OP-ED: Did Oshkosh Northwestern reporter “intentionally” give incomplete info about rental inspection program?

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Last week I contacted Oshkosh Northwestern reporter Nate Beck about what I strongly feel was an inaccurate representation of the city’s rental registry and inspection program in his article on the Common Council primary election results.

Mr. Beck wrote that the rental registry program “requires landlords to allow city inspectors to survey damage in rental units once every five years.” The program is so much more than that, and Mr. Beck knows it.

The intent of the rental registry and inspection program is “to encourage Oshkosh rental property owners to exercise their responsibility to meet code requirements to provide safe and sanitary living conditions for their tenants. Program guidelines were drafted in keeping with current Wisconsin state law that requires rental inspection programs to be regularly scheduled, uniform, and city‐wide. Health and safety concerns could include: inoperable/broken smoke or carbon monoxide detectors, broken/missing guardrails, water leaks, lack of heat or hot water, improper electrical connections, broken windows, improper vent connections and more.”

The above is taken directly from a press release issued by the city, something I know the Northwestern gets. But instead of thanking me for bringing a concern to his attention, Mr. Beck wrote me back a one-sentence reply saying that his reporting was accurate “because damage can constitute a code violation.”

The operative word there is “CAN.” Can some damage cause health or safety concerns, or could it be a code violation? Of course. But plenty of other damage does not, such as a hole in the wall, or carpeting that is damaged, etc. Moreover, lack of running water or adequate heat, electrical issues, are not likely caused by “damage.” No, Mr. Beck, the City is not just looking at damage, and shame on you for suggesting in your article that it is.

Mr. Beck’s reply to me almost seemed egotistical in nature, like how dare I have the temerity to question him. (Plus, he didn’t even bother to thank me for being a reader…lol..something any print publication should be grateful for these days). I suggest in my headline that it was intentional. That is my opinion because the reporter had an opportunity to give a broader explanation or description of the rental registry program and its intent, etc., but chose not to, for whatever reason.

For interested parties, you can find a very in-depth presentation of material on this rental registry and inspection program on the city’s website at www.ci.oshkosh.wi.us. I also did an hour-long episode of Eye on Oshkosh about the program and it can be viewed at the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=411Xwgqwadg

Finally, folks in City Hall have said that the wrong impression is being given about this new program and that there are misunderstandings. With reporting and an attitude like this reporter had, I can understand what they mean and why they’re concerned.

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About Author

Cheryl Hentz

Cheryl Hentz is a Wisconsin-based freelance writer with 30 years experience. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines - both in Wisconsin and elsewhere in the country - and cover a wide range of topics, including business and economic development, women's and minority issues, family pets and animal rights, finance, education, government and politics. Cheryl also does corporate writing for public and private sector businesses, and personal writing for individuals. She has been producing and hosting the award-winning Eye on Oshkosh talk-show since 2002. The show covers a wide range of people and topics which affect or are of interest to people in the Oshkosh and surrounding area, as well as to viewers on You Tube (visit the Eye on Oshkosh channel). She can be reached at 920.426.4123 or 920.209.7387, or via email at eyeonoshkosh@gmail.com. More information and other samples of her written work can be found at www.cherylhentz.blogspot.com.

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