(Op-ed by Peter Children)
I met last Monday morning with city officials in City Hall. Pat Otto the neighborhood coordinator along with her two associates that work along side of her; Jim Sberal and Kyle Peterson. Sparrow & Peterson are mostly outside people, they inspect and issue citations. Like most ordinance’s the law is quite gray in certain areas, not so much black & white as we’d like.
I see one of the deferments to faster clean up is the legal system. I was told the court is very liberal with handing out extensions to property owners in allowing them extra time to complete the cleaning process. At times several extensions are allowed to the same property owner. There are different rules that cover rental property as opposed to those that are occupied by the property owner.
But by far the biggest deterrent to city wide sweep is money. Money is the oil that moves the gears of this city. The budget just isn’t there to get done what needs to be done. Lets all stop at this intersection, lets not rush to judgement. We pay taxes and for the most part that is where the money comes from to run the city. Funds are allocated to various department to be used to achieve their goals; that is the simplified version of what takes place. The next thing we need to consider are allocations, how are they determined…what is it exactly that determines these allocated amounts? How then are these “needs” derived at and who make the final determination?
As property owners, and tax payers, we have certain rights; we have the right to the answers regarding the above referenced questions. Having said that, I now have the answers I need. I feel the best way to reach conclusions and be able to understand more clearly what we are dealing with is to be better informed. There are approximately 14,000 address here. If you were to buy a bulk mailing permit that is what you’d pay for, but keep in mind not all of those are paying property tax because they are renters. However some one owns that property and they pay the taxes. So the money comes in and it goes out…but how and why. Parks & Rec we should have no problem with, we need good parks, well maintained for those of us who use them. They are a reflection of ourselves. Roads and streets…no question there….but what about the MacNider Museum? Last year they received $258,586.00 and this year they will receive $260,113.00 which is your money, funds derived from taxes you paid…and its been said they have close to $750.000.00 in reserve. Now before you jump to conclusions, the reserve is partly made up from bequeaths and donations that do not come from tax dollars, so lets not focus on those funds. I know that the literati from the Museum are going to jump and shout, they will be scornful towards me and may even go so far as to give me dirty looks. What do they do with over a quarter of a million every year? How many people are employed there and what are their salaries? What does it cost to heat and cool that place, we should know that simply because we are paying for it.
One of the beer drinker’s first goals upon taking office was to cut the budget of the Human Rights Agency by $50,000.00 thereby effectively shutting it down. We all know that failed. We also know that cut would have resulted in dire consequence for the less privileged in our mists, yet there were those who readily cast their vote to cut. You know who they were, I really do not need to remind you. Would the beer drinker now endorse a similar cut in the same amount from the Museum and shift those funds to help in the effort to clean up this city? I think you know the answer to that as well. The Museum crowd is his base, they are his people, but they are more white wine than beer.
Pat Otto’s department receives in total close to $150,000.00 a year. From that figure all salaries are paid, which makes up the bulk of the funds, and I am told they have approximately $48,000.00 left on which to operate. $18,000.00 of that amount is ear marked for demolition purposes…meaning they are limited to no more than three houses a year. What does it mean? This is what it means….the decay and piles of rubbish are multiplying faster than the neighborhood coordinator can stem the tide. This is happening because the city has not allocated sufficient budgeting.
In regard to the on going accumulation of filth, there are in all fairness other mitigating circumstances present as well. It’s called unemployment which not only leads to no money but more often than not it is accompanied by debilitating depression. A lot of jobs have been lost in this area and they are not being replaced soon enough. All of the above are legitimate factors, but the biggest obstacle to cleaning up this city are that group that simply doesn’t give a damn. Whether or not they might have traces of mental illness is difficult to determine, in some cases it could be present. Lets call a spade a spade ; it’s true that some people don’t shower everyday, they wear the same clothes, never wash their car and for all we know their bed sheets do not smell like a Spring morning. Why then would we expect their property to be neat and clean?
As city officials and neighbors as well, we are not baby sitters. The only tools we have are the possibility of montenary fines and more seriously, condemnation procedures. If they are renters, then we need to come down hard on the landlord; landlords who rent homes and apartments under go city inspections, denying a permit could be a start in cleaning up part of the problem. In the end if this filth doesn’t bother you, well then maybe you are also part of the problem.
I urge you to contact your council person and voice your concerns for additional funding to help in accelerating this dilemma.