource.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

City Wide Election Race--your choices

The election season has begun, and we have two serious contenders this year. (One BYU student who has no chance). Those two men are Steve Turley and Coy Porter.
Steve Turley has been on the City Council for 3 1/2 years now. He is often the odd-man out, and is responsible for more 6-1 votes than any other member of the council. Most of the council's work is on zoning and developments. He is very consistent in voting for the cause of developers, realtors and a "landlord friendly" view of property rights. He is not the neighborhood-friendly candidate. He has been at odds with the Mayor multiple times, and has been an "expensive" member of our Council. You might ask what I'm talking about...
Remember the dispatch incident where a young man called 911 and they couldn't find him, since he called on a cell phone. Turley anxiously politicized that event, and did a great job of making sure our cities failures were well publicized to the media. For good or for bad, he did a great job of making sure the lawyers for the young man's family had all the ammunition they needed to push for an expensive settlement. Simply put, he cost us money, and I'm not talking about the meager salary received by Council Members.
He does have one thing I have to respect him for, which is voting against I-Provo. Under our current business model, where the state restricts our city to being a wholesaler, I-Provo is going to be a perpetual problem. I'm not sure we had a realistic business model in the first place. Turley does tend to be a friend of our park system, and has pushed in his own way for a new Rec Center. He did lead the budget committee in their updating of City Impact fees for new development, which included, for the first time a park impact fee to expand Provo's park system. Perhaps for the Joaquin Neighborhood, his most concerning votes have been the many votes he cast against funding NHS purchase rehab projects. He also voted against our wishes to change the "title" of 200 North to a residential street-vs its current, more intensive label.

His opponent this year is Coy Porter, our former Fire Chief. Coy has lived in Provo for 45 years, and is no stranger to our city, and its government. His father was actually a member of the City Council years ago. Coy is definitely Turley's opposite in terms of his support for neighborhoods, and revitalization. He wasn't on the council when i-Provo so I can't give you a comparison there. He does have a solid record of being able to work as a team player within the City, and will likely be more effective in leading instead of just opposing. His previous position has given him experience at the budget process, and management. His platform includes support for NHS and the city's programs encouraging owner occupancy. He lives in the Franklin Neighborhood, one of our fellow Pioneer neighborhoods.

I encourage you to ask them questions, learn more and really evaluate these two men. Find out which one really matches your views about the future of our city. I have given you my very condensed description of the race--now you need to make a decision. The primary, which is on September 11th, will eliminate one of the three people who has filed.