Code enforcement gets short shrift

Code enforcement gets short shrift

There is an issue that paral- lels the shortage of sanitarians recently brought to our attention by the Vindicator. In 2008, The United States Conference of Mayors and the Task Force on Vacant and Abandoned Properties published a report titled Vacant and Abandoned Properties: Survey and Best Practices. A common thread amongst the reporting cities was that the mortgage foreclosure crisis had affected their efforts regarding vacant and abandoned properties, that it has increased the workload of code enforcement as it had increased the number of cases responded to while maintaining a larger number of properties than in previous years and time spent on tracking ownership of problem properties was crippling.

Over the years fiscal conditions nationwide prompted plenty of discussion regarding manpower at police and fire departments (or staffing at schools). High-level officials — elected and otherwise — have not been shy about portraying these groups as having vacuumed up more than their fair share of resources. Meanwhile, not a whole lot of new landscape has been shaped when it comes to the increasing workload of zoning and code enforcement employees. When have you ever heard of a levy specifically designated to support code enforcement efforts? On any given day, the flood of residents’ complaints about nuisance properties and other matters can equal or exceed those fielded by a police or fire department while the ratio of employees has always been roughly 15:1.

Elected officials and administrators have known for years about the Broken Windows Theory or what columnist John Leo wrote some time ago, “that crucial battles to save a neighborhood must be fought over apparently minor social infractions, well below the threshold of police response. By the time the offenses are great enough to justify police time and effort, the struggle is often lost.”

Environmental health and protection services are dependent on public and political support. When practitioners are marginalized when communicating their needs it does not serve the public well. Consolidation or not, politics determine who gets what and it is a no-brainer who is being shortchanged. Just look around.

Kim R. Kotheimer, Poland