CLEVELAND - In the children's story of the "3 Little Pigs," the big bad wolf huffed and puffed and blew down two of the three houses built by their owners. In wolf-like fashion, the City of Cleveland made short order of a couple of houses on East 54th Street. Unlike in the children's story, no one complained about the city's huff and puff -- it was applauded.
It was on that Slavic Village neighborhood street that Mayor Frank Jackson launched his annual "Clean Cleveland Initiative." Heavy equipment came with the mayor to knock down a couple of long-abandoned houses which had been eyesores on the street that intersects with Fleet Avenue.
"If you go down the street, you'll find a lot of homes that really should have been torn down 10 years ago," said Paul Jarosz, an East 54th Street resident. However, Jarosz, who has lived in the neighborhood for decades, was pleased to see the city's effort.
Mayor Jackson, Ward 12 councilman Anthony Brancatelli, and several members of the mayor's administration held a sidewalk news conference in launching Clean Cleveland. While they talked with residents and reporters, other workers were cutting grass and weeds in abandoned lots where houses once stood decades ago. The effort is to bring a cleaning effort to all the neighborhoods of the city in a targeted initiative.
"Last night, people came from Cleveland Public Power to look at the street lights to see if any were out," said Mayor Jackson. "We will replace them, look at the sewers and all the things," he added.
Slavic Village, like many other neighborhoods, has been hard-hit with home foreclosures. When many owners walked away from their properties, the houses just sat there untended and fell into deep deterioration.
Brancatelli said since 2007, more than 6,700 structures in Cleveland have been razed. There are still thousands more which await the bulldozers jaws. Brancatelli said, however, it will cost millions more to take them down. He said the city has used its money and funds from county, state and federal offices.
Still, those dollars come from the same source: the taxpayers.
The Clean Cleveland campaign pulls together various city departments to converge on neighborhoods to deliver many services, including waste pickup, pothole repair, graffiti removal, catch basin cleaning and street sweeping.
The mayor promised every neighborhood would get a clean sweeping. The residents on East 54th Street said they were appreciative of the city's efforts. Some had lived on the street for more than 40 years and were struggling to keep up the values of their own properties, even while other houses along the street were falling down and in disrepair.