By The Commercial Appeal

After an editorial board meeting Wednesday with officials who played a major part in Thursday’s Blight Elimination Summit, a reporter for The Commercial Appeal commented that the fight to rid Memphis and Shelby County of blight is like trying to bail water out of the sinking Titanic with a thimble.

It certainly seems that way when you think about all the initiatives in place to reduce blight and the minimal success that has resulted.

We think, however, the summit at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphrey’s School of Law Downtown has the potential to bring new energy and collaboration to the effort.

The summit was billed as the first time Memphis and Shelby County’s civic, business, government and grass-roots leaders united in a coordinated campaign to clean up the blighted properties that diminish the quality of life in neighborhoods.

The summit celebrated the completion of the Memphis Blight Elimination Charter and the commitment of all of the stakeholders to work together to implement its action plan.

Blight is an extreme sore on this community and feeds a host of social maladies, including crime. It is fed by the city’s 30 percent poverty rate and discourages meaningful private investment that could help revive neighborhoods. It is fed by negligent owners who hide behind limited liability companies (LLCs), which allow them to avoid paying taxes on derelict properties or to not be responsible for the demolition of those buildings.

Perhaps more tragic is the fact that blighted neighborhoods contribute to the adverse childhood experiences, according to numerous studies, that negatively impact the brain development of young children.

Wednesday’s editorial board visitors were Memphis businessman George Cates, chairman of the board of directors of Neighborhood Preservation Inc., a local anti-blight advocacy group; Sheila Jordan Cunningham, executive director of the new Blight Authority of Memphis land bank; Memphis developer Archie Willis, principal at Community Capital, and NPI leader Steve Barlow.

They talked about attacking blight from a policy and advocacy stance, including better code enforcement and dealing with foreclosures. They talked about improving one neighborhood at a time.

They talked about how there is no easy answer for dealing with seemingly intractable problem properties, especially those owned by LLCs. One remedy, they said, would be to shorten the time it takes to get the ownership behind the negligent LLCs to court to get a resolution on what to do with a blighted property.

The Tennessee General Assembly will have to make that happen.

One of the good things to come out of the Blight Elimination Charter and the NPI is the Memphis Property Hub, which is a reliable citywide database of blighted properties, including “hard data” about the properties.

Reducing blight will be a long, drawn-out battle. The charter, according to Willis, provides a road map and buy-in for all the parties interested in reducing blight.

Over the last several years, government, business and philanthropic entities have increasingly realized that it takes collaboration to make a dent in the community’s social ills.

The Blight Elimination Summit and the Memphis Blight Elimination Charter are another fulfillment of that reality. Everyone from Downtown to East Memphis, and from Frayser and Raleigh to Whitehaven and Hickory Hill, should hope they are successful.