Dispatches from government reporter Johnny Edwards

There is no middle ground in Harrisburg

I was only trying to do my job.

I only wanted to give both sides a chance to comment in my ongoing coverage of the Harrisburg activists vs. Harrisburg landlords dispute, which involves the first group picketing or threatening to picket the owners of what they say are the worst “nuisance” rental properties in the neighborhood, and the second group wishing they’d just go away.

But last week I unwittingly became a go-between when some landlords tried to broker a peace accord, a dismal failure. It seems I’m no Jimmy Carter, and it seems these two groups’ interests and philosophies are so divergent that I doubt even President Malaise himself could get them on the same page.

It started on Monday when I got a call from Cliff Channell, the owner of Channell Realty. He was flabbergasted that 10 Harrisburg residents spent Saturday morning protesting outside his office in Wheeler Executive Center, unfurling a long banner that read, “Hold Rachel Rabitsch accountable 4 1841 Watkins St.” while Butch Palmer yelled at passing cars.

Mr. Channell said Mrs. Rabitsch, a leasing supervisor, has worked for him for more than a decade, and he supports her 100 percent. It’s hard for a landlord to evict tenants who pay their rent on time – $1,080 per month in the case of the Watkins Street duplex, which has had 41 visits from the sheriff’s office since January 2008 – and haven’t been convicted of any drug crimes themselves, he said.

Mr. Channell proposed a deal. His company manages about 30 properties in Harrisburg. If the “concerned citizens” group has problems with any of them, he’ll boot them when the leases run out and start looking for new tenants while the activists do the same. If a property winds up sitting empty, though, the group would have to pool their money to cover any lost income. He, Mrs. Rabitsch and several other landlords would go along with those terms, Mr. Channell said.

I called protest organizer and Crawford Street homeowner Lori Davis and asked  whether she had any comment. Let’s just say it didn’t go over well.

“Isn’t that lovely?” she said. “So we’re gonna’ come up with $1,080 a month for a dump.”
Mrs. Davis said the offer is “like spitting on us.” She said she wouldn’t help put anyone in 1841 Watkins St., which ought to be razed. She said Mr. Channell has proven that he and other landlords are motivated only by money .

She passed the offer on to the other members of her group, who were equally indignant. “What is he sacrificing? Nothing,” Mrs. Davis said. “We sacrifice our safety every day we live here.”

She had this for a counteroffer: Find a place in Mr. Channell’s neighborhood that rents for $1,080 a month and let the Watkins Street tenants move in there.

But it’s really all a moot point. Mrs. Davis said her group isn’t having trouble with any Channell-managed properties. They want to hear from Mrs. Rabitsch, not her boss, Mrs. Davis said.

I reported all this back to Mr. Channell.

“This tells me how skewed her thinking is,” he said. “It’s an investment for (the Rabitsches), and that’s how they make their living. That’s like the Rabitsches asking her to quit her job.”

And since The Chronicle isn’t paying me to be an envoy/mediator, I think I’ll quit doing that job myself.

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

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Brad Owens
5200
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Brad Owens 08/15/09 - 05:28 am
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Again, it is NOT about being

Again, it is NOT about being a good neighbor for the landlords, it is a BUSINESS and so the main motivator is MONEY. If they own/manage 30 rental properties in Harrisburg? That should be an indicator of exactly WHAT the problem is in Harrisburg right there.

It is an "investment" not a home. "I have to make a living" is the Yuppie Nuremberg Defense. They REALLY could not care less if someone was killed in the home as long as the "renters" didn't do the killing right? I mean the DRUGS found in the house was not on the actual renter so it is OK right? So if a whore turns a trick inside but is not the renter is that ok? If someone else is dealing drugs there but their name is not on the lease, is THAT ok? (eyes rolling)

Greed is the main reason someone would allow people who have had the police called 41 times on them to remain in ANY property they own.

Looks like Butch and the gang are making progress however. At least they have forced dialoge, even if it is through you Johnny, and that is a better start that the redneck wrestler reply Mr. Rabitsch gave last time about bringing a 'world of hurt' or some other non-sense reply.

Johnny, my folks live in Goshen and this is exactly what they are upset about. They don't want landlords who only care about the money and not the neighborhood to move in a bunch of scum to ruin their neighborhood.

Brad

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 08/15/09 - 10:11 am
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Pinch me. This is not real.

Pinch me. This is not real. I must be dreaming. Forty one times we tax payers have paid the Richmond County Deputies to go to 1841 Watkins St during the course of a year? I am going to go to the Sheriffs department and get copies of these reports and I challenge all Richmond County residents to read these too. Chances are the names of the people involved would not pass a criminal background check and they are being allowed to go into this neighborhood because the landlord cares solely about money and not the neighborhood. The owner of 1841 Watkins is as guilty as was David Dunagan  was back in December when Butch Palmer demanded that he clean up his landlord act: http://blogs.augusta.com/node/2211

Something is badly wrong here in Richmond County. Why hasent' Sheriff Strength stepped in and ceased 1841 Walker St under the civil forfeiture law or the nuisance abatement ordinances? Real estate properties are confiscated in other Cities. Why not Augusta GA? Harrisburg isn't the only neighborhood in Richmond County with nuisance property problems. If Richmond County government stepped in to take ownership of a couple of these nuisance properties, landlords all over Richmond County would take notice and clean up their acts!

 The truth of the matter is that Richmond County neighborhoods are  less desirable places in which  to live because of greedy self centered landlords. The laws and power exists to clean up Richmond County. Richmond Countys' reputation stinks when it come to being a desirable place in which to live!

I challenge everyone who reads this blog to join with these Harrisburg activists by contacting Sheriff Strength and demanding him to use his authority to clean up Richmond County starting with Harrisburg. We the people can change Richmond Counties' reputation by demanding our eleced officials to take action.

Send a resounding message to greedy slack landlords, drug dealers, prostitutes, pimps, fights, cursing and screaming, sellers of contraband, and  any tenants who chronically disturb those around them by their actions or by the actions of those who visit them. Let them know that their actions and in the case of landlords, their complacency can cause dire consequences.

The all mighty dollar makes the world go around. Taking that all mighty dollar will rock a greedy landlords world and make her play by rules of decency!

Just My Opinion
6846
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Just My Opinion 08/15/09 - 10:18 am
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Well, not sure what to say

Well, not sure what to say about Cliff's empty compromise.  First of all, why is he getting involved in this?  Can his employee not stand up for herself?  On the other hand, I guess it's better that Cliff does the talking instead of her redneck, bully husband!  Cliff is a sharp businessman, and he knew good and well that anyone with half a brain would not accept his ridiculous proposition.  This neighborhood group does not have the capital to involve themselves in bankrolling realtors who make poor choices...they only have the money they need to maintain a living in their homes and to protect their interests.  The previous poster asked why more is not being done by the sherriff's office to put a hammer down on these properties and their true owners. I'm thinking that it has something to do with the good-old-boy system...many of these property owners have been in the Augusta area for decades, and they've got alot of political friends who will help them along in case of any trouble...and that, apparently, means looking the other way at times.  Cliff, if I were you, I'd stay out of this, otherwise you might find the spotlight moving more to your side. 

Austin Rhodes
3121
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Austin Rhodes 08/15/09 - 10:52 am
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Buckydawg...you threatening

Buckydawg...you threatening Cliff Channell?  I wouldn't do that if I were you.  

I bet Cliff's businesses generate more tax revenue for the city than the homes of all the protesters combined.  Not that it matters...right is right...and unless you can show where being a slob or tacky is illegal in Harrisburg, you guys may as well be complaining about the humidity, because you have just as much chance of changing it.

Harrisburg is a very old neighborhood that is full of properties valued less than 75k...that means you are likely going to have neighbors who behave themselves like people who live in properties that are worth less than 75k.  

Imagine that.

If you want total peace and quiet in a neighborhood, either buy up the cheap properties and raze them...or move. 

You guys are expecting  CALVERT'S atmosphere on a McDONALDs' budget...and it ain't gonna happen.

It is one thing to run out criminals...it is another to think you can run out po' folks who act like po' folks.  

AR 

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 08/15/09 - 07:01 pm
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Cliff has shown his true

Cliff has shown his true colors. Cliff  Channel of  Channel Reality has "stepped into it" I wonder how far back his sloppy tracks will lead? You know the old saying, "The bigger they are the harder they fall"

CorporalGripweed
0
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CorporalGripweed 08/15/09 - 11:43 am
0
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In response to AR, are you

In response to AR, are you saying just give up?Po folks just gonna be po folks? Sorry that don't feed the bulldog my friend. I came from po folks and there is never an excuse for acting poorly even if you are poor. Plus it's not about running out poor people, it's about running out SORRY people. I don't care what budget you're on that does NOT excuse bad behaviour.

imdstuf
10
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imdstuf 08/15/09 - 12:10 pm
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Cliff Channell himself

Cliff Channell himself pobably lives in a neighborhood with a convenance.  They should not expect Calverts in place of McDonalds, but they can expect for landlords to get drug dealers out of the neighborhood.  There is a difference between a lower middle class group of people and criminals.

Just My Opinion
6846
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Just My Opinion 08/15/09 - 12:11 pm
0
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LOL!  No, I'm not

LOL!  No, I'm not threatening Cliff!  He's a good guy that most people like right away because he's pretty genuine.  He just needs to remember that he's a Harrisburg property owner himself, and these folks are looking at everyone down there.  This lady in the article said that they weren't having problems with Cliff's group of homes, and that's good.  But all they have to do is do alittle more checking and they may find something.  But I think they're really looking for those who are a part of the bigger picture of problems.  AR, you brought up some comparison of Calvert's to McDonald's...just because they're "poor" doesn't mean that they don't have the morality to live a life without drugs or robberies.  Going along with your example,are you to insinuate that crime doesn't happen in the more affluent neighborhoods, by their own residents?  Of course they do, and you know that.  On a side note, just how would YOU react to having these folks as neighbors who have had the law called to them 41 times?  Seriously ask yourself that question before you respond.  And, when you do consider it, reflect on how your reaction compares with those in Harrisburg.  Now, while you're doing that, I'll be out in my "affluent" neighborhood, cutting my "affluent" grass and talking with my "affluent" neighbors about the "affluent" guy down the street who just got busted for illegal stock trading and with drug possession!

shmooth
0
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shmooth 08/15/09 - 12:18 pm
0
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either 'investment

either 'investment properties' should be outlawed, or we should establish ordinances allowing community groups to either eject troublemaking neighbors, or sue the landlord. housing properties affect the community as a whole, so the people who own and control them need to be subject to community input -- and ideally, community control.

it's funny that many of the racist protesters are private property/Republican types, but now they want community control of the property. communists. heh.

CorporalGripweed
0
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CorporalGripweed 08/15/09 - 12:33 pm
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Wrong shmooth, they don't

Wrong shmooth, they don't want community control of anything privately owned but they DO expect accountability. Especially from those who profit from not holding their renters accountable. Communism? I think not. Why is it that the same people who elected a community organizer to The White House now want to complain when communities organize?

Austin Rhodes
3121
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Austin Rhodes 08/15/09 - 12:50 pm
0
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Again...low property value

Again...low property value neighborhoods mean lots of people who can afford them live there. While there will be nice, quiet, elderly, retired people in such places , there are also a lot of "low rent" types.  It is what it is.  If they break the law...have them arrested...if they are not breaking the law...tough potato chips.  

I know that sounds harsh, but look at the bright side...those of you complaining have a house payment and property taxes that are likely LESS THAN HALF of mine.  That is the good news...the bad news is, you have neighbors like yours and NOT like mine.

AR 

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 08/15/09 - 02:08 pm
0
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Columbia County is famous

Columbia County is famous for housing Richmond County Sheriffs deputies who refuse to live in Richmond County. There are many high level Richmond County employees who also reside in Columbia County. In fact, it is reasonable to say that many of the people who have upper level paying jobs in Richmond County live in Columbia County.

 Augustas'  East side Underwood Homes, federal housing project is being torn down and many of its residents will be heading West to Columbia County.

 Underwood Homes residents will get housing vouchers from the Augusta Housing Authority. These vouchers can be used anywhere that will accept them. We may  be seeing the same trend in Augusta that was observed in Memphis TN :  http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/memphis-crime

God  will be blessing us with this gift /opportunity for members of the  faith Communities who live in  Columbia County to be good Samaritans. People in Columbia County have been blessed to have  the resources to be able to afford to  adopt troubled generational welfare families and put an end to this generational decline which has been enabled  by how  the public welfare system operates.  The Lord works in mysterious ways to bring about healing. Christians are fluding into Harrisburtgs' Bible Deliverance Temple from all parts of Augusta and Columbia County. The  Lord is  anointing  followers who live in  our suburbs with understanding, compassion and love. Open your mind to understanding and open your heart to the love that is through Jesus Christ. Remember no one comes unto the father but by Jesus.

eachoneteachone
0
Points
eachoneteachone 08/15/09 - 01:40 pm
0
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Sorry this post was placed

Sorry this post was placed twice and I can' find a way to delete it.

HillGuy
8
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HillGuy 08/15/09 - 06:38 pm
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I rented properties before,

I rented properties before, and I always had a clause that stipulated that illegal activity being committed on the premises was  a breach of rental contract regardless if it was the renter engaging in it. They are responsible for the behavior of their friends and relatives who visit.. if they cannot live up to their end of the contract, then in it null and void. What Harrisburg needs are retrictive covenants that you see in HOA subdivisions and places like Summerville.

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 08/15/09 - 07:04 pm
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Cliff Channel has been in

Cliff Channel has been in the property rental business for decades. He fully supports his employee who blatantly and flagrantly disregards the chaos that her tenants bring to that neighborhood. It makes me wonder if Mr. Channels' properties have created similar problems in the past.

HillGuy
8
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HillGuy 08/15/09 - 07:18 pm
0
0
daviddunagan
359
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daviddunagan 08/15/09 - 09:58 pm
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To the anonymous

To the anonymous "earhometeachone individual":  It is a far stretch to compare me to the recent events regarding Watkins Street.  To refresh your memory, an individual was arrested in one of our houses for possession of drugs.  It was not my tenant however  I filed an eviction anyway.   An eviction normaly takes 45 days to complete.  Butch was not happy about how long the legal procedings took.  He wanted the tenant removed immediatly. It doesn't work that way in the court system.  As always I support the Harrisburg neighborhood and hope for its continued revitalization.

David Dunagan

D&D Properties

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 08/15/09 - 11:44 pm
0
0
Try asking your neighbors in

Try asking your neighbors in your subdivision at midnight politely to bring the volume of their outdoor party down so your spouse can get enough sleep to work the next day.  On second thought, not a good idea, more than likely you'll be cussed out, verbally abused by the host and hostess and party goers, accused of a number of random false things including racism and vulgar things, arrested for disorderly conduct on the basis of false accusations from a drunk false witness and the party will STILL continue until 4am, and even when the partiers call the police on each other at that time, they are NOT arrested and the original complainant is STILL not vindicated.  Then you wait years for your name to be cleared despite having a recording of what really happened.  Nah, that would never happen, would it?  Maybe incidents similar to this scenario are causing law-abiders to move to other counties?

Harrisburg Homeowner
0
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Harrisburg Homeowner 08/15/09 - 11:52 pm
0
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Austin Rhodes, I take

Austin Rhodes, I take exception to your comment about "po' folks."  You seem to have some preconceived perception that po' folks act and think all the same way--trashy.  Being poor does not make one act poorly.  I can guarantee you that I have seen some rich brats in my lifetime that acted much more poorly than many of the good people who live in Harrisburg.  I've also talked to police officers who have busted people manufacturing drugs in neighborhoods like yours.  So where one lives and how much one pays in taxes does not change human nature--it only changes the type of crime committed and how easily a person can get out of jail.  The more money and the more political backing a criminal has, the easier it is for him to go free and pretend he is a better person socially. 

Harrisburg Homeowner
0
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Harrisburg Homeowner 08/16/09 - 12:01 am
0
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By the way, I was one of the

By the way, I was one of the Harrisburg residents asked about the "proposal" Mr. Channell made for his employee.  This is what I said:

Ha....Ha....Ha!
What do they think us to be....fools?
This is my opinion about the matter:
1)  The tenants are a nuisance and their lease(s) should be non-renewed.  This is a good landlord's responsibility.
2)  We are not going to tell them to whom to rent!  That is their responsibility.  We just expect them to do criminal background checks, financial background checks, and check personal references, etc. - all things that responsible landlords should do to start with.  It costs extra money but pays off in the end--AND it is recoverable by charging an up-front fee, in addition to obtaining first and last month's rent as a deposit.
3)  If the place goes unrented, it is NOT our responsibility!  All landlords have times that their houses are not rented for a few weeks.  They want some pie-in-the-sky agreement.
4)  We expect them to be actively involved in ensuring that their tenants are not nuisances.  One way is by having them sign leases spelling out what behaviors are expected and what behaviors are not tolerated--and THEN they should follow through with the rental agreement(s), not let things go until they are uncontrollable.
Just like I said at the protest:  "They don't care about Harrisburg.  They ONLY care about the money!"  And this proves it!

Jim-bob
1
Points
Jim-bob 08/16/09 - 12:23 am
0
0
I keep reading that police

I keep reading that police were called 41 times. How many arrests have been made? Sounds like someone has APD on speed dial.

Harrisburg Homeowner
0
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Harrisburg Homeowner 08/16/09 - 08:07 am
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Jim-Bob, the 41 times were

Jim-Bob, the 41 times were over an 18-month period of time.

CorporalGripweed
0
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CorporalGripweed 08/16/09 - 09:51 am
0
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I live in the neighborhood

I live in the neighborhood and you are darn right I have APD on speed dial. Whenever someone does something that is criminal I don't hesitate to call.That's what any responsible person would do.Period.

Jim-bob
1
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Jim-bob 08/16/09 - 10:24 am
0
0
OK. I understand that.

OK. I understand that. Again, the police called 41 times over 18 months, how many arrests were made?

FallingLeaves
27
Points
FallingLeaves 08/16/09 - 10:52 am
0
0
Jim-Bob, what's your

Jim-Bob, what's your point?  Officers aren't supposed to be on these blogs, so do you have inside info some other way?  Most people know that just because alleged suspicious behavior, criminal behavior, noise complaints, code violations, are reported doesn't mean an arrest is going to be made or even whether the complaint is valid or not.  Sometimes the complainant is the one arrested, whether it is "warranted" or not.  Sometimes that happens because some witnesses are viewed more credible than another or sometimes there is corruption involved somehow.  Sometimes there just isn't enough evidence for an arrest of anyone.  That doesn't mean there isn't a nuisance factor in the equation, whether it be the complainant or the alleged perpetrators.  Honorable officers are expected to have the wisdom of Solomon and that just isn't reasonable to expect.  Honest mistakes can even be made in determining who is at fault in a dispute.  If there is more than one person making those 41 calls, whether arrests were made or not, it does stand to reason that there is a nuisance problem at that location.  However if the persons making the complaints have foul mouths, verbally abuse their targets, and generally behave in a disruptive manner in public, why wouldn't those persons been arrested for disorderly conduct?  Is it not politically correct for some reason?   If complainants are acting the same way as the  persons they are complaining about, no wonder there is hesitation in making any arrests.  Is that the case?

jack
11
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jack 08/16/09 - 03:08 pm
0
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The excuse that the renters

The excuse that the renters pay their rent on time is just an excuse for not evicting them as a nuisance, especially when the sheriff is called 41 times.  Perhaps the Harrisburg protesters could go to court  with the problem.  A good attorney for them would be Jack Long.

Harrisburg Homeowner
0
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Harrisburg Homeowner 08/16/09 - 03:36 pm
0
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Jim-Bob, If someone were to

Jim-Bob, If someone were to play their music loudly and refuse, after being requested by neighbors, to turn the music down, the only way to get them to comply is by calling the police.  Usually no arrest is made.   If several men are cussing at each other and/or fighting, thus disturbing the neighborhood's peace and quiet, the police is called.  If the fight breaks up when the police come or if they calm down, no arrest is made.  But the police was still needed to provide peace and quiet for others.  These nuisances, though no arrests were made, still constitute a major problem for neighbors if they continue on and on.  Having 41 police calls made for one residence over a relatively short time period (18 months) definitely shows that this one duplex harbored people who disturbed the peace and quiet of others way beyond what is reasonable.  One or two times, fine, but 41?  Arrests should not be the sole litmous test as to whether people should be asked to shape up or find another place to stay.

eachoneteachone
0
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eachoneteachone 08/16/09 - 08:52 pm
0
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My interpretation of what

My interpretation of what Cliff Channnel is saying is this:  First of all I am no team player...As far as rising the tide...the only boat that I want to see floating is mine.....I am too tight to do background and credit checks besides the houses are insured and if they burn down so what ... money in my pocket.........I will rent to anyone who can  pay the rent to me regardless of the effects that the tenants may have on the neighborhood. I buy houses cheap and  I do the minimum to them to be able to rent them.  It is all about the dollar. I could care less about that low rent neighborhood unless I can profit from it.

This is exactly  how Cliff Channel will be remembered.

It may have taken more care, energy and imagination  to have worked to build a better Harrisburg. Cliffs' property values may  have appreciated  but this elderly man became more of what he was in his youth..that is except for his financial status he became smaller but out for the fast buck. Cliff Channel did not grow emotionally.  Charles Dickens wrote about another old mah who was much like Cliff. His name was Scrooge

To the younger people reading this: If Cliff Channels' family for what ever reason does not take care of him in his advanced age ...chance may put Cliff  in close contact with you. Look at this frail little old Cliff in the eyes and be kind to him because some people, even the millionaires are small...maybe they really did the best that they could. Be kind and gentle with him.

catfish201
0
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catfish201 08/17/09 - 06:29 am
0
0
I am a responsible landloard

I am a responsible landloard in the Harrisburg area who maintains the property and is very selective about who I allow to live in my house (background and credit checks).  I rent to people of modest means who have strong character and faith. I would have evicted the tennents after the 2nd visit from the police as per the contract.   Cliff Channel and Rabitsch are enjoying their profits but they are hurting my investment.  Maybe we need other responsible landlords putting the pressure on these irresponsible landlords.  Business is business.

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 08/17/09 - 07:43 am
0
0
http://mapweb.augustaga.gov/a

http://mapweb.augustaga.gov/augusta/wingappica/r13426/r13426.jpg in case anyone wants to look at the Watkins st. house. As a homeowner and resident of the Harrisburg-West End district, I have a vested interest in seeing thugs/gangs/thieves/crackheads kicked out. I'm sick and tired of hearing drug dealers boomin' up Battle Row & Gardner St as they head to Sand Hills for their daily pickup! and Austin, I'm probably one of those "po folks" you're talking about. An ASU educated man who pulls in under 30k. I'm not complaining about my meager wage.  What would you have those of us who don't make much money do? Live out on the streets, or live next to rent-subsidized low-life degenerates who do nothing to improve our city? I can't afford to buy a house in West Augusta, and I chose Harrisburg because it is a 5 minute commute to work. Anyway, theres no reason that just because someone is poor (or of modest means), they have to act like jerks and disrupt the lives of everyone around them.  I hope one day the riffraff in Harrisburg will all move on, or (fat chance) work to better themselves.. But until then I'll keep my gun well-oiled, and will support any action Butch Palmer, HongKong, and the HWENA do to make our streets cleaner, safer, and more quiet!

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