More than a few westerns include a sheriff who is hired "to clean up this town." Seaside residents asked Mayor Don Larson and the town's City Council to do just that. At a community visioning session, cleaning up the town was a top priority for 275 respondents.
But when a clean-up ordinance was put to a vote last week, it died. Mayor Larson was understandably disappointed. But we hope it won't stop what is a commendable and natural desire to make Seaside look good.
At the visioning session, residents said there were too many trashy eyesores, broken-down yards and junked automobiles. And they asked the city to do something about it.
But when city leaders drew up a nuisance ordinance, they hit a stumbling block. Many residents said they didn't want to be told what to do with their private property - especially if it would cost them money,
The issue came to a head Feb. 9 when 19 of 20 speakers at the Seaside City Council meeting protested the plan. They called it "mean-spirited" and too dictatorial. One was even rushing off to see what the American Civil Liberties Union was going to do about it. The City Council abandoned the proposed nuisance ordinance and decided instead to hold a workshop to take another look.
Whether the proposed ordinance - with its appeal process and $700-a-day fine - was as draconian as it was painted is a matter for conjecture. Perhaps it was. But we believe Mayor Larson and Seaside leaders should continue to pursue the concept.
All it takes is a look around at our communities and it is evident some properties need cleaning up. They drag down the ambiance of neighborhoods, threaten property values when residents try to sell their homes, and leave visitors with an unpleasant taste.
People make an essential bargain when they become part of a community. If all of our properties look good, the whole town benefits. The same concept applies to public health or public education. In that sense, a community is greater than the sum of its parts. Conversely, a few eyesores can detract enormously from a town's collective attitude and project an image to visitors that the town is on the skids.
Over several years, the Astoria City Council has looked at the larger challenge of so-called derelict buildings. Larger cities, such as Portland, have these ordinances. Astoria's challenge will be to address the derelict building issue in a way that is affordable to a small town.
Seaside needs to find a way to clean up its neighborhoods that the majority of residents will embrace.
Councilor Tim Tolan said several people had brought up suggestions the City Council hadn't considered, including conducting citywide clean-up days and matching volunteer organizations and high school students with property owners needing help clearing debris.
Other communities have such programs and Seaside could research and adapt the best of them.
Tolan summed it up best: "The bottom line is we all want to improve our town; we're all proud of it; we love Seaside; and we want to make it better. And we want to do it in a fair way."