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Pity Poor Thomas Street

Poor, neglected, semi-abandoned Thomas Street, Ukiah’s orphan among its byways, and perhaps the only road that looks up to admire such shining wonders as Clara Street, Marshall Avenue and Burlington Drive. Poor, sad Thomas Street.

You know it well, even if you’ve forgotten. Thomas Street is a couple hundred yards of a poorly paved stretch between South State Street and Cunningham Drive, 15 or so houses lined up on the north side. Across the narrow, shabby lane, on the south side, is a very vacant lot.

Only half Thomas Street includes homes. Across Thomas and including the vacant lot, is Burning Bridges, the new hangout headquarters for the assembly line of transients who roll into Ukiah to reap the benefits our city provides.

The burden these semi-welcome newcomers bring to town is mostly, and unfairly, borne by residents of Thomas Street. How would you like to stand in your front yard while roving bands of homeless gather and disperse all day every day 200 feet away?

Yet Thomas Street appears to be holding its own. Go see for yourself. Take a 30 second drive from one end to the other. Look to the north and what you’ll see is an almost lovely collection of single family homes that residents struggle to improve and be proud of. There are no broken windows, no sagging rooflines, no refrigerators stranded in the yard. Thomas Street succeeds against odds that challenge no other neighborhood in Ukiah.

The modest houses show plenty of pride and are continuously being worked on. We’ll cross our fingers and hope improvements continue and the little street’s trajectory is on a long upswing.

What it needs is a dose of help from the City. The lone piece of sidewalk, all 25 feet of it, is just dandy until it abruptly halts and drops off into the dust. The street itself has no painted centerline nor side striping. The narrow road is a scant two lanes with ragged edges and broken clumps of concrete that disappear into the dust or mud, depending on weather. It needed to be repaved 30 years ago.

I live on the fancy west side and over here everything but our front yards and living rooms were recently repaved in fresh, aromatic black asphalt.

Thomas Street remains drab and ignored. Ukiah can do better.

The real heroes

Saw an emblem recently featuring silhouettes of today’s heroes and it was the usual trio: A cop, a nurse and a firefighter.

Worthy of commendation of course, but please remember that cops, nurses and firefighters all signed up for dangerous work and tough assignments. It’s their job. They get special training, special equipment, lots of money and tons of public support.

Now think about grocery store cashiers. They probably see more of the unwashed public in an hour standing at a Safeway register than the average police officer sees in a week, or a fireman in a month.

Think of a work shift lasting many hours and consisting of an endless parade of strangers, some of them friendly, others occasionally clean and well-groomed, putting their hands and money into yours all at a distance of, at most, four feet.

The least we can do is say Thanks! and let ‘em all know we appreciate their work.

Win, win

Wouldn’t it make good financial sense and excellent public relations for insurance companies to take major creative steps in dealing with wildfires?

Why not a consortium of the big insurers helping fund controlled burns in off-seasons, and buying fleets of planes and helicopters to battle the blazes when they strike? Makes more sense than to pay out tens (or hundreds) of millions a year to homeowners who suddenly don’t have homes.

Just do it

Look, I know wearing a mask in public infringes all over your rights, so if you want to wander six miles into National Forest Lands without a mask I’m with you. Exercise those rights, baby! Just don’t cough on a squirrel or kiss a spotted owl.

But here in town we are in altered circumstances. Your neighbors have to inhale your fumes, so wear a mask in stores and shops and restaurants. Especially restaurants. Think of this: No Shirt, No Shoes No Service.

Make sense? Now add “No Mask.” Especially in restaurants.

Nobody wants to look at your flabby gut and hairy armpits while they’re halfway through an omelet at Denny’s. So wear a shirt.

And honking around Applebee’s without a mask is also icky, and maybe even dangerous. So wear a mask. The public expects your cooperation and deserves your willingness to waive your right to sneeze into their sandwiches, at least during a pandemic. Thank you.

(Tom Hine is a former journalist and retired criminal defense investigator who lives in Ukiah with his imaginary friend and co-worker, Tommy Wayne Kramer.)

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