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Holten: The nicest community in the state

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Dear Dickinson. You could be a really nice city.

That’s right, with some paint, a lawnmower and a little more effort, this community could really sparkle. In fact, it could be the nicest city in the state.

After all, Dickinson is located near the prettiest area in North Dakota, the Badlands, so why shouldn’t it be the prettiest city in the state? It should be and yet it’s not. Why? Because there’s too much paint peeling, too much junk lying around and too many backyards unattended. That’s unfortunate, because Dickinson deserves better.

It’s a waste, but it’s completely fixable.

If you had a beautiful diamond ring, a reconditioned ’57 Chevy and a very expensive pair of high heels, you wouldn’t park the classic Chevy in the middle of a mud puddle, step out in your high heels and grab a handful of mud with your ring hand. You’d avoid the puddle.

But if you couldn’t avoid the puddle, you’d shine up your valuables as-soon-as-possible, so why not do the same thing with your house, office and yard?

Now, for those of you who have pristine homes, yards and businesses, please do not be offended. You deserve our thanks. After all, you’ve dressed up the city and the rest of us are benefitting from it even while we bring your property values down because of our mess.

For those of you who have a mess … shame on you. You are devaluing your neighbor’s property by thousands of dollars, same as if you were stealing money right out of his or her wallet. That’s not right. But why let the city, state or federal government make you clean it up when you can do it yourself?

If you own a house and the paint on the trim is peeling, it’s a great idea to paint it. Because if you don’t, the wood is going to rot away and you’ll be paying a whole lot more to fix it.

Today, I drove by an apartment building in south Dickinson, just east of Rosie’s on Third Avenue west, and right outside, one of the tenant’s apartment doors is a barbeque and a pile of assorted stuff that could easily be put in a container. But this Dickinson “neighbor” decided to let us all savor the eyesore.

In essence that pile of junk makes a variety of statements. None of which are good.

In Honolulu in 2014, the mayor signed into law a bill that makes it easier for the city to clean up messy yards.

Now homeowners and renters there can write to the Department of Planning and Permitting to complain about a messy neighbor and if the situation is causing an unsafe or unsanitary condition, or is interfering with “the quiet enjoyment of residential property,” then that department can conduct an investigation of the situation, forcibly remove hazards and charge the violating neighbor for the cost of the cleanup.

Hazardous materials can be anything from construction debris, wood stumps, flammable weeds and disagreeable odors to old appliances, automobiles, trash, old tires and stuff like that, especially stuff that houses rodents and insects.

Honolulu’s Department of Planning and Permitting can also issue fines, place a lien on a home and ultimately take the violating property owner into foreclosure, all for having a messy yard. In other words, trash there is serious business.

In fact, it led Mason Cooley, a professor of French, speech and world literature at the College of Staten Island to say, “Human society sustains itself by transforming nature into garbage.”

That might be a little dramatic.

But perhaps comedian Woody Allen said it best when he said, “In Beverly Hills ... they don’t throw their garbage away. They make it into television shows.”

I wonder if there are any laws against that?

Holten is the president of the North Dakota Cowboy Association. He writes a weekly column for The Press.