Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Let's jail owners of abandon property

If it has never happen to you and your neighbors, imagine for a moment.  You have a great house in what you thought was a good neighborhood.  Then, the owners of two houses on the block stop making repairs to their homes.  Maybe there were rental properties that went vacant because of the leaky roof or the electrical problems that haven’t been repaired.  Brush piles up, the pool in the back yard fills with swampy water creating a hazard for kids in the area, not to mention the mosquitoes.

After many violation tickets and years of issues, the property still doesn’t get fixed. 

According to a study by the University of Michigan, in Flint and other areas around the state, the value of a home in a neighborhood drops by 10% for every blighted house.  Not just on your block, but in a two block radius. 
A law proposed by Senator Virgil Smith that is getting some attention in Lansing would help with that problem.  Property owners that don’t care of their property could be jailed for a second offense.  It could be a year in the slammer for a third offense.   It would also speed up the process of placing liens on properties and prevent land owners with liens of obtaining building permits on other property.

People have the right to own property.  But, with any right, there comes responsibility.  When any right is exercised, as in purchasing property, the responsibility takes effect.  Property owners that don’t take care of their property, endanger the safety of people in the community and have a detrimental effect on the value of other property need to eventually lose their right to own property. 
This is a bigger problem than someone losing their job and not being able to take care of their property.  There are solutions to issues like that.  This issue is focused on properties owners that own multi properties and are abusing their right.  This is focused on banks that take over foreclosed property and don’t maintain them.

These bills in Lansing need the support of the community.  If we are to maintain our living environment, everyone needs to live up to their responsibility.  If not, they lose their rights. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Occupy needs to go home and vote

The protesters in Chicago will be leaving town soon because the NATO summit is over.  The protesters will plan their next campaign, perhaps an Occupy somewhere, maybe a protest in a city that hosts another national or international summit or conference.  The end result will be the same as before they took to the streets, nobody took much notice beyond the inconvenience they caused to the residents that just wanted to get back and forth to work.

That is unless they make some changes.

The Tea Party did the same thing a few years ago.  Remember the protests at the health care public comment meetings.  They were yelling and screaming at elected officials that voted for the law.  Images of angry people with veins bulging in their necks flashed on the front pages of newspapers around the country.  Two years later instead of continuing to yell and scream they are having a real effect on the outcome of elections.

What is the Tea party doing that is so different then what Occupy and other protest groups on the other extreme doing?  They organized, stayed local and motivated their base.  The establishment noticed because the Tea party people and their supporters showed up to vote.
Individuals and groups can have the very deepest and sincere passions about making changes, but unless they channel the passion, it will go unnoticed by elected officials.  People that are elected to office pay close attention to those that got them elected.  It may be the money people that provided the funds to run an expensive campaign.  It may be the unions that provide a natural organization to motivate.  Or, as we as seeing now, it is the Tea Party that is getting their supporters to the polls.

A politician told me a long time ago about his strategy for keeping his seat in the house.  By his telephone, he kept a voter registration list.  When someone called to make a comment about something, while politely listening he looked for their name on the list.  If it wasn’t there, he got off the phone as soon as he could and moved on.  If the name was there, he made sure he followed up on the issue.
As a community organizer for many years, I paid close attention to those that supported the positions I worked for and that were registered voters.  At the beginning of conversations about the issues I tried to find out the last time they voted and how they stood on the issues.  If they didn’t vote, I moved on to spend my time finding people that did vote.

It matters little that some may think that the system is rigged to help the incumbents.  You can design the very best representative government and somewhere along the process, someone has to vote to support an issue or a candidate.  The issue or the candidate will fail if there aren’t enough votes.  As the old expression goes, victory goes to those that show up.
Much of what Occupy and other groups say would be good for the community.  Any responsible community should support their positions because they will make improvements that are needed.  But, unless they go home and vote after the protesting is done, nothing will change.