Shadow considers the Thursday council meeting, and touches on a point near and dear to the senior editor’s professional heart. Here’s an extended excerpt.
When the Mayor's Away... from the NA Shadow Council blog.
The most intriguing legislative action of the evening was the unanimous rubber-stamping of a Floyd County ordinance raising the annual restaurant permit fee. Even the smallest food service establishment (something like the breakfast bar at the Hampton Inn) would now be required to pay $125 each year to remain in business. Inspections that result in violations and that require repeat visits could cause those small establishments to be "fined" half of that again.
Consulting the 2002 economic census data, New Albany has about 140 establishments that you would ordinarily consider to be subject to health department food regulation. Restaurants, bars, convenience stores, groceries, bars, bakeries, confectionaries and ice cream shops that you and I would all want to be inspected. Then, of course, the Health Department has to guard us against food poisoning at fall's Harvest Homecoming! and similar temporary vending opportunities.
Like you, I suspect, I wondered why in the world the city council would even be addressing an ordinance regulating food services when it is a Floyd County Health Department function. A cursory investigation indicates that within the incorporated limits of New Albany, the city has exclusive and dominant jurisdiction unless it explicitly delegates it to the county. I can't verify that, but I have no reason to doubt that.
The city council rapidly ratified the county's new ordinance - unanimously and without debate. The Pride of the 3rd District indicated his wish that restaurant inspection fees be used to fund city mosquito abatement efforts. The health department majordomo replied that he wanted the city to pay for same. D4 added his two cents, making it clear that he wasn't going to be happy if the county health department didn't do something in his home district, and soon.
Shadow5's question is this: What in tarnation do restaurant permit fees have to do with skeeter abatement?
But more seriously, how does the health department justify imposing a minimum $125 annual fee for restaurant inspections. Fees should have a rational basis to the cost of the service rendered, a service rendered primarily to the public, but also to the dining establishments.
What I can't figure out is the rationality of this fee increase. Combined with a recent sales tax increase that is decimating our local economy, not to mention a property tax "relief" program that dumps the cost of government onto businesses at a ratio of three to one, it seems clear that Indiana, Floyd County, and New Albany are bound and determined to drive business away, making New Albany nothing more than a bedroom for a vital and growing Louisville.
My personal response to this measure was aptly summarized by my colleague, Bluegill, in a comment appending the preceding:
Given the ease with which inspection fees were unanimously doubled, what excuse is left for not passing a rental property inspection ordinance immediately?
Eating with rats is bad but living with them is OK?
Is it just me, or are we now seeing the initial surge of enthusiasm for progressive action in the area of code enforcement begin to take the sadly inevitable turn toward slumlord appeasement that any long-term city residents regards as residing in the gene pool? After all, it’s a habit of such long standing that skeptics will yet again point to the tainted water fountains in the city county building as the likely source of liquid-borne contagion, producing degenerative spinelessness in successive generations of public officials and political “leaders.”
Speaking for my own food service interest, rest assured that we’ll pay. We always do. However, will someone please tell me why rental properties in this city are not regulated and inspected as businesses, in the same fashion as mine, and furthermore, why the ongoing absence of discernable cojones toward such matters is a state of affairs to be further tolerated?