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September 11, 2013

Primus Mootry: Does Anderson's west side pass the 'eye test'?

A very dear friend of mine uses a method he calls “the eye test” to judge, among other things, the state of the predominantly African-American section of Anderson’s west side. It’s where he grew up. He is passionate about improving conditions for the total mix of people who live there — African American, white and Hispanic.

His “eye test” simply means “Look around you.” Is there a beautiful tree where there was once just an ugly stump? Has a vacant lot strewn with broken glass become a joyful community garden? Do you see in the face of the people happiness and hope, or the face of isolation, despair, and desperation?

Look. What is the visible, tangible, measurable evidence that these questions are being answered? If you see it, great. If you don’t, then ask why not. I join my friend and others in concern for the west side and its people.

Out of this concern, I recently did my own “eye test” drive through the area. It is an area roughly bordered by Brown-Delaware (E); Eighth Street (N); 25th Street (S); and Costello Drive (W). It’s an area small enough to make a tangible difference, yet large enough to invite investment from anyone or any group that cares.

One afternoon as I was coming from downtown Anderson, I drove west on Historic Eighth Street. In a couple of minutes or so, I saw wonderfully painted, stately old mansions and homes, with a smattering of law offices and other businesses tucked here and there. Easy on the eyes.

But in another minute, I was crossing newly paved Madison Avenue. Far less colorful. Far less well kept. Although it had its bright spots, the section of the beautiful Eighth Street I was on a minute ago was pockmarked with blight — vacant lots, houses in disrepair, inferior streets and sidewalks, and other “eye test” evidence of neglect. Troubling.

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