Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Community Improvement and the bat - WLBT.com - Jackson, MS

Taking Back Our Neighborhoods: Community Improvement and the battle against blight

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A new administration; a new commitment to addressing Jackson’s blight problem; Three On Your Side investigates ways to help you take back our neighborhoods.

“I’m grateful for you, you all come out over and over again and I do believe that you all played a major role,” said Terry Byrd.

The blighted houses are finally gone and Terri Byrd’s street is freshly paved after four years of complaining to Jackson city officials and finally reaching out to Three On Your Side. The work was done in March.

“It makes me feel better," added Byrd. "Especially that we have a new mayor in. Hopefully, it’s better than the last administration.”

In fact, shortly after Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba was sworn in, he held a July press conference, pointing to blight elimination as a top priority.

“Taking away our blight is not only about the aesthetic appeal of our city, but it’s about changing a culture,” said Mayor Lumumba.

“Yes, this is a big priority of the mayor,” said Community Improvement Commander Jaye Coleman.

But the mayor clearly has his work cut out for him.

“According to the land roll, we have 1425 and that’s state owned properties that we have to maintain," added Commander Coleman.

Commander Coleman has seven code enforcement officers who fan out across the city checking out complaints. Since May 2015, their work has paid off.

“We’re approaching our 300th demo. We expect that to happen before October before the new fiscal year kicks in," said Coleman. "We’ve actually saved over 1.5-million dollars by citizens doing their own properties without us having to contract out; we got it resolved by owner. So, that’s a good thing, like I said, we can use that money for other properties that are not taken care of.”

In Mayor Lumumba’s July blight elimination press conference, he announced a partnership between the public and private sectors. Revitalize Mississippi is the result of a collaboration between Mayor Lumumba’s father, the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and Dr. Jim Johnston:

“The main function of Revitalize Mississippi is to donate free lot cleanups and demolition if needed,” said Dr. Johnston.

Even more incentive is a city initiative called the Neighbors First Lot Program.

"The person that lives in closest proximity to a derelict property will have first choice at purchasing that property at an excellent rate," said Commander Coleman. "At the time, it’s like 10-dollars if the lot is vacant. If there’s a structure on the property, it will be 50-dollars.”

That’s exciting news for Terri Byrd, who says she will be looking into purchasing the property across the street from her house and transforming it into a community garden.

Commander Jaye Coleman said, "We like the fact that the citizens are taking charge since he's been in office. All the COPS meetings have increased, city council meetings, people are coming out. The public is just engaging. It's like a rebirth of Jackson."

“It took a long time and we’re very satisfied with the fact that the houses are down and the streets been paved,” said Byrd. ”I don’t think without you all, It would’ve been done.”

Here are some numbers you can call to reach Community Improvement: 601-960-1054, 601-960-0665 or 601-502-6687.

Commander Coleman said citizens can also dial 311 to report any issues or concerns.

To reach Revitalize Mississippi, contact Jim Johnston at 601-506-9702 or send an email to jim@revitalizems.org 

Plus, contact the Secretary of State's office for a list of affordable state-owned properties that can be purchased by Jacksonians.

3 On Your Side would like to help you take back your neighborhood. Just send an email to hballou@wlbt.com or contact me on social media, Facebook howardballouwlbt, Twitter @hoyabee or @howardballou and Instagram howard_ballou. 

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