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Merry Christmas to everyone in the CNB extended family






1+1=3 – It's A Cultural Thing


 Diversity, equality, and fairness are the latest buzzwords coming out of academia and echoed in the media. Everybody is supposed to achieve the American Dream today, regardless of who you are, where you came from, or what you did to get there. According to their math, equality of opportunity equals equality of outcome, and if it doesn't, rig the formula until it does. 


I read a couple of articles in recently. In one, a Rutgers-Camden professor of Public Policy published a study that found that more poor people were being concentrated in small to mid-size cities today compared to ten years ago. OK, the housing market tanked, taking the economy with it: poor people always lived in crappy neighborhoods with other poor people, and rich people lived in upscale 'hoods with their fellow 1%ers. But the professor feels that isn't fair, and advocates moving the less fortunate into the suburbs in order to ease the hardship on the cities that are being disparately impacted. This isn't new, the New Jersey Supreme Court mandated that the suburbs provide their fair share of low-income housing in the Mount Laurel Decision handed down in 1975, and the federal government got in on it in 1977 with their Community Reinvestment Act which was designed to "encourage" banks to lend money to people they would normally kick out the door because they didn't think they would get paid back, or maybe because of their lack of cultural sensitivity.

The other article published the results of the latest college SAT tests in Camden: of the 42% of students who took them, only three were deemed ready for college ... that's right, three, not three percent or three out of ten. Three. The “city invincible," where Walt Whitman once strode, with 80,000 residents, can only come up with three students who can put a sentence together and count past the number of fingers on their hands. According to my calculations, given that the state of New Jersey spends $300 million dollars a year to subsidize Camden's schools, that comes out to $100 Million dollars per scholar. But critics claim the test is culturally biased, and does not indicate a student's readiness for higher education.

About ten years ago, I noticed that most of my new neighbors were coming from the city. I got to know a few of them, shooting the breeze and lending them things from time to time. The first thing I noticed was that they didn't mow their lawns that often, and they weren't into the home maintenance and repairs that our Homeowners Association requires. For instance, a ten foot piece of my neighbor's siding fell off two years ago and it's still sitting in his backyard where it landed.

The other day I was in my backyard raking leaves, another chore my neighbors aren't into. I was looking around and noticed that three out of four of my closest neighbor's properties were deteriorating. Bags of trash piling up,  junk in the yard, siding not cleaned, repairs not made etc. Normally I wouldn't care, but I plan on moving out within a year or two, and I don't think any prospective buyer of my home would be impressed with the nouveau-trash, Camdenesque  look of the neighborhood. Ironically, the one home that is being maintained has been vacant for the last five years, its owner being dead four of those years. Fortunately, his heirs are taking care of the property until the estate is settled.

I went online to look at my town's tax records. They have a website where you can view your payment history and see what you owe. You can also view the records of everyone else in town. I found that three of my neighbor's homes are owned by minority females. One passed away last year, and her home is being rented out, though, according to the tax records she is still alive. The other two homes are occupied by their owners and their live-in boyfriends/husbands. I also noticed that out of my four neighbors, only the dead guy is paying his sewage bill in a timely fashion.

I stopped at my Homeowners Association office to inquire when they were going to get after my neighbors to clean up their properties. I learned that in addition to not keeping up with their sewage bills, they're also not into paying their association dues – one neighbor hasn't paid anything since the day he moved in over two years ago. My guess is that if they can't afford to pay their monthly dues, or don't want to, they're not going to pay the fines they've accrued either. On further reflection, I'm guessing they're also not going to pay off their mortgages, being they owe more than their homes are worth. Normally, if someone has equity in a home, they're going to take care of it and try to not lose their investment. But being my neighbors probably got special mortgages, the “no credit no problem” type, with minimal down payment, they're effectively renting their homes and will be walking away from their mortgages when the bills pile up and the liens kick in. And being the government owns most of those mortgages, we'll be picking up the tab for that party.

They have late model SUVs and trucks, cell phones, satellite dishes, and I assume big-screen TVs. Being poor ain't what it used to be. 

Maybe I can move into the Rutgers professor's neighborhood. I googled him and found that he lives in the Northern Liberties section of Philadelphia. At one time it was a working-class, row-home and small-factory neighborhood located south of Girard Avenue and east of 3rd Street. I knew a guy who lived in that area forty years ago, a little east in Fishtown. He was trying to get the hell out back then. Today it's a “mixed use,” gentrified neighborhood,  made up of refurbished row-homes, old warehouses, and new town-homes. Its blue-collar residents have been replaced by artists and professionals attracted to its proximity to center city and its more affordable real estate.  I checked out the available home prices on Trulia, and realized I'm 20 years too late. Today the average home is going for $400,000 to $500,00 dollars. Being I can't afford to live in places like Moorestown and Haddonfield  either – where the New Jersey Supreme Court judges reside – I'll have to kick back and hang in the 'hood with my homies until I hit the lottery, or Santa drops in.

Merry Christmas everyone, and Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanza, and Festivus.

NOTE: The author is the editor and owner of  the blog, A Diary for a Madman. He will be posting articles on CNBNews as a guest author. To view his blog click link

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