City of DeKalb is in spin cycle over actions taken to condemn Lord Stanley’s and Lord Stanley’s Annex earlier this month, defending its actions during the last council meeting and now on a blog hilariously called “Just the Facts.”
Item One: City is currently presenting the inspections that led to condemnation as routine fire-life safety inspections. Yet an April 7 newspaper story quotes the city attorney as saying condemnation was the culmination of months of work.
Also, the chief building official (CBO) accompanied the fire-life safety inspector on these inspections. This is anything but routine. Indeed, the CBO — the one person empowered to condemn buildings and declare structural emergencies — was hired on the argument that he would send out inspectors who are the most appropriate yet cost effective personnel for each job. He chose himself. Why?
DeKalb city manager Anne Marie Gaura has pulled some police and fire department personnel under the umbrella of DeKalb’s Community Development Department, following private consultation with selected persons but no public discussion.
Staff employed in the PD’s Crime Free Housing Bureau, and the FD’s Fire Prevention Lieutenant (FPL), will now report to a Chief Building Official (CBO) in Community Development.
Crime Free has several functions related to code enforcement that is centered around property maintenance and criminal incident reporting and tracking, while the FPL conducts Fire Life Safety License inspections and fire-related reviews of building plans.
As City Barbs turns nine today, I want to express my pleasure and gratitude to you who have let me know in so many ways that the blog has value to you.
I am as excited as ever to begin another year. There’s the fresh smell of grassroots growing in the air and it makes sense to me that City Barbs continues to operate in service of perspectives and ideas that differ from those of the local political-media establishment.
Do you come here often? If so, you’ve noticed less frequent postings over the past several months. Schedules come into play, of course, but much of the change reflects a shift to posting more on Facebook. A lot of interesting public documents have come to light since the College Town Partners leak and I can’t resist the Facebook photo album format for displaying pages side-by-side with descriptions of their context. Hope you will check out the group if you haven’t already.
Lastly, here’s a plug for some o’ that grassroots freshness. You are invited to attend FOCUS DeKalb’s latest meeting — Part Deux to the town hall that drew almost 100 individuals. Find the deets here: Town Hall Meeting Tonight.
The agenda for tomorrow’s city council meetings is here. Now, it finally becomes apparent* that the $6 million they’ve got stockpiled in the TIF 2 fund is mostly going to go into the Municipal Building. Of course, the use of TIF money for this purpose will bring in all kinds of new private development and tax revenues…somehow…right?
Also up for consideration at first reading are changes to the housing ordinances (see PDF pp. 39-40. As previously discussed, the main problem with the proposals (besides the costs) is the blurring of police functions with code enforcement functions. Such disregard for roles and boundaries will come to no good and I’m quite surprised the police department seems willing to risk its reputation with a mess like this.
Enclosed is an old draft of an ordinance prepared by Klein Thorpe, and Jenkins in which property maintenance items were at one time included in a former draft of the Chronic Nuisance ordinance.
The Housing Task Force rejected the ordinance, and Council already gave direction in this matter. Nevertheless, two council members (henceforth to be thought of as “Biernacki’s poodles” due to my having drawn personal conclusions) requested it be brought back onto the agenda.
The DeKalb Area Rental Association (DARA) has responded by pointing out that the agenda addition brings building code into proposals that were meant only to address residents’ behaviors.
What’s wrong with that? Potentially plenty. It means the zombie provisions are not tweaks, but rather constitute a proposal for a MAJOR POLICY SHIFT from code enforcement being a primarily a “civilian” activity to becoming a police function.
There are a lot of implications — not the least of which is the elimination of Public Works jobs — and they deserve their own discussions on the merits.
According to the agenda backup, start-up costs would come to $135,000 and the annual outlay would be $454,000. Fees would cover only about half of the ongoing annual costs — but wait! They’ve already budgeted $150,000 – $196,000 in contingencies over the next five years so it’s mostly taken care of and the rest can be “absorbed by other General Fund sources” so it’s all good!
We know how really, really good DeKalb staff are at projecting revenues!
But, at least the latest staff nonsense might mean council has signaled a decision against a tax increase for the program.
Enjoy the latest performance of the “Cirque du DK” tonight in council chambers beginning 6 p.m.
There are four proposed laws before the council, but it’s the issue of licensing that has garnered the most attention and debate from aldermen, city officials, and landlords. City Manager Mark Biernacki has previously described it as being the linchpin of all the city’s efforts to improve the quality of its housing stock.
[Local realtor and landlord Dan] McClure said he believes a licensing program could be abused by the government in the future. Although he does not mind firefighters coming through his various properties to inspect them, McClure disagrees with the notion that expanding inspections would help.
“It just seems like a tremendous invasion of privacy of the tenant to me,” McClure said. “I don’t understand why they want to get involved with this.”
Good point, Mr. McClure. However, no interviews of tenants appeared in the article, so we’ll never know what they think.
You could argue that the main motivator is concern for tenants of very modest means and few options, but then I’d have to ask why none (save for a few students) were included as members of the Safe/Quality Housing Task Force.
You might also suspect that the plan represents a new revenue stream, and you probably wouldn’t be wrong- wrong.