The City Council this week passed an ordinance which reorganized portions of the City Code dealing with the building code enforcement measures. Much of it seemed like merely rearranging existing pieces into new Chapters of the Code, but in come cases the definitions of blighted or public nuisance properties were reworked to incorporate the recent “imminent health threat” categories. Most of the authority remains no different than what the city had before—but the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Development Administration (ORDA) assured the Council that this time they would get serious about hauling people before hearing officers; assessing and recording fines; and placing liens in properties for the cost of any remediation the city would step in and undertake.
My testimony to the Council asked what assurances we have that this process will be carried out as conceived, given the City’s poor record of managing and overseeing demolitions. At the same council meeting, for example, an attorney appeared on behalf of his client who had acquired a house through the sheriff’s tax sale—yet this property was placed on the demolition list—AND the property owner only learned this from private advocates monitoring the process. Further—there still is no comprehensive updated demolition list on the city’s web site—as called for months ago by the Council and by a federal consent decree.
With the assurance of the ORDA staff that “Once you pass this, it’s up and running,” the Council unanimously passed the measure.