To view all posts made to date, please go home to Live from Allied Drive. Otherwise, all posts have been categorized into the topics below for your convenience. Enjoy your visit, and please share your thoughts. The beauty of blogging is that all of us can engage in dialogue about issues that concern us. Please let us know what you think!

Topics of Discussion

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Right Side of Town?

So this morning I was browsing You Tube and I found this video taken on State Street and my fiance walked into the room and asked me if this was Philadelphia in the video. As you can see, it is all State Street in Madison ... I guess it caught him off guard because when you look at our city onscreen, there is this appearance that there are so many things to do and it's lively and fun ... I guess when you are all the way in the corner of the city, festivals are somewhat inaccessible and over time, it builds into this notion that there is nothing to do out here.

We both decided that if we lived closer to downtown, we would likely enjoy Madison a little more. Right now, we eat at McDonalds more than any other restaurant in Madison (because it's right here), and when we want to go hang out somewhere, we really do not have anywhere to go that is close by. So if you live on Allied Drive, Madison consists of McDonalds and ... I can't even finish that sentence. That is sad. More often than not, we don't really go out and do anything out here. I used to go out 1-4 nights a week when I lived in Chicago because I was really active in the arts so I was always either performing or catching the show of one of my performing friends. I miss that and I wish our community had a "scene" ... the rest of Madison seems to ...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Allied Drive Community Meeting Unveils New Plans, What?

The big meeting that took place this weekend to obtain resident feedback on the path of development for the Allied Drive city properties where I live was brought to my attention by my alder, Brian Solomon. I have to say, Brian made a very genuine effort to get the word out. I received a voice mail, a flier taped to my door, and I saw fliers plastered all over the apartment complex in which I live. When Sunday rolled around, I was thinking, damn, it’s Sunday! I have to work tomorrow, I still have laundry to do, I need to make a grocery list, the apartment’s a mess, my puppy feels neglected. But Brian said this was an important meeting. They all are.

There was a decent turnout. All the familiar activists were there. And some new faces. There was also one other city property resident whom I recognized that showed up. It may not have been the town meeting that many were hoping for, but until it is realized that city people speak a different language than us residents, participation will remain where it is.

First of all, we are not trained to read schematics so for some, the diagrams are all just a bunch of shapes. Many community residents at the meeting still thought that the diagrams reflected all of Allied Drive and did not understand that this new development will only impact nine properties. Even when it is all explained to us, we will still harbor on details that may not really impact the overall design because we are not trained in urban planning so we do not really know exactly what to ask. On top of that, nearly half of the city property residents do not speak English as their first language and some need interpreters to even communicate at these meetings. It’s kind of like when someone asks, “How are you?” What can you say? Uh - fine?

In these situations, maybe we have to rely on experts to do what experts do. When it comes down to someone talking about schematics, I get a little impatient. I guess I can afford to trust the experts because if the end result does not fit what I said I wanted a year ago at the community design meeting, I can afford to shop elsewhere for shelter. Many of my neighbors can also afford to shop elsewhere and that is likely why they do not feel the need to give up a Sunday afternoon to hear city people talk about plans. Most of us have faith that the city leaders will come up with a good solution based on the information they have acquired from us. There are some people who live in the 10th district that are next-to-homeless and need a place to live that is affordable and will accommodate a lack of income and they voice their concerns at all these meetings, however I am not sure if this specific Allied Drive redevelopment project of these nine particular buildings is supposed to solve poverty, homelessness, unemployment and underemployment. Until it is understood what the Allied Drive redevelopment project is to achieve, I think that the confusion and communication lapses will persist.

Some people raised concerns about the affordability of the units. However the residents who currently live in the city-owned apartments were not the ones to raise that question. It’s a logical question that would come up if you were asking the world what they think. I wish this place would hold a public meeting for the entire City of Madison to attend and express their concerns about redevelopment. I’d be the first one to say my concern is that I don’t make the income to live here. I bet that if I consume the entire meeting with my questions about affordability, the actual residents that pay rent there would get a little irritated and after a while they will likely stop coming out to the meetings because their questions and concerns are not being addressed. That is precisely why I left the meeting early. I understand the city strives for a solution that will please everyone, so naturally, their job is to listen. They are definitely doing a wonderful job of keeping their ears open. Now that we have a listening ear, the line to express concerns is growing so long because our community as a whole has a lot of concerns to express. However when it comes to this specific redevelopment project for these nine buildings on Allied Drive, our meetings are filled with people who simply do not live here.

The question asked over and over again was "How much will the rent be?" We talk about displacement and we talk about all these programs that would allow residents to remain here, and ideas come forth at these meetings asking the city to consider 100% Section 8 housing in the new development. I know that my household would not qualify for Section 8 because my household income is too high. Would that mean that I would have to move out? My next-door neighbor has made clear to the city that she would not qualify for Section 8. Would she have to move also? My upstairs neighbor would also not qualify, and neither would my neighbors on the second floor, and my friends over in the 2345 building also would not qualify because their incomes would be too high for Section 8. Would they also have to move out? That sounds like displacement to me.

I raised a question at the meeting in the midst of an argument between some community members and Mark Olinger over whether the new development could be 100% Section 8 or just 80% or 70%? There are 32 households remaining in the city properties. "How many of them are Section 8 recipients?" I asked. Mark indicated it was something like 2, maybe 3. That is less than 10%.

The properties that the city acquired are probably among the nicest apartments on Allied Drive, which I know does not say a whole lot, but I know that the criteria to get into these buildings included an income requirement of three times the rent. Rent here is between $550 and $725. Do the math. Our households can afford a mortgage for a first home if we had some help. One of the households in the city properties is paying for two apartments to accommodate their family. I know from sitting on the CDBG Commission that the City of Madison has some great programs for first time homeowners and there are a lot of people in these buildings that would make great candidates for such assistance. Within that prospective, I think that the city properties striving for at least 50% owner-occupied units may help move our community forward (and not out) if the assistance to obtain one of those units is connected to us residents.

It really pisses me off when people talk for me, and many of my neighbors share that sentiment. I live here in the city property so ask me what I can afford and ask me what I want. Ask my neighbors what they can afford. Ask them directly what they want. Don’t rely on an organization or a survey to speak for us and then interpret that turning Allied Drive into projects is the solution. There are only 32 of us left, how hard could that be? There used to be 80 of us, and more and more residents are leaving the city properties, and they are not all moving into substandard conditions. They are moving into better areas of the city into nice properties. If we had comparable properties out here, maybe some of us would not move out of this neighborhood and maybe we could help provide the stability that the city is looking for in this community.

I would be interested in an owner occupied unit that has 3 to 4 bedrooms (with a basement?), and I would like down payment assistance and some counseling to help me with challenges with my credit. If I do not get that here, I will get it elsewhere and that would mean that I will not stay in this community. I do not want to live in the projects.

That’s all I have to say about the meeting this weekend (at least for now!). I’m not going to write about how some Fitchburg residents are so impassioned about fighting the concept of streets opening up Allied Drive into the surrounding neighborhoods. That’s all for another day, but I will say that the Berlin Wall comes to mind.

New Johnny Depp Movie Hits Theaters

Johnny Depp has some serious fans and in my opinion, his best movie moments were not in Pirates of the Carribean. One of my favorite Johnny Depp movies is Secret Window. Perhaps because I love to write, but also because it tells the story of the inner struggles of a man which many could relate to, whether you are a writer or not. There is a scene with the man who accuses Johnny Depp’s character, Mort, of stealing his story that had a line that I liked. Johnny Shooter, who is really Mort’s subconscious in character, questions him about his smoking and Mort says he just picked up on the habit for his health. Later on, he says “I don't care. I'm just gonna smoke. I'm just gonna totally smoke. I'll finish these, go to the store and get a brand new pack, and smoke the shit out of that one.” That was the part of the movie where I was cued that Mort and Johnny Shooter were possibly the same character (because Johnny smoked). It was all very interesting and the movie was very engaging to me.

Johnny Depp was also in Blow, and I don’t know what it is about drug dealer movies that get me so worked up. I’ve never sold drugs and everything I know about selling drugs came from second-hand experience or the movies. Still movies that draw an entire economy around drugs that expand globally, I guess that all intrigues me. Johnny’s character in that movie was named George who goes over to his friend Derek’s house with 100 pounds of blow asking him to sell it. Derek says it will take a year and the scene shifts over a few days later counting stacks of cash to Derek saying “36 hours. I can’t believe I sold it all in 36 hours!” And then George says something about it taking longer to count the cash than it did to sell it. Blow was a good movie too and this movie moment was definitely my favorite Johnny Depp movie moment.

But that may change with his new flick hitting theaters later this month. Sweeny Todd is another Steven King novel turned movie and is about a barber coming out of prison to avenge the death of his wife. An evil barber? I could totally see Johnny Depp rocking that role! See you at the movies!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thank You City of Madison for Plowing Allied Drive's Snow

I have had to go to the downtown MATC campus about 10 times in the last couple weeks, and the snow banks there are next to impossible to navigate around if you are on foot. Many people in the Allied Drive community are on foot and many of us have no alternative than to walk in order to get to the businesses close by, including Walgreens, McDonalds or Cub Foods. If you are walking with a stroller with multiple small children, the uphill walk to get to the end of Allied Drive is very cumbersome when you factor in snow and ice. I know resources were challenged with all the snow we got, and I am very thankful that the city has contributed to such a great job with the plowing of streets and walkways in the recent days. Thank you!!

Friday, December 7, 2007

Why Mattresses Are Dumped on Allied Drive?

This was a question I have been asking for about a year now and from all those who I have asked, there are several different answers:

1 - When people are evicted, they often do not take their beds with them, so the landlords just dump them on the curb and I guess the sanitation department comes and picks them up.

2 - When people are moving, mattresses are the most common thing that does not get transported, so the owner of the mattress dumps it on the side of the road, again, waiting for the sanitation department to come and pick it up.

3 - This is one that I heard which I will share for all the conspiracy theorists out there, though let me preface, I have no idea if this is true or not. In order for WHEDA to put money into our neighborhood, there are a series of guidelines that must be met as it relates to crime and upkeep. The drug dealers dump furniture out onto our curbs in an effort to keep WHEDA out. Actually, I heard it is not the drug dealers, but rather the drug dealer's drug dealers. Could there be truth to that? I don't know, this is just what I have heard. In my opinion, there are much easier ways to keep WHEDA out of our neighborhood if that was the goal.

4 - Bed bugs are still a problem out here in the community. There are some landlords out here that do not really make an effort to maintain sanitary living conditions and angry tenants will throw their bug infested mattress anywhere to get rid of it. If it is thrown in an inappropriate place, the landlord may move it to the street curb.

The last one is confirmed to be true - one of my neighbors down the street has been trying to resolve a bed bugs problem for about a year now. The landlord is unresponsive. He was so mad, he threw his mattress out the window onto the courtyard. Eventually, it likely ended up on the street side.

I can't complain about the city being my landlord - they do a great job with maintaining things here. I am thankful for that, because I think if my landlord was unresponsive to any bug problems in my home, I am liable to do something just as drastic with my mattress.