The end of the age of innocence
Two weeks ago, I walked my grandson to his Oakland, California kindergarten class — a magical 30 minutes. Then we casually entered his classroom where Landon was keen on showing off his cubbie and introducing me to “my friend” and then to his teacher.
Suddenly, a cold chill came over me as I felt the vulnerability of his classroom, in the context of random school shootings elsewhere in the country. How easy for a deranged person to march in and create havoc.
Yes, the odds are very very slim for an active shooter to show up in Landon’s classroom. What is real is the fear that it creates for parents and for teachers, in seemingly safe places. Like acts of terrorism, fear is the emotional collateral damage created everywhere else, far away from Ground Zero.
Plus, the news around these events aggravates our fears. “A threat feels more threatening if it’s getting a lot of attention,” according to a report on school shootings in the Washington Post. Statistically, a bigger threat to children is being shot outside a school environment, not in a classroom.
Nevertheless, the age of innocence has been crushed, as has taking a blind eye to this pressing social ill.
Modern-day drug dens
My wife Yaz and I are lucky to live in diverse places like West Hollywood and West Palm Beach.
We get around on our bikes, so we see the good, the bad and the underbelly. One clear and present danger: the ravages of opioids are spreading.
Ever notice how many chain drug stores there are — the modern-day (legal) drug dens? In our neighborhoods, there are a few group homes for recovering addicts and people with other psychological problems — often with new drug stores nearby and signs of pillage from opioids.
These castaways often wear white wristbands, which is code for their predicament and their qualifications for getting legal opioids.
With that comes opportunistic crimes. We were robbed in West Palm Beach and victims of petty crimes — mainly stolen bikes and bicycle seats and tires in West Hollywood.
The local police have told us overdoses are rampant and the crime connection to opiates is unmistakable.
The robbery unsettled Yaz, a tough city woman from Brooklyn and Casablanca. My otherwise liberal wife asked, “shouldn’t I get a gun?”
There are worse neighborhoods than ours, with more violence and where drugs have destroyed communities for decades.
But ignoring this new version of the problem seems short-sighted. Plus, the link to legal drugs and the drug company cabal is sinister.
Take a stand
The real estate industry has a stake in this mess. Forget the public interest for a minute, consider the industry’s self-interest: safe schools and crime-free neighborhoods are central to quality of life, stable home prices and more home sales.
Guns and drugs are real estate issues, whether we like it or not. How do we deal with the increase of drug problems across America (particularly opioids), the attendant crime, and simultaneously, the threat of gun violence that is now an all-too-real nightmare for school children and their parents (including members of the real estate community)?
Do I have the right solution? No. But I realize my own ignorance is the same for the industry. We have not faced these issues head-on, so we are all kind of stupid about the solutions. Or worse, it is a political sticky wicket so we tiptoe around it, we hope it will all go away or we pray someone else will solve the problem.
What is a smart advocacy path then for the industry?
Smarter policy people than me in Washington, D.C., like the National Association of Realtors, might play a role. Shouldn’t neighborhood and school safety be on NAR’s priority list as well as on state and local association agendas?
An excellent report on local efforts to curtail opiates can be found here.
Indeed, guns, opioids and school safety are local issues. And many in the real estate industry have already been involved in facing them in their own neighborhoods — stories we would like to tell on Inman.
One example is Realtor Mike Doyle, a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, who got clean five years ago.
He is now running for state legislator in Philadelphia. His main issue is opioid addiction.
“As a Realtor, I made a decision last year to take a stand and fight against issues that affect us all,” he said. His opponent is already making hay from his past as an alcoholic, so his campaign will not be easy.
We want to highlight your story on local leadership on guns and drugs. Tell us your tales of both woe and of success.
But also, share your opinions, raise your voice, give me some hell and give industry leaders some feedback and direction.