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March 15, 2013

Randy Hammon vows to stop urban blight

MERIDIAN —     Pledging to help stop the cycle of urban blight, Randy Hammon stood in front of an example of such decay when he announced his candidacy for Ward Five City Council on Thursday.

    Hammon picked one of five dilapidated houses located within a couple of blocks of each other on 25th Avenue to formally announce his candidacy. With windows and wiring missing, many of the houses stand open to whatever or whoever wants to enter.

    "As these houses show, the cycle of decay has spread throughout Meridian. This increases crime and reduces our tax base," Hammon said. "Many cities have proactive programs or ordinances for decay, but we don't. The Secretary of State has a program but it's not going to put a dent in what we have."

    Hammon said that instead of city officials spending money on other expensive projects, they should direct their attention and the taxpayers' dollars to doing everything they can to stop the decline of neighborhoods. Hammon, a retired engineer, said he has the problem-solving skills to help get this done.

    Other cities have already made strides against urban blight, he said.

    "The programs that most of these other cities have are called blight ordinances and they also have active programs to restore neighborhoods. They have tightened up their ordinances and re-written their ordinances," Hammon said. "They also have the bylaws that allow them to move in, in  a quicker manner. Our ordinances are way outdated.

Restoring neighborhoods will also help fight crime, he said. But first the city must allocate the money for it.

    "There's a lot of money in the budget and a lot of money is in overhead and debt," he said. "We have to find a way to use some of those moneys to restore neighborhoods and help these taxpayers."

    Hammon said streets need more work as well.

    "We've lived in our home for 25 years. We've never had our side street repaved. It's just been filling in the potholes," Hammon said. "Something is wrong with that. I've paid enough taxes to do my side street by myself. Either they don't know what to do about it or it doesn't affect them and so they can ignore it."

    Hammon said something should be done for those who stay and are left behind in crumbling neighborhoods.

    "It's almost immoral, what we are doing to these families. These are people that can't leave. A lot of them are retired people. They can't leave their homes. They can't afford to — and they have to live in this or next door to this. I guarantee you this — and that's what I told all the council people — If your mom or dad or one of your other family members lived next door to one of these, you'd do something about it. There's no other reason I'm running for council."

    Hammon is running as a Republican, as is the incumbent, Bobby Smith. John C. Harris and Albert "Brick" Emerson are running as Democrats.

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