Thursday, October 13, 2005

During a rather animated discussion about drugs and gang activity it was suggested that the best way to get rid of the gangs is to get rid the people who solicit them. Sounds pretty good, get rid of the source of income and the dealers will move on. Makes perfect sense until you ask the question, "Where will they go?" They won't simply vanish off the face of the earth. They'll just be driven into another community and become someone else's problem. That's how many of the dealers, gangs, and junkies ended up here. My question is this, "Has there ever been an effective way of cleaning up a neighborhood in which the undesirable element was not simply pushed into another neighborhood?" Can we save our community without putting another in peril? If not, is it immoral for us to look after our community first and worry about the impact of our actions on other communites second? I am torn. I deeply want RP to be a better place to live for all the of the upstanding citizens in RP to the point where I sometimes think, "Let someone else deal with it. Just get it out of my sight." I am sure many here have had similar thoughts. Sometimes it is easier not to worry about things that are not in our control. I would hope that we could find a solution to better our community without simply passing the "hot potato" to let someone else juggle for awhile. Maybe there isn't a better way. Maybe these problems will always be with us and over time each comunity will have to share the burden of these travelling terrors. I hope that is not the case, but to be sure RP has carried it's fair share of this weight for far too long. Any feedback will be greatly appreciated.


nico's mom said...

The blog about GD George is a small demonstration of the scope of this problem - peoples attitudes are far from informed and rational. I am afraid that, given the difficultly of this problem, and the general lack of leadership at higher levels of government, the best we can do at the present moment is look out for our own community. I don't really think the NIMBY (not in my backyard)criticism would be fair here. It's not like gang activity is some unsightly but necessary service. In an ideal country, all communities would have the means and political will required to make them inhospitible to gangs, but that is not the country we are living in.

It is also possible that driving gang activity out of this ward will indirectly lead to some people going out of business for good. As far as specific programs to deal with people who no longer want to live that life, as you know, they have various degrees of success - and that's for those who want to stop. People should have access to that kind of help if they want it, and I'm sure there isn't enough of it to go around. I think it is fine to want to be a part of the solution, but I think that feeling guilty about the fact that some of these destructive people might end up moving across town...I really can't imagine a situation where I would feel inhibited about trying to get them out because of that.

Michael K said...

It just bothers me when go to Oak Park or to Garfield Conservatory on the Green Line and I see the crime and poverty out my window and think to myself that we are not really doing a very good job of solving these problems but rather sweeping people out to the fringes of the city. Those people who lived in this neighborhood when it was really bad should be entitled to share the wealth that it is now starting to produce.

nico's mom said...

I do agree that is it a problem when political leaders rely almost exclusively on "market forces" to get the crime down. You are right that there are many residents who are not owners who make substantial contributions to the neighborhood (I lot more that I do at the present moment) and it's not fair that they don't get to enjoy the fruits of those labors longer due to getting priced out of the neighborhood. Like I've said before ad nauseum, I have yet to see a residential rental price control mechnism for moderate (as opposed to poor) people that actually works however.

Michael K said...

Yeah. There was a family with 2 kids that lived down the block from me who recently moved. I was disappointed. The kids were really well behaved, friendly, and loved my dog. They were active in many community activities and like to take care of the yard even though they were renters. I know they had fallen on some hard times financially although they didn't really talk about it much.

You also reminded me of a question I've been meaning to ask. I hear the phrases "affordable" and "low-cost" housing used a lot. Are these 2 well defined terms and if so what are those definitions?

nico's mom said...

I think the definition of "affordable" varies depending on what the context is. In a standard definition, affordable means that your total housing costs are not more than about 30% of your gross income. Various kinds of set asides, loan programs, etc. have their own definitions of "affordable". I think the definition I gave above is generally used, but I don't know what the income levels are for "affordable" buyers programs for example. I think it would be pretty easy to find out online though.

Clearly, outside of official and institutional definitions, there is great variability in how realistic any definition of "affordable" is, and of course everyone sees it from their own perspective.

I am afraid that there may be some people who think that their rent should just never really go up - I remember one lady on one of the blogs was angry because her increases suddenly went up from an average increase of something like $30.00 a year. It really isn't realistic to expect that rent in a city won't go up at least 3% or so a year, although, of course, there are individual cases where the increases are much higher (or lower). My anecdotal observation from being a renter in Chicago is that what you get in a rental varies pretty wildly, even in the same neighborhood, which is something people who have lived here all their lives may be less sensitive to.

On the other hand, it is true that people like your neighbors, who are probably not technically low-income, may be living on a very thin edge financially and are very vulnerable to even the slightest financial downturn. The solutions to that problem are very complex, of course, and should be the subject of much greater national debate.