Monday, September 19, 2016

"City Council acting against litter"

MADELINE SHANNON/The Daily Courier 

"City Council acting against litter" was the headline in the Daily Courier August 19th:  http://www.thedailycourier.com/articles/2016/08/19/community/news00001.txt.  The picture on the article showed a plastic cup in uncut dry grass, a perfect marriage of the twin problems of weeds and litter.

Despite the headline, no action was taken.  City Manager brought the issue to the Council for future consideration and presented a number of ways to fight litter.  Not one of them involved enforcing the present nuisance trash and weed codes against those in control of property.  Some of them involved the city paying for litter cleanup.

He did tell them that we have a $500 fine against people who drop litter.  At the September 7th meeting, I told the Council that a previous Council had reduced the fine for dogs running loose from $500 to $75 so the police would actually write tickets.  No cop wants to write a $500 ticket for a petty nuisance violation.

I also told them to drop the 20% admin fee on abatement of properties, because it is a disincentive to enforcement of the code before abatement becomes necessary.  Police should be warning residents and property owners about litter and weeds before the problem becomes overwhelming and a health or safety hazard; otherwise the city is just breeding health and safety hazards.  Every property that has to be abated is a failure of the City to enforce the code before it gets that bad, and it should not reward itself for such neglect.

Later, in matters from Council and Staff, Council President Dan DeYoung said that reducing the littering fine is a good idea.  City police Chief Bill Landis defended his Community Service Officers, saying that they had been doing numerous abatements, hauling out huge amounts of trash, and they'd asked the City for another $35,000 to do it.

At this week's meeting on the 21st, I will answer Chief Landis.  He doesn't get that the purpose of having a nuisance code and officers to enforce it is not to have city workers cleaning up and hauling out huge amounts of trash; it is to keep properties from getting to the point where the City has to do so.  

If the police have to ask for $35,000 more to abate properties, abatement is not profitable enough even to support itself, even with a 20% admin fee on top.  The people being targeted are too poor to pay for the cleanup or don't want to spend the money.  Big property owners with vacant land and big businesses get no enforcement or abatement, judging by the look of the city and where abatement notices are posted.

On the other hand, if police were trained to notice weeds and litter while answering calls, and warn property controllers of all sorts that they are violating  city code and how weeds and litter attract thieves and trespassers, passing such warnings on to Community Service code enforcement to follow up on, most people would clean up the nuisance without any further enforcement or need for abatement.  Most people will do what a uniformed officer tells them to do, if it is easily done.  It doesn't make the city any money, but it also doesn't cost anywhere near as much as abatement that never gets paid for.

Contact your City Councilor about having regular police actively enforcing our property maintenance nuisance codes anytime they see litter and/or seeding or flowering weeds.