Fundamentals can determine success, whether it’s for a business or a city.
Consider a business that develops a new product for a lucrative market. What happens if the business neglects customer relations and quality? Failure.
A similar fate awaits a city that works hard to offer nightlife, cultural attractions and a smart marketing campaign but doesn’t address litter and other signs of neglect. Desirable newcomers visit but decide to relocate elsewhere.
Decatur too often resembles that city that hustles to improve big things but overlooks little things.
Councilman Billy Jackson verbalized this tendency last week when discussing the city’s effort to develop a branding campaign. He said the city “will sell itself” if its roads are paved, its rights of way are maintained and it’s clean.
We reported last year that only 40% of the city’s full-time employees lived in Decatur and that may help explain why little issues here get overlooked. Maybe the employees who live elsewhere don’t care because it’s not their home or maybe they don’t spot signs of neglect because they aren’t out-and-about in the community like residents are.
Following are several small things we’ve noticed that need to be addressed.
• Debris litters parts of the Bill Sims Bike Trail in Southeast Decatur. Road markings for the trail also have faded or been obliterated on sections along Grant Street and 10th Avenue. This trail should have an advocate in the Parks and Recreation Department who schedules litter pickup by volunteers or paid workers, periodically makes sure trail markings are repainted, has maps of the trail available for cyclists at various spots in town and markets the trail.
Decatur has done a commendable job of establishing the trail and adding to it, but the upkeep on older parts of the trail is disappointing. Decatur should boast of the bike trail when trying to attract newcomers, but that requires keeping it looking sharp.
• Tree branches obscure traffic lights at Spring Avenue Southwest and Clearview Street for motorists traveling south on Spring. The city should have a process for workers and police to report obstacles to safe driving such as this so that the limbs can be trimmed.
• Sidewalks are lacking near Austin Junior High. When this school campus on Danville Road Southwest was a high school, this wasn’t a major concern. But the campus began serving students as young as eighth grade 15 months ago, and many mornings there are students crossing Danville Road at hazardous areas rather than at traffic signals.
Why does this happen? First, there are no sidewalks from Danville Road leading to a school entrance, leaving students unsure where to cross. Second, the sidewalk on the west side of Danville Road starting at Eighth Street abruptly ends at Eleanor Drive. To continue on a sidewalk, students walking to school in the morning have to cross Danville Road at that spot to the east side. The hazard is reversed when students are walking home from school.
• Islands in roundabouts in Southeast Decatur aren’t regularly maintained. Some of them have no greenery and others have sparse plantings. It makes you worry what the new “landscaped, hammerhead cul-de-sacs” blocking Line and Ferry streets on the south side of Wilson Street will look like after a few years of city neglect.
We’re sure there are other needs in Decatur that need addressing, and we’d like you to help us bring them to the attention of the city’s elected officials and paid workers. If you spot litter or other signs of neglect in the city, let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.