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See a problem, fix a problem — the joys of local gov’t, local news

It can be hard to place statewide, national, and international news into the context of our day-to-day lives, but the effects of an ugly or dangerous blight visible outside your kitchen window are immediate and personal.

That’s why local government — and a local paper — are so important.

We point, for example, to the charred hulk of a former apartment house on Washington Avenue, which has stayed standing — stinking and unsightly — since May 2020.

As documented by a series of recent stories by News staff writer Julie Riddle, the owner of the property lives out of town, and the city had few tools at its disposal to force the owners to bring down the structure neighbors have complained about for months.

But, after hearing from neighbors and after Riddle’s reporting, the city has taken action to beef up its ordinances to give officials more teeth in the future.

The burned home still stands because recently discovered asbestos has to be abated, but we love the story because it illustrates the power of local government and local news.

Residents reached out to their representatives and the representatives responded (though not yet to residents’ total satisfaction), and the local newspaper was there to keep residents informed of the progress.

Ugliness in Lansing and Washington can be enough to turn anyone off from civic engagement, but the saga of the Washington Avenue eyesore shows the value in local engagement and staying informed by your local paper. The process can still be sluggish and laborious, but at least you know people are listening.

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