Go get 'em, mayor

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By Ben Carlson

The right to private property is a great thing ... heck, an American thing.

But no matter how much property a person owns, it's still stitched to someone else's and we are all accountable to each other to take care of what we own.

A story in this week's paper serves as a microcosm of how one person's reluctance to maintain his property affects those around him. His back yard is replete with junked vehicles, piles of scrap lumber and other items that are an eyesore.

His front yard isn't much better.

Although a number of his neighbors have for years moaned and groaned about the problem, one of them, Shelby Phillips, who lives directly behind the property and is sick and tired of looking at it while entertaining and enjoying family time in her own back yard, has had enough.

Phillips' objections reached city hall Monday morning, kicking into gear a remarkably quick response from Mayor Edwinna Baker.

Within a couple of hours Baker assembled a team of city officials, visited the property and said she was appalled by what she saw.

She didn't hesitate to order her staff and the city attorney to immediately begin drafting a letter to the property owners, telling them they have until the end of the year to clean it up or pay the price.

Good for her.

While the mayor certainly has myriad duties that are important, it's hard to believe that any of those supercede the basic tenant that the city's codes are enforced and that its residents' property values aren't squashed because of a neighbor's desire to turn his or her property into what amounts to a junk yard.

Give the mayor credit, too, for giving the property owners ample time to rectify the problem. They have not been previously cited or even warned, and expecting the property to be brought to code in a week or two is unreasonable.

But therein lies at least part of the problem. This property didn't turn into an eyesore overnight, nor have any of the other dilapidated properties that are a blight on our city.

From structures such as the one in Running Brook that sit abandoned after construction came to a halt to repossessed houses languishing in a jungle of weeds and disrepair, there is an increasing number of properties in Lawrenceburg that are screaming for the city's intervention.

No, we don't need to fret every time someone's paint peels or lawn gets ankle-deep, but we do need to make sure that property values aren't dragged down by people unwilling to keep their homes and lawns in a reasonable state of repair.

That goes for loan companies and banks, too. After they have repossessed a property, they need to be held accountable to bring it to code and mow the grass.

The city has plenty of laws already on the books to make sure that happens and a mayor who apparently isn't afraid to put them to use.

Let's hope she and her staff continue to do so, and that more residents will have the courage to speak out and let city officials know what's going on in their own back yards.

Judge-Executive Steve Cornish called Thursday to point out an error my column last week. While writing about his apparent reluctance to reappoint the county's highway foreman, I wrote that if anyone other than the current foreman is appointed, they shouldn't make plans to report to work anytime soon because magistrates will likely vote down them down in protest.

While there certainly will be more than a little discontent among magistrates should the current foreman be ousted, they will not be allowed to vote on the appointment.

They will, however, get to vote on the person's salary, giving them at least some means of voicing their displeasure.

Oh, and one more thing. John McCain's appointment of Sarah Palin certainly brought out the worst in some my brethren in the media, did it not?

Can you imagine if this newspaper delved into the personal life of a woman running for local office and made a big stink of her having an unwed pregnant teen at home?

I can't, but it does explain why presses across America today are bleeding red ink instead of printing black, and hemorrhaging readers who are sick of their biases creeping off editorial pages and on to ones that are supposedly for news.