Signs of the Times

By Kevin Shannahan/Opinion

It was a thin white piece of metal in the shape of an octagon. It hung on its pole at a jaunty angle of almost 45 degrees, If one looked carefully, a faded “STOP” could be discerned. Being of a philosophical bent, I could not help but wonder-when does a stop sign cease being a stop sign? Were I to drive past and ignore it, could I claim that a faded white octagon was no longer sufficient cause to invoke the majesty of the law?

How common were these signs in such disrepair? My curiosity aroused, I drove around Natchitoches. My tour may have been through historic areas of our city, but it was not through any area frequented by tourists. Quite the contrary, the streets I traveled will never be on a tourism brochure. I was within a mile of Front Street, but a world away. In less than an hour, I found over 25 worn stop signs.

Patterns emerged. The signs in the historic district were pristine and free of any patina of age, as were the signs in the wealthier area of our city. Even in the poorer areas of town, the signs facing any street with high traffic were likewise new. The situation off the beaten path in the poorer areas of Natchitoches revealed a different picture. With few exceptions, this is where every damaged stop sign was located. Rust, corrosion and neglect abounded.

I want to be clear about something here. None of the signs were vandalized. None had holes, none were ripped down or stolen. The only one with graffiti was an anomalous one in a middle class street a block from my house that implored passing drivers to “Don’t STOP believing.”

It is not just the civic neglect evident in the faded, rusted metal, the worst potholes I have ever experienced inside the city limits shook my car as I drove on a side street less than a mile from the historic district.

This is not really about stop signs. It is about what message this sends to our fellow citizens who live in the neighborhoods where the vast majority of this neglect occurs. Our city and parish are rent by divisions of race and class. Our government should be proactive in doing everything possible to mend these rifts and should certainly do nothing to widen them. Legally and morally, Front Street, my middle class neighborhood and the poorest street in the poorest area of our city should be of equal priority in the provision of city services and the maintenance of our infrastructure. Make it so.

31 thoughts on “Signs of the Times

  1. Mr. Shannahan has really nailed this one. Though unstated he has exemplified the long held dichotomy of Natchitoches. In his column you find adjectives like faded and rusted with nouns like Rust, Corrosion and Neglect used to point out conditions not found on FRONT STREET. While the noticeable blight is contrasted elsewhere with what is found in the ”Touristy” area of town by a single word ” Pristine.” … and he so ably points out, “It’s not about stop signs.”

  2. I noticed this about 5 years ago. Coming home from Houston, it caught my attention. The outright neglect, just bothered me. Ijs.

  3. and the sign said “long haired freaky people need not apply “.I think we all need to take a look at Tesla and remember just how much they hated signs .

  4. It’s not just faded stop signs. It’s also speed limit signs. Trees and bushes cover a lot of them. They’re placed on light poles where they can’t be seen or as noticable. Using turn signals is also a problem. I guess people have forgotten how to use them or what they are for. I’m sure there’s inmates that would be happy to help in replacing these signs.

  5. If you just think of Natchitoches as a business and not a community it is easier to understand. Now who that business actually belongs to I can’t say.

  6. Someone needs to do something about the stop sign, to get everyone to abide by the law and stop at the signs, driving around town I don’t know how many times I have seen people drive through the stop sign because it is on a side road or a neighborhood when they think they will not get caught.

  7. hell we used to steal street signs in high school,kids today have lost the
    sense of adventure,lets get that back A.S.A.P.Get out there youth and start taking stuff.It was always fun to take a stop sign or street sign that had your name on it.

  8. With all due respect, the street signs in the Historic District are designed and constructed to be more durable than the “standard” ones elsewhere.

  9. Did I read that the new recreation complex is costing $12 MILLION? The riverbank questionably and controversial “improvements” cost $3 MILLION? Did the City put up or guarantee payment for the tax evading hotel?
    Please remember when election time returns.

    • The 3 million came out of the dedication tax raised for the upkeep of the river. And as you can guess the river is in the worst shape it’s ever been in . But I promised I wouldn’t comment on it anymore!

    • why do we need a stupid sports complex ? why are certain business’s getting away with tax evasion ? this city management is losing their minds,its
      all about what I can put my name on.

  10. Kevin, I think your proposal is a worthy goal but we are a long way from getting there. Some will say can’t afford any urban renewal projects as bad we need ball fields for potential tourists. That may be true to some extent, however,, the problem is deeper than that. If we never built another ball field or made another mayor improvement the condition of these neighborhoods would be unchanged. The residents of these areas also have a part to play by taking some pride in their own neighborhoods. The lack of funding also reflects the fact that due to the homestead exemption, they contribute little or nothing to the tax base.

    As for class and division we could begin by not promoting it. The local media could start by not having to identify everything by race. Why publish a picture of a person and then tell me if that person is black or white? Why does it matter if a candidate is black or white, or who voted by race? It may have some statistical value but it has no public information value except to make a bad situation worse

    • The term (lack of funding) is thrown out every time something comes up around this parish. Until it’s something the city father’s think we need. Can’t fix pot holes but double the cost by bricking a side street down town. Did you see the city is going to pay 60,000 plus to a company to do a study to see if a bike path is feasible? It’s not a lack of funds,it’s a lack of common sense . It’s the rainy season your roof is leaking and spend you money on a irrigation system for the yard .

    • First of all, I applaud the author of the article. He displayed great courage and took considerable risk by pointing out this obvious inequity among many in Natchitoches.

      However, Joe, I was riding along with you until you started to blame the people who live in those neighborhoods. The people in these neighborhoods are probably living at or below the poverty line and are renting their homes from landlords who I can assure you do not live in those neighborhoods. With that in mind, yes, you’re right nothing in those neighborhoods could/would change. Whatever contribution to the tax base to be made would come from the improvements the slum landlords should/would make to the properties and not from the renters. Therefore, let’s put the onus where it clearly belongs. The challenge is that there is zero incentive for these landlords to make improvements when you have a population of people who need low income housing and you can get paid for substandard living conditions.

      As for promoting class and division, that’s a bit trickier. I also fail to see why that’s relevant for printing in the local newspaper. Perhaps it’s a requirement I’m not aware of, but the intent is not promotion of class and division I’m sure. Not having a discussion about color and race is not the answer either. People who say they are color blind are BLIND. Period. If you’re blind you see NOTHING including color. Color exists and not talking about it does absolutely nothing help us identify and correct our blind spots around color. No one avoids falling into a pit by pretending that they are “pit blind”. See the pit and then don’t fall into it.

    • Amen, Joe. What difference does it make how many white people voted for a candidate versus how many A. A. did?

      But I wonder about your point that residents of the poorer neighborhoods should take more pride in their surroundings. It’s cyclical. If you want someone to take more pride in something, you have to make worth feeling proud of. Witness the Taco Bell calamity on South Drive. There’s always such a mess in the parking lot and the drive-thru. Would people be less likely to dump their trash out of their windows if the Taco Bell employees kept the areas clean? Maybe, maybe not. But how will you ever know if you don’t try?

  11. Sign are not maintained in Natchitoches very well. Also on Saint Clair the stop signs should be removed because they are ignored. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost be hit trying to exit my driveway which is at a 3 stop sign corner.

  12. The stop sign on Henry and East 4th were knocked down for about a week. I called and called when someone finally came out and replaced the sign.

  13. Nah! who needs STOP signs and other infrastructure improvements? Gimme a break! Not important at all. Spend more money on Christmas lights, fireworks, and by all means, PLEASE pollute our hearing by blasting LOUD MUSIC on the riverbank!!!

    • Oh God yes! I just made a huge mistake, I realize now, buying a house just off of Williams Ave. I had to call a friend, who lives out in the parish Saturday night and go spend the night with them. Can’t we file a class action law suit against the city to get that nonsense stopped? I have fragile nerves, it’s a medical disorder, and need my peace and quiet.

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