Yow for mayor?

A reader of this blog today pointed me toward this YouTube video that’s either a really long political advertisement or just a man pointing out unsightly problems in East Sanford.
What’s interesting is Randall Yow’s screen name, “yowformayor.”
Like the reader said, Hmmmmmm.


9 thoughts on “Yow for mayor?

  1. There are several homes in Sanford that are condemned. The demolition process is a long process. There is money every year for this in the city budget.

    McIver School is NOT owned by the city or county. Sandra Wilson owns this building. Yes, the same one who owns the lot on Hawkins where the Level 4 facility was proposed. The city and county’s hands are tied. Fenced in and secured. It will take an owner that wants to help before government can partner with them. WB Wicker is a great example.

    Removal of a building owned by a bankrupt company is very challenging. Who pays for the removal? $50,000. or so. Legally…..who is now liable for what? These issues had to be and now have finally been worked out. Clean up should be soon.

    I can show you many, many eye sores that HAVE been cleaned up. This is nothing new. It is a priority of the Cty Council. Once a year we remove several buildings. It’s a never ending process.

  2. This video bothers me….. although the topic is one near and dear to my heart as well. I’m just not certain I agree with the tool or delivery.

    I share Mr. Yow’s concern for the condition of East Sanford(and similarly distressed areas), and I suspect many citizens would also generally applaud his plea for assistance on this issue. But I also think this video unfortunately presents a somewhat unbalanced, knee-jerk, and uninformed viewpoint that may unfairly characterize Sanford; as I personally know that the City of Sanford, local developers, and many citizens have been working for years to slowly but steadily address this very issue in East Sanford and elsewhere.

    Many cities, even affluent areas, have urban decay and Sanford is no different in that regard. I’ve seen similar vistas as shown in this video in many other cities probably considered far ‘nicer’ than Sanford. And Sanford is certainly like many smaller cities that have dramatically suffered from changes in economic and neighborhood fortunes over the decades. With these changes some newer areas have prospered, while others fell into decline, with some areas suffering worse than others.

    My family lives in such a neighborhood, that now thankfully has been experiencing a renaissance since it’s creation as a National and Local Historic District in 1997. But we still have many challenged properties, sometimes right next door to a completely restored jewel. But again, this isn’t unique to Sanford, good or ill.

    Throughout the late 1960s and into the 1980s, many urban neighborhoods and downtown areas like East Sanford particularly fell prey to these declines as previous downtown residents migrated to the suburbs and business and manufacturing moved out of downtown districts. But over the last 20 years or so, many cities have striven to regain and reinvigorate these areas, seeing their potential and inherent value. However it takes time. And in the interim, the cities and communities must work to undo the damage done over decades of neglect, find funding for these projects, and manage challenged properties owned by absentee or otherwise uncooperative landlords. None of this happens overnight, although I have to say that in our brief 2 years in Sanford, we’ve seen great and surprising progress in projects geared toward quality of life and beautification in downtown and surrounding areas.

    And as an aside, but perhaps relevant; keep in mind that Sanford only created its first National Register Historic Districts in 1997, and Depot Park was only conceived in 1995, and executed in 2001. So much of the efforts of urban renewal for Sanford are very recent and still gathering steam. …but boy are they! 🙂

    As pointed out in Mr. Brewer’s comments above, the city certainly strives to do a better job, but many of the properties in distress within Sanford are privately owned and that presents its own challenges. Plus the city can act on only so many properties a year. And some of these properties have been ‘in process’ for years as the owners of the property have proven to be uncooperative.

    But as mentioned in the video, the areas highlighted are also just blocks from Sanford’s expanding and beautiful urban renewal projects which show how the City and private enterprise have recognized these challenged areas, their potential, and are investing in the reinvigoration of Sanford’s downtown and urban residential neighborhoods. However this isn’t presented as progress per se in the video, simply as contrast, and I personally think that is an opportunity missed. In fact, I actually think Sanford is well ahead of the curve on this front than many similarly sized cities, including my home town of Monroe, LA whose downtown is now not much more than a vacant ghost-town.

    It certainly can be valuable to point out challenges in a public forum, but it is also important to present the the whole story via research and fairly reporting the facts at hand.

    It concerns me that this video is available for world wide public consumption and shines such a negative light upon Sanford while failing to also accurately report the current and past efforts the city has had in process for East Sanford, such as repeated grant applications over the last couple years for National Register status, efforts by local charities & grants to repair and paint deteriorated structures, and partnerships to save historic homes and buildings in East Sanford from the wrecking ball. I think a quick meeting with the mayor and city manager would have likely touched on these topics for Mr. Yow versus this public diatribe.

    Further, uninformed and erroneous comments such as those surrounding ownership/responsibility for the McIver School and admitted ignorance of the status of various buildings in the area shown do little to make the case and only confuses the matter further. Of course one could I suppose argue that even with these errors & omissions, the producer is indeed only expressing concern and asking for help. And on that point I can empathize as I too would love to see more of these derelict and challenged structures improved or removed.

    But my issue with that interpretation is that without factual support, this video risks becoming simply a provocative and alarmist vehicle that suggests no real solutions and has the unintended consequence of dissuading new residents and business from considering Sanford as a destination…. and/or perhaps as suggested by the producer’s YouTube userid, it is simply a political play? I have no idea. But succinctly, I think it may cause more damage than good.

    I’d also suggest that teardowns are not always the end-all solution to distressed properties. Sometimes it takes someone, a citizen or developer, to come in with a vision to save a property, even a condemned structure, and avoid empty barren lots and neighborhoods that lose their historic integrity and fabric. I can point to several such homes in our neighborhood alone that could have been bulldozed just a few years ago, but now are showcases or are well on their way…. and thank goodness, as their loss would have been a real shame.

    One final thought: I would never suggest a citizen shouldn’t have the right to speak up, especially publicly, on an important issue. In fact, I encourage it. But in some ways I also think that like many things, there is a good, better, and best methodology and I’m not so sure that a video on YouTube does this issue, or Sanford, the best service by only highlighting the negative and incidentally not even having all the facts correct.

    Much like the closing credits suggest, I’d instead suggest that concerned citizens contact the Mayor, City Manager, their City Council representatives, and relevant city/county official such as Sanford Code Enforcement to find out about any specific property of concern, or to just get some insight into their perspective on this issue. Or maybe a ‘Letter to the Editor’ or similar might be valuable too.? I’ve personally found everyone I’ve suggested to be very happy to share their thoughts, and assist if possible. I bet Mr. Yow might be surprised to hear what plans are in process for many of these properties, or to also simply discover that our city leaders share these concerns.

    I simply don’t want the world’s impression of Sanford to only be the vision Mr.Yow provides, as that isn’t the Sanford I am very proud of and where I see daily improvement.

    As a resident of a neighborhood with many challenged properties, absentee landlord issues, and other quality of life issues, I can and do absolutely believe neighborhoods like East Sanford can be improved, and should be. But along with highlighting the problems, let’s offer some solutions and take the time to get the facts straight before diving in headlong.



    That all being said, I too really hope and wish that the old McIver School can be saved and repurposed someday. It would make a gorgeous office complex, apartments/condos, retirement facility, or heaven forbid… a great neighborhood school again 🙂


    There a some properties very close to where this video was shot that may also look to be abandoned, but actually are owned by local development companies/individuals and are on their radar to be redeveloped following the completion of some current projects. So the periphery of the current urban renewal of downtown is slowly but steadily expanding such as the newly renovated retail spaces to the east of Depot Park. Over time this has the potential to definitely grow into those adjacent blocks. Things may not be as ‘dead’ as they appear on some of those blocks. It just takes time to work through all the projects.

  3. Why hasn’t Randall Yow called the city manager or county manager?

    If he had, he would at least know the facts.


  4. Now here’s something interesting….

    The Youtube ‘yowformayor’ userid is now gone along with the original video clip and my reply/comment clarifying the issues with the video.

    He has reposted the video under this new ‘yowforsanford’ userid without my comment.


  5. I think the video has done what it aimed to do… getting the conversation going. I, for one, had no idea of the City’s process for dealing with condemned homes. I appreciate Mr. Brewer’s detailed posting on his blog. It would be nice if the City’s website had a before & after section. This way we could see the progress that has been made and see which lots are scheduled next.

    For property owners that are unwilling to take care of their lots, maybe the Herald cold “kick start” the process by using public shame (much like the Lee Co. Sheriff Department does for “deadbeat parents.” Maybe publish the names/addresses of property owners who are unwilling to maintain their properties adequately.

  6. Mr. Yow has not made any decisions regarding his politcal inclinations for 2009. As such, I changed the account name used to post the video. We both firmly stand behind the video and its central theme. I can repost your previous comment in it’s entirety, Mr. Roethslisberger, if you would like.

    Just to note, Mr. Yow has been without internet service for several weeks, and could be for several more. Apparently Charter Communications no longer retains a customer service office in Sanford.

    Mr. Yow did contact or attempt to contact the city manager, county manager, and the mayor, but information concerning these three properties was never divulged. Needless to say, straightforward answers concerning these issues would have saved us much time and effort. We very much appreciate your forthright and elucidating manner, Mr. Brewer, and look forward to having you as a first point of contact for future questions concerning the city.

    Regarding the property on North Avenue (the first highlighted in the video)…
    The property has been in disrepair since we were in high school (Lee County High School, Class of 1999)
    Condemnation date states 02/06/2007
    Original video post date was 08/11/2008
    Building demolished on 08/18/2008
    Perhaps it’s just a coincidence?

  7. I think we should all be thankful that this young man is even concerned about his town. Whether or not he has all of the facts or not at least he shows a genuine concern and he has the right to be heard. Good Luck to you Mr. Yow in your future plans.

  8. I would like to restate and stress again that I also think it is a wonderful thing that citizens like Mr. Yow express concern regarding issues like this, which is a great benefit to the community. And taking the time and effort to call attention to the problem shows that he cares. My posts were not intended to suggest otherwise.

    I and other residents feel the same and make similar efforts in our residential neighborhoods just on the other side of downtown from where this video was shot. And I will also state again that I support any citizen’s right to call attention, even public attention, to issues that they find important and unresolved.

    Without being too specific, just let me also say that of all people, my family can absolutely identify with this issue… personally.

    And if as pointed out above that the ‘video has done what it aimed to do… get the conversation going.’, then I suppose that is true in the simplest sense.

    My only point is that I still think this video may have not been the best strategic approach to this issue in light of the actual status of work in progress and potential long-term impact to Sanford’s public image/reputation, which is of course my opinion and may not be shared by everyone.

    My perspective is: If the city were systematically ignoring these problems, or Sanford were in decline and had no projects in process or planned that were improving these areas(such as the new pocket parks) I could see resorting to this ‘public airing of dirty laundry’ as a last resort.

    However given that I was able to quickly obtain the status of these and similar properties, I believe Mr. Yow could have done the same. With that in mind, I feel the potential negative impact to the image of Sanford this video imparts is unfortunate and unnecessary as it will hang around on YouTube indefinitely where people researching residential and investment opportunities do some research. They really do. And that’s why the inaccuracies (errors and omissions) of the video are significant, as they don’t balance the story with reports of the progress being made or the efforts in process.

    With that in mind, my personal alternative approach is to highlight the positive, and work behind the scenes with the city/county to work through the negative. True, that may not fit every case, but it often does and I think helps builds positive critical mass, where highlighting the negative can cause us to backtrack. But that’s just my perspective and approach. Obviously not everyone will find that strategy attractive or a best fit for every situation.

    But also remember that in many cases the real culprits are the owners in regard to these properties. Other neighborhoods suffer from similar properties, ours included, and to some degree the local, social, and business network is sometimes the more effective lever to put pressure on these owners to make a change than the city.

    Not every property or owner responds to the same pressures in the same way, so the community and municipality sometimes have to work toward resolution through creative methods. And in some cases, it just languishes through frustration, which is the case with several ‘slums’ in our neighborhood that just barely walk the line to stay legal, but obviously flaunt the spirit of the law.

    I think we can all agree that everyone would be happier if these challenged properties could be addressed at an even quicker pace, unfortunately these projects do not get completed overnight and not all owners are cooperative. But having worked closely with those interested in revitalization and historic preservation in the city and community, I can assure those interested that East Sanford is on their minds as a priority.

    I know it is frustrating, especially when one lives immediately next door….

    But as a newcomer I really find Sanford to be making slow and steady thoughtful progress on several fronts including cleaning up parts of town and general revitalization, which I think is the best pace as compared to some other communities where growth outpaced their capacity to do so.

    Let’s publicly promote that success, highlight what is attractive about Sanford, while privately identifying areas for improvement and working through those challenges. In most cases I think that will deliver the optimal result we are all looking for, which is better quality of life and new and revitalized investment throughout Sanford.


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