Monday, August 30, 2004

Finding Roommates.

I rent out half the house to anyone willing to pay the rent to live here. The process is tiresome since no roommate has ever renewed their annual lease. All my roommates have been out of town people interning in some federal position or in town to attend one of the universities.
After two iterations of this process I stopped advertising for female roommates. Men only. Women's security concerns cannot be addressed by me. It's technically impossible to escort you in a bulletproof bubble to the subway station.
But whether the prospective roommate is female or male, they are nearly always white and the fact that everyone doesn't studiously attend to the scrubs out front MUST mean it's a dangerous place. People seem incredulous when I say that it's only dangerous at 3am. Most don't call back. Iron bars on the windows designed to INCREASE safety only cause them to be MORE concerned and disturbed. People don't believe me when I say I don't have a car alarm and I have never had my car broken into. Sorry, Dorothy, this ain't Kansas. Maybe Kansas City.....

Friday, August 27, 2004

Alcohol

In many ways, alcohol is the most destructive controlled substance in the inner city. Legal, cheap, and widely available; people are able to get it on nearly every street corner at little "Mom and Pop" Shops. Cops don't readily harass or arrest people for drinking in public. Only when they attack others or carry out another crime do the police respond.
I say "Pop and Mom" in quotes because this stores are often owned and operated by people who live in the suburbs. Suburban people, as a group, simultaneously complain and profit from the squalor in the hood. In DC, "40's" are sold for as little as one dollar in single bottles instead of sixpacks. An idiot can beg a dollar out of the tourist who pervade the city in the summers.
Beggars, homeless people, and drunks then drink the malt liquor on the streets, often passing out at bus stops,on sidewalks, and in city parks. The result is people can't use those parks and don't venture outside or near these corner shops.
Other transplants to the city and I are working to get a single bottle sales outlawed in a target zone of our city. Defying us is our own city council which is heavily financed by the liquor store owners. Further complicating the matter is that these small stores totally rely on the alcohol sales to exist. A ban might kill them financially. So, we encounter resistance by neighbors because as bas as these stores are, they are often the only merchants in the neighborhood. If they go under, you won't be able to buy a stick of gym for 10 blocks.

The War on Poverty, Local Operations

No matter what you're political leaning, you quickly realize that "The War on Poverty" isn't just a phrase coined in the sixties. City Agencies, Police, and neighborhood associations struggle constantly to thwart the backward slide of progress. One person's decision to carry out a particular type of crime often has huge and lasting consequences. The most effective measures are preemptive and preventive in nature. Homeless people are the most likely to commit crimes or be the victim of crime. They quite simply attract trouble. Homeless people are often drug addicts also. So, drug related activities follow them, too.
Contrary to popular belief or perception, residents here do not very supportive of the homeless. So, homeless people tend to gravitate towards areas of neglect where they are least likely to be harassed. I noticed homeless people would sleep in the tall grass of two corner lots about 100 ft from my house. As a result, during the summers I started periodically engaging in activities design to reduce the desirability of our block to the homeless. Borrowing from my past Navy Stint, I call it "neglect suppression operations". I regularly haul a mower and weed whacker into the city to cut the grass down and prevent the homeless from laying in those lots and doing drugs. Now that I have a roommate, I gotta haul the mower back in the same day, it becomes a 4 to 5 hour operation.
As if to illustrate this point, the homeless people this year moved across the street to a local baseball diamond where they congregate. Public urination by men and women still noted. A further demostration of the positive effect occurred today. I went over to the corner lots again and remove all tall vegetation abutting the building next to the lot. Several homeless people rushed over to the grass to remove stashes of clothes or other items.



Sidewalk before I started Posted by Hello

Sidewalk after three hours! EASY! Posted by Hello

This is another area I cleared. No more homeless stashing crap along the wall in the bushes! Posted by Hello

Gunshots

Gunfire erupted this weekend on my street for the first time in 2 years. Neighbors say it has occurred more often than that. But at 4:37am on a Sunday morning, several gunshots rang out as two parties shot once at each other. Then one of the parties out there unloaded half a dozen shots as they ran away with each shot moving down the block about 50 fifty. No way he was aiming. By the time I got my glasses on, no one was to be seen. A call to the emergency center elicited more annoyance than concern about what was occurring. The next day, neighbors were unfazed and had exhibited zero concern. Sigh....

Why the city?

I decided to check out the city as a place to live because I had been the victim of commutes in California and Florida. I also believe sprawl is not a good thing and isn't inevitable. Americans need to get closer and get used to more compact urban settings if we hope to preserve land use. I think anyone who examines American land use notices that a viral like pattern has occurred for most of the last century. The city I live in was virtually abandoned in the last thirty years as a residential area while land further out was developed. Being somewhat republican, am I against the use of massive government spending to initiate revitalization. Private sector activities have much incentive, more resources than the government, and are much more efficient.
I grew up in the suburbs of Northern Virginia and was unimpressed by the lack of character with the neighborhood. Within five years, the first tier of homeowners had moved on to bigger houses or jobs, and no one knew anyone on the street. Interaction with your neighbors focused on compliance to the the homeowners association rules than genuine concern.

Introduction

I have so many people asking me about my experiences in the inner city versus a cookie cutter subdivision, I thought I'd create a blog for people to check in on.