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Lawn law could have helped problems in western Duluth

I'd like to comment on the recent disagreement between the mayor and City Council over grass mowing ("Mayor vetoes lawn law," July 25). I am Donald O'Brien'ssister-in-law. I'm sure everyone remembers when he was beaten to death last year in the a...

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I'd like to comment on the recent disagreement between the mayor and City Council over grass mowing ("Mayor vetoes lawn law," July 25).

I am Donald O'Brien'ssister-in-law. I'm sure everyone remembers when he was beaten to death last year in the alley behind his house ("Slaying stuns Gary residents," June 13, 2006). I have lived a block and a half away from there for the past 30 years. I have many good friends in the neighborhood -- one of whom was the clerk in the liquor store who called 911.

What do the lawn law and the slaying have in common?

My friend told me she was on the phone with 911 when at least four customers came through. They were guys who heard what she was saying into the phone. A couple of them went over and looked from the front of the store and told the clerk they only saw guys playing Hacky Sack.

You can guess why they thought that -- because the vacant lot on the cornerhadn't been mowed. Ithadn't been mowed since the city closed the neighborhood tool house five years ago. When we had city street services in Gary-New Duluth, the neighborhood was mowed by dedicated civil servants. Streets weren't constantly falling apart, and we got plowed out as soon as the snow stopped. Remember that storm last spring? It was three days before we all were plowed out.

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Now, I'm not one to worry about my neighbors' yards. In fact, my yard isn't the neatest in the neighborhood since my husband suffered a stroke six years ago, and I am now battling cancer. But my lawn seldom gets eight inches high.

I guess my point is that if residents in my far-western neighborhood can't have city services, an ordinance like the one adopted but then vetoed might have gotten people to mow vacant lots. Then criminals would have fewer places to hide. There are many vacant lots out here due to an abundance of absent landowners.

I think sometimes the mayor is too out of touch with the far-western neighborhoods. No matter where he lives, he only seems to care about downtown.

Nancy O'Brien lives in Duluth's Gary neighborhood and is the wife of a retired city of Duluth Public Works Department heavy equipment operator.

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