Why I write about poverty

Jan. 6, 2005
Most of our readers are pretty perceptive, but we do have a few who live in a fool's paradise.
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Khol editorials

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You can tell who they are because when they get annoyed at one of my editorials, they send us angry mail saying that what I've written has nothing to do with technology, engineering, or the workplace. A case in point is the editorial appearing in our November 4 issue about why the nation has so many children living in poverty. Several readers couldn't see the connection between poverty-stricken mothers having children and business-or industry. Well, if you need an explanation, I will provide one.

I'll begin by pointing out that I mostly telecommute nowadays, but until recently I drove downtown every workday and parked in a garage adjacent to my office. I got to be on friendly terms with the parking-lot attendant, Girard, and we usually exchanged pleasantries when I left at the end of the day. Here, I must point out that being a parking-lot attendant in our city is not the safest occupation you can find. In fact, just prior to what I am relating, the attendant at an adjacent garage was robbed, kidnapped, and murdered, all for whatever money was in the till.

In any event, one day as I was leaving, Girard mentioned that he had been robbed at gunpoint the day before, just minutes after I had left the garage. Then, a few days later, Girard mentioned that one of my fellow employees here at Penton Media had just been robbed at knifepoint on the sidewalk outside the garage. All this happened despite the fact our offices were located in what is considered to be one of the more upscale parts of downtown.

Now we'll advance the tape one year, and our company is about to move to new offices a few blocks away. One aspect of the move was that employees were talking a lot about the fact that just several months earlier, a woman working in the new building had been robbed and clubbed to death at her desk by an intruder as she worked late one evening. We were, however, assured that security was now tighter at our new digs, and we would be perfectly safe.

Then a new phenomenon arose. After we made the move, employees started being robbed as they walked to parking lots after work. Building management kept a lid on this so as not to alarm workers, but eventually news leaked out via the e-mail grapevine. Every time I park downtown, I heave a sigh of relief when I return to see my vehicle is still where I left it. And if a vehicle isn't stolen, owners have to worry about whether or not it will be vandalized as thieves look for laptops and cell phones.

Our state has a "permit to carry" law, and after all of the above I began to feel that perhaps I should begin packing heat. I may someday end up a victim, but I am determined not to be a helpless victim. Yes, it had come to that. I felt a need to carry a gun.

To be sure, crime in our area is not limited just to the downtown area. It is pretty much accepted with equanimity throughout the entire county. As I've mentioned before, reports of murders, car jackings, and ATM robberies are largely confined to page 3 of section B in our daily newspaper. These occurrences are rarely deemed worthy of front-page coverage.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I'll point out that urban crime correlates closely with poverty rates, and chances are that poverty-stricken criminals were, themselves, born to mothers who — as I alluded to in my editorial — couldn't afford to have babies.

What I've described here might be news to those of you lucky enough to work in sheltered suburban offices or bucolic rural industrial parks. But those of us working downtown in poverty-stricken cities don't have a problem seeing how irresponsible parents have an impact on our workplace.

-- Ronald Khol, Editor
Send feedback to MDeditor @ penton.com

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