Diana Nelson Jones/Sept. 28
Today is National Good Neighbor Day, so make good use of it and lend someone a cup of sugar. If you're all out, just do what you know you should do 365 days a year: Behave as if you lived next-door to you.
Before we get deeper into the topic of today's discourse, Walkabout wants your examples of good and bad neighbors. Write in with short stories about the neighbor from hell or the wonderful neighbor or neighbors near you, and send photos whether of an eyesore or the swell egg in your hood. Walkabout will post appropriate entries.
It takes a lot more care to be a good neighbor when you're shoulder-to-shoulder, and a lot of us are. In my neighborhood, most houses are immediately adjacent to another house and most front doors are a stoop away from the sidewalk. We have no contracts obligating us to neighborhood responsibilities, but 16 million Americans do.
Ryan Poliakoff is one. The author of the new book, "Your Neighborhood: A Consumer's Guide to Condominium, Co-op and HOA Living," he is on the board of his condo association in Hollywood, Fla. (Visit www.newneighborhoodspublishing.com)
Many people buy into these associations thinking it'll be great to have a pool and a clubhouse and maintenance taken care of without realizing they have joined an old-fashioned tsk-tsk village. If you or I leave our garbage out four days early, the crews will collect it before the Bureau of Building Inspection or the health department can cite us. If you live in a condo association and do that, your neighbors are the fuzz.
Ryan said lots of people need to get up to speed on how to live under these arrangements. Condo, co-op and home-ownership associations are little governments making legal and business decisions.
"The president of a condo association is like the mayor of a small town," he said. Residents of these community associations need to get involved in their own governance to make sure money is well-managed and enforcement is proper. These boards can put liens on people's homes if fees are not paid and even foreclose, so they have a lot of legal power but they are volunteers in a not-for-profit construct. It's a job most people get into because they want to serve their community only to find themselves stuck for term after term, with neighbors talking about them behind their backs -- high-school hell all over again.
"Community service is required in this world of shared ownership," he said. "It comes back to the village idea and most of us are not conditioned to be good villagers."