Rearranging the deck chairs

If you’ve driven by the intersection of I-435 and Winner Road/US 24/Independence Avenue over the last few years you’re more than familiar with the hot mess of transient activity that exists there and threatens the health and safety of motorists and residents who have the distinct displeasure of stopping or living nearby.

In 2019 we profiled a North Blue Ridge Neighborhood resident whose family won’t allow their grandchildren to visit given the ongoing threat of physical violence and lawlessness exhibited by the transient element that dwells under the 435 overpass. Since that time, the situation has only become worse. But MoDOT, despite all this detrimental activity taking place on their property, including damage to the underpass when fires are lit, continues to deflect blame and offer excuse after excuse in what can be compared to re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

The situation is no better at the exit ramps of I-70 and Sterling Avenue, where area businesses are terrorized regularly by transients defecating and urinating on the front door of an area child care business and attempting to gain entry while it is full of children. According to business owners there, drug paraphernalia such as syringes and pipes are regularly left in the parking lot by under-bridge dwellers creating an extreme health hazard.

To all of this, MoDOT has been non-conversant to even admit a problem exists–much less lift one finger to rectify the issue that continues to fester on property they claim to own and maintain– and negatively impacts the local business community

When MoDOT finally did respond at long last to repeated requests to assist in cleaning up the mess on a regular basis, they claimed that they could not go into these locations due to CDC paradigms and restrictions based on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Note to MoDOT: there’s a plethora of diseases existing under those bridges associated with unsanitary and disgusting conditions created by the transient population that you refuse to help remove.

East Patrol Community Interaction Officers Greg Smith and Pat Byrd have been doing much of the heavy lifting in dealing with MoDOT’s constant rearranging of the deck chairs and blame deflection and finally reached out to Mayor Quinton Lucas’ office for some assistance and that’s when the thunder started to rain down.

This Conservative minded NewsDog might have some policy differences with the Mayor, but when praise is due, such as in this case, we’re going to offer it up in heaping helpings.

Carlota Halpern, Mayor Q’s Office Manager, did a little research on these so-called protocols and procedures that MoDOT Engineer Matt Killion has been tossing around in order to continue to not take responsibility for the issue and learned that there are, in fact, ZERO protocols in place at MoDOT that would prohibit crews from regularly cleaning these messes up.

Additionally, Halpern, who takes after the NewsDog when it comes to tenacity, is bringing the fight to MoDOT and on behalf of the communities surrounding these hell holes is holding MoDOT’s feet to the fire in terms of scheduling clean ups and ensuring that a safe and clean environment exist in these locations moving forward. Anyone remember the old TV comedy show Hee Haw, when everyone stood in the cornfield and yelled SALUTE? Well SALUTE to Carlota Halpern in the Mayor’s office for finally holding MoDOT accountable.

Here’s the bottom line: this isn’t rocket science. The burgeoning aggressive transient and panhandling issue needs to be dealt with soon and effectively on a city wide basis. Continuing to turn a blind eye to the issue and pandering to the plight of an under-section of society only exacerbates the problem.

Maybe the non-profit organizations that receive public funds to “serve” these communities should be required to dedicate a certain percentage of their payroll to hiring these under-the-bridge types in hopes of changing a broken paradigm. The Dog isn’t optimistic, however, and thinks that the out of town churches and the various uplift-type organizations would rather continue to enable bad behavior instead of getting their hands dirty and offer a long term fix.

Until that paradigm changes, better keep your belongings out of sight and keep the windows rolled up.

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