Sunday, December 03, 2006

Extreme Makeover - Raleigh Edition

Forget Iraq, Polonium 210, or Britney Spear's lack of underwear. The story that is really generating excitement around here is that Extreme Makeover has come to Raleigh to demolish and build a local house. The couple sounds very deserving.
Lynn Noudewo, another close friend, nominated the family based on Linda's two decades of charity work and the needs of the family, who lived in the bottom half of the two-story home built in 1936. The top half was usually given over to other families in need, people to whom Linda Riggins ministered as part of Building Together.

Linda Riggins has severe arthritis. William Riggins is legally blind.
This is the big news at our school, because the house is just around the corner from our charter school. We didn't know anything about it until everyone drove to school on Thursday and the whole neighborhood was shut down and traffic rerouted to get to school. At first I thought some terrible crime must have occurred to have had so many police out blocking off the neighborhood. Then we found out that it was at ABC's direction that the Raleigh City Police had blocked off the neighborhood and rerouted public bus routes. This will continue all week. Indeed, since the family is expected back on Thursday and crowds ranging from 10-15,000 are expected to show up for the unveiling, we are sending our students home early that day so that they won't get caught up in the traffic gridlock expected that afternoon. Though, I suspect that many of them will hang around just to watch the excitement.

I've never watched the show and I was rather shocked by the amount of hoopla surrounding having this occur in the local neighborhood, I figured that ABC must be paying for all these police having to stand around and patrol these blocked streets. Plus the city inspectors on call to approve everything as a house is built in less than a week, plus firefighters on call. But it seems that the city is picking up the bill.
City police will provide security at the site and will be stationed at barricades that close off some streets near the house, which is on Poplar Street near downtown. Capital Area Transit will provide shuttles to and from the site for the volunteers and spectators the show is encouraging to come. The Raleigh Fire Department will have a fire truck and two or three firefighters there in case someone is hurt in the frenzy of construction. (A member of the production crew was injured Friday.)

Bryant Woodall, Raleigh's assistant fire chief, told his crew that all they needed to know was a truck and some firefighters would be needed around the clock the first week of December.

"It was a little bit awkward," he said.

The city is covering any extra costs for the project, but officials say it will pay off in free publicity for the city. "It's such a positive thing for the whole community," said Allen, who added that he hasn't calculated the city's share of the costs yet.
Huh? How is it great publicity for the city to advertise that a nice, charitable couple was living in a house in such poor condition?
Their two-bedroom, one-bath house, valued by Wake County $145,875, is not in good shape.

"There's duct tape holding up everything," Noudewo said. "Thank the Lord for duct tape."
Yup, people will hear that and immediately think positive thoughts about Raleigh. And we're a community that is experiencing record growth and whose neighborhood schools can't keep up with the demand as new families move here every day. So, is the type of publicity that Extreme Makeover will generate really all that great for the city?

I don't mean to sound like a parsimonious Scrooge here. I'm happy for the family. Although one critic said they'd be better off having their house rebuilt than having it torn down and a new house thrown up in five days.
Not everyone was cheery about Saturday's demolition. Myrick Howard of Preservation North Carolina asked why anyone would tear down a 70-year old house in a federally recognized historic neighborhood.

"I believe in charity, but if you really care about good housing, then renovate the existing house and it will cost so much less," he said.

Howard added that the Riggins home was not only salvageable but made of better building materials than "Extreme Makeover" would use.

"We're replacing real wood and plaster with chip board and sheet rock," he said. "They're getting showered with candy rather than a decent meal."
But who cares if it means better TV pictures?

I just think that ABC should have to reimburse the city for the cost of having police, firemen and city inspectors working all week for their TV project. If a movie company came and closed down a neighborhood to film here, wouldn't they pay the city for the trouble involved? Why should a TV series do any less? Why should city taxpayers have to pick up the tab for ABC? It seems like quite a sweet deal for them and I'd like to ask our city leaders why taxpayers have to foot this bill? I'm not against this family getting what sounds like well-deserved help. I just wonder why ABC doesn't have to pay for disrupting the local community. How would a smaller, more economically deprived community pay for these sorts of expenses? If the idea is, as one commenter in the comments section said, that Raleigh citizens would regard it as a worthy tradeoff to pay for this in order to help this family, it sure doesn't seem the most cost effective way for the city to help out needy families. Think of how many needy families could have been helped for the cost of overtime police and firemen to help out this one family. And once again I keep coming back to why the one entity making a profit off of this whole deal - ABC - shouldn't be the ones to pay for it.

Meanwhile, if you can't wait for the show to air next year, here is a time-lapsed sequence of what it looked like pulling down this house.