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Blight is a disease that must be cured

If your neighborhood is plagued by a dog infected with rabies, do you mourn the condition of the animal?

Do you feel sorry for it, throw it a bone every once in a while — but let it continue to roam?

Or do you put it down, humanely — yes — but swiftly so that your children, your household pets and your elderly neighbors are not bitten?

Blight — decaying homes, fecal matter draining into the streets, vermin watching neighbors take their morning coffee from the open windows and roof holes — has been defined as that rabid dog by the state of Ohio.

It’s written into Ohio Revised Code.

Blight is cancer, the living organism that degrades the value of our communities, the soul of our people and the hope we have in our small towns.

It’s past time for our chemotherapy.

And thankfully, the courts, while not legislating from the bench, are set up to enforce the legislation and administrative policies already in place to put that dog down.

There was $45,000 put in place this year in Marietta’s city coffers without the role of a land bank.

That money was put in place to complete the title searches, to follow the legal steps, to enforce city and state laws.

Do we know how that was spent?

Do we, as a community, genuinely wish to hold our elected officials accountable to do the job we’ve called them to do?

Council’s budget hearings are approaching again, as is the deadline for public comment on the three-year consolidated plan for federal Community Development Block Grant funding 2021-23.

CDBG is overseen by directives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Every year, and every three years, the city must justify how its programs are truly impacting our community with those federal dollars.

But the citizenry is blamed for not utilizing the Paint Marietta program, not making any requests this year of the strictly-guarded and regulated funds.

Perhaps the time has come to assess if our programs themselves must shift, stay within the mission directive of housing but be more effectively applied to address blight proactively and not lose further population.

It’s been done before, as fewer owner-occupied trailers qualified for aid within city limits.

Now is the time to apply the multi-directional approach of chemo.

Now is the time to see blight abatement as a series of avenues (stabilize for safety, clear title and rehab, or demolish and return to productive use), not just one step.

Local governance takes work, not only by those whom we elect to fill the roles of judge, of a mayor, law director or city council.

It takes the citizenry’s commitment to accountability, too.

It takes more than a Facebook rant, anonymous photo prints dropped off on the desks of legislators, or a phone call to a mid-level bureaucrat.

Local control takes documentation.

It takes dedication.

It takes creative and proactive thinking instead of shifting blame to another political desk, waiting for a pie-in-the sky’s permission to act.

Janelle Patterson can be reached at jpatterson@mariettatimes.com.

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