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

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Roast on Milios

I had Milios for lunch today and I remembered they are another restaurant that delivers to our area, but not on Allied Drive. I remember about a month ago, there was a really bad snow storm and we didn't feel like going outside or cooking, and we were so indecisive on what to order, and finally decided that Milios would totally hit the spot. I love their sandwiches however would you believe that they made us walk over to the Boys and Girls Club to meet them? We said okay because we really wanted Milios, and the Boys and Girls Club is literally out our front door, through the neighboring building's parking lot, up a small three foot hill and we are at the back of the Boys and Girls Club. That small three foot hill was not such a small hill with all that snow. That driver could have driven another block, in my opinion. If anything, we should have gotten our delivery for half-off or something because they really did not deliver it all the way to us. Ahh well ... We made it up by not tipping the driver, which is bad I know, however the driver was the same guy who answered the phone and refused to come down to our place. I was feeling guilty for about 3 minutes until I came home to a really arrogant sounding voice mail from the driver asking us where we were at thinking we were blowing him off with our shady Allied Drive sandwich order. I haven't ordered Milio's for dinner since ...

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It is MAD COLD today!

It is cold, cold, cold outside! Whenever we have inclement weather, I always think of all the people out here who do not have cars and walk in the cold to Cub Foods when they are in need of groceries.

I always see people walking with strollers and small children with bags of groceries. Cold winters are a harsh reality of our community. Even though Cub Foods is right across the street, when I didn't have a car, I used to take the bus to the West Transfer Point and walk to Copps - for me, it was a much shorter walk to the bus stop and then to Copps, and plus, you don't have to cross Verona Road's busy traffic on foot. It's only a ten minute bus ride and it actually would take longer to walk all the way across Verona Road.

I have high hopes for the Timebank outreach that will be taking place here soon and I really hope that more Allied residents take advantage of Timebank's resources when it comes to getting rides for groceries, especially when it is as cold as it is this weekend!

Winter Paintball Season?

I was trying to think of some activities that the community may participate in over the winter (not when it is as cold as it is this weekend, but maybe sometime when it is above negative thirty degrees!) and paintball came to mind! I saw on television once a group of people playing paintball in the winter snow and it really looked like a lot of fun. I am not sure how to go about getting a tournament together, but I bet anything that a lot of people would want to play, even in the cold! If anyone is interested in organizing a paintball tournament out here, there are some great resources for paintball guns and various paintball supplies online. I don't know anything about paintball however some quick research revealed that the Tippmann A-5 is one of the top selling models. I think I would need something that isn't so bulky so I could move around, but being so out of shape, I am very confident that I'd be down pretty much right away, so I think I would opt to be like a referee or something like that. A paintball gun package has everything that anyone would need to be completely armed with paint, and taking a look at all that comes with the package, it looks like this is a very serious, serious hobby.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Move Forward and Move Out, If You Really Want The American Dream?

They say that a component of what is considered the American Dream is home ownership and those of us in the city properties who aspire to buy a home and want to own a stake in this community feel like we are being somewhat punished for wanting it. The way the development plans are unfolding, those who qualify for Section 8 or prefer rental housing are offered an opportunity to move into the new developments first. The rest of us who aligned with the city’s idea of facilitating property ownership among the community’s residents will have to wait for an undisclosed amount of time for our opportunity to move.

If the new properties are ready this summer, they will be literally 25 feet from my front door. I wonder how I am going to feel, seeing a beautiful living space with gardens and all this great architecture that only accommodates Section 8 and rental housing, and does not provide a viable option for people like me who want to own a place in our next move. The architects who are designing the new buildings are very talented and the new properties are going to look spectacular. It’s going to make my current apartment look, for lack of a better term, shitty. And it’s going to be right there in front of me to salivate over every time I come in or out of my apartment.

I may be inclined to move into the new rentals. I’ll think, hell, if I am renting, I might as well rent something nice! But then something is going to nag at me, hey, why I am moving into a rental? I should be looking at buying a piece of property. Just for kicks, we may see if we can get pre-approved for a mortgage and if by chance we do, we will be faced with the difficult decision of whether we should move into a nice house anywhere in the city now, or should we continue living in a crappy apartment for that undisclosed amount of time and wait for the privilege of being one of Allied Drive's first home owners. I am thinking that the only reason I would wait for Allied Drive would be if there was a complete lack of mortgage brokers who are willing to work with first time home owners with challenges. I don’t know ...

The State Journal recently interviewed a landlord out here who expressed that the city should consider building homes immediately because there is already a ton of low income housing out here. They say that Allied Drive is over 65% vacant – I remember one of the architects early on explained to us that if they cut off the top floors of all the buildings on Allied, there will still be vacancies out here. Currently, everything out here is rental and low income. Our Alder was quoted in response as agreeing in the concept of home-ownership, however stating that the community really wants rentals to drive the first phase of the project. Who? The community? What about those of us who live in the buildings that you bought? I guess we are all the red-headed step-children who have to wait until everyone else is appeased before our needs are met. God, this feels like a really unfulfilling relationship that I have with the city. I fantasize about a mortgage broker in shining armor riding up here on a white horse to sweep me away.

The ideal would be if the city would start building the owner-based properties right away with the rentals, and the options would be lined up for us when the new properties are unveiled. This all reminds me of when we first moved into our apartment and we had no furniture whatsoever. I had some friends back in Chicago who offered me some really nice furniture, I just had to rent a truck and get some help to move it. There were a lot of challenges in doing that due to finances and mobility restrictions I had to abide to. Just to get some basic furniture, I went St. Vincent DePaul and got pretty much everything that I immediately needed. My intention was still to get the really nice furniture and donate my interim furniture back to St Vincent’s.

Three years later, I am still sitting on my St Vincent’s couch and the furniture in Chicago is still sitting in storage. I’ve had opportunities to get the new furniture, but for one reason or another, I never did. I guess because I didn’t really need it and I was comfortable with what I had.

It’s one of the tragedies of missed opportunities ... The city is making us move, that is inevitable for all of us here. However, if they really want to guide us into home ownership on Allied, they should relish the opportunity of lining up the timelines to make it convenient for us to do so. Have both options ready at the same time so that no one has to wait for an undisclosed amount of time to move into a house. If the city makes the home ownership option difficult for those of us living in their properties, my suspicion is that someone else in Madison will make it easy. We’ll all be dispersed throughout other areas of the city, and in the interest of building stability in the Allied community, it will be a missed opportunity.

Monday, January 14, 2008

At Least We Have High Hopes For Convenience

The recent meeting at the Boys and Girls Club regarding the redevelopment plan appeared to have a slightly different focus than previous meetings we have attended. Wow, for the first time, it felt like someone thought about what it might be like to live here in these properties in the midst of all the uncertainty of what the future may hold for us. Finally, we were given a glimpse of what the future's options may be. For the first time, I heard what the proposed plans were of where we will go while all the development is taking place, and for the first time, I have heard some options being discussed where some thought went into how the maximum number of us will not have to move twice (at least about half of us residents). The Birch Hill buildings have the most tenants, so in those properties, residents will not have to move until the tail end of the redevelopment plans (maybe a couple years?). For the other tenants, sometime this year, they will be relocated to the Birch Hill buildings. They will be provided some funds to help compensate for the moving expenses and they will receive one month's free rent. That's nice. Thank you for thinking that part through - at least now we can think about what we will need to be doing this year. I have a wall that I really want to paint, but have been holding off thinking it is possible I may be in a different place in 3 months. It sucks not knowing. Once we are all in the Birch Hill properties, we will have the option to move into the new rental units, or wait until the ownership-based housing is developed and move at that time into a condo, town home or single family home at the tail end of Allied. Who knows exactly what the future will hold for any of us, however one thing is clear - at least we can feel like we have a little tiny bit of control over our living spaces and we do not have to worry about getting an unexpected letter saying it's time to go, hurry up and pack. As one Allied Drive city-property resident put it at the Boys and Girls Club meeting, we didn't ask the city to buy our buildings, so the least that can be expected is for the city to think about us as they are making plans for all these changes (which I am optimistic about).

Community Blogging Could Lead to Some Economic Sustainability

I have always wanted to help people in my community become a little more technologically literate. Nowadays, there are so many legitimate ways to earn money online simply by being engaged with a little ingenuity. The Internet is global so what could be a barrier in your local community, could be a strength in your global community. It does not matter where you are from or what language you speak, the Internet serves a purpose of bringing everyone together. I really want to make an effort in 2008 to identify some people in my community who could commit to learning some new skills and one of the things I thought I could do is teach a group of residents how to maintain a blog. What goes with that is learning how to get paid for blogging. I am working on reaching out to people in the community and I hope that this time next month, we will be able to make some headway on getting a class of some sort going. I'll keep you all posted!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

What Constitutes Bad Return-On-Investment for Allied Drive?

When evaluating investments, we most often turn to numbers. In the case of the city-owned properties on Allied Drive, it would seem fairly simple to look at the amount of money that Madison’s taxpayers invested into the property, and then work the numbers out to ensure a fair return. However the City of Madison invested into Allied Drive not necessarily to crunch out a profit, but rather to invest in the people and the community. If stability in our community could be achieved, it would ripple out to affect some of the social ailments that plague our city, such as crime, homelessness, unemployment and poverty.

This is all great in principle, however within this process, it is often overlooked that lives are at stake. When our alder, Brian Solomon knocked on our door this weekend to encourage us to come out to another community meeting to voice our thoughts on the redevelopment, it got a little heated. Brian told us that as of a week ago, Phase 1 of the new development process was set to establish all 40 units as 100% Section 8. Now they are talking about 75%. The problem is that there are 30 families that live in the city properties that do not qualify for Section 8 (about 2 families out of 32 do qualify). So if only 10 of us can come back in Phase 1, where are the other 20 supposed to go?

Throughout this process, I have made efforts to remain actively involved and when asked for feedback I have offered it. I have taken personal time to visit with various city people to talk, I have spent time repeatedly offering the fact that I do not qualify for Section 8, and neither do many of my neighbors. When I am told that Phase 1 is likely to be 100% Section 8 just weeks before Phase 1’s redevelopment plan is etched in stone, it sounds like no one ever listened to me, or my neighbors.

The city has been challenged with settling at a solution for the newly acquired properties on Allied Drive in an effort to achieve this goal of stabilizing the Allied Drive community. Within their effort, they hold public meetings where those within the community can freely offer feedback and very often, the need for more Section 8 housing is cited. However who is coming to these meetings and who is raising their voice to guide the redevelopment movement? It is very rare within all these public meetings that I have seen any of my city-property resident neighbors. I have further witnessed some very disturbing methods of manipulating the open meeting process to advance agendas and it all boils down to this: things are not always what they seem. In my conversations with confused or frustrated neighbors, I have encouraged them to write letters to officials and committees that guide the redevelopment process, since many of them are simply unable (or at times unwilling) to come out to public meetings. I thought maybe that would help guide the process. One of my neighbors went the distance to do so … unfortunately, her words also seemed to fall on deaf ears.

It is important to make the distinction between those of us who are really currently living on Allied Drive as leaseholders, and those of us who are living here because of being temporarily taken in by friends and family due to some life circumstance. It seems like if the actual leaseholders in the community are driven away, the goal to achieve stability in our community will be futile. Many of us in the city properties have lived here for 5 years, 10 years and 25 years. That sounds somewhat stable to me, and if those households are driven out of the neighborhood through the Section 8 filter, is the city really achieving its goal?

On top of that, I know that I will have challenges finding a place to live outside of where I am at, if I am asked to move this year. I have some major obstacles that relate to my credit and my background that served as the prime reason Allied Drive became my home. My years on Allied Drive have been tough. My household has had two eviction proceedings in the last year that we successfully combated, but will a new landlord look over the fact that we allowed our rent to back up over $5000 due to extenuating circumstances and consider that we paid that off in 90 days to offset the evictions? If we are displaced, I honestly do not know where to find a landlord that will consider my income without considering my background, my rental payment history or my credit. Two years ago, Allied Drive was the only solution I was able to find after living in a hotel for two months. I am not looking forward to going back to living in a hotel.

I have a puppy to think about. When I look at the investment of faith I am making with the city that there will be a solution for my household within this mess, I am not sure if my investments are sound. I think that the city could potentially put me out through this Section 8 filter, granted I will likely have 60-90 days notice, but sometimes it seems like making an effort to find another place to live in another area of the city and eliminating that unknown in my life would make things a little more stable for me and my household. Who knows, maybe when I am an outsider looking in at the whole Allied Drive mess, I’ll join the rest of Madison in thinking that mass Section 8 is the best solution.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!

We had a great New Years this weekend and 2008 feels like it is going to be a very good year. Happy New Year to everyone out there and I hope that 2008 brings prosperity and happiness to all. Since we are city property residents, I think that 2008 will bring a temporary move, so I am trying to make plans for that, as difficult as that seems - I can't believe how quickly "things" pile up ... we are going on our third year here on Allied Drive and the thought of packing makes my head hurt - hopefully, it won't be too bad! Anyway, Happy New Year!!