Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mowing the Lawn that Isn't Yours: the Generosity of Detroiters

I estimate that one out of every five Detroiters I speak with is mowing a lawn that does not belong to them. One of every ten is doing a community clean up. They live near vacated property owned by banks, individuals and the city who are not taking care of them. When people do not mow the lawn of a vacant house, the scrappers come. (Sometimes even if you do, they come.) I heard a story about a suburban man laughing that he pays a Detroiter $50 to scrap things from vacant homes and sells them for $1000. This treatment of Detroit must stop NOW.

So let's dissect the pieces of victimization and look at solutions.

1. The banks, companies, and individuals who own these properties are not being held accountable. There is no reason for this. The Department of Administrative Hearings should be staffed well enough  to handle the cases of those actively participating in creating our blight. No matter the budget for the city, this department should be protected from cuts because it is essential to maintain quality of life in Detroit. The Blight Violation Notices are issued by building and health inspectors and by police officers. Dumping is also handled by environmental inspectors. If this needs to be reorganized, then let's do that. This is a priority.

2. Stopping the scrappers. In partnership with suburban law enforcement, this needs to be stopped. The Republicans have made it more difficult to stop it but that is no reason to not find other ways. 

3. We need to pursue the fines that need to be paid. Low staffing or not, there are several options for the city to get its money.

4. The city, community groups, and people doing community service should be cutting the lawns and billing owners like in other cities.

5. Also there should be community lawn mowers.There are even people who would consider buying a community lawn mower but have no where to store it where it would not be stolen. So, why not store them somewhere secure in the city and bring them to neighborhoods for people to use. People who have vacant lots in their area or community gardens with grassy parts HAVE to have a riding mower. This would be one of the best and most tangible uses of tax money for citizens.

6. Plant vacant lots with ground cover or gardens. Aside from the good environmental impact and addition of fresh food to the community, in the long term this would be cheaper than mowing all the time. 

There are probably even more solutions out there. Doing all the above would vastly improve the quality of life. Who knew cutting one plant down could be so important to a city's morale?

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