Alderperson Steve Bostrom hosted uptown neighborhood meeting
Alderperson Steve Bostrom of the 12th District hosted the Uptown Support Group and interested neighbors at the Brass Community School last night. There were about 25 people present at the meeting. City representatives in attendance were: Ed Antaramian, city attorney, Jeff LaBahn, community development director, and two property maintenance inspectors, Martha Swartz, and John Dumke. Ron Francis, crime prevention officer, Bob Waldron, First Step Services, and Dennis Nelson, Uptown Business Organization, all spoke and answered questions at the meeting. Several handouts were available at the sign-in table.
Bostrom opened the meeting with a brief history of how he got involved with the uptown district. Francis stated that there are at least five neighborhood watch groups in the district, and he urged the citizens to consider creating additional groups.
Francis stated that he’d like to see Kenosha’s nuisance ordinance revamped. He and Jeff Wamboldt, the other crime prevention officer, hold “Crime-Free Multi-Housing Seminars” periodically, and all citizens are welcome to attend, not just landlords. Francis stated that they give landlords tools to use, and they hold them accountable. One of the tools he mentioned was a “Crime-Free Addendum” which landlords can attach to their rental agreements. One citizen mentioned that it only took her three days (vs. the customary six months) to get a drug addict tenant out of her rental unit because she used this addendum.
Francis also reminded those present of the fairly new Crime Mapping software which is available on the Kenosha Police Department website. This is a tool whereby neighbors can keep an eye on what’s going on in their neighborhoods. It only tracks police reports and events, not all police calls. (Click here to access this software: Crime Mapping.) Francis also mentioned the “broken window theory,” which states that if you take care of small problems, bigger problems won’t arise. He stated that rental properties are a prime area of concern. “If it looks like someone cares, then the unsavory characters will stay away from there.” Francis encouraged citizens to call or e-mail either Wamboldt or himself directly to report any suspicious behavior. Their telephone number is: (262) 657-3937, and their e-mail address is: [email protected].
Citizens were concerned about remaining anonymous when calling to report incidents about their neighbors. It is true that when a complaint is signed, with the open record laws, people can find out who reported the complaint. Francis gave several different ways to report an incident, even if a person feels intimidated. They can call them on their cell phones, report via their computers, or meet them at another location. “We are different from the rest of the police department. We don’t care about arrests and citations. We care about fixing problems.” “This is the only way we can take back our neighborhood,” stated Nelson. “You’ve got to file complaints.” Francis and Wamboldt cannot get involved with ongoing investigations, however. He still urged everyone, to “Call, call, call.” And, if a person has a problem with an arrogant dispatcher, he urged people to ask for their unit number, and he would be happy to report it to the dispatch supervisor.
Bostrom stated that he’d like to see landlord licensing in the city of Kenosha, even though he knows that this is not a popular idea with his realtor colleagues or fellow alderpersons. He stated that he felt that this would hold landlords responsible. “Just like I have to have a license to practice real estate, or someone needs a license to sell food. In order to get a real estate license, I had to take a 120-hour course, a 5-hour test, etc. It may not be popular with some, but it’s popular with the general public.”
Some citizens voiced specific problems in their neighborhoods, and Bostrom took down their information and promised to take walk-through’s through their neighborhoods with them. Some expressed their frustration with the city, and their feelings of hopelessness. Antaramian defended the city staff in that they are understaffed with only two inspectors to cover the entire city. One citizen asked where the other two alderpersons were who’s district spans the uptown area. She was speaking of Alderpersons Katherine Marks and Patrick Juliana. One citizen commented on her inability to contact Marks. “You call her, and you can’t even leave a message. Aren’t these paid positions?” Bostrom offered to pass along messages to his fellow alderpersons in case a citizen couldn’t reach his/her own alderperson.
Waldron from First Step Services spoke briefly about the homelessness problem and the work his organization, as well as other organizations such as the Salvation Army, the Shalom Center, and the Urban Outreach Center, are doing to help. Waldron invited anyone interested to come to meetings which are held on the 4th Thursday of the month at 10:00 am at Rockhead’s, 2225 – 63rd Street.
Nelson relayed to the group how his efforts of hauling off seven trailers full of junk away from the uptown area was the start of the turnaround of the area. He also encouraged homeowners and business owners to clean up the areas adjacent to their homes and businesses. “If business owners cleaned up around their buildings, they’d have a better chance to lease or sell them. Let’s all do something to change things. And, be persistent.”
A citizen asked what plans there were for renovating uptown. Nelson agreed that “we need to change our image. KUSD and UW-Parkside are trying to do things in the vacant buildings. Like Racine has First Friday events, we’re trying to get something going here with Second Friday events. A band, a farmer’s market, a car show. Similar to Uptown Days years ago. Be patient. We’ll make it happen. We want to spotlight businesses, similar to how the Kenosha Area Chamber of Commerce spotlights businesses with their “Business After Five” events. This will give them good exposure.” Nelson urged local residents to patronize local businesses whenever possible.