The city came one step closer to cleaning up the fourth block of Main Street last week when none of the owners of the neglected properties showed up for public hearings to try to argue that the city shouldn't clean up their properties and send them the bill.
I don't really blame them. If there were ever slam dunk cases for what the Mississippi code describes as "a state of uncleanliness constituting a menace to public, health, safety and welfare" the ruins that remain of these old buildings fit the bill.
They now have 30 days to bring them up to code or the city may do what needs to be done, which is demolish those buildings and clean up the lots.
This is a big win for the business owners on Main Street who work so hard to make Main Street an attractive place to shop. It's also a win for all Yazooans because what's good for our local business community is good for all of us.
But while the fourth block of Main Street is the most visible eyesore for most of us, there are many other properties that have a greater impact on people's lives. Abandoned and neglected homes in neighborhoods are more than just unattractive. They cause numerous problems from driving down property values to attracting vagrants and drug users. It often leads to people with the means to do so moving out and makes it highly unlikely that anyone new would ever want to move in.
These neglected properties are like cancer cells on our city, and they are numerous.
Fortunately the current administration, mostly Mayor Diane Delaware actually, has been much more aggressive about addressing the issue.
In the past it usually only took an excuse, pretty much any excuse, to convince city leaders to allow the neglected properties to continue to be a problem.
Politicians usually want to be popular. They want everyone to like them, and many don't have the gumption to take a stand when someone shows up to argue - even if that argument has no merit. At least that's been the case on this issue many times in Yazoo City.
Delaware doesn't have that problem, and she's forceful enough to lead the board to see the process through when some of the members get shook up by citizens seeking to get the city to bend the rules for properties that have been in violation of city code for years. A nice touch during the last meeting was putting photos of the properties on a large screen behind the board as each individual property was being discussed during the hearings. It's hard to argue that it's no big deal when there's a giant photo of a house with broken windows that is being overtaken by vegetation in the background.
The truth is that 30 days is probably enough time for any property that can be brought up to code for the work to be done. Some of these properties are too far gone and will never be brought up to code. When you've got a trailer house that's been unoccupied for a decade, neglected and perhaps even vandalized, it may be time to cut your losses. When you've got a home that has been open to the elements for some time, it's possible that it will cost more to fix it than it's worth.
We recently saw that with a home on Jefferson Street that was once one of the most beautiful and luxurious homes in this city. It was sad to see it torn down, but the reality of the situation was that it would cost much more than the home was worth to repair it. The owner of the property realized that and took it down. That's how the process is supposed to work.
And of course if someone is obviously making a sincere effort to bring their property up to code and they don't quite meet the deadline, the city has the right to grant them more time to get the work done.
The best outcome for all of this would be that once it becomes clear that the city actually means business when it comes to cleaning up properties, that residents will begin following the rules on their own. I don't expect that to happen overnight, but if the city stays the course it can happen.