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Why did it take 3 ½ years of telephone calls, letters and follow-up letters to get the City to demolish a neighborhood eyesore and haven for addicts and derelicts?

Why did it take the City 3 ½ years to demolish a house whose owners owed more than $6,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest dating more than seven years, as well as another $1,500 in weed liens?

When the City finally demolished the house at 5512 Bryan Parkway in August in the Garrett Park East neighborhood, we should have been singing a song of triumph – but how can there be a sense of triumph?

No taxes for seven years, abandoned, unkempt, an eyesore and a dangerous place – still, the City took no action for years, despite the pleas and demands of the neighborhood.

Tens, if not hundreds, of complaints were lodged with the police about the property. Drunks, drug addicts and assorted crazies hung out in and around the house, terrorizing neighborhood women and children who had to make their way past the property to reach the local Laundromat and convenience store.

The residents of East Dallas and Lake Highlands, indeed, of much of Dallas, nod their collective head, recognizing an old, familiar tale. Consider: the City Manager has proposed a budget which requires a property tax increase. Yet hundreds of vacant lots and abandoned buildings lie fallow, generating no tax income, running up mowing, cleaning and demolition bills for the City – which we, the citizens, pay for in higher taxes.

But you can do something. Demand action to encourage affordable “infill” housing. Demand action on your neighborhood problems. Write letters, make calls, take names and document, document, document.

Bureaucratic smoke cannot last in the breath of the voice of the people; bureaucratic mirrors hide nothing in the clear light of accountability. Start with that overgrown lot, that vacant eyesore down the street. Write your council member, the Mayor and the City Manager.

After all, who elects them and who pays them and, above all, who are they supposed to serve?

And it works.

In three short years, in one neighborhood, Dallas Habitat has added more than $1.4 million worth of property to our tax rolls; it hopes to add another $1.2 million in 1993 alone.

Dallas Habitat is not alone in this capacity; other affordable housing providers could add as much or more. Neighborhoods can be revitalized, with homes and families and children, instead of druggies and drunks.

The City needs a coherent plan to take action on vacant, abandoned and lien-encumbered properties. These lots can, once again, be fruitful and can, as well, provide decent, safe and affordable housing to those in need.

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