December 14, 2006

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Manchester Publisher's Note: Great town in need of TLC
By†Jody Reese

Manchester has gotten a lot of attention lately. We were ranked as one of the nationís safest cities as well as one of the best places to buy property. Unfortunately, Manchester was also written up as one of the worst cities in the country. The author of that book cited the trash as one reason Manchester isnít a great place to live.

As if on cue, city government staffers have suggested that the city hire a code enforcer to deal with rentals. Manchester has one of the highest percentages of rental properties in northern New England, clocking in at almost 50 percent of homes in the city. Most of these are well maintained, but a certain number are owned by absentee landlords or landlords that donít care. These units make the city look dirty and uncared for and also hurt property values. Itís in everyoneís interest to have these landlords comply with the rules and keep clean apartment buildings.

It does make sense to have someone going around enforcing city rules to make sure landlords keep up their end of the deal.

Grounds need support
When West Side saw numerous shootings and stabbings, Manchester city government asked that the community step up and start working with police. In several communities that has happened, but the school department has been charging those groups to use schools as meeting places. True, the charges are small and just cover the light bills when the community groups are meeting. But the charge sends the wrong message.

Manchester needs to be a team to confront crime. City government rightly called on citizens to help and some have responded even though it canít be easy with children, jobs and everything else that makes life complicated. Given how hard it is for working families just to get together and talk about crime, adding fundraising to that task can make it just hard enough that they wonít get involved.

Iím guessing the cost of hiring Mayor Frank Guinta an additional assistant or the raises he has given his staffers since he took office could easily pay for the light bill at the school to support these anti-crime groups. And, city government should be at these meetings making sure it is doing all it can to support these groups. For example, itís these groups that will know which buildings drug dealers use or what corners prostitutes frequent.

Manchester is a great city to live in. It has beautiful architecture and a giving, friendly people. At the same time it may be wishful thinking to say that Manchester is the eighth-best place in America to buy property unless we take action to make this city a safe, clean and fun place to live. That includes making sure apartments and rooming houses are well kept and neighbors are watching out for each other.

Itís time for the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to put aside politics and see how they can make Manchester the seventh best place in the country to buy property.