Are City ordinances enforced equally on all residents?
If you have received a notice of a code violation, then you will probably feel that you have been selectively and specifically targeted. Well, that belief is probably true. Except for signs, about which the city has a neurotic phobia, most ordinance violations are ignored until someone files a complaint, and then the city responds. So, if it is not about a sign, then in most cases you probably have been specifically targeted, not necessarily or likely by a city employee, but by another citizen.
Although this approach to enforcement is normally a response to the concerns of a citizen, it is also selectively giving the force of the city to back one irritated citizen against another and it divides residents against each other which is harmful to the city. It is especially irritating to those receiving a violation notice, to see more serious infractions involving safety issues being routinely ignored by the city because nobody complains.
One citizen recently received a citation for blight. The house is set back about 100 feet from the road on an obscure side street. The blight is a gray protective wrap around a chimney. A chimney that the residents can’t currently afford to have repaired. Another house nearby has been in violation of city ordinances for years. That house is unoccupied and has multiple tarps on the roof, peeling paint, missing the front steps and has a collapsing porch held up by two external 4 by 4’s. In the window of that house there is a 2 ½ year old permit to fix the roof. Knowing this one could suggest that the fireplace violation resident apply for a permit to repair the chimney and get another 2 ½ years to save up the money to repair the chimney, like the aforementioned house nearby. Many of the local city ordinances are biased, in that they create a greater burden on the less affluent and are more restrictive on the smaller properties.
Blight, building maintenance, fence repairs, sidewalk shoveling and disposal of fallen branches are all a greater burden on the poor, elderly or physically impaired than on the more affluent members of the city who normally write and enforce the ordinances. The ability to comply with an ordinance is not considered when issuing violations, but other factors are considered. Instead of issuing and enforcing blight ordinances on the Traver Hotel or the Lake Geneva Theater over the last ten years, the city has offered to pay the owners to eliminate or repair the blight with $150,000 to one and $800,000 to another. Perhaps the fireplace resident should apply for a TIF grant from the city to repair the chimney. After all, the city already certified it as blighted. Why shouldn’t the city use TIF money to repair the chimney when it can give $800,000 to repair the theater, which has never officially been declared blighted, nor has the owner ever been required to repair the undeclared blight?
The reason is simple. The theater is investment property, and investment property, if you own enough, has a natural immunity to most city ordinances. If that fails, then a request for a conditional use permit that can exempt or delay any ordinance enforcement, can be had by the wealthy by hiring an attorney for only a few thousand dollars.
So you’re not interested in politics.
Politics is the word used to describe leadership but changed by leaders to make it seem that it’s something else. What kind of leadership did Lake Geneva get through elected representation when it picked people to quietly approve of shifting a hundred grand (shifty gray TIF#4 money again) over to the beautification committee (not a city committee at all, but mysteriously managed by the city) for improvements around the Brunk Pavilion in Flat Iron Park?
You don’t want to run for office and work with those people?
How about if you get mad enough?
There is only one way to put a “hold” or “stop” button on a lot of this civic bleeding and that is to run for office yourself and make an impact.
Not So Surprising.
The Grandest Person