Trash is dumped in front of a boarded-up building on Castle Drive between Maplewood and Glenwood avenues in Toledo.
Your coverage of “The Ugly Truth About Toledo,” documenting blight in the city, has brought out predictable and shortsighted responses. There have been calls for more demolitions, trash cleanup, lawn mowing, and greater code enforcement. And of course, lots of finger-pointing.
Unfortunately, there has been little or no talk about a comprehensive strategy for neighborhood development. Blight is a symptom of neighborhood decline rather than a cause, though it clearly speeds up the decline.
It is important to have strong code enforcement and a responsive city government to clean up blight. But what is more critical is a plan for development and rebuilding of neighborhoods.
A neighborhood with occupied houses and a significant number of homeowners usually polices itself. It also has a critical mass of people to take action when necessary.
When a neighborhood has a vacant house or two, no homeowners, empty lots, and absentee landlords, it has no chance. It won’t matter how much the city does about policing, enforcement, and cleanup.
Where is the city strategy for neighborhood development? The scattershot approach the city has followed is ineffective. Best practices from around the country demonstrate that resources must be concentrated in a particular area and built out from there.
Community development is not just about infrastructure. It is about people.
Toledo never will turn around its decaying neighborhoods simply by responding, after the fact, to blight. The city needs creative leadership that is willing to look at proven models from other cities. Leaders then must carry out a proven strategy of revitalization.
Editor’s note: The writer is pastor of First United Methodist Church in Sylvania and a past president of the Greater Toledo Housing Coalition.
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