Sunday, September 30, 2007

What is the price of Tranquility?

A friend of mine has raised the question of whether the plan to enforce the smoking ban will take police away from what they feel is real crime-fighting duties.

Please don’t think I am condescending or attempting to force-feed anyone. I am simply responding with what I feel is the voice of reason and in doing so, I am laying it out to consider the alternative, which is non-enforcement.

The city has new leadership and with our existing leaders, they are going to attempt to enforce statutes, laws and ordinances. This is a good thing, but it is touch and go and time will tell if they make the right decisions and set their priorities correctly. Garry Brumback said as much in Friday’s article about the Lakeview apartments. Our city is way overdue for solid leadership and enforcement of codes, that anything they offer at this point should be viewed as welcome.

There is going to be growing pains involved in enforcing the laws and we as citizens must be patient, as has been stated over and over, while the new city manager puts plans into action. I’ve been communicating with Mr. Brumback and he has been very open and accessible. We have an understanding and since I’ve been accused of being his lackey, I’ll add this note and then let it drop.

Before I submitted last weeks article to the Baytown Sun, I sent it to Mr. Brumback. I told him he had my full support and I wouldn’t second guess him or be critical while he worked out a plan to get us on track. I also explained that my support could go the opposite direction, if down the road it became evident that he no longer served the city and its citizens. He told me he didn’t expect anything less and he would try to do his dead level best to represent us.

Like a good meal being prepared, we as citizens can not pick every decision apart while it’s being prepared, but wait for the final serving. I’m willing to wait.

The smoking ordinance will be enforced. It has to be. Personally, I would love to see the sign ordinance, building codes and landscaping ordinances enforced and the items I've noted here:

…but if and when they do, I imagine someone will start trying to rally the citizens against it and use about 20 reasons why it shouldn't be done.

Civic leaders, movers and shakers who have credibility and integrity should use their influence for the overall good of this city and not raise partisan objections about law enforcement priorities while a plan is being executed. I hold myself to the same standard and I am just one guy with a keyboard – not anyone special or privileged.

Recently, I’ve been in communication with Ray Wilson and Hilda Martinez about our responsibility as local writers when it comes to our circles of influence. I’m bold and direct and I probably have been too assertive and offensive at one point or another, but so far their response has been positive. They, like me, see this as their town of choice and want what is best for Baytown.

Given my druthers, I would write about the Grito Festival or the butterfly count I attended last weekend. I could use my valuable writing space to muse over my current fascination with the differences in the ruby-throat hummingbird and the rufous variety and how they are territorial and expend enormous amounts of energy to defend a hummingbird feeder.

I’m convalescing from surgery and daily I’ve been sitting on my back porch watching the variety of migrating birds. I’ve taken the opportunity to study the changing of the leaves on my many trees and the subtlety of colors. The beautiful blue skies and fluffy white cumulonimbus clouds that have floated through have been nothing short of majestic.

Yesterday evening, my bride of 30 years stood beside one of our hummingbird feeders as one by one, a “hummer” flew in next to her and fed on the sugary liquid we prepared. It was a small thing and brought us both joy and I was once again reminded that the very reason we could sit in peace and enjoy this sight, was because of the stability of our city.

I listened to sounds of my neighborhood. I’ve been doing this more and more and if you haven’t tried it, it is nothing short of an education. Here in the back of Chaparral Village, with 70 acres of undeveloped land behind me, I have a unique mixture of sounds and the only way to truly appreciate them is to turn off the radio and sit quietly…and listen …and listen.

What I hear is the sound of peace and tranquility. Various birds offer up squeaks, squawks, coos and song. The train horn in the distance, the occasional fire truck or emergency vehicle, the wind through the trees, distant thunder, the passing boom box of a passing teen, a car door, a child’s voice, dogs barking, a diesel truck, the sudden frantic helicopter wing beating of the rufous hummingbird…and then relative silence…all to be repeated.

I like what I am hearing and feeling. It’s the sound of a city working towards peace and order. It’s the sound of security and tranquility. It’s the sound of the city I love.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Hellfighter Returns to Baytown

The last time Baytown Texas saw someone determined to fight hell with their fists was 1968 and that man was John Wayne. Go on down to Rooster’s on Texas Avenue and eat a Rooster Burger and you can still see evidence of his work here. There’s even a life-size cutout of the Duke, just so folks don’t forget.

If what we citizens are seeing continues, Mr. Lowell Cox will need to clear a wall to make room for the legacy our new city manager Garry Brumback will create. I liked the man the first time I shook his hand and I figure myself a pretty good judge of character.

Mr. Brumback came into my view a little over a month ago and almost immediately there was opposition to his appointment from a certain sector – that sector appears to have a lot of complaints about everything. It seems one outspoken fellow in this here town is convinced Mr. Brumback is not the man for the job. Well, time will tell, but I was and am, willing to give the man a fair shake.

I’m reminded of a story I read years ago and involved a small western town in the late 1800’s. In this town, a vile element had inserted itself into a position of control and the good citizens felt threatened by the lawlessness. They had a town meeting and decided the best course of action was to hire a man who would take control of the bad guys and win their town back.

Initially, there was opposition to hiring this man because he was considered a warrior and had a history of getting down and dirty when it was crunch time. Some viewed him as crude and unqualified, others thought him unrefined and a few saw him as a possible trouble maker himself. Finally it was decided that the town was under siege and it would take someone with heavy warfare expertise to secure the citizens safety and with this mindset, they hired the gunfighter.

The story went on to detail how the warrior cleaned up the town using no nonsense tactics and restored peace and safety to the community. When the threat was removed and the bad guys were gone, the sector who had initially objected to hiring the gunfighter cranked up a hubbub again, citing the warrior as the new threat. Eventually the man who had brought security to the little town was dismissed because he was now viewed as the primary threat.

Baytown is under siege and has been for a long time. We hard-working Baytonians are ready for someone to cut through the bull and grab this crime-steer by the horns. We want real decision making on Cedar Bayou, Texas Avenue and the future of this city. We want leadership. We don’t care who did or who didn’t do what. We simply want it fixed.

When Garry Brumback heard we citizens were having what could be viewed as a rogue meeting, he flew from Florida to attend. He wasn’t intimidated by us. He actually ran towards the fight and that impressed me, because our city is in a fight and we need a warrior to double-fist up for us. We need a hero.

The Colonel, as I call him, was a commander in the Army. He comes to a city under siege with a lot of proven leadership. I like what I see so far. He isn’t abrasive and he is very personable, but I know a warrior when I see one. His no nonsense approach to dealing with the Lakeview Terrace Apartment complex makes me want to stand up and do a one man human wave! Bam-bam-bam!

If there is one thing I hate and I mean to tell you, I really hate it, it’s the current American business paradigm that we need to have meetings and meetings ad nauseum to finally make a simple obvious decision. It frustrates me to the point of screaming.

Being a logical thinker, I am an avid proponent of Occam's razor, which is a principal which states “All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the right one”. George Patton was guilty of this kind of decision making and there’s a good chance if he would have been loosed to do what he wanted, we would have annexed Europe about 60 years ago, instead of attempting to placate them.

I say we back our new city manager and watch as he busts the chops of every criminal and city slacker until this town gets on track. Then…we don’t turn on him, like that old western town did to the man they hired.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Brumback’s frontal assault is going to make some very vocal critics and enemies before this city gets on track, but I don’t plan to be one of them.

Friday, September 21, 2007

City threatens to shut down Lakeview Apts.

By Barrett Goldsmith Baytown Sun
Published September 21, 2007

Residents of the Lakeview Terrace apartment complex on Northwood could be forced to relocate next week because of delinquent utility bills by the owners of the property, Baytown city manager Garry Brumback said Thursday.

The owners of the property, ISH and Company based in Montreal, currently owe the city nearly $62,000. The city notified the leasing agent for the property Sept. 4 that the complex owed $31,614, and did not receive payment. The complex is now delinquent on its current bills of about $26,000, and has been assessed a late fee of about $4,000.

If the owners or the leasing agent fail to pay the amount in full, water to the complex will be cut off Tuesday. After that point, the apartments will be declared inhospitable and residents will have 24 hours to leave their apartments. The water service will not be restored until payment is received.

“The property owner is packing up and has no intentions of paying anything,” Brumback said. “We don’t want to punish the occupants, but we’re going to continue to move forward on the bad behavior.”

The city has been aggressively moving on the Lakeview Terrace apartments over the past few weeks after an inspection Sept. 5 showed the uninhabited portion in the back crumbling and in a state of abject neglect. The complex was cited for a series of health violations that have been partially addressed, but city officials believe the deeper problems at the complex will require more forceful action.

On Oct. 1, the city will go before the Urban Rehabilitation Standards Review Board to recommend demolishing the abandoned part of the building. If the board accepts the recommendation, Brumback said the city would demolish the property and place a lien for the cost on the ownership.

“In my mind, this is a reflection of bad property management and bad property ownership,” Brumback said. “This is just one other example of what we’re not looking for in this city.”

The Baytown Police Department has also been part of the effort to clean up the apartment and others around and along Northwood. The area has been ground zero for violence and illegal drugs in Baytown for months, and police have stationed officers there on a regular basis to curb the rampant crime.

Door hangers were placed on apartments throughout the complex Thursday, informing residents of the possible fate of their homes.

The city is recommending that residents who could be displaced by the water cutoff contact one of the social service and housing agencies in the area, including the Baytown Housing Authority, the Associated Catholic Charities, the Houston Housing Authority, the Pasadena Housing Authority, Bay Area Homeless Services, the Texas Department of Human Services or Harris County Community Development and Social Services.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Love thy neighbor, as thyself…in Baytown?

The good citizens of this old oil town, long known for their independent and self-reliant spirit are beginning to make a change in how they watch out for each other. I’m not implying that Baytonians aren’t caring people; we just like to go our own way. In a pinch, we have always relied on each other.

Baytown is my town of choice and that’s why folks call me Baytown Bert. In fact, some of my Hispanic friends shorten my moniker and simply call me Baytown.

Yesterday, I spent an hour walking part of my 500 home subdivision encouraging my neighbors to band together against criminal activity when it rears its ugly head. Our plan is to use the Neighborhood Watch system of calling police when suspicious activity appears, even if it isn’t our own house. Today and tomorrow, others will be attempting to blanket this neighborhood with flyer's. Soon we will install 30 new Neighborhood Watch signs we paid for with our neighborhood civic group monies.

Every neighborhood and apartment complex in this area needs to focus on getting a group together.

Some call it nosy neighbors, but let me say this, many of us are dual income residents and some work more than one job, so our house and driveway is vacant a good portion of the day or night – since we have many shift workers. We need all the help we can get to keep prowlers away, so nosy neighbors are welcome here.

I live in Chaparral Village, a 30+ year old section of our fine town and it is still a pretty good place to raise a family, or sit in your backyard and BBQ and watch the birds. I’m not ready to give up my half acre quite yet and I’m surely not ready to have it taken from me by someone who would rather steal, than get a job and actually work for their money.

I am basically a minimalist type person, who doesn’t run out and compulsively purchase stuff I don’t need and there is nothing wrong with folks who do – this is America after all, but the stuff I do buy – I want and I really resent having that stuff taken without my permission.

About 20 years ago, I bought my wife a high dollar Hunter Cruiser Classic beach cruiser bicycle from Delgado’s bike shop here in Baytown. I bought it to match mine, which still performs like a new one and I’ve ridden it thousands of miles. I paid over $200 for this fine bicycle, so my lady could ride with me through our neighborhood.

Gone…stolen…wasted. I can’t replace it and even though $200 is not a lot of money (it was 20 years ago), it burns me up still. Personally, I would like to get my hands on the throat of the person who stole it, but I would settle for letting the police lock them up, even if it was for one day…I just want the bike back and want it the way it was when it was stolen. The company is no longer in business, so I can’t replace it.

It’s no secret that the “Fab 4” of Baytown Concerned Citizens (BCC) are trying to enlist as many citizens, police and city workers as we can to stem and eliminate crime from Baytown, but believe it or not, many haven’t heard about our web site www.hotpursuit.com or the BCC group.

Our web site is not the end-all or the total answer. It’s a wonderful tool to educate the average citizen and a place where the average citizen can personally ask a cop a question. It’s an unprecedented resource which empowers us against crime on a local level and everyone should register and contribute. Everyone who hates crime.

What it is going to take is group involvement; groups of people in neighborhoods organizing to fight crime. Blue collar, white collar, predominantly white, black, brown or yellow areas of town can become equally active in fighting crime and that my friend is unheard of in this country.

There is no reason to not get involved. Only criminal activity and criminals specifically will be targeted. Get on board folks. This includes my friend in Highlands - Granny Adcox.

As one of the spokesman for BCC, I’ve asked our new city manager Garry Brumback, Mayor Stephen Don Carlos and chief of police Byron Jones to step up traffic enforcement. I did this openly in front of 250 Baytown citizens. It’s another step in reducing crime and it may not be popular with the average citizen.

“If you want to catch a crook, you catch them breaking the traffic laws”. That quote comes straight from me and it’s based on watching the crime report for the last 5 years. Fellow Baytonians, buckle up, don’t drink and drive, come to a complete stop before turning on red and have your insurance card up to date, because BPD is going after the crooks.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

BPD steps up patrols

By Barrett Goldsmith
Baytown Sun Published September 12, 2007

Baytonians should be seeing a heightened police presence, especially around trouble spots such as the apartment complexes along Northwood drive and Village Lane, as well as in prime shopping areas along Garth Road. The Baytown Police Department has commissioned a number of four-wheelers, acquired through grants, to patrol those shopping areas. The vehicles give police a visible presence and allow for easy maneuverability.

Capt. Roger Clifford, head of investigations, said he and patrol Capt. Keith Dougherty have been seeing the signs of increased crime and developing strategies to hit it head-on, even before others began calling attention to it. Clifford said the department is using overtime and putting officers from other bureaus onto patrol and marshaling the department’s resources to take a firmer hand.

“Our officers haven’t been able to do as much proactive police work,” Clifford said. “But now this gives them the ability to do what they want to do, which is to address these problems. It’s wonderful. Our officers are being set free to do what they swore an oath to do.”

Clifford said city manager Garry Brumback has instilled a top-down commitment to reducing crime. Brumback said he is prepared to use whatever resources are necessary to go after the criminals and make Baytown safer, and he is enlisting all city departments in the effort.

“We’ve got work to do, we’re ready to roll up our sleeves and get to it,” Brumback said. “ I want to create an environment that appreciates law abiding citizens but is very difficult to those who want to break the law. And I’m willing to devote all the city’s resources from various departments to that end. I’ve heard nothing but support from the mayor and Council, so if I need additional resources I will ask for them.”

Baytown Mayor Stephen DonCarlos said “keeping our citizens safe is, of course, the No. 1 priority.”

Following a Monday meeting that drew more than 200 citizens and detailed responses from city and police leaders about tackling crime in Baytown, organizers are trying to expand their membership and ensure those leaders make good on their words.

Bert Marshall, a spokesman for the Baytown Concerned Citizens, said that as BCC grows and neighborhood watch groups expand and become more active, the city brass must demonstrate its commitment to fulfilling its end of the bargain.

“The burden is on them,” Marshall said. “ It’s very friendly and supportive, but they are being held accountable. We’re not expecting overnight results, but we expect some improvement, and we’re already seeing that.”

The city videotaped Monday night’s meeting, and assistant city manager Kelvin Knauf said he would evaluate the quality of the tape to determine if it is suitable to air on Comcast Channel 16, though no air dates or times have been set.

The BCC web site, www.hotpursuit.com, includes a message board about crime in the area, a list of neighborhood watch groups and how to join or start a group, maps of where crime has taken place over the past few months, and a searchable database of those crimes by date, location, offense type and police officer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Baytown officials talk about crime concerns

Sept. 11, 2007, 12:29AM
Mayor pledges budget support for police efforts

By CAROL CHRISTIAN
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

About 200 Baytown residents turned out Monday for the second meeting of a new anti-crime group.

Baytown Concerned Citizens, which drew about 70 people to its first meeting last month, has grown largely through information posted on a Web site, www.hotpursuit.com, organizers said.

The group and its mission has had the blessing of Police Chief Byron Jones, Mayor Steve DonCarlos and City Manager Garry Brumback, who took part in Monday's meeting at the Baytown Community Center.

City manager impressed: "It is more inspirational than I have words to express having an organization like this in my new home town," said Brumback, who is in the second week of his job as city manager.

"The fact that citizens are willing to give of their time is what makes a community great."

Brumback moved to Baytown from Clearwater, Fla., where he was assistant city manager.

Jones, who said the city used to have 35 Neighborhood Watch groups in the early 1990s, said the police department has felt the loss of those crime-prevention groups.

"It takes all y'all to be our eyes and ears," Jones said. "You're going to know things happening in your neighborhood before we do."

Jones urged people to return to the days of being "nosy neighbors" to help control crime.

The mayor pledged City Hall's support for the police department but also called upon the public.

"One of the comments we got early on in this exercise was that people were concerned we were turning the problem over to citizens," DonCarlos said.

"In a way it's true, but in a different way than people thought. I can guarantee that as a City Council we're going to be sure that the police department has the resources to get the job done ... But we all have to do our part."

One of the new group's organizers, Baytown resident Bert Marshall, said those who are interested in the issue appear to be in it for the long haul.

"We're looking for a paradigm shift, where this becomes what we do — get rid of crime," Marshall said after Monday's meeting.

"We're going to start taking care of each other. We're going to chase crime out of town, and dope is going with it."

Marshall writes a blog called Baytown Bert, which has chronicled some of the city's recent crimes and the development of Baytown Concerned Citizens.

In opening Monday's meeting, Marshall said he thought the group's access to police reports on the hotpursuit.com Web site and the cooperation it has received from city officials was unprecedented.

"We're going to empower citizens to know what crime is happening in the city," he said. "It allows you to see that four houses down from you somebody broke in the other night."

Question about budget: About half of Monday's two-hour meeting was devoted to city officials answering written questions.

One person asked if it were true that the police department's budget had been frozen.

Jones said that as the fiscal year ends this month, he has had to cut back on some expenditures because of heavy maintenance costs earlier.

"From time to time, we have unusual circumstances, like a lot of wrecked cars or the air conditioning goes out," Jones said.

"The police department is a business. I'm tasked with being fiscally responsible. I have to make sure that at the end of the year, I come in under budget," the chief said.

carol.christian@chron.com

Monday, September 10, 2007

Public invited to anti-crime meeting

Public invited to anti-crime meeting
By Barrett Goldsmith Baytown Sun

Published September 10, 2007
After weeks of combing through questions and comments from Baytonians irked by increasing crime in the area, the Baytown Concerned Citizens are poised to receive some answers tonight from city officials and the Baytown Police Department.

Police Chief Byron Jones, Baytown Mayor Stephen DonCarlos and new city manager Garry Brumback will all be on hand to address citizens and answer questions culled from an August meeting at El Toro, which drew more than 70 people. The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and last until 8 p.m. in the auditorium of the Baytown Community Center, 2407 Market St. The meeting was originally slated for a smaller room, but organizers to have a standing-room-only crowd of more than 500 people in the new venue.

Bert Marshall, one of the group’s leaders, said he hopes to get the meeting televised on Comcast Channel 16 for local citizens who can’t attend. Marshall said the explosion of interest in the organization has been “miraculous.” The group’s Web site, www.hotpursuit.com, has more than 560 subscribers, and Marshall said more are signing on every day.

“I’ve been fooling around with Web sites and mailing lists for 15 years, and I’ve never seen this kind of growth,” Marshall said. “As we get rolling on the neighborhood watch programs, the site will accommodate all those.”

Marshall said BCC will demand honest answers from those accountable, but he said the meeting will not be about assigning blame.

“We don’t care how we got here. What we care about it how to get us out of here,” Marshall said. “If there have been problems at City Hall or the police department, we don’t care about it. We want to fix it. We’re not going for a long-term score, we just want to get the ball rolling. We’ve done it in the most civil way possible, but we really do need some answers.”

Among the issues that will be brought up include addressing hotspots such as Northwood Drive and Village Lane, as well as truck stops along Interstate 10, and whether the upcoming $82.5 million bond proposal would allow for enough resources to fight crime in the future. Other questions include how the department will continue to fill vacancies, how to get businesses involved with getting rid of crime on their properties, and how the police department might better enforce youth curfew laws.

Marshall said one of the big issues will be the eradication of illegal drugs from neighborhoods and schools. Marshall said those drugs have been at the root of much of the city’s crime troubles, and he looks forward to a time when they can be taken off the streets.

“Once we push these dope peddlers out of town, they’re going to dry up from our schools,” Marshall said. “It’s getting into the junior highs, and even younger. We’re going to get the dope out of this town. It’s going to be something amazing to behold.”

The Baytown Crime Prevention Unit will have booths set up to allow citizens to find out how they can help fight crime and make the area safer. Marshall said he encourages people from Highlands and Mont Belvieu to get involved with the group.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Taming our Shrews

I read one time that pound for pound, the shrew is the most ferocious animal on earth. They have an appetite unparalleled in other mammals, consuming 80-90 per cent of their body weight each day. Shrews are small mouse-sized animals of which there are 376 species and are grouped into three subfamilies: White-toothed, African white-toothed and red-toothed. They will eat anything apparently and when cornered, they fight like an animal 10 times their size.

These little mammals live here. They blend in very well. If you were to actually see one in Baytown, you would mistake it for a common mouse…most likely. Some are actually venomous and some use echolocations just like a bat, to find their prey. To other small animals, reptiles and birds, shrews pose an extreme danger. When a shrew is around, nothing in its path is safe.

Baytown has another version of the shrew and for the most part, it resembles the average Joe. Our people-sized shrew stands on two legs and walks, talks, drives a car…and preys on everything it comes in contact with. Some are white, African, or red-toothed, just like their smaller version and some look so much like the innocent mouse, that no one is alarmed when they come around.

Our Baytown people-shrews go foraging and their appetite for dope and easy prey allow them to consume your hard earned dollars and valuables in one tenth the time it took you to earn it and many times, your stuff is sold for a tenth of its original value. These shrew-like carnivores view us as nothing more than an easy meal and like a delicious Sunday dinner, we are forgotten five minutes after they leave our house or car.

About a month ago, we Baytonians decided we had had enough. We decided it was time to call in animal control and begin the process of ridding our town of these vial pests and it is beginning to happen. I guess by this time, it’s clear I’m not talking about a little mouse-like critter, but the wide variety of criminals who have put a sleeper-hold on our community.

As voracious and tenacious as the crooks are, we have a police department which is more than capable of dealing with them. The good guys and gals don’t take a backseat to anyone. All they need to be effective is a community which will stand behind them when things get rough and believe me, it will get rough.

Note to criminals: GET OUT NOW!

Tomorrow night at 6pm on Market Street at the Community building, Baytown Concerned Citizens will congregate for the second time in a month to listen to Chief Byron Jones, Mayor Stephen Don Carlos and our new City Manager Garry Brumback answer questions submitted at the El Toro’s meeting. They will explain the solution. They will bring a strategy and an overall plan to get us back to safety.

Garry Brumback is already issuing orders to “fix it” and many of the desires and fears expressed at the El Toro’s meeting are in motion. Our Police Department is humming with excitement and activity. The Mayors Office is jumping. Ex-Chief of Police Charles “T-Bone” Schaffer tells me he has never seen this level of cooperation between citizens, a police department and City Hall in over 33 years of police work. He is very supportive, as is Garry Brumback, Mayor Don Carlos, David Bloom of the Baytown Sun and Chief Jones.

If you live in the Baytown general area, you can be a part of the Baytown Concerned Citizen group, or as its known – BCC. This is the Mission Statement: To stimulate the sharing of crime-related information on www.hotpursuit.com and actively promote a crime-free environment through robust and autonomous Neighborhood Watch programs and by citizen attended meetings with local government and the police department.

Register on www.hotpursuit.com and get involved with your Neighborhood Watch group.

That’s it folks. Citizens watching out for each other through Neighborhood Watch groups and calling the police department when you see something that doesn’t look right. We are going to smoke out the criminals through teamwork. Join us tomorrow night.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Would you want me as your neighbor?

I’ve lived in the same house for the last fifteen years and I have very good neighbors. With few exceptions, they reflect my idea of what a perfect neighbor is. I sincerely hope I fit their description also. My neighbors are good as gold and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

If you are around me very much and I’m asked what exactly it is that I would like to see abiding in this subdivision, you’ve already heard the drill. I don’t hem and haw, mutter incoherent nothings, coughing and mumbling – I reply without thinking and I tell it like this:

“I don’t want no criminals or perverts living here (yes, I say it like that even though it is a double negative). I don’t care what color their skin is or secondary culture they have, as long as we share the same values. Wow! What does that mean exactly you ask? Well, I’ll tell you.

It means they put being an American citizen before past allegiances.

It means they want to raise their family in safety. It means they believe in working for a living. It means they respect the law(s). My kind of neighbor watches out for bad people in the neighborhood and alerts me and others. My kind of neighbor doesn’t want to engage in any activity that disrupts the peace of the neighborhood, including loud sounds and music.

I want to believe a good neighbor would think leaving Christmas tree lights up year round is a bad idea, or parking their car or truck in the front yard (other than to wash it occasionally). I think a good neighbor would not feel like having a pile of junk in their yard was something others would appreciate. If I was going to paint my house, I wouldn’t want a garish color that my neighbors would object to, but paint it to reflect good taste.

I want my neighbors to be friendly. They don’t have to visit, just wave occasionally and I will take that as a good sign. If they need some eggs, or a stick of butter, by all means come on down! If they have an emergency, my door is open. If they need me to mow their yard while they’re out of town, I’ll crank up the Toro and do a professional job. Heckfire, I’ll even park my car in their driveway to make it look like someone is home – no problem.

My wife is a Mater Gardener and I am a lawn maintenance junkie. I cut my yard about twice a week and routinely trim my many shrubs and trees. However, I do not hold my neighborhood to this standard (most people detest yard work and I accept it). I do like to believe a good neighbor will regard their lawn as something which can make a neighborhood look well taken care of, or run down. The same goes for the general appearance of their house and roof.

Having an overgrown uncut and unkempt yard makes a nice neighborhood look beat down and neglected. I ran a one man lawn service here in town for about 12 years and knowing our variable weather patterns, we have from March until October on any given year whereby we must attend to our yards. Once every ten days, the yard MUST be cut or it will look like it needs bush-hogged.

That’s the bare minimum. Three times a month. Anything less and you are contributing to the overall degraded appearance of a neighborhood. Throw in some untrimmed and neglected shrubbery, a couple of cars in the front yard and a 5th wheel trailer, last years Christmas lights, trash cans on the curb from three days ago, fourteen newspapers (most wet, soggy and ran over), a mailbox that is aligned at a 45 degree angle, six feet of debris stacked against the side of the house and the truck in the driveway that hasn’t ran in five years and you are the de facto trashy neighbor, like it or not.

I would really like to believe folks just don’t get it, but something tells me they just don’t care. They spend their hard-earned money to buy into a nice new subdivision and within a year of their arrival it looks like a Beirut war zone. Because some homeowners see their house as a throwaway commodity, they use it then lose it, leaving behind something resembling a third world catastrophe…and you were cursed by living next to them.

They will be the first to gripe about how ugly Baytown is and they are the reason Baytown is ugly. It beats any logic I can muster. I imagine these trashy appearing homesteads would be shocked if a big game hunter arrived at their doorstep and asked if he could run a safari in the deeper parts of their yard, or if they realized how many snakes we have in our suburbs this year due to the rainfall.

Regardless of our station in life, the hours we work, or the amount of money we bring in, keeping the appearance of our house and yard up is still the neighborly thing to do.

Customer service is not what it used to be

I was called by a local business today to pay for a maintenance service on my in-ground pool. My debit card on file had expired. ...