Task force seeks to toughen codes

Laws are worthless without effective enforcement, the speakers said.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Effective criminal and housing code enforcement is the key to maintaining the city's housing stock and quality of life, speakers said at a hearing Thursday in city hall.
"It seems like, with ordinances, we could have 10,000 of these books to the ceilings. If we don't start enforcing the ordinances, what does it matter?," asked Harry Strabala, president of the 7th Ward Citizens Coalition.
"We call you about houses all the time. You move on them. You contact people in the city for us, and the problem remains," he told city officials.
"It's about time we start really talking about tough enforcement, putting some teeth in this enforcement code, making people accountable to answer to these things in the code. That's when we're going to have some power. That's where we're going to make some changes."
Task force: Strabala was among about 40 people, mostly landlords and community coalition and block watch members, who attended a hearing called by the Housing Code Task Force, which is studying ways to strengthen housing codes.
Regular police patrols are needed to discourage burglars, said landlord Gary Crim, who owns about 1,200 residential units in the city. "We need patrolmen out there patrolling the streets, so families can go to work, and don't get their houses broken into," he said.
Vandals destroy homes after landlords invest large sums of money to improve them, and the city cites the landlords for code violations resulting from the vandalism, he complained.
"I'm very upset with the fact that I've been seeing these same laws hashed over and over. You see a cop go right past, and garbage is stacked up outside and nobody cares. They need to get out and ticket every one of these people," said Josephine Hulett, of Himrod Avenue.
Family effort: Cleanup of the city is also an individual responsibility, she said. "Get your children. Take them out there and make them pick up the trash," even if they didn't throw it on the ground, she urged.
"You expect individuals who are making barely livable wages to keep their properties in order, and they can't afford it. You cannot expect people to do these things when they do not have the income,'' complained Sandy Seidel, a West Side resident.
"If there are people that, because of their income, are limited, then we need to take steps in that area. There are numerous organizations doing things to help people in that area. There are grants that will help people with that. But we can't just let enforcement by the wayside because people are poor in the city of Youngstown," replied Maureen O'Neil Farris, task force chairwoman.
Among the agencies that can help in these cases are Interfaith Home Maintenance Service and the city's Community Development Agency, Farris said.

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