posted on May, 18 2016 @ 08:25 PM
Since I was born (back in the mid-70's) I've lived in different parts of the same suburban town. Although my family was poor and lived in a small
garden apartment and didn't own a home like the vast majority of families in the area, it was still essentially a safe, quiet neighborhood.
My wife and I have come a long way and we are finally purchasing our first home (assuming nothing crazy happens as closing nears). As excited as I am
about it, I have to admit that I also feel a bit of sadness that we are moving several towns away. In my younger years I'd dreamt about purchasing a
house in my childhood town and raising my own family here. Unfortunately, with a very heavy heart I have to say that the town I grew up in is no more.
I am fully aware that all places change over time. Sometimes for the better but in this case, for the worse. I've been spending some time
pondering this lately. How did the old town die and give way to this new place? From speaking with many people (some who still live here and some
who've since moved on), here is the autopsy....
Where it started: Schools
My town is the first town beyond the City's county limit. The next town (technically part of the City) is "rough" (to put it mildly). What
happened over the years is that people that do not live here started to use addresses of friends or family within this town to send their kids to this
town's better schools. For the school's part, they did very little to vet the quickly and exponentially growing number of students. I'm not sure
if this was simply being apathetic or intentionally looking the other way on the various district levels (since more students = more funding).
The problem is that the students coming from the other, rougher neighborhood didn't suddenly become model students (save for a few that I'm sure
took advantage of the opportunity in front of them). To the contrary, overall the test scores fell and continue to fall year after year and as (or
more) importantly, the schools became less and less safe. All schools have some skirmishes in the yard or a student that pulls a prank that goes a
bit too far, but "back in the day" there were NEVER weapons found on students (to point to one example).
The mid-point 1: Schools and Taxes
In this part of the country, property taxes are some of the highest in the nation. A tremendous amount of taxes are designated for schools. There
has never been a point where my wife and I considered sending our son to public schools. However, for many/most people that are looking to purchase a
home one of the first questions they ask is, "How's the school district?" Since the schools in this neighborhood have declined in virtually all
measurable ways, many/most families living here decided it was time to move on. Why pay astronomical taxes for schools that suck? I don't blame
The mid-point 2: Real Estate and Taxes
As the school districts fell, so did real estate values. Or, to put it more accurately, the values remained stagnant and far behind the rising values
in other towns in the immediate counties. As people who used single family houses for a single family moved away, the homes were purchased by people
who started converting basements and attics into illegal apartments. To be completely candid, my next door neighbor has at least a dozen people
living in a single family home.
The problems with the aforementioned situation is two-fold:
Schools: As if the influx of students from the beginning of this post wasn't enough, the schools are also getting swamped by an ever increasing
number of students.
Taxes: Putting the very legitimate safety issue of unlicensed contracting aside, the problem with multiple families squeezing into a single family
home is that the property taxes being collected are substantially less than what they should be. I'll put it this way, the property taxes in this
area are, on average, about $1,000 per month for a single family house. If three families are living in one house, $1,000 in taxes are collected
while if they weren't breaking laws and living independently, $3,000 per month would be collected. (Keep in mind, as previously mentioned the
schools are taking on X-percent more of students each year and people are not paying their fair share).
The above also only serve to keep property values down and make the community as a whole less desirable to those who are looking for a place to
The Beginning of the End: Taxes and Maintenance
As I've detailed above, the overall picture is that the people that live here now take far more than they contribute when compared to the previous
people that had lived here. I think the town's public pool is a perfect way to demonstrate this point.
This town has a wonderful pool facility that is intended to be used only by those who live in the town. It's X-dollars for an individual and
X2-dollars for a family. This system had worked remarkably well for decades because it appeared that the usage of the pool and the money that was
brought in was in perfect balance with the cost to maintain the facility. Unfortunately, for the past decade the equation hasn't worked because the
same people who have multiple families living illegally under one roof realized that since they have the same address they can pay one X2-dollar
amount for ALL of them. The results have been devastating. Leaving the overcrowding problem aside, although I witness the staff's tremendous
efforts, there just isn't enough money to hire enough people to keep up with maintenance. The place is starting to fall apart because of this and it
breaks my heart to see it happen.
I simply mentioned the pool facility but the same cause-&-effect are taking place in virtually all parts of the towns infrastructure, from the parks
to the town's "main street" which used to be a nice place to take a stroll on a sunny afternoon.
The End of the End: Crime
As one might expect, taking all of the above into account, crime has been and I expect will continue to rise. Like all suburbs, there have always
been cars or bicycles stolen here or there. It's different now. "Back in the day," if someone was mugged on the side streets, outside of their
home or while walking their dog, it was a HUGE deal. Now? The local news reports almost weekly about someone getting mugged and having their phone
or wallet stolen (often in broad daylight).
Lessons Learned and Final Thoughts:
The main thing I've learned is that it's important that everyone pay attention to their neighborhood. In the town where we are moving I plan on
attending far more town hall meetings than I have in the past (which amounted to maybe one or two per year when there was a specific issue I wanted to
learn about or bring up). Although we elected people to run our town, I feel partially responsible that I wasn't more vigilant in holding their feet
to the fire, as the saying goes.
Note: Feel free to call me a racist or a bigot or anything else. I work in an incredibly diverse city and I have friends and coworker-friends from
all sorts of backgrounds (including a wife that hails from South America) so I know who I am. I don't care about a persons color... I only care
whether or not they are a responsible citizen.
Also, unless someone is paying my (soon) mortgage and taxes or providing for my family's security, I couldn't care less about what unfounded insults
are thrown at me.