Our opinion: Get to know your neighbors

April 7, 2011 2:45:00 PM



Do you know your neighbors? 


Local attorney and Dispatch columnist Scott Colom asked this question in a column on this page yesterday, bemoaning the decline of our neighborhoods.  


This is a longtime trend across the nation, not just in Columbus. For decades, the nature of our neighborhoods has been changing. Middle-class neighborhoods, with a mix of different incomes, are on the decline. People tend to segregate themselves not just by the old bugaboo of race, but by income. Neighborhoods have become increasingly rich or poor. 


And, even within our neighborhoods, we''re "waving neighbors." Too many of us might briefly acknowledge each other in our driveways as we shuttle ourselves to and from work, with a nod or wave and little more.  


Many of us have more virtual friends than real ones. How many Facebook friends do you have, versus the number of "real" friends, or neighbors, you talk to each day, face to face? How many of those Facebook friends are ones you could actually lean on during trying times? 


We see evidence of the decline of Columbus neighborhoods in the lack of neighborhood watch groups. We remember the fracas a year or so ago when a local mother stirred up controversy for letting her child walk -- walk! -- to soccer practice. What many of us remember as "playing outside" in our neighborhood is now called "free range parenting" -- the controversial act of turning your children loose in the neighborhood for the afternoon. 


Councilman Bill Gavin suggested briefly at this week''s council meeting that the city explore offering tax incentives for building new homes in the city limits or fixing up old ones. He''s also actively organizing neighborhood watch groups in his ward. These are small steps to reduce the decline of Columbus neighborhoods. But this isn''t a government problem -- it''s ours, and we need to recognize it as such. 


We''d like to add our voice to Scott''s and challenge our readers to get to know their neighbors. Take a walk through your neighborhood this week. Let your kids play outside, to the extent that you''re comfortable doing so.  


The poet Robert Frost may have suggested, "good fences make good neighbors." We challenge our readers to reach over some of those fences.