Year after year, one of the main complaints other than drainage and undrivable streets, illegal dumping, abandoned buildings, etc., are WEEDED LOTS! The city ordinance concerning weeded lots is a joke. The ordinance says the grass or weeds can’t exceed nine inches. However, some lots are well over 10 feet tall or taller. Even though residents are told time and time again to call 311 to report weeded lots, you may receive three hundred eleven excuses as to why they can’t be cut or have to wait three hundred and eleven days before they finally get cut.
Weeded lots near senior citizens, churches, or schools are supposed to be priority but they haven’t been for decades. For example, you have HISD schools, Sunnyside elementary AKA, Young elementary, Attucks middle and Evan E. Worthing all with in a two-mile radius of student’s neighborhood or home, meaning the children attending these schools, don’t qualify for transportation to and from provided by the district.
One would think that neighborhoods with the highest registered sex offender count in Harris County other than licensed facilities which house them, that safety would be top priority. But it isn’t, not now nor twenty-eight years ago. It’s still not a priority to the city, county nor state elected employees, the so-called elected officials. Even if that means making meaningful legislation at the state level and equal ordinances at the city and county level.
The provisions and changes must be proactive and routine vs reactive and temporary. There should never be a time when our local government waits until tragedy after tragedy occurs before they finally decide to fix a problem. A problem that if given the proper attention, could be corrected within thirty minutes to an hour, sparing a family a lifetime of heartache and pain.
In May of 1994, the village lost a very special young lady who was multi-talented, and WNBA bound for certain. Her name was, Trellis Sykes, a six-feet freshman, student-athlete at Evan E. Worthing High School of the Sunnyside Community in Southeast Houston. On the morning of May 13, 1994, Trellis left home walking to school as many kids do. Unfortunately, that morning Trellis never made it. This day became Trellis’s parent’s and loved one’s worst nightmare. Not knowing her whereabouts only to find out she was brutally raped and murdered in a neglected and overgrown weeded lot easement.
Who would have ever thought walking to and from school could be so dangerous? We’ve all done it at one time or another long walks and short cuts because that’s what kids do after a long day of school, basketball practice, or a long walk to school. Either way, our children are supposed to be safe. What good are city ordinances and such, if they are not being enforced, especially if some of the property and easement are owned by the city of Houston are in violation?
With all the weeded lots abandoned building, and over saturation of half-way houses that are unregulated, who knows who and what’s residing in them? Sunnyside isn’t the most dangerous neighborhood as much as it is the most neglected and the most infamous dumping ground for everything that’s bad for our community.
Eight years after Trellis Sykes’s body was found in the overgrown weeded lot, our local government named one of our neighborhood basketball pavilions after her. This was one way to honor Trellis as she would often practice there. However, a better way to honor her is to be proactive with making sure that something like that would never happen again to anyone else by ridding the saturation of sex offenders, weeded lots, and abandoned buildings in the communities.
Sunnyside is at its capacity for sex offenders and halfway houses whether registered or unregistered. Houston is now the home of roughly 7,500 sex offenders of which Sunnyside and the surrounding area zip codes make up over 10% of that number. That’s alarming to say the least.
I believe meaningful legislation should be established in honor of Trellis Sykes and create a Bill bearing her name the “Trellis Sykes Bill.” The Bill would include no registered sex offenders within at least a 4-mile radius of schools and parks. No half-way housed within at least a four-mile radius of any school. There should be no waiting period on cutting the weeded lots and a regular maintenance schedule to maintain the upkeep should be implemented. Also, all kids would qualify for transportation provided by the district with safe routes to and from schools. No more sex offenders dumped in our communities with unsolved cases and back logged DNA tests.
If everyone does something, everything will get done! So, what are our elected employees willing to do and will the village hold them accountable for meaningful change and legislation in honor of Trellis Sykes? Her life meant something then and still means something now. We will never forget Trellis “Tree” Sykes.