Downtown Auburn leaders take AIM at problems

Glenn Jenkins has big plans for the volunteer organization of merchants and business owners he's putting together.

Glenn Jenkins has big plans for the volunteer organization of merchants and business owners he’s putting together.

In the long term, AIM (Auburn in Motion), composed of Main Street merchants between M and C streets, will be tasked with bringing back a downtown that is largely relegated to yellowed news clippings and old photos, where people enjoy strolling the sidewalks, neighbor meets neighbor and parents bring their kids in for small events like duck races and donkey tosses.

Before anything like that can happen, however, AIM would ensure public safety by doing something about the high number of sexual offenders living in the downtown and elsewhere in Auburn, Jenkins said. As noted in last week’s Auburn Reporter, eight offenders, levels 1-3, live in the Heritage apartments across from Jenkins’ Mercantile Antiques and Collectibles, a fraction of the dozens scattered throughout the city.

Yes, Jenkins said, he understands that sexual offenders who have served their sentences have to live somewhere, and they have their rights. He has no quarrel with that. But why so many in Auburn? And why were merchants and residents not in the room when the Department of Corrections and the owner of Heritage apartments made the decisions?

The system, Jenkins said, clearly failed the people it was designed to protect. That needs to change, he said. And the more than 400 responses, all but two positive, that he has received to date to the news article tell him he’s on the right track, he said.

“What I’m concerned with is why the merchants and the public in Auburn were left out of the loop when this all began,” Jenkins said. “Police say they posted, gave notices and had meetings. Well, I would like to see the transcripts of any meetings they had notifying anybody. I would like to see copies of the articles or notices they have put in newspapers. Or, if they did it on TV, I’d kind of like to have a copy of that tape. I’d like to see somebody step forward who actually knows what’s going on and tell me why no one knew.”

Jenkins, a landlord himself, said he has managed many properties, commercial, residential and resorts over the years, but nothing in his experience comes close to what is happening across the street.

“I have never, ever seen an owner of a property infiltrate a city with what he has done,” Jenkins said of Heritage’s owner. “This has been a blatant, ‘I don’t care, I want the money, the City can go straight downhill for all I care.'”

(Based on incorrect information, the Reporter last week named the owner as the late Frank Langeloh. The current owner is CEK Holdings LLC in Medina, owned by Charles Knox head of Tetra Property Management.)

“… Evidently (Knox) doesn’t care about his property values, because this can’t increase them,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins suggested a meeting where people could discuss what needs to be done to fix the problems.

“The mayor should be there, the Department of Corrections should be there, representatives of the probation department, the police department, mental health, everybody that has a stake in what’s going on right now should be there,” Jenkins said.

Among AIM’s first tasks will be working on an ordinance and pushing for it to be signed into law, Jenkins said. AIM might take its complaint all the way to Attorney General Rob McKenna, in part to find out just what the rights of merchants and residents are.

Jenkins plans to lease an office at 222 East Main between Rottles and the Arcade as headquarters for his fledgling group. The phone number is 253-297-1664.

“Merchants on Main Street need to quit sitting behind their fears, sitting behind their sadness that business is bad and step forward and support this thing,” Jenkins said.

Among AIM’s first tasks:

• Get a letter of interest out to all the Main Street business owners between C and M Streets, asking them to respond for or against the idea.

• Start to search for more volunteers to staff the office every day of the week.

• Discuss proposed downtown activities and events, for example car shows, muscle cars, muscle trucks, heavy equipment, body builders and weighlifting demonstrations.

• Prepare the first newsletter.

Jenkins said he is interested “in sitting down with the Auburn Downtown Association and putting a team effort together.”

His idea has its supporters and critics.

“We’re not out to displace any organization, because the Auburn Downtown Association certainly has its purpose,” said John Rottle, vice president of Rottles Apparel and Shoes. “But I think we need collectively to address the residential mix down here, which is unfavorable for the community and unfavorable for the climate of the business community. If Glenn feels like he can assemble some people who want to make a difference, I’m all for it. We need to do everything possible to clean up our downtown, and once we get it cleaned up, we can make it more inviting, not only for patrons, but also for future businesses.”

Kathleen Keator, executive director of the ADA, said her personal relationship with Jenkins has been rocky but she said the ADA continues to work hard to promote and improve the downtown. She was uncomfortable with a rival downtown organization.

“Glenn has personal issues with the mayor, with the downtown and with the police department and with me. I think it’s great that he has these great intentions, but he needs to work with us, and he’s not including us,” Keator said. “The fact that I don’t have any information about AIM is derelict on Glenn’s part. In partnership and with cooperation, we could really do a lot.”

‘I think that anything that dwells more on getting something accomplished on the state level rather than drawing personal attention would be a great effort,” said Auburn Mayor Pete Lewis.”We do need to have changes in state laws and partnership with state organizations like the Department of Corrections so that this does not happen again in our community or others.”