Wednesday, November 12, 2014

North Side Troubles

It certainly has not been a good couple of weeks for the north side of Oshkosh.  Assaults on UW-Oshkosh students were followed by news that a UWO student was making ricin along Frederick Street and then last night we had a raid on a suspected meth lab just one block over along Franklin.  You even had a long time restaurant on that side of town--Vitale's--close up shop last weekend. 

The city of Oshkosh and the people living in the neighborhoods affected by this recent rash of incidents have put a lot of time, effort and money into trying to clean up the image of "that side" of the river.  I know a few people who live not far from the Ricin/Meth Block and they are frustrated by the continued problems over there--and how it just makes it more difficult to even consider moving out--because who is going to want to buy a house at true market value that sits near homes that are featured on the news for weeks on end?

Solutions to the issues plaguing part of the North Side are not going to come easily.  The demographics of the area make positive changes difficult.  Many of the homes in the area we are talking about are not owner occupied.  And while the City is adopting new building codes to spruce up the outside appearances of some of these houses--it still doesn't change the character of the people inside. 

Students here for four or five years renting some of those houses don't care about long-term, positive change in a neighborhood.  They just want somewhere they can live where they aren't going to get hassled for drinking while underage and smoking pot.  Those here to be closer to loved ones (or baby daddies) housed in one of our correctional facilities just want to "do their time" and return to wherever they originally called home.  And those who relocate to Oshkosh in order to serve the burgeoning illegal drug market will continue to be lured by the ability to make money--no matter how many of their predecessors we put in one of our correctional facilities.

Even if you were to go through with a bulldozer and raze all of the "problem houses" and replace them with nice townhomes or condos or assisted senior living that is going up everywhere else, all you are going to do is "relocate" the problems as well to the next older neighborhood with rental stock.  And we have laws that prevent landlords from refusing to rent to someone if they only "think they are going to be trouble".

So all we can do is remain vigilant and not adopt the attitude of "it ain't my problem" when we see something going on that isn't quite right.  We all live in Oshkosh--and we all share in the responsibility to make it as good a place to live as we can--even if it is on "that side of town".

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