The Gift that Keeps on Giving
08/29/2014- Editorial by Renee Wilkins
Code Enforcement. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. We’ve all been on the giving and receiving end of this precious gift. Noise, dogs, weeds, fences, vehicles, signs, junk and so on. We get the added bonus gift in some districts of very conscientious Code Enforcement Officers. Personally, I wish I could return or exchange mine.
Each Code Enforcement Officer has a beat, as they say. We’ve heard before that code enforcement is “complaint-driven”. What is not being said is that much of it is up to the discretion and motivation of each officer. This gives these individuals a fair amount of control over our lives, and can sometimes seem like harassment. Have a neighbor with an axe to grind? No problem, Code Enforcement is there to sharpen their blade.
To be fair, they are just doing their jobs. And in some areas of town people wish their officer would be more aggressive; frustrated that nothing is happening. We do have unsightly weeds, fences and vacant homes to deal with, not to mention junkyards that should be featured on American Pickers. But we have to find equity in enforcing codes, which I believe has been sorely lacking.
Recently, we all girded our loins for the impending ‘systemic” code enforcement blitz that never fully materialized. I’m not complaining, but I sure wish I could explain it to the man who recently received a criminal summons for (A) not having a garage and (B) not pulling a permit on an old garage conversion. This code requiring homeowners to have a garage was enacted years ago in an effort to curb mobile home expansion around the city. In Rio Rancho, simple garage conversions are commonplace. Yet the citizen outcry coming from my district all came from residents who received citations on the same street. Is it fair to hit one block, then skip the next five? And is this really the city’s priority among violations?
If Code Enforcement is now going to initiate strategic or systemic blitzes, then there should be some rhyme or reason to the process. I suggest they zero in on the countless vacant homes that draw vandalism, criminal activity and squatters. Granted, it’s harder to cite a distant entity than a person living on the property, but there is a code (law) which allows the City to cite banks that let their foreclosed properties deteriorate. Most importantly, let’s be fair and consistent in enforcing codes city-wide.
In the absence of this elusive consistency, I think it would be a great idea to spread the love around a bit by rotating our Code Enforcement Officers quarterly. Like the proverbial fruit cake that gets re-gifted from year to year - This quarter I get the nice one, next quarter I get the… not-so-nice one.