LCRA is clearing way to better community

Saturday, February 7, 2015

I have been a longtime supporter of the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority (LCRA) and their efforts to remove substandard housing from our community.

And now, as a member of that Commission, I am even more convinced that the removal efforts are clearly the best path to move our community forward and improve neighborhoods long neglected.

But in a lengthy column in this week's newspaper, Councilman John Graham once again voiced his opposition to the LCRA.

Some background is important here.

The LCRA grew out of a massive Vision project undertaken by the city over a decade ago. The Housing Subcommittee of that overall Vision group identified condemned and decaying property - especially on the western end of Sikeston - as a leading barrier to our growth.

Voters were asked over a decade ago to approve a tax to help fund LCRA. It passed by one of the highest margins in city history. And two years ago, voters were asked to renew the tax for LCRA and again the support was overwhelming.

Given that mandate by Sikeston residents, the LCRA began identifying the problem areas and pinpointing properties long abandoned and beyond repair.

The Sunset neighborhood is a prime example. Shanties, trash and long-abandoned structures had been ignored for far too many years. But through the efforts of the LCRA and the taxpayers of Sikeston, those eyesores and drug dens were leveled.

And now - just one isolated example - Lincoln University is soon to announce the construction of a 10,000 square foot learning center on what was once one of the worst streets in Sikeston. That construction will be adjacent to a new park, also funded with LCRA efforts.

Without the removal efforts of the LCRA, more than 800 abandoned and dangerous properties would still plague our community.

In their place are level, empty lots now made available for development. The city recently unveiled a new website to advertise those properties that are now clean, void of trash and ready for development.

The city has spent substantial funds - approved by taxpayers - to mount this major redevelopment effort.

When our community was targeted by a mortgage scheme that struck the nation, more abandoned homes fell into the lap of LCRA. Those guilty of this scheme are currently in prison.

But the city of Sikeston and the LCRA continue to make inroads with the banks involved in this scheme and the Missouri Attorney General's office to recoup some of those funds.

In short, the "mismanagement" claim leveled by Councilman Graham toward the LCRA is an inaccurate and insulting charge against those who have for years worked tirelessly to rid our community of structures that pose health and safety issues.

Anyone can make claims on any and all aspects of city government. Those opposing views are healthy for a community and assure that public funds and policy are out in the open for all to see.

But to target the LCRA is disingenuous and counterproductive to the future of our proud community.

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