Letter: Requests borough to reconsider blight enforcement

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To the editor,

My home is one of only 10 occupied homes targeted by Mr. Carter for blight issues. (Citizen’s News Aug. 5, 2011) Selective enforcement of the ordinance is unfair and an abuse of power. If the rules apply to me, the rules apply to every property in Naugatuck.

Naugatuck does not have the resources now, nor did it have the resources at the time the ordinance was enacted, to follow through with full enforcement of the law on the scale its scope allows. Enacting an ordinance with the knowledge that it is unenforceable with the exception of a few arbitrarily chosen properties indicates an impetuousness and lack of forethought not in keeping with the positions of power the supporting governing body hold.

“Yes, times are difficult,” Fragoso said, “but you don’t have to be rich to be clean. You can be very poor, but you must be clean.” (Citizen’s News Aug. 8, 2010)

To imply, by virtue of the fact my grass is long, that I am an unclean person is an insult and an unfair characterization of myself and my home. Long grass is not a contaminate or disease, and not an indicator of a low standard of personal cleanliness.

My property supports dozens of wildflowers including nodding ladies tresses, red, white and palmate hop clover, oxeye daisies, black-eyed susans, Queen Anne’s lace, bluets, buttercups, and bull thistle or ‘butterfly bush’, which has attracted several Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies this summer. I am aware of these things because I am fully aware of the condition of my yard, and to reiterate, it is maintained as I prefer, which is within my means and at my convenience.

My name is Jessica Johnson. I am the proud mom of a beautiful 7-year-old daughter, my one and only. In 2004, while pregnant with my daughter, I was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer. I underwent over a year of chemotherapy, surgeries and radiation. Being a new mother and being treated for breast cancer was the most difficult experience of my life, but it left me with a new perspective, a new understanding of what it meant to “not sweat the small stuff.”

I am currently separated from my husband, to whom the first warning notice was addressed giving me the impression perhaps Mr. Carter believed my home to have a man of the house. Only myself, my daughter and my mother, who is nearing retirement age, live in our home at this time.

When it became clear my husband and I might separate, I returned to school for nursing, knowing it was possible I would need to support myself and my daughter alone, and somehow pay an $1,119 mortgage. I did not, and do not, want to uproot my daughter from her home, and hometown. I worked and went to school, graduating with test scores in the top 2 percent of the nation. I have since begun my nursing career, caring for Alzheimer’s patients with dementia.

I live paycheck to paycheck. I have a mortgage, I have student loans, and I have utility and food bills. I have a child to raise. I have a job to do. These are the big things, the things I worry about. I have a few dishes in the sink, I have a broken mower and lawn that could stand mowing, and I have a few unanswered e-mails in my inbox. These are the small things. Aren’t they?

Last summer, with money from my tax return, I paid a fellow $240 dollars to clear my yard and remove the brush. This year, I do not have the finances to do so again. I used my functional weedwacker at the beginning of this season to cut down the higher grass in my yard. However, doing so aggravated a condition in my right arm called lymphedema, a result of the one of the aforementioned surgeries.

My plan for my yard, as it existed prior to being targeted by the borough of Naugatuck, is as follows:
Have the unused tractor next to my driveway carted off, which I can do for free with the assistance of scrap metal collectors.

Cut back the branches next to my fence which are encroaching on my neighbor’s property, which I can do without the use of a heavy mechanical device.

Keep my tree branches neatly stacked next to my tree, out of my neighbor’s yard and out of the street.
I have no plan, as yet, for changing the length of my lawn.

I am asking the borough of Naugatuck to reconsider citing my property for blight. I would also ask the borough to revisit the ordinance itself; it’s purpose, it’s effect and it’s enforceability. With its people struggling in this economy to make ends meet, aren’t there other, more pressing issues to confront?

Thank you to those persons who have offered me support, who have taken the time to listen, and have approached me with respect and treated me with dignity.

Jessica Johnson

Naugatuck