In response to the video taped code enforcement discussion posted yesterday, NAC friend and local activist Lloyd "Highwayman" Wimp said:
"All that was proposed sounded like the beginnings of a solution to the problem. Now let's see some action!!
We as taxpaying property owners would much prefer that the rental industry in our city police itself.
Likewise, we'd like to see New Albany's government actually govern in the area of code enforcement as well as many other areas.
Having said that, let me assure all parties that platitudes alone will not suffice as success.
You have some time to bring in some results, but the clock is running!!"
While I agree with Lloyd as I often do, I'd further remind everyone involved, myself included, which clock is actually running and to whom the timing is directed.
As part of the new administration's much appreciated attempts to meet and communicate with neighborhood groups, I had occasion to sit in on a meeting involving several neighborhood association officers and members along with S. Ellen Jones Principal Susie Reis. It was Ms. Reis, to her credit, who reminded me what was actually at stake.
After several meeting attendees related stories of deplorable rental housing and their experiences with those who own or live in such units, Ms. Reis simply stated, "You have no idea how many times I've heard these stories from parents."
I'll be the first to admit that I very much view code enforcement and rental property improvement as a necessary part of a larger economic strategy. Better housing attracts new renters and buyers and strenuous code enforcement provides security for those who invest themselves and their money in our neighborhoods. In essence, though, that's a polite way of saying we need better people in New Albany.
The "better people" process starts with education, and our neighborhood-anchoring, publicly funded institution for providing it, S. Ellen Jones Elementary, is hampered more by irresponsible landlords than is any other plank of revitalization.
Simply put, we cannot expect to prepare children for a productive life and civic involvement when returning home from their lessons each day means facing mold, vermin, lack of heat, and faulty wiring egregious enough to kill their families on any given day. We cannot expect them to be excited about opportunities while proving to them, day in and day out, that life is about suffering and being an adult is about turning away from it unmoved and unmotivated.
Perhaps it's maudlin to say so, but code enforcement and its mechanisms aren't about property values or property taxes or having to live with decreases or increases in either. They're about children, what we as citizens are willing to let them endure in the name of business, and which excuse for doing so we'll come up with next.
There are no good ones and no good people make them.