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LOCAL VOICES: One view to transform Compton into a great city, again

A plan to transform Compton into a place we can be proud to call home  By CHRIS PETIT, Contributing Writer When my wife and I first told our family and friends that we’d purchased a home in

A plan to transform Compton into a place we can be proud to call home

 By CHRIS PETIT, Contributing Writer

When my wife and I first told our family and friends that we’d purchased a home in Compton, they gave us “the look.” Everyone who lives in Compton knows what that look means. It’s a frightened look that says, “Oh my God, isn’t it dangerous there!” It’s a condescending look that says, “Why would you ever want to live there?” And it’s a look of pity that says, “Don’t worry; you’ll be able to move up later!”

Chris Petit

Chris Petit

The truth is, like most young couples, my wife and I bought the best house we could afford; and it just happened to be on the western edge of the “Hub City”; Compton. It was a nice neighborhood (yes, Compton has several of them). Our neighbors were mostly retired grandparents, which meant they were home most of the day and would notice any suspicious activity on the block. The streets were clean, and the people were friendly. My neighbors are the type of folks that are likely to wave to you as you’re driving down the street or keep you company while you’re watering the grass. On the 4th of July, they bring my family Texas barbecue and homemade pound cake.

Our oldest child was just starting school when we moved here, and as luck would have it, her assigned school had won a Blue Ribbon and had the highest API scores in the area. Not just the best scores in Compton, but Long Beach, Palos Verdes, and Redondo Beach, as well. How could I be upset? The neighborhood was quiet, especially at  night. Almost too quiet. I could hear nothing but crickets until the sun came up. I told my wife that if the neighborhood stays the same and if things don’t change too much; we never have to move; we’ll stay in Compton.

We stayed. We made Compton our home. Our children, who were toddlers at the time, are almost ready for high school now. And we are still here. The neighborhood is not as quiet as it used to be, but it’s still peaceful. The school has fallen a few points, but the teachers are still among the best. The only thing that’s changed is that I’m tired.

I’m tired because my little street is doing ok, but when I travel to a local store and notice the alleys and creek beds piled high with trash, the potholes (arm deep in some areas) and the parks with uncut grass, I get angry. The best case scenario is that our leaders don’t know what’s going on. And if the good citizens of Compton could simply get their attention and point these things out, then this would be a situation we could fix. We’d come together with our leaders and find an answer.

But the worst case scenario is that they know and don’t care. I pray that this is not the case. But if it is, what shall we do then? Screaming at City Council meetings doesn’t always work. Compton is a tough town and when we scream at our leaders … they scream back. That has to change.

I think about my city every day, all day, and late into the night. It bothers me that I haven’t been able to affect change from where I am. Maybe you live in Compton too and can identify with what I’m saying here. Either I’m going to have to ask for a different kind of change, or I’ll have to change the position I’m in so that I can be a part of a bigger impact. I walk among the people, and out of many must come one.

Part two of five continues next Monday: POTHOLES

Chris Petit is a homeowner in Compton.

Compton Herald is a digital news publication providing clear, fair and current news, information and commentary about Compton, the Los Angeles metropolitan area, Los Angeles County, California, and the world.

  • Michael Hill July 13, 2016

    Totally agree. We’re all seeing the same thing, and no real concrete effort to change, even the little things. As if “they” whoever they are, local leaders, and have no clue as to what to actually do to change things for the betterment of us all. City council meetings seem pointless to attend because they’ve become the dog and pony show we’ve become accustomed to hearing about everywhere I go, at least. The apathy is deafening, at times. It’s as if, leadership gives lip service, say nothing meaningful, and think they’ve done something marvelous. There’s a name for it. Delusional thinking. Egocentric in it’s execution and at time, unfortunately, sounding a bit dismissive as if you’re dumb and they’re smart mentality. That’s no way for public servants to comport themselves. No way at all. But they do so with abandon. I’ve lived here since birth, back in the mid 50’s and have seen the erosion and it makes me both angry and sad at the same time. We want the same thing, all of us. Maybe new blood, local products with the burning desire to do much good for residents, with the energy and drive of an Elon Musk, let’s say, need to become the next wave of our real advancement. Now I’m reading my words and laughing to myself. Sounds pretty, those words, and sometimes I’m a bit ashamed of my use of them. Because words are one thing, actions another. There’s still a disconnect between city hall and our residents and as I drive back and forth, I try to assess who’s living where and thinking, what is it that they want? Wish I could poll them all, from homeowner to renter to street thug to drunkard and everything in between just to find out their thinking, their reasoning. Then taking all of that information and with a think tank of very bright and informed individuals, brainstorming ideas based on reality, not flights of fancy. We have to start at the ground and work upwards on this one, since the infrastructure has been neglected for so long. Central Ave is great, now that they’ve begun working on it’s restoration. But with 10 square miles of roadways to go over, and sorry lighting on all of them, literally, it’s taking a very long time now. But I’m still hopeful for a coalition of new ideas from the residents, themselves, since the present group seem to have issues with petty infighting and jealousy, which is a divider, not a glue. Same faces and bodies come to the council meetings and get raucous with their comments, only to go home and watch themselves online or on cable. Silly all of this, really. Only gratifies the ego, and serves no one, really, but themselves. Meanwhile voices like yours and mine get largely ignored, as if we don’t exist. At least that’s how it’s been feeling for awhile. Crime is everyone’s problem and everyone’s responsibility at some point. Police can only do so much and as the police chief in Dallas so aptly stated, they often called to do a lot more than the pay grade ranks. Ask any cop and find out for yourself. Lighting…however, I think, is key to changing the immediate environment. We blew it last upgrade. Time to get it right for once. Bad decisions inside city hall do us a disservice. Good decisions do us good. Simple as that. Bad decisions at the poll get us “less than”. Better decisions, if we’re offered such, only if we’re offered, benefit much. Our demographics tell the real story, why I’m so interested in knowing who lives here, who visits, who rents and why, business owners, who are they and where do they take the money they earn. Usually elsewhere, part of the problem too. Why do we have two chambers of commerce instead of one united? Things like that bug the crap out of my brain, as I travel outside of the city limits, seeing how other communities thrive and come back home and dodge potholes all over now. Frustrating, heck yeah! Answers, nothing perfect, but let’s start with lighting shall we? Inadequate lighting on main thoroughfares is like inviting the devil to supper, IMO. Something most of us would never do in our right minds, right? Let’s start there, and maybe work our way upwards. Do you agree? It’s a start…not commercial complexes and promised jobs, as most political types are so used to resorting to, thinking they’re all that. They’re not. Humility isn’t something you proclaim, you have to demonstrate by being diligent and consistent in actions. Actions do speak much louder than sound bites, any day. Peace.

  • Leatrice Charles July 12, 2016

    This is also my story. I’m on the east end of Compton. I want to be a part of that first step. Where do we start?

  • James July 12, 2016

    The problem in Compton is the people. How does trash pile so high, it’s like they never heard of a trash can. There is no pride in the community, just a bunch of hoodlums at the parks smoking weed. A bunch of homeless at the liquor store drunk and asking for spare change. Compton can be nice when the city has its employees working and police removing the riff raff from the public right of way.

  • Shontell Ellis Thomas July 11, 2016

    You have taken the first step, which can be the hardest, keep moving/pushing onward and upward! Positive in negative out!

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