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Toledo needs to get back to attacking blight

Let’s take care of the basics

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    Abandoned home on South Ave. in South Toledo.

    The Blade/Lori King
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    Toledo Police Officer Jeff Dorner, with the Community Services Section, looks at an abandoned home located at 1326 Paxton St. near F St. during an inspection with the new community resource officer/city inspector partnership set up to address blight-related issues on July 9, 2014.

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Toledo City Council is considering spending nearly $1 million to cut grass at “nuisance” properties this year, even though they know $1 million may not be enough to solve the problem.

Though it is still early in the summer, the city already has a backlog of 7,200 orders to cut grass at abandoned properties and vacant lots. This prompted Neighborhoods Director Bonita Bonds to ask council to increase the budget.

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What happened to the city’s focus on addressing blight? How has the city strayed from a collective understanding that overgrown lots, broken windows, and litter are not minor nuisances? They are the city’s scars. These scars are not how Toledo wishes to present itself to the world.

If Toledo is not vigilant about blight, its downtown renaissance could be compromised. Worse, people will abandon Toledo neighborhoods for the suburbs. Many already have.

To their credit, city officials have hit upon an efficient way of drafting help with some of the mowing. Residents who have been cutting the neglected grass at neighboring properties are being enlisted to keep up that work in exchange for a small payment from the city. That’s a very smart approach.

But city officials must do much more than enlist the help of neighbors. They need an aggressive blight policy. They must hold negligent property owners accountable — enforcing city codes and hauling them into court when necessary.

The city must beef up its code enforcement staff. And code enforcers must catch up on the backlog of complaints.

If that costs more than $1 million this year, well, apparently the city has money now.

The blight problem is not rocket science. There is no reason for Toledo to look as bad as it does in so many places. For example, The Docks is in deplorable condition — the street leading to The Docks, the walkways along the water, the benches, the parking lot, are all in disgraceful condition.

The Docks are popular and the restaurants are busy. This should be a Toledo showplace. If we cannot make this part of the city look good, someone isn’t trying hard enough.

Keeping the city looking respectable is just basic government. We ought to aim higher. We ought to aim for dynamism and class. But let’s take care of the basics first.

There is no excuse for so much of the current ugliness. The mayor needs to get back after blight, and her opponents need to make blight a mayoral issue.

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