A typical Story

A typical story that I wrote for the Wisconsin Daily Independent




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Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team: Guarding us from bad neighbors? 



How is an 89 year old Nazi Work camp survivor a threat to her neighborhood?  Why are so many property owners looking over their shoulders? In a series of three installments, we will examine impact of the City of Racine’s the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Teams (UNIT).

Part 1

In 2004 then Mayor Garry Becker took pride in creating the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Teams at the first meeting of the City Council he said, ‘We have torn down houses and buildings in virtually all parts of town,’ Becker said. ‘The word is out. The bar has been raised. The city expects more from its property owners.’ 

At the time, these were welcome words for the residents of Jones St., deep in the heart of a blighted neighborhood where slumlords were an issue. Drug houses in the area, rundown buildings and other major issues were frequently brought up at neighborhood meetings, but what could be done?

At first, UNIT was seen as something to bring help in assisting with the enforcement of building codes in the slums. It seemed to be a gift for home owners interested in thwarting falling property values.

Under UNIT, we’ve seen a turnaround in conditions at houses strewn with trash and sweeps of the area by the Racine Police and Health Departments to deal with issues like abandoned cars to structures that were ready to collapse. At first look, things improved or so it seemed.

Most homeowners will tell you that they were putting time and money into keeping up their properties but still see other inhabitants who opted to do the opposite. Complaints to landlords often fell on deaf ears. With UNIT, something could be enforced and homeowners who cared about their properties in poorer neighborhoods had a chance to save flagging property values.  

Inequity became an issue and some even worried that people’s rights were being violated. Once the Unit wrote a ticket for an infraction, there was little that could be done to fight it. Violations became a selective judgment call as inspectors were charged with determining things like just how much peeling paint was too much? The hopscotch manner in which tickets were issued for snow covered walks, left residents wondering why some were cited and not others? Why was it that banks that owned foreclosed properties were exempt from cleaning snowy walks, cutting grass and picking up trash? When these questions came up at Neighborhood Watch meetings, they went unanswered and when landlords pressed the city representatives for answers, they were demonized as slumlords.  

Time and again at city meetings, Mayor Becker made it clear that he was going to use the UNIT to save Racine WI from the ‘evil slumlords.’


Simovic Jadwica has a home which is badly in need of repair (get photo). As my neighbors and I saw her frequently, we knew that she was aging and suffering from the many ravages that time and trauma bestow on us all. She was a Nazi work camp survivor and lives alone.

She creates no issues for her neighbors and we try to look out for her by taking turns at shoveling her walkway, dropping by to check on her well-being and making sure that she has enough to eat.

Time and again I was assured by my former alderman Q A Shakoor that the City/County would allow her to keep her home since she was no trouble.  The trauma that she faced at the hands of her Nazi captors, led officials to determine that it would be a major issue to move her to a nursing home at county expense. Her advanced age only amplified the situation.

When the UNIT began to issue orders for repair work, she was unable to comply due to her age and a lack of funds. We were constantly assured that nothing would happen to Mrs Jadwica and that she’d be able to live out her days in her home. It seems that we were somehow led astray.




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