My little IMO piece was printed in this month’s newsletter for the 7th Ward. They may regret asking me to write something.  This photo is hard to read, so there is a copy/paste reprint down below.

For those who don’t know, the population of Youngstown, Ohio, dropped from 170,002 residents in the heyday of steel mills to less than 65,000 today. That left a lot of vacant houses. It’s great if you are looking to buy a fairly decent house on the cheap… mine was less than $20,000. Unfortunately, too many houses fell into decay, partly because out-of-town investors snatched up homes for pennies on the dollar and didn’t give a flying fig about taking care of the properties. Others just left… walked away. The house next door was abandoned years ago, owner address unknown, until the Land Bank acquired it last fall. After a thorough inspection, they opted to tear it down.

I did the #beingGladysKravitz thing and snapped some photos while peeking out my windows.

They did it right… followed EPA guidelines, removed basement block and everything was hauled off site. The vacant lot was left looking nice and tidy. Even the black-topped driveway was removed.

Hopefully, they got the bamboo out, too.

When the weather breaks, they will be back to plant grass and install a split rail fence across the front of the lot. If the people in the next house down wish to buy it, there will be no competition from me as I think it looks like it should become part of their yard. They don’t have a fence… I do.

On the next block over, the city street department demolished a house and left the lot in a royal mess. People are not happy. Neighbors are talking. They can see the difference between lots done right and demos gone bad. With hundreds of house already demolished and aggressive plans to tear down more, vacant lots dot our neighborhoods. We live here. We care.

Is it too much to ask those who don’t to do it right?

Ridding the city of dilapidated housing is good, but we need to think about the future, too. Vacant lots can enhance the city with green space, become urban gardens, or end up becoming just another form of urban blight. What is in the ground matters. So, that’s what I choose to write about.

Here’s the unedited version of my IMO (edited version in photo):


IMO, filling in the hole left after a demolition by smashing part of the house down into the basement and throwing dirt on top turns our vacant lots into mini unregulated landfills containing the same type of debris that requires annual testing to monitor leakage at state licensed C&DD (construction and demolition debris) landfills.

What is the long term effect?

The debris will rot over time, releasing heavy metals and chemicals that can leach into soil and waters. And it is not just lead from old paint. In fact, lead is not even on the list of 74 parameters that C&DD facilities are required to monitor. They are looking for Arsenic, Copper, Mercury, and a dozen other heavy metals. The list of 46 chemicals includes carcinogens like Benzene (used in paints, glues, resins, etc.) Licensed C&DD landfills have lots of rules, including disposal limits to protect their neighbors. They cannot bury debris within 100 feet of their property line or within 500 feet of an occupied dwelling. And yet, here we are, in an urban setting, with hundreds of mini landfills, containing the same type of debris with the same potential health hazards, located on vacant lots between houses in our own neighborhoods.

The practice must be stopped.

Yes, it costs more per demolition to do it right. But, what is the cost in the long run? Must our children suffer the health consequences? What is the cost to dig it up later, if a clean up is required?

Thankfully, most demolition contractors follow EPA guidelines, which suggest removing the basement, disposing all debris at a state licensed C&DD facility, and prepping the earth so the vacant lot can be beneficial to the city by providing green spaces that can used to help with storm water management.

IMO, the city should follow their example and also do it right.

Thanks for reading,

Nancy Barnes


Thing is, I don’t know for sure if the sub-par demo sites actually have buried debris (which is a banned practice in Ohio) or if neighbors just suspect that the some demos were done wrong. Either way, my little IMO may open a keg of worms requiring answers to the question.

Worse case scenario, I will have to write a retraction statement. If so, can I just quote Gilda Radner after a rant as SNL’s Roseanne Roseannadanna and offer a simple, “Never-mind”?


Lost in a Blue Moon

Amazing what you find when you clean out and organize your work space… this is dollhouse size art, a little drawing done in Faber-Castell Polychromos (oil based colored pencils). Since I could not recall the original title, it was renamed “Lost in a Blue Moon” because the girl looks so sad.

Thanks for looking!


Artsy Opportunities

Yes! The Winsor and Newton acrylics purchased on eBay arrived. I had to check them out. The white is a bit stiff, some colors have separation, but all in all, I think they are quite usable for being an old set of their discontinued paints. Now I’m waiting on FedEx to bring my Blick order, which includes some 5×5 gessoboard to use as ground for this year’s donations.

I found the call for entry in my email box. It’s actually a request for 5×5 inch original art donations for an annual FIVE SQUARED art show and sale at the Davis Family YMCA in Boardman, Ohio.  Here is the CallForArtFiveSquaredArtDonationForm (pdf flyer), if you are also interested in donating. All skill levels are accepted, they even do kiddie art, so it’s all cool.

I know my skills are lacking, out of practice for sure as I haven’t painted in years (as if watercolor under-paintings for colored pencil drawings don’t count). Figure it can’t be worst than my last donations.

I went with a Valentine theme with kids in mind in 2015, since it is a kid friendly event. (My grandsons like monsters, why the peace sign dude.) Last year, I did not donate anything… too soon after a health crisis. I also bailed from the YWCA’s women’s art committee since I wasn’t up to attending meetings or anything. It’s time to start doing things again, get back into my art again, take care of me again.

That’s why I’m going to BLANK – A Community Participation at The SOAP Gallery in downtown Youngstown on Friday night. That should be fun… it is exactly what the name suggests: a community paint event – NOT a paint and sip – and anyone in the community can participate, regardless of skill level.  Or, I should say 50 people can participate as they have 50 blank canvases hung on the walls. There is a small fee to reserve a canvas and you can BYOB. I’ve already reserved mine and fully intend to go with a blank mind… no preconceived notion of what to paint.

There is a link to this and other fun events happening at The SOAP Gallery on their Facebook page. All 50 paintings will be on exhibit through the month of November. If you are local, go see it… if not, await the documentation. The results of 50 people, from amateurs to professional artists, painting 50 canvases in the same space at the same time, all start to finish on one night, should prove to be quite interesting.

Thanks for reading!