LCRA is making a difference in town

Sunday, February 10, 2008

For a number of years there has been an ongoing discussion in Sikeston about the future of our community. More specifically, there has been a discussion on how to reverse a trend toward decline in our community. The subject took on added emphasis a couple of years ago when voters here overwhelmingly - and I mean overwhelmingly - approved a measure to help fund the Land Clearance for Redevelopment Authority.

The LCRA was to be the vehicle that would allow the city to take control of decaying properties within Sikeston and through the courts, pay a fair market value for those properties and then remove them. The ultimate goal - which remains today - is to then make those now-vacant lots available for redevelopment.

It's hard to argue with the success of the LCRA. I have, however, argued from time to time about the apparent lack of speed in the process of condemnation and then removal. But the "system" does indeed move with deliberate caution and I have to remind myself from time to time that years of neglect cannot and will not be undone overnight.

But now there are some voices bringing objection to the LCRA's mission, questioning why specific properties were identified as problematic or why landowners were not compensated more generously. Additionally, some on our city council are questioning the practices of the LCRA.

Charges are being leveled that the LCRA process is effectively moving low-

income Section 8 residents into new parts of our community and poses long-

term threats to the viability of now-stable neighborhoods.

A new minority group has asked the Department of Justice to investigate potential abuses concerning housing within our community. There are rumors of lawsuits. And some of those who benefit from the housing sector in Sikeston are crying foul over the communitywide effort of the LCRA.

Here's my opinion. Bring on the lawsuits, bring on the Department of Justice and bring on those - including council members - who feel somehow wronged by this process. Make your case by all means. Explain how the process of community renewal is harming those impacted by the LCRA. And while you're at it, explain why a community in crisis lacks the ability to address the problems that plague our law enforcement community, our education community and our medical community. Explain how we should sit idly by and allow eyesores to breed like cancer in neighborhoods that were once a source of pride.

Like every other community, Sikeston needs affordable housing. And like many other communities, Sikeston supports more than its share of subsidized housing. The numbers don't lie. But the difference is in the definition. And that definition is spelled out in specific terms within our municipal code ordinances and the policies of the LCRA. No secrets here folks. You comply, you're OK. You don't, the city can and will take the appropriate action. That's dumbing it down about as low as I can get but apparently some residents need the help in understanding the mission and purpose of the LCRA.

If someone, anyone wants to attack the direction toward this citywide improvement, they most certainly deserve an answer and a full accounting. But in return, the spotlight will surely be turned toward those making these charges. They will need to answer eventually to the nearly 90 percent of city residents who approved the plan to address the decay and decline in our community.

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