Tahlequah Daily Press


August 5, 2013

It’s time to clean up Tahlequah

TAHLEQUAH — Everyone who lives in Tahlequah looks at the community through a certain lens. We like our little corner of the world, tucked into the foothills of the Ozarks, with our lakes and scenic river displayed as the crown jewels.

Sometimes, we may even view the landscape through rose-colored glasses. We don’t see ourselves as visitors and potential new residents might see us. And therein lies the problem.

In this day and age, attracting new people and businesses is critical for any town. Merely surviving isn’t enough anymore; the goal must be to thrive. Usually that means actual growth, but it can also mean evolution to keep pace with a changing society. Either way, though, revenue will be a key factor.

None of us can deny the existence of several eyesores within the city limits that detract from the area’s natural beauty. Among the worst offenders are the abandoned buildings, which their owners have not seen fit to demolish or refurbish. In other places, weeds protrude through cracked and vacant foundations. Signs advertising businesses that haven’t existed in years still stand defiantly in place, deteriorating with each passing season. In the summer, grass grows several feet tall around certain businesses, until a disgusted neighbor finally mows it himself.

If you’re an up-and-coming business owner looking to relocate to a city, how would you react to the sight of a burned-out shack down the block from a property you’re considering? What newcomer would buy a home next to a house with peeling paint and an overgrown yard that hosts a perpetual tick and flea convention? A parent of a potential NSU student might approve heartily of the beautiful campus, but wouldn’t she be turned off by a yard a few blocks away stacked with rusting vehicles and other junk?

It’s not just a matter of keeping up with appearances; it’s also a safety concern. Empty buildings can harbor dangerous pests, which in time can infest an entire neighborhood. Rusty nails, broken glass and other hazards – like poisonous snakes – can spell disaster if a curious child wanders into the structure.

How can this happen? Doesn’t anyone care? In some cases, the property owners may be short on funds to take any action. In others, however, money’s no object, but the owners are prominent citizens or members of families with deep roots in this area, and they feel they can do as they please, with no fear of consequences.

It’s time we held the feet of these folks to the fire.

There are ordinances in place to curtail such problems, but if they’re not  enforced, they are of little use. And they need to be enforced consistently and across the board, without favoritism or prejudice. That means if a property owner doesn’t take action within a reasonable amount of time, the city should slap him or her with a hefty fine – one an attorney or judge can’t help him weasel out of.

When it comes to communities, the same standard applies as it does to our own persons: If we don’t care how we look, no one else will, either. And if we “stink” – literally or figuratively – no one will want to be around us.

Tahlequah sells itself as a community that welcomes visitors and newcomers – one that relies heavily on its tourism industry, and an influx of students to the NSU campus. But being friendly and showcasing our best features isn’t enough. We must all do our part to make our city attractive to those who may want to become one of us – and to keep our kids from leaving in droves when they become  adults.

There’s only one antonym for thriving, and it’s not one we want to apply to Tahlequah. Let’s shape up, before anyone ships out.

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  • Tourism Council and chamber should cut the proverbial cord

    They are defined by two separate purposes and operate under two distinctive sets of bylaws, but years of conflicting opinions have left lingering questions and confusion over the relationship between the decades-old Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce and the younger Tahlequah Area Tourism Council.

    July 30, 2014

  • NSU needs to be more candid when its plans go awry

    Many area residents were disappointed to learn this week that the NSU Fitness Center, and its all-important indoor lap pool, won’t open next month, as originally announced.
    This latest delay is no surprise.

    July 28, 2014

  • Higher premiums a just reward for drunken drivers

    Over the past several years, Oklahoma has slipped in many of the polls that count. This week, we learned Tulsa is No. 4 on a list of cities with high rates of fatal DUI accidents. Is anyone really surprised?

    July 25, 2014

  • Maybe it’s time to think about having another BalloonFest

    The 18th annual BalloonFest was the last one held, in 2010. In summer 2011, when the Daily Press staff hadn’t heard anything about the much-anticipated event, we started asking questions.

    July 23, 2014

  • If you see a drunken driver, take the time to call in a report

    If you see something, say something. You’ve heard the warning, and seen it imprinted on placards at airports. In the wake of 9/11, it became a national mantra, mainly aimed at spotting potential terrorist activities. But it’s good advice anytime, and for any reason, even at the local level.

    July 14, 2014

  • City officials should stop squabbling and try to work together

    It’s bad enough that the Chamber of Commerce scandal has given Tahlequah a black eye. But if the bickering among city officials doesn’t stop, the community will have a complete set of shiners for its public face.

    July 11, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    Despite pressure from some quarters, neither the Press nor anyone else who values full disclosure will be clamming up until all the facts are known, and those who are responsible meet with justice.

    July 10, 2014

  • Only full disclosure will restore trust in the chamber

    A few board members for the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce are saying they’ve heard nothing but positive things lately – about the chamber itself, and presumably, about themselves.

    July 9, 2014

  • Employer-sponsored insurance may now be a ‘hostage’ situation

    When the fallout settles from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, many Americans might decide they’re better off with health insurance that doesn’t come from their boss.

    July 7, 2014

  • With confidence in Congress at 7 percent, time for a new slate

    Note to Congress: We don’t like you. Not at all.
    A Gallup poll released Monday, June 30 confirmed what most of us already know: the American public is disgusted with the House and Senate. The survey recorded the lowest level of confidence since Gallup began asking the question in 1991: a whopping 7 percent. That’s not a typographical error; it’s a single digit.

    July 2, 2014


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