Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Realities of life in the inner city

Over the past few weeks several things have caused me to reflect on my own neighborhood. I began to think about what my community says to those of us who live here. What follows are some of my reflections with pictures of my neighborhood:

No alleys. Though we have what would be considered to be an alley...and though the city expects us to clean up our alleys periodically (I've been given a citation after reporting junk in my neighbor's yard because the city said they couldn't get through my alley to look), it is really an overgrown dirt space between two back yards. Most of the time I don't even think about the fact that I have no alley. My neighbor, however, asked once, "Why is it that our trash has to be put out and picked up in front of our houses? Why can't we have alleys like the suburbs so that our trash isn't seen?" Instead, from what I've been told, our overgrown alleys have become convenient havens for hidden and illicit activity.

Cracked sidewalks. If you've driven in the inner city (Dallas) much, you've probably seen the motorized chairs wheeling around. As I looked at the sidewalks, it became apparent to me why people wheel down the middle of the road. People in wheelchairs or motorized chairs would have a very difficult time manipulating on the crumbling sidewalks we have.

No drainage. I love the city's recommendation on their website: DRAIN (all caps is theirs) standing water in your yard and neighborhood. Standing water can be found in swimming pools that are not kept clean, ponds, pet watering dishes, birdbaths, potted plants, old tires, empty containers, toys and clogged rain gutters. We hold up our end of the bargain so we figure it's only fair to ask the city to hold up to their end. A couple of years ago, my neighbors and I called the 3-1-1 number and I followed up with a letter to Leo Cheney. After several more phone calls to different departments, one man finally came out, took pictures, and told my neighbor our problem wasn't as bad as some places so the city probably wouldn't do anything...and they haven't. But what causes the standing water? Is it something our community caused? No. Over many years, the city has paved over our road until the road is now level with the curb (leaving no openings for drains). As new houses have been built, the builders have put in a few curbs and sidewalks; however, the new curbs are higher than the old curbs, creating a whole new problem of uneven sidewalks and streets *if* the city ever does try to re-do the street.

Bars on windows. Though I recognize this is not a city issue, I do believe that the "broken windows theory" plays a part in the need for bars and thick glass in our community. (You can see the bars on these two houses. You may not be as able to see the 1 1/2" thick glass that separates the customers from the store operators in this other picture.) What is really crazy is that I almost deleted the picture of the house with bars because the picture didn't seem significant to me. It wasn't until much later when it dawned on me that there were bars on the windows. I know many people would never even think of entering a community with bars on windows. How would you feel (as a kid or as an adult) if houses around you had bars and businesses dealt with you through thick paneled glass?

The sad part of this to me is that we get frustrated, but we begin accepting these atrocities. It's not that we haven't tried. We follow the channels, but ultimately give up when the city says our neighborhood "isn't bad enough" because they assure us that others are worse...despite the fact that some that are better off than ours are getting all kinds of repairs and renovations and look MUCH nicer than ours.
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