Thursday, October 9, 2008

More Bad News

The Journal-Courier’s recent (10/9) editorial regarding over-occupancy in West Lafayette was just about as lopsided as its 10/4 news article.

Rentals in my District #2 often begin when the grown children of those retired Purdue faculty who lived, all for their love of students, forever in this multi-class, multi-generational neighborhood, return to resolve their parent’s estate. Long and far gone, they will dispose of the property as quickly as possible. Realtors have “kiddie condo” parents and rental clients in their Blackberries. Once sold, the properties become playing cards; bought, sold, traded. The era of mom and pop landlords is long gone.

The point is to make lots of money through rent and appreciation, then zoning change, in a largely unregulated portion of the real estate and mortgage industry.

You’ve seen this before. Somewhere a corporation decides that there is a place that enjoys a resource they could profit from. They would like to guarantee a warm welcome. So they buy themselves a government. Disassemble a regulatory agency. Remove the natives. Strip-mine the place. Move on.

Is it reasonable to suggest that over the course of 25 years Sonya Margerum and Jan Mills and successive Democratic and Republican City Council’s did not try every other avenue to secure compliance for the sake of student safety and neighborhood stability? Is the cost of litigation anything compared to another new fire truck and crew, or another police car and officer, to patrol even more densely populated neighborhoods?

West Lafayette and Bloomington have argued cases from Mark Benjamin to Patti Weida in a variety of courts and won.

Is it not naïve to imagine a landlord, frustrated by the loss of his rental certificate, will sigh deeply and sell his property at a loss to New Chauncey Housing for rehabilitation for a young family of modest means? Will “John Doe” not rather transfer his property to “Jane Doe” and then to the “Doe LLC” or “Evergreen” or “Littleton” LLC”? Or perhaps sell the property at its industrial value to another landlord or holding company that will continue, perhaps more cleverly, to over-occupy a property with “cousins”?

Can the wobbly West Lafayette School Corporation really survive the abandonment of up to 33% of its geography?

And no word about the people. Apparently no one lives in these neighborhoods. No one has a voice unless they have power or money. No one represents these neighborhoods. There is no history.

We have come to expect that the J&C’s rotating young reporters will know nothing of the damage already done. Pushed to supply 30 – 40 by-lines a month, speed and ease are important. We understand and forgive that. We recognize too that senior management has already selected its West Lafayette story line. All are eager to be on their way out of here and on to their next stop with Gannett.

But it doesn’t excuse “bad news”. As rental property and “kiddie condos” spread throughout the City of West Lafayette, this poorly formed editorial policy is bad news for all of us.

No comments: