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Water Valley’s Tipping Point

Reading for pleasure is just about impossible for me. If a spare minute is found to sit long enough to get the pages open, soon after my lids become heavy and the inevitable happens – sleep. Quiet time must be late at night when there are no real estate calls to make, no supervising that can’t wait until dawn and no baseball practice, homework or looming chores around the house. 

Books on CD is about my only choice. I have lots of riding time, so I drive and listen between calls. 

Malcolm Galdwell’s best-seller, The Tipping Point, is one of my favorites. I have listened to it several times.

His command of language, smooth-as-silk delivery, and compelling content makes listening a joy. 

Gladwell describes a tipping point as “that magic moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips and spreads like wildfire.”

Examples cited in the book describe how people, sometimes by complete accident, start trends and change behavior. It can be the sudden popularity of a product or, over time, the large-scale change in negative behavior in a big city simply by setting and enforcing laws that left unenforced, can lead to widespread neglect and an apathetic citizenry.  

Water Valley is prime for a tipping point event. The new roster of leaders on the town council can play a major role in moving us closer to it. 

Enter the “Broken Window Theory.” The theory by social scientists, James Wilson and George Kelling, states, in part, that each problem left unattended in a given environment affects people’s attitude toward that environment and leads to more problems.  

Case in point is Water Valley’s unwillingness in the past to enforce its ordinance regarding abandoned or burned out property and junk cars. Yes, there was some select enforcement, depending on where it was and who complained, but no widespread enforcement.   The kind of enforcement where no one felt singled out.

In the last 12 months Water Valley has recorded the highest prices ever paid for real estate, both in town and out in the county. There are virtually no rental properties available. There is also a shortage of new homes for sale in town in almost every price range. People who are not affected by school district and pay no mind to the grading scale of our public school systems want to come here. They want to buy here and pay taxes here!

Yet, there are nearly 80 parcels, by some counts, inside the city limits that are deemed abandoned, burned out or otherwise an eyesore. In addition, there are dozens of abandoned untagged cars and trucks scattered here and there across town. Remember, no tags are being sold on the cars, and virtually no taxes being paid on the structures. That money is desperately needed for our schools and to help fund services for everyone.

The real travesty is the effect these properties and vehicles have on neighboring property values. Would you buy a house or want to rent next door to one of these eyesores?   

Here is the good news! The new city leaders recognize the problem and are taking baby steps to make changes. Concern over the cost of cleanup is cited as main reason only a handful of official “clean-up or else letters” are sent at a time. 

Most of the property owners are well meaning and simply have not addressed their properties because the issue has not been brought to them. These properties can be sold to investors or individuals where new homes are constructed to sell or rent. These homes will increase the tax base and bring more kids to our schools. 

Imagine if none of these properties were here and suddenly someone brought them all in and scattered them about town!  There would be an uprising!  (Think trailer park) We are on the verge of something special. The tipping point is so close.  

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