Wednesday, April 22, 2015 || By Michael Romain || EDITORIAL || Updated: 6:21 PM
There’s an abandoned house at 900 N. 8th Avenue with a garage that has been in slow collapse for some time. Residents who live near the home have reported that it has been broken into and has become a magnet for rodents and, at any given time, may harbor squatters. In the delipidated garage, there’s an abandoned car that sinks in unison with its surroundings. The home was first brought to my attention in September 2014 — more than six months ago. It was even included in a post highlighting various public works deficiencies in town.
At the time, at least one resident in the area had reported the property to the village and requested the home be declared vacant and boarded up. According to a resident, village officials said they would add the property to some unspecified ‘to do’ list.
In September 2014, the structure looked like this:
As of April 20, 2015, the structure looked like it does in the photos below:
There may have been measures that were taken by the village to address this problem. Indeed, the home may have been added to a ‘to do’ list. The village could have declared the home abandoned without residents knowing it.
But this isn’t the point.
The point is that residents who live near a property that is literally collapsing in on itself have no knowledge of what the village plans to do with the property, because no plans have been communicated to residents in the area.
There have been no regular status updates even for residents who have expressed to village officials their concerns about the property.
Where is this aforementioned list, for instance? Who among the public can access it? If I lived next door to this house, I’d want, at minimum, to know that my local government had a plan for what to do with it (and properties like it) if not immediately, then at some reasonable point in the future. It would be nice, for instance, if I could keep track of that list as the village checked off problem properties. I can’t imagine a measure like this costing a lot of money to implement.
But by most Maywoodians’ accounts, I can rest comfortably in assuming that nothing remotely approaching the above is taking place. And that it isn’t taking place isn’t simply because the village is broke or various departments, such as code enforcement and public works, are undermanned.
Besides, government officials communicating with the residents they purport to serve shouldn’t be considered a zero-sum cost. It should be considered an investment that yields dividends over the long run — both in dollars and in social trust.
To begin to restore that trust among residents, whatever department is responsible for maintaining the list that one resident referenced should make it public, so that citizens can see what, if any, progress has been made in dealing with Maywood’s nuisance properties.
That department should also make available a detailed, reader-friendly, description of its process for dealing with residential complaints, in general, and complaints about derelict properties, in particular. I’d be happy to publish this document and even promote it via Facebook and Twitter to as wide, and as willing, an audience as possible. Heck, I’d even help with the draft, if none exists presently.
If a property slowly rots in a state of post-apocalypse for more than six months and no village official seems to be around to deal with the blight, does it matter? To the people who have to live near it — it does. And it is to them the village owes an explanation for why, after several months of residents complaining, this property still looks like it belongs to a place where the sound of civilization — of mutual trust, of healthy dialogue and two-way communication — has ended. VFP