Tuesday, May 22, 2018
One of America's Great Newspapers ~ Toledo, Ohio



City shafts good neighbor

You would think the city of Toledo would at least offer a thank you to city residents who take it upon themselves to do what the city apparently can’t — maintain neglected, vacant properties that otherwise become overgrown blighted parcels.

But not only did city officials miss the chance to offer thanks to Lucas Carpenter Sr. for his efforts, they added insult to injury by rejecting his offer to buy a pair of empty 30-foot-wide lots that he has actually been maintaining in his East Toledo neighborhood.

Mr. Carpenter is one of several residents who have pitched in to beautify their neighborhoods yet have been frustrated in their attempts to buy small vacant parcels near their homes. Toledo officials have rejected several offers, including Mr. Carpenter’s, because they don’t meet the technical requirements of the city’s program for selling off these properties.

The city’s rules for selling small, empty lots are reasonable: Buyers have to be current on their taxes. The lots must be too small to be buildable. And the buyers must be adjacent landowners.

The rules are aimed at assuring the land will be well cared for by residents with genuine roots and interest in their neighborhoods, not flippers or slumlords. So when a prospective buyer obviously is such a person, despite not meeting every technical requirement, it is only logical to make an exception to these rules.

In Mr. Carpenter’s case, he is ineligible because he is not the owner of an adjacent parcel. He lives nearby. If city officials cannot see their way clear to make an exception in this case, perhaps they could amend the rules.

The rules should give adjacent neighbors first dibs on buying such parcels. But if those neighbors don’t want them, other buyers could be considered.

Either way, there are reasonably simple solutions to this matter. Yet, once again, Toledo’s city government is paralyzed by bureaucracy and lacking in basic administrative competence.

This isn’t Chicago or New York. Toledo is small enough that it ought to be a simple prospect to connect a resident nobly stepping up with a city staffer who can help him. Indeed, Toledo is small enough that a mayor can, and should, intervene in a case like this.

But once again Toledo’s city government is shortsightedly overlooking an opportunity to combat one of the city’s most intractable problems — blight — and leaving decision-making to bureaucrats rather than leaders. Those stepping up and fighting ugliness deserve support from those running the city. And the people who run the city need to be personally engaged.

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