In a recent Enid News & Eagle editorial, Enid city manage Eric Benson was once again portrayed as villain of epic proportions. A valued reader sent me the comments and I read them. Even I was like, “wow…” Then, I remembered the source and who printed it.
So, I contacted Mr. Benson. It turned out, Mr. Benson himself had not read the article. When I asked him about it, I think it stuck a nerve. He knew once again, that he had been taken to the cleaners by the local rag that people rely on for “news.”
Here is what the Dying Dinosaur printed and attributed to Mr. Benson:
“… Let’s face it: Some of the nastiest-looking houses in town are on the east side,” Benson told the Enid News & Eagle. “If we want to continue to allow that level of expectation to languish down there, then that’s what you’re going to get.”
Further, Benson insists the city can’t encourage investment on the poor side of town. Developers follow profits, he said, “and that damn sure isn’t going to be Southern Heights.”
Here is what Mr. Benson had to say when contacted about what the Eagle printed:
“I did say that, but not in the manner they are suggesting,” Benson said. “What I added prior to that statement was that we’ve looked the other way far too long and have failed at enforcing or encouraging standards and now it’s almost the norm in some neighborhoods. The result is a dead-end of economic catastrophe.”
“The Enid News & Eagle asked me why we couldn’t bring retail and the like to the east side of Enid,” Benson said. “I explained that the market was depressed.”
“They asked the same about Southern Heights. I explained that there was no way that retailers, despite our best efforts to entice them, were willing to look at that stretch. We have tried and failed several times. They are willing to invest only where their analysis says they can make a profit. Further, it’s a sad truth but the east side has far too many pockets of dilapidation.”
I must’ve read the original statement 100 times before I contacted Mr. Benson. The first time I read it, I was mad. I’m a product of the east side. All the way through high school. Longfellow baby! That’s my side of town. Still identify with it quite a bit. I don’t live there anymore, but when I’m over there, it’s still home to me. When I see the structures he’s talking about, it makes me sad and mad. So, by the time I was finished reading that, I understood what he was talking about, but it still stung quite a bit. I can find neighborhoods on the west side just as bad. But here’s the thing: I know that Mr. Benson knows that. That’s one reason I contacted him. I could tell, just by the quotation marks in their story, the statement was cherry-picked. And they didn’t ask him about the west side. They asked him about the east side and specifically Southern Heights. I just wanted to confirm it for myself.
And in his statement to the Route 60 Sentinel, Benson owns his words, noting that the Dinosaur clearly took them and used them to their advantage. It’s a shame they didn’t use all his words. They’ll explain it away as space constraints, but when words clearly add contextual meaning to the quote and story, then make the damn space or don’t use the words. It’s that simple.
Bottom line. Does the east side need cleaning? You bet. So does the west side. Just as Benson states, the City has been too lax on procedures because people scream about how totalitarian the City is when enforcing code. However, if code is enforced fairly across the board, then I say go for it. Let’s clean our city and make it clean and beautiful. Further, let’s get tougher on the slumlords who perpetuate some of the horrid conditions that some of our citizens are living in and do nothing to get them to fix it. Either fix it or make them move on.