Accountability Time For East Jackson

SOCM member Ruth Jackson's neighborhood in Jackson, TN was devastated by a tornado in 2003, along with much of East Jackson. The city was slow to recover the area and people were not getting insurance money fast enough. Because of this,  the community is filled with empty lots and rental property.  Houses that were built are too expensive for community people to buy.
SOCM member Ruth Jackson’s neighborhood in Jackson, TN was devastated by a tornado in 2003, along with much of East Jackson. The city has been slow to recover the area.

We were happy to see a committee formed last week that will promote development and problem solving in East Jackson.

The meeting was led by Councilman Johnny Dodd, who represents East Jackson. Seven people agreed to be part of a committee that will meet regularly with Dodd.

We wish this group the best and look forward to its positive influence in the community. We are, however, compelled to ask some questions of Dodd and the city of Jackson. The questions focus on matters of accountability.

To Councilman Dodd, we ask, “What took you so long?”

In October 2008, The Jackson Sun ran a series of news stories examining the lack of progress in East Jackson since it was devastated by a tornado in 2003. Many residents interviewed for those stories told us they felt abandoned by the city. The series made a good case that East Jackson had not been a top priority among government officials.

At the time, Dodd’s response to the situation was that the city had done the best it could with the recovery money available. “The way the economy is, we’re doing pretty good. We’re trying to redevelop, but it’s kind of hard,” he said in a story published Oct. 26.

This year, we have seen the rise of a group called Save Our Cumberland Mountains. It is a statewide organization that works for environmental, social and economic fairness. A local chapter has taken on East Jackson as its cause. The group has generated some momentum toward helping East Jackson, but, according to the group, Councilman Dodd was less than responsive to its first calls for help.

To the city government in general, we ask, “Are you doing everything possible to help the Save Our Cumberland Mountains group and Dodd’s new committee?” More specifically, “Where is the city’s Neighborhood Services department?”

We’re glad to hear that the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency agreed last week to take on a revitalization study for East Jackson similar to one conducted for the Lambuth area. In fact, Dodd agreed to put East Jackson on the Redevelopment Agency’s agenda after meeting with members of the Save Our Cumberland Mountains group, according to the group.

The East Jackson effort fits the mission of the Neighborhood Services coordinator. And it is exactly the type of situation where that position could help – where there has not been, until recently at least, an organized community group with the clout to get things done.

Neighborhood Services should provide administrative, communication and liaison help to the East Jackson efforts, among other things. And the city should make sure Neighborhood Services has what it needs to get the job done.

East Jackson should be the focus of Neighborhood Services – not Lambuth, which has a well-organized community group; not North Jackson, where the problems are minor in comparison.

The problems in East Jackson are not new. We’re frustrated it has taken so long to draw some attention to them. Now that efforts are taking off, it’s important that the city give its full support.

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