Just put a clear board over the problem

I have to say I’m looking forward eagerly to the wonderful, massive improvement coming to some neighborhoods of Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati and other big cities in Ohio.

For many years, a drive through those places was an exercise in depression. Signs of urban decay and neglect were everywhere. Abandoned, boarded-up buildings were invitations to move along, not to invest in such neighborhoods.

Thanks to the Ohio General Assembly and Gov. John Kasich, all that is in the past. Imagine, if you will, a couple of developers driving through a once-depressed area of a city: “Why, look, Bill! What wonderful, inviting buildings! Those beautiful plexiglass coverings over the windows just scream, ‘Buy me! Renovate me! Move your family or your business into me!’

“Why, Bill, I don’t know why it took so long for people to outlaw plywood!”

Pardon the sarcasm, please.

You may have read the story: A new Ohio law, aimed at battling urban decay, apparently bans use of plywood to cover broken windows and missing doors in dilapidated buildings. Instead, owners must use sheets of clear polycarbonate.

“Plywood is an outdated solution to a growing modern-day problem,” commented the founder of a company that produces — you guessed it — polycarbonate.

By the way, a sheet of plywood can be had for $15-$20. The polycarbonate can cost upwards of $100.

Clear plexiglass does offer one improvement (based on your point of view): In the future, passersby will be able to see the wrecked interiors of buildings as well as the abandoned exteriors. That may be of some help to police officers looking for crack houses. That ends once the polycarbonate gets cracked, clouded and covered with whatever new form of graffiti the street artists come up with, of course.

It’s part of a trend: Instead of really addressing our problems, coming up with difficult solutions to tough problems, let’s just take the easy, meaningless way out. Let’s claim we’ve done something worthwhile and significant. Let’s be certain it forces property owners to dig deeper into their own pockets.

At least we all can pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves we’ve done something.

What next, one wonders? Insisting the polycarbonate panels be recyclable? Demanding that if the owners of junk buildings do repair them, the electrical system work include solar panels on the roof? Don’t laugh. It’s entirely possible — and that’s what’s scary.


Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News Register.