This newsletter is about the Hickory City Council meeting that I attended this past week. City council meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of each Month in the Council Chambers of the Julian Whitener building.
At the bottom right of this page under main information links is a Hickory's Local Government link. If you click on that link, it takes you to our city’s website, at the bottom of the page you will see the future dates for meetings scheduled for this year.
At the top of the page, if you click on the “Documents” link, you will find historic Agenda and Minutes links. Agendas show what is on the docket for the meeting of that date. The Minutes is an actual summary of the proceedings of the meeting of that date.
Here is a summary of the agenda of the 5/4/2010 meeting. There were a couple of important items that were discussed at this meeting and the details are listed further below
Invocation by Rev. Pat Pearce, Retired from First Baptist Church
A. Proclamation Presented to Chief of Police, Tom Adkins Proclaiming the Week of May 9 – 15, 2010 as “National Police Week” in the City of Hickory - The Mayor pointed out that there are approximately 900,000 Law Enforcement Officers serving in the U.S. In Hickory we have 118. Approximately 60,000 assaults on officers are reported each year, resulting in 16,000 injuries. Since 1792, more than 19,000 officers have been killed in the line of duty. 324 people were added last year, including 116 officers killed in 2009. May 15, 2010 is designated nationally as Peace Officer's day.
Chief Adkins accepted the award and mentioned Gerald Wayne Maynard who passed away in 1977. He mentioned some incidents, including an incident involving the Police Chief in Durham who had a bullet pass through the windshield of his car this past week. The Mayor mentioned a man in Charlotte who is trying to be protected from the death penalty after shooting two police officers in the head.
B. Presentation of Proclamation to Jim Powers Past President of Hickory Velo Club Declaring the Month of May as “Bike Month” in the City of Hickory. Jarrett Soles accepted the award. The Mayor stated that the bicycle is a viable, environmentally sound form of transportation and excellent form of recreation. The week of May 17-21 is being recognized as bike to work week by the League of American Bicyclists. The Mayor stated that we need to be more aware of cyclists on our streets and highways.
A. Call for Public Hearing to Consider Ordinance Amendment to the Hickory Code of Ordinance; Chapter 18, Section 18-181 Definitions (Authorize Public Hearing for May 18, 2010)
B. Proclamation Proclaiming the Week of May 16 – 22, 2010 as “National Public Works Week” in the City of Hickory
C. Proclamation Declaring Thursday, April 22, 2010 as “Hickory Springs Manufacturing Company Day” in the City of Hickory
D. Proclamation Congratulating the Hickory ABF Freight Service Center for Receiving the 2009 ABF President’s Quality Award by Declaring May 18, 2010 as “Hickory ABF Freight Day” in the City of Hickory
E. Proclamation Proclaiming May 1, 2010 as “Fort San Juan Chapter, Hickory NC of the National Society Colonial Dames Seventeenth Century Day” in the City of Hickory
F. Approval to Donate a Teledyne-Gurley Surveying Instrument to South Caldwell High School - The City of Hickory Engineering Department requests approval to donate to South Caldwell High School a Teledyne-Gurley surveying instrument and tripod for educational purposes. This piece of equipment was purchased by the City in 1981 and has become outdated and is no longer useful to the Surveying Field Crew. A similar unit can be purchased on ebay for approximately $175. Ms. Jill Docherty of South Caldwell High School indicated this piece of equipment would greatly benefit the math department.
G. Approve Future Annexation Agreement From James and Natalie Anne Fogle for Property Located at 1855 30th Avenue Court, NE - James and Natalie Anne Fogle have requested to be connected to the City of Hickory’s water and sewer system without being annexed into the City limits and agree to be annexed in the future when the City finds it economically feasible. The Fogle property is located at 1855 30th Avenue Court, NE, which is identified on the Catawba County tax maps by PIN 3714-20-82-9415. Said property abuts the Lawsons Creek development and is immediately adjacent to the existing city boundary. Due to the existence of unimproved privately maintained street right-of-ways, the provision of sanitation and fire and police services, annexation at this time would be economically infeasible.
H. Approval of Application for a DPPEA Grant to Upgrade Recycling Convenience Centers in the Amount of $22,238 - Due to the timeline, Public Services had to submit their grant application to the DPPEA for a Recycling Grant by March 26, 2010. Said grant will be used to upgrade two recycling centers with the replacement of hook lift style containers and will allow the opportunity to transport three different kinds of materials to the Material Recycling Facility (MRF), while saving time and fuel. The two sites are located at the Public Services Complex and the Transfer Station. In reducing the amount of trips, the City saves about $226.44 per week and $11,774.88 per year in fuel and labor. The Grant application is for $22,238 in DPPEA funds and the City’s portion would be $4,448. The City would see a return on its portion of the project cost in less than a year.
I. Approve Revenue Sharing Agreement With Catawba County for the Heatherbrook Subdivision Water Project - According to Chapter 42 Division 2 of the Catawba County Code of Ordinances, it allows Catawba County to partner with municipalities who provide water service in unincorporated areas of the county to receive water service at no capital expense to the respective municipality. Catawba County is to fund all costs for infrastructure design, permit and construction and in turn, the City of Hickory is to provide operation, maintenance and management of those lines. Water rates are set and charged by theCity to customers of the system and the revenues are split equally between the City and County. Customers will be charged at the City’s outside rate. Revenues to the City are anticipated to grow to approximately $14,000 annually within the first five years of operation and will grow as more users of the system are incorporated. This project extends from an existing water line on West NC 10 Highway in the Bandys Township area of southwestern Catawba County. Staff recommends approval.
J. Approve Revenue Sharing Agreement With Catawba County for the Royal Heights Subdivision Water Project - According to Chapter 42 Division 2 of the Catawba County Code of Ordinances, it allows Catawba County to partner with municipalities who provide water service in unincorporated areas of the county to receive water service at no capital expense to the respective municipality. Catawba County is to fund all costs for infrastructure design, permit and construction and in turn, the City of Hickory is to provide operation, maintenance and management of those lines. Water rates are set and charged by the City to customers of the system and the revenues are split equally between the City and County. Customers will be charged at the City’s outside rate. Revenues to the City are anticipated to grow to approximately $8,000 annual within the first five years of operation and will grow as more users of the system are incorporated. This project consists of a water line on Royal Heights Circle and shall include approximately twenty two new customers.
K. Approval to Apply for Twenty-Five Bulletproof Vests Through the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant - Consideration for the Hickory Police Department to apply for twenty-five bulletproof vests through the Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant, whereby if awarded, the City would receive up to 50% reimbursement for each vest purchased. The estimated cost for each vest is $650 with a life expectancy of five years per vest. Funds are placed in the police department’s budget each year for the purchase of vests.
L. Request From Hickory Downtown Development Association for Use of Union Square for the “Spa on the Square” Event to be Held on June 12, July 17 and August 21, 2010 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
M. Amendment to Traffic Ordinance By Reducing the Speed Limit From 35 mph to 25 mph Along 31st Avenue, NW From the Intersection With North Center Street West Approximately 2,600 Feet to the Intersection With 3rd Street Drive, NW, 3rd Street Drive, NW From the Intersection With 31st Avenue, NW South Approximately 400 Feet to the Dead End, and 3rd Street Drive, NW From the Intersection With 31st Avenue, NW North Approximately 1,100 Feet to the Intersection With 33rd Avenue, NW - Under the City’s Traffic Calming Program an application was received for a speed limit reduction along 31st Avenue, NW as indicated above. Staff determined that a speed limit reduction from 35 mph to 25 mph would be acceptable, if the residents desired.
N. Amendment to Traffic Ordinance By Prohibiting On-Street Parking Along Both East and West Margins of 10th Street, NE From the Intersection With 37th Avenue, NE North Approximately 900 Feet to the Intersection With 9th Street Drive, NE - The above described on-street parking prohibition would eliminate permitted, but unmarked parking along this street segment. During periods when on-street parking activity has been observed, some vehicles were parked so that motorists were very constricted, and turning movements were made difficult, making one-lane roadway safety concerns with motorists having to pass parked vehicles with little or no margin. Motorists are primarily Winding Creek Subdivision residents and the developer favors on-street parking elimination. Although parking capacity may be slightly diminished, the Traffic Division concluded that the on-street parking needs to be removed.
O. Request From the Hickory Downtown Development Association to Add a Rain Date of June 6, 2010 to Their Use of Union Square Application Previously Approved by City Council on March 2, 2010 for the “Swinging Under the Stars” Event
P. Budget Ordinance Amendments
1. Budget $100 of International Council donations for expenditures to be used for the International Springfest event.
2. Budget $8,306 insurance claim check from Trident Insurance Company to the Parks and Recreation Department for storm damage to the Gazebo at Hilton Park on 02-10-10.
3. Budget $493 insurance claim check from The Members Insurance to the Police Department for damage to a Police vehicle on 04-21-10.
4. Budget $1,754 insurance claim check from Trident Insurance Company to the Fire Department for damages to Ladder 1's aerial device that occurred at Station 3 due to a ladder belt inadvertently sliding between the connector for the ladder controls and a cross member when device was activated on 3/26/10.
Q. Grant Project Ordinance Amendments
1. Accept $18,552 transfer from the General Fund and budget in the Police Firing Range Upgrade Project-Justice Assistance Grant (J.A.G.) Fund. This amendment is necessary to pay for an additional steel knee package, fencing, and miscellaneous expenses.
2. Accept $238 transfer from the Planning Department in the Brownfield Grant Project Travel line item. Travel to the Brownfield’s 2009 Conference in November was expensed to the Brownfield Grant however due to illness the travel was cancelled. The airline ticket was later used for non- Brownfield travel and therefore the funds need to transfer back to the Brownfield’s Project to cover the non-grant expense.
New Business - Public Hearings:
1. Voluntary Contiguous Annexation of the Property of D&H Real Estate, LLC Located at 2440 Century Place, SE Within McDonald Crossing Business Park - A petition was submitted by D&H Real Estate, LLC for voluntary contiguous annexation for property located at 2440 Century Place, SE, which is located in the McDonald Crossing Business Park. The property is currently being developed as the location of the new Veterans Administration (VA) Medical Clinic and requests to connect to the City’s water and sewer system. The property is located within the City’s extra-territorial jurisdictional area (ETJ) and zoned Planned Development – Mixed Use (PD-MU). The current assessed value of the raw property and estimated value of the construction of the medical clinic totals $3,636,857.00 and would generate approximately $18,184 in additional tax revenues. The property meets all the statutory requirements for voluntary contiguous annexation, and adequate public services are available.
New Business - Departmental Reports:
1. Presentation of Parks and Recreation Facilities Needs Assessment In August 2009 City Council approved a Facilities Needs Assessment to be performed by Site Solutions. The analysis is designed to give a candid evaluation of any facilities that need to be expanded, improved, consolidated or closed. The Facilities Needs Assessment has been presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission and accepted during their April 13, 2010 meeting.
Mac McLeod began the presentation by addressing the origins of this plan. In August of 2009, the City contracted Site Solutions to conduct this needs assessment. They also prepared the Cloninger Mill master plan that was accepted previously by the council. The previous master plan from1997 is 13 years old, many of those recommendations have already been accomplished. Staff felt their was a need for a detailed analysis of all parks and recreation facilities. The analysis is a thorough evaluation of facilities that need to be expanded, improved, consolidated, or closed. The assessment will take the city through the next 10 years. The plan was accepted by the Parks and Recreation Commission at their April 13, 2010 meeting. mac introduced Derek Williams from Site solutions to make the presentation.
Mr. Williams stated that Site Solutions followed a three step process. They did an inventory of facilities, then an analysis of verifying standards for the community, and then utilized that to project needs and a plan of action. He stated that Hickory has an excellent array of types of parks.
10 Neighborhood Parks (Civitan, Cliff Teague, Fairbrook, Hickory City, Hickory Optimist, Jaycee, Southside Heights, Taft Broome, West Hickory, Westmont Recreation Center) - these are approximately 5 acre facilities. There are areas in the northern part of the city that aren't being served.
3 Community Regional Parks (Stanford Park, Henry Fork, Kiwanis) - 80 to 200 acres - they are well distributed throughout the community.
6 Civic Parks (Carolina Park/ Ivey Arboretum, Highland, McComb, Robinson, Shuford Gardens, Viewmont) - not recreational. Garden space and open space. These set a city apart through the image they project.
5 Recreation Centers/ Gymnasiums (Brown Penn, Highland, Neill Clark, Ridgeview, Westmont) - Hickory is well presented here. Highland is a truly outstanding facility.
428 acres of developed land (16 Baseball/Softball Fields, 14 Soccer/Football/Multi-Purpose Fields, 17 Tennis Courts, 37 Playgrounds, 17 Picnic shelters, 7 miles of trails, Skateboard Park, Disc Golf Course). Mr. Williams commended the city on it's two Senior Citizen centers for a community of this size. They are well maintained and programmed.
Needs Assessment - The standards established in the 1997 plan were very good standards.The standards in the new plan will match those pretty well. The City has adequate indoor facilities, Mr. Williams stated that the City has properties in the system that can meet the needs for properties in the Northern part of the city. He mentioned the Property at Sandy Pines that can be an excellent neighborhood park. He also mentioned utilizing the St. Stephens park as a joint use facility with the county. He next talked about the build out of the Cloninger Mill Park as a community park. It is in an area where we need parks in the northern part of the city.
The Westmont Recreation Facility has issues involving age and American with Disability Act issues that limit program opportunities. Rather than investing more in the building, the City should consider its removal and the expansion of outdoor recreation opportunities. The Geithner building has great potential as a retreat center, but needs renovation. The City needs to review summer hours of some buildings (Neill Clark, Westmont). It is too hot to utilize these indoor facilities in the summer.
Mr. Williams next addressed the aquatics needs. He stated that the two pools in the City don't meet health code requirements. Municipalities are moving away from pools and towards spray parks and grounds, which are cheaper. Think water play as opposed to swim. The development is cheaper and the operation, which kids love, is much, much cheaper.
Most outdoor recreation facility needs are being met. 2020 needs include additions of 2 Football Fields, 3 Volleyball Courts, 3 Shuffleboard Courts, 3 Picnic Shelters, 10 Playground activities, 18 miles of Trails/Greenways, 2 Spraygrounds, 25 miles of Bike lanes, 10 miles of Blueways, 1 Disc Golf Course, 1 Dog Park).
The City should seek joint use collaborative efforts with Hickory City Schools, Adjacent recreation providers, area hospitals, and the YMCA. The city should look for opportunities for green operation and construction. The City should seek alternative funding mechanisms for park development and operation including grants, Public/Private venues, Partners for Parks, and Corporate Sponsorships.
Alderman Lail asked about a Park Ranger and what size do park systems get before that becomes a step that the City might want to take? Mr. Williams stated that they didn't really get into that. There are two decision points. What is their role, educational or law enforcement. larger cities have them take on both roles. Hickory does have parks that might want us to think about moving in that direction. Alderman Lail next asked about an outdoor amphitheater. Mr. Williams stated that that was taken into consideration for special events at one of our parks. The Council unanimously accepted the report.
The Hound likes what he has seen from the Hickory community when it comes to parks and recreation. I believe that the plan for the Cloninger Mill Park has been well thought out and I like the public-private partnership aspects that were built into the project and I sincerely hope that they come to fruition in the near future.
I also hope that the idea of the amphitheater is moved forward at a time when the funds are available. I believe such a project could truly bring value to our community. There could be outdoor music, plays, and movies associated with such a project. Businesses, such as restaurants and shops, would certainly want to be in close proximity to such a facility. The best part is that it would bring people to the city for events and keep our own citizens here, instead of them leaving to go spend money in surrounding areas.
2. Accept Offer to Purchase and Contract and Adopt Resolution Authorizing the Sale of City-Owned Property Located in Waterford Hills Phase 2 Subdivision at 1841 Waterbury Court to Thomas Hayes Construction, Inc. in the Amount of $31,969 - The offer is from Thomas Hayes Construction, Inc. for City owned property located in the Waterford Hills Phase 2 Subdivision at 1841 Waterbury Court. The property will be used for a single family home. The City purchased this property for the proposed future Southern Corridor from Startown Road to 33rd Street, SW. In 2005 City Council approved an alternate route and therefore, this parcel is no longer needed. The tax value of this parcel is $33,300 and Thomas Hayes Construction, Inc. has offered $31,969. The sale of this property will place it back on the tax registry. In 2008 City Council approved the sale of an adjoining lot for a single family dwelling. Staff recommends acceptance of Offer to Purchase, adoption of Resolution and authorization to advertise for upset bids. Todd Hefner made the presentation. Council gave unanimous consent.
3. Approval of Vacant Building Revitalization Grant Revisions - On April 20, 2010 City Council requested staff to modify the guidelines of the Vacant Building Program Grant pursuant to their recommendations. The grant program makes available matching funding of up to $25,000 per project for redeveloping vacant buildings in the City of Hickory. The proposed changes change the eligibility area of the program. Instead of requiring that the vacant building be within the Commercial Revitalization Area designated by City Council, the proposed changes open the program up to all non-residential buildings within the Hickory City limits (The program will be opened up to the entire city) that have been vacant for a period of 12 months or more. The revisions would also require applicants to invest at least $30,000 in eligible project costs in order to receive grant funding. Underutilized buildings would no longer be eligible for funding if the proposed changes are approved. Priority will be given to buildings with an end user in place. The revised guidelines will also give priority to vacant manufacturing and warehouse buildings. Dave Leonetti made the presentation and stated that the city has approved $198,000 in grants, including the Superior Self Storage next to WHKY and Black Investments next door to Aiken and Black tire. Mr. Leonetti went over the provisions listed above. The minimum investment threshold is meant to push smaller projects toward the Community Appearance Grants and Landscaping grants. The broad vision is meant to develop older buildings and substandard buildings, not just buildings that are vacant. The Commercial Revitalization Areas will be eligible for all grants.
Alderman Lail asked a question about guidelines involving the process where tenants may leave one property for another rendering the building they are leaving vacant. Dave stated that the language would require moving into a larger building, it does not address additional vacant buildings. Alder Patton stated that she would be opposed to any such provision. If someone is renting a building and decides that they would rather invest in and own a building, then such a provision might prevent them from making that investment. Alderman Lail stated Imagine a scenario where they are renting in one building and a landlord of a new (assume revitalized?) building encourages them to move into their building that utilized the grant. Alder Patton stated that that is something that should be taken under advisement, but it should not pigeon hole a capital investment.
Alderman Lail stated that this language shouldn't be a deal killer, but he believes that they do need to address that. Mayor Wright stated that their was a lot of language in there... We have room that gives flexibility. He doesn't want them to be trapped where they have to approve something they aren't really happy with. Alder Fox stated that they have opened this up, but there weren't a lot of buildings outside of the revitalization zones. So they were concerned with the revitalization areas on the map. She isn't sure that they need to get really strict on someone who is willing to move into these obsolescent buildings... She doesn't want to see the council strap themselves to the fact that someone is willing to take the chance and has a vision... They may be willing to leave a stable area to take this chance... Alderman Meisner stated that $25,000 (grant) in one section is a whole lot greater than $25,000 in another section.
The Mayor stated that there is room for the staff to say the benefit of redoing this building is the overriding factor. There isn't a checklist. We are on the right track to give staff more judgment. Alderman Lail stated that Council makes the final decision anyway. Alderman Seaver stated that an established business is going to save on some rent by moving to an area that may not be as established. Alderman Meisner stated that that is the great equalizer. Council unanimously consented.
The Hound personally feels that we should stop wasting our time listening to property owners whine about losing tenants to other property owners. That is the kind of thing rats do on a sinking ship. Once again, that is part of that cheap begets cheap mindset that pervades this area. If you take care of your tenant, then all things being equal they aren't going to move. Also, if a tenant becomes capable of becoming a property owner, then we should all celebrate, because that means their horizons are expanding. That might mean you need to find another tenant, but it also means that this community is creating a healthier, wealthier economic culture...
Also, as has been stated before, our economic viability does not reside in buildings. This sure does seem to point to the fact that some of us are obsessed with a few individuals of special interest over what would be best for the general populace. Honestly already, will the City ever realize that $25,000 is not going to make or break a multi-million dollar business deal. And the large vacant warehouses will cost millions to bring up to code. Marketplaces are determined by people, not buildings. If buildings aren't viable, then they just aren't viable.
The validity of the Operation No vacancy program rests upon the recognition of the buildings that are under disrepair. It isn't about the allowance the city is throwing in to sweeten the deal. If we begin to accommodate the ideas of the rail line, then some of these issues slowly begin to take care of themselves. If we work on the broadband issue and high tech industries, then I have no doubt that value can be found in some of these buildings as Business Accelerators. You see, it's about the marketplace.
If we continue the race to the bottom by stroking the egos and padding the pockets of a selective few local property owners, then we will continue to push the Least Common Denominator Economy that has been at the root of our problems for the last decade. We must focus on creating a marketplace and being about something. We don't have the Acropolis or the Eiffel Tower, so it is time to quit focusing our energy on the inanimate and start worrying about people and how we are going to create jobs and a livelihood for our citizens. How many buildings will be filled if the imploding economy turns into an imploding population?
4. Consideration of Proposed Voluntary Graffiti Removal Program -
Graffiti is a problem city wide. Council considered an amendment to the Chapter 20 Nuisance Ordinance at the April 20, 2010 meeting that will become effective on October 1, 2010. The proposed 50/50 Graffiti Removal Program will provide financial assistance to property owners that have been victimized by graffiti on their property structures. This initiative provides funding to offset the cost of cleaning up graffiti and to encourage redevelopment and reinvestment in the City. The program will ensure that property owners will have an alternative plan to clean up their property without penalty prior to the amendments to Chapter 20 Nuisances going into effect on October 1, 2010.
The property owners will be responsible for the clean up method, whether they hire a contractor or do the work themselves. Funding for the program will come from General Fund Reserves and a budget amendment will be forthcoming to the City Council. Staff estimates that the program will cost $25,000 in grant match dollars, but council can establish a maximum.Property owners will submit invoices/receipts to the Finance Department. The city will inspect that the graffiti has been removed. Property owners can only receive one grant and it cannot exceed $1,000 or 50% of the cost, whichever is less.
The city invites property owners to participate in the Graffiti Removal Program, which is voluntary. Police Adkins mentioned that the City has already begun making an inventory list of affected properties. The program will be announced through press releases, media coverage, and additional contact with property owners who have noticeable graffiti on their buildings. Property owners can call the Hickory Police Department at 261-2649 to report graffiti on their property. A HPD officer will come to the property to create a report of the graffiti and take pictures. The property owner is given an information packet and agrees to the terms of the program. Property owners are encouraged to refer to Graffitihurts.org for removal information. Property owners pay to have the graffiti removed.
The Graffiti program begins immediately. Property owners with Graffiti are contacted immediately, if possible. The public awareness event begins immediately. Property owners can continue to sign up for the program throughout the summer. Graffiti removal must be completed and turned in by September 15, 2010 so that final processing and inspection can occur before October 1, 2010. After October 1, 2010, the Council can consider the success and merits of the 50/50 program and determine whether to extend it or not.
Alder Fox asked how long it will take to get the word out? Chief Adkins stated that they are going to do all they can to get the word out, after October 1, it will be the property owners responsibility.Alderman Lail asked about the rationale of limiting property owners to one grant?Chief Adkins stated that what they tried to eliminate is on property owner with multiple properties wiping out the whole amount. Manager Berry stated that there concern was that this was a first come, first serve program and one owner could figure it all out and come in and tap into potentially the whole pot. Alder Fox stated that she knows potential owners of property and they could potentially use all of the funds in just one portion of the city and that leaves the rest of the city. owners that own 5,6,7 properties that have graffiti on them right now
Alderman Lail stated that he believes the city will have some interpretive issues with these guidelines. With regards to ownership that can come in many forms -- corporate, LLC, individual, husband, wife, and somebody can raise issues. And another question, does this apply to all graffiti. He can think of instances where it would be worth a $1,000 and other instances where they choose not to take the graffiti off of another portion of the building. It does not say that they have to remove all of the graffiti from the building (question)?
The Chief reiterated that after October 1 that it will be looked at as a nuisance and they will have to abate it. The Mayor asked about the penalty. Chief Adkins stated that it was the same Nuisance process. The City can clean it up using the city's contractor and bill them for it. The Mayor stated that they go onto property and mow grass. Is there any similar situation where they could expose themselves to the risk of damaging the property. Attorney Crone said that the city has the right under the ordinance to abate the nuisance and assess a lien against the property. The Mayor asked when would they decide to exercise the right and when will they decide that there is too much risk. Alderman Lail stated it is an ordinance and it would be terribly unfair to enforce it on some and not on others.
Alder Fox stated that this ordinance has already been put into place. Attorney Crone went through other scenarios of the Nuisance ordinance and stated that at some point in time you have to enforce the ordinance that you have passed. Alder Fox stated that this discussion is about the Pilot program, not about going on someone's property, that is in an ordinance that has already passed. We are looking to make inroads into getting 10 to 15 years of graffiti cleaned up. She questions whether they can get the word out.
Alderman Lail went over the issue where screening may be more appropriate than removal of graffiti. Alder Patton stated that even without the 50/50, the word would still get out. There would still be public awareness and notifications. There doesn't have to be a 50/50. Alderman Guess stated that he has heard from a lot of people on this issue and the biggest issue with him is the cost of $25,000 at a time when the city is laying off workers and not giving raises. The onus is the responsibility of the property owners and not the taxpayers.
Manager Berry addressed the issue of liability. He stated that the city will use a certified contractor so that there is liability on the contractor, because they will use generally accepted methods. There is precedent about how to do it. Attorney Crone stated that abatement doesn't mean that you have to scrape it off... It's whatever it takes to make... Mayor Wright stated that we can always revisit the ordinance and always revisit the program. Yes-5 (Lail, Meisner, Mayor Wright, Seaver, Fox) No-2 (Guess, Patton)
The Hound feels that the City has stepped into it on this one. And it isn't something smelly and sticky. They have stepped into a minefield of unintended consequences. There were many valid points made. Is the city really going to go clean someone else's property?
I also am weary of the Mayor continually pontificating about selective enforcement. When it comes to justice, people should be given due process and fair and equal treatment. Laws, Codes, and/or Ordinances should not be written ambiguously on terms that are open for interpretation. Guidelines formulated in such a manner invite legal remedy. And it sure seems that we have a City that is all too willing to head to court.
I have espoused a way to help begin this clean up in a manner that would involve public participation, goodwill, and civic pride; but instead we're going to head right down the path of the bureaucratic boondoggle. $25,000 paid to general contractors is not going to scratch the surface of the cost of this cleanup. I think Alder Fox understands that, when she says that 5 months isn't enough time and she mentions that $25,000 could be used by one property owner in one area -- BINGO!!!
Alderman Guess hit the nail on the head when he stated that this wasn't a priority at a time when City workers are being laid off or not getting raises, and this is utilizing taxpayer money during rotten economic times. Alder Patton thinks that property owners need to maintain their own property. And honestly, who can argue with that. I can't understand how Alderman Lail is against the ordinance, but for spending this money, I can understand the worry about the harshness of the nuisance process and the fact that property owner's property has been unwillingly harmed, but we can't pay for everyone's cleanup. That is a big slippery slope.
In October, when the City realizes that they made this a lot harder than it needs to be, then please come back and let the community play a role in this and have some buy-in. A community of, by, and for the people should be trusted to participate in an issue of civic pride. If Church and Civic organizations are allowed to play a role in this clean-up, then I believe that the graffiti issue will begin to get solved. We aren't even trying to address the cause or find permanent remedies. We are just throwing money at the problem and seeing if it will stick. Does it ever?
*** If you get a chance please check out Solari.com. This is the site of Catherine Austin Fitts. The site was kind enough to post my article The Race to the Bottom. This lady is a mentor to me though I have not corresponded with her yet. I totally buy into her philosophy of Community Development and the idea of "Financial Ecosystem." She has a lot of great articles and my references cross paths with her quite often. If you want to learn the new wave of economic dialogue, I suggest you visit her site. Peace Out!!!
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