Businessman wants #039;clean#039; leadership from government

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 30, 2003

Tim Gearhart is a man of many things. But one thing is sure; he loves Ironton -- especially its downtown.

Tim is the owner of Tim's News & Novelties on Third Street and a vehement supporter of all things Ironton and he doesn't mind telling anyone who'll listen.

In fact, on at least one occasion, he and I had a "discussion" when Tim believed the newspaper was giving priority delivery to news dealers outside the downtown area.

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And, as a person with a passion for Ironton and a vocal opinion, it should come as no surprise that Tim took one of the first public shots at leaders and hopeful leaders of Ironton with a recent letter to the editor.

In his letter, Tim challenged all who are either in office or who seek office to join him at 6:30 a.m. today for a "brief walking tour of downtown Ironton."

Highlights of the tour, Tim wrote, would include:

4A brisk walk of the trash-lined streets.

4See tall weeds growing around the ornamental trees.

4Marvel at the beautiful day lilies mulched with a blend of cigarette butts, bottle tops and pop tabs.

4Note how well manicured the grass is that’s growing out of the storm sewer drains.

4See grass growing almost anywhere except where grass should grow.

4See the neatly stacked beer, wine and whiskey bottles in the doorways of the storefronts.

Obviously, Tim's letter was meant to spark discussion more than to actually invite folks for a tour of the city's problems. And, at least for a few others and me, his well-pointed comments did just that.

In discussing the matter with a colleague, the real heart of the matter bubbled up. Is it the city's responsibility to keep the city clean?

I chimed in with a hearty, "Of course it is!" My colleague said, "Well, the city thinks the business owners need to take on more of it."

Perhaps we were both correct. But, I would argue, (and I suspect Tim would agree) that the city should lead by example.

"Well, should a group of us go up to the welfare office once a week and clean it up?" Tim asked. "I don't think that's our responsibility."

Tim was quick to bring forth another example of the problem, albeit a bit dated; it still rings home a message.

"Fifteen years ago or so, I was sweeping the sidewalk and the streets," Tim began recalling his first big frustration as a city property owner. "A city union employee stopped and said that if I continued to sweep the street and sidewalk that the union would file a grievance against me … and make me pay.

"That was their job under the contract," Tim recounted. "That's a real inspirational thing for a business owner in our city. 'The streets are our responsibility,' I was told."

"I said, 'then why aren't you cleaning them,'" Tim said. "'No one told us to, he said.'"

"That's management, i.e., the mayor or the city council," Tim said. "If we would write a few littering citations, that would go a long way.

"I don't know where government is going here. They've got the big picture going fine. The industrial park is a fine idea. But we forget the little details," Tim said. "If you are going to attract business and industry to town, you need to have a clean city.

"Why would somebody want to come here, when they see how awful it is … and what it's doing is making people who live here not care, either. Obviously, we don't have any kind of a plan. I haven't seen a street sweeper downtown in months."

So does Tim think anyone will take him up on his downtown tour offer?

"I'll be here, but I doubt it."

Maybe his message will be heard nonetheless.

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1445 ext. 12 or by e-mail to