My Economics Professor in MBA School, Peter Klein, lectured fondly of the Indian (as in subcontinent, not AmerInd) “entrepreneurs” who risked life and limb going through rubbish heaps looking for scrap metal and other items that could be sold. Despite the risk—I’m not writing metaphorically when I say “risked life and limb”—it was the best opportunity they had of making a better life for themselves.
Apparently, that Indian entrepreneurial spirit (or, as Newt Gingrich might call it, “work ethic”) is being mirrored these days in Cleveland. But now a former county treasurer wants to put a stop to it:
[Former Cuyahoga County Treasurer] Jim Rokakis: We’re looking at a neighborhood that has almost as many vacant houses awaiting demolition as there are houses with people living in them. We have one here. One here. One here. One there.
[Narration?] Rokakis is leading the effort to tear down thousands of abandoned homes because they’re rotting their neighborhoods from the inside out. It often starts, he told us, when a vacant house becomes an open house to thieves.
[TV Correspondent] Scott Pelley: It’s a nice house from the roof to about here. And then down here it’s been ripped to pieces. What’s goin’ on?
Rokakis: Well this is typical because this is as high as they could reach without using ladders. They ripped off the aluminum siding, which you’ll see on most of these houses. The aluminum and the vinyl siding comes off. It’s getting’ about a buck a pound.
Pelley: Essentially foreclosure scavengers have been through here?
Rokakis: The thieves have gone high tech. They know when evictions are occurring ’cause they’re posted online. And they will follow the sheriff. They’re usually there that afternoon or that evening.
Rokakis: So, in here, what you’re gonna see, well. I guess they took everything including the proverbial kitchen sink, right? The sink is gone. The plumbing is gone in this house. All the copper. Anything metal that had value is gone. The furnace is gone.
Pelley: The light fixture–
Rokakis: Light fixture came out–
Pelley: Is gone. How often is this happening in Cleveland?
Rokakis: This happens every day. And the foreclosure crisis creates this spiral, because as a result of this people are now more likely to leave neighborhoods like this. And as they leave, the scavengers come in and do the same thing to the house next door or across the street.
Apparently, Mr. Rokakis objects that houses are starting to look like Bruce Willis’s after the opening scenes of RED. Maybe someone will set the former treasurer straight that the employment of “reuse, reduce, and recycle” techniques in the service of entrepreneurial activities is an Economic Virtue.
(Though, speaking strictly for me, I’m glad that my wife and eldest daughter are willing to delay their hoped-for move to Cleveland for at least the next few years.)