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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CorporalGripweed
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CorporalGripweed 08/17/09 - 07:30 am
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catfish20:  I like your

catfish20:  I like your idea.  If interested in helping out  with sorry landlords, please e-mail loricbroadnax@hotmail.com

eachoneteachone
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eachoneteachone 08/17/09 - 08:56 am
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You Harrisburg landlords

You Harrisburg landlords should get together and make a civil action against Rabitsch.

eachoneteachone
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eachoneteachone 08/17/09 - 01:12 pm
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omnomnom. Civil acion is

omnomnom. Civil acion is needed..Get in contact with Butch and Lori's group and talk to them about getting Harrisburg property owners together to file civil action against Rabidjerk or what ever her name. You Harrisburg property owners have the power of the law on your side. How could this woman go to court and defend 42 police calls in 18 months! This  unacceptable behavior. This Rabitsch woman has enabled the tenants bad behavior and Cliff Channel has enabled Rabitsch's poor behavior. It is appalling that Realtor of Cliff Channels' caliber would be party to and enforce such ugly harmful behavior. Neighborhoods are all about values and they have devalued your Harrisburg neighborhood. Nieghbors on the 1800 block of Watkins St have been victomized too long. Take Rabistsch to court!

tstoney
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tstoney 08/17/09 - 01:24 pm
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Smart move on your part Mr

Smart move on your part Mr Johnny!!

randyswood
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randyswood 08/27/09 - 10:14 am
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Some of us in Summerville

Some of us in Summerville have admired you Harrisburg / HONG KONG folks for some time now . . . sticking up for your turf like this.

randyswood
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randyswood 08/27/09 - 10:18 am
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Some of us in Summerville

Some of us in Summerville have admired you Harrisburg / HONG KONG folks for some time now . . . sticking up for your turf like this.

randyswood
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randyswood 08/27/09 - 10:18 am
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Some of us in Summerville

Some of us in Summerville have admired you Harrisburg / HONG KONG folks for some time now . . . sticking up for your turf like this.

randyswood
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randyswood 08/27/09 - 10:29 am
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Oopps . . . didn't mean to

Oopps . . . didn't mean to post that 3 x . . . sry . . . 

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