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Letter To The Editor: The Ordinance, Some Solutions

on September 19, 2017 - 5:27am
By HELEN M. MILENSKI
Los Alamos

I have waited until having the opportunity to read all of Mr. Izraelevitz’s (Council Chair David Izraelevitz) partitioned letters to the editor. Also, he accepted an invitation to have coffee with me and discuss some of the issues I take with the current ordinance and its enforcement. Heather Ortega joined me and I do believe we covered a lot of the concerns we have both heard from the community.

 I will now respond with my own letter to the editor and as I do not intend to partition my letter, I will try to be brief.

I am quite certain that most people, rich or poor, are fully aware when something is lacking on the outside as well as the inside of their homes. This after all, is where they live. But I also know that almost all people even in our town have to prioritize and budget. The paint may be peeling some, but is that more important than medicine, groceries, or school supplies for their kids?

This is not a matter of “blight”, this is a fact of life. If you wish to talk about true blight, I can serve up several examples with a quick google search and none of them are found on Rover Boulevard in White Rock. It is hard to be convincing of the crisis of blight and simultaneously say how financially well off we are especially to anyone who has actually seen towns afflicted by real blight.

When we spoke, Mr. Izraelevitz, you acknowledged that even though we are an economically advantaged community we still have poor and struggling people. I have heard several people go on about how lazy and slacker-like people must be to let their property get run down. This is a very narrow sighted view and does not take into account a variety of circumstances that our neighbors and fellow citizens face. For one example, there are many people in this town that are starting careers who are buying their first home and are trying to fix it up one project at a time. The peeling paint and a couple of boards on a fence don’t hold a candle to fixing the toilet, let me assure you!

While I see where your aim is in wanting a strong ordinance that helps the community as a whole be safer, look better, and seem like a nice place to live to people interested in moving here, I disagree greatly in how the county goes about effecting this. I could waste countless time on the burden of proving a case of rude behavior, trespassing, or over reaching by the officers by me knocking on doors and gathering even more anecdotal he said/she said stories, but for what? Suffice it to say that the method of enforcement is in question all around. This issue isn’t going to get better until the directive that these officials are under changes from the top down.

Here are a few suggestions of solutions for you to take before the rest of Council and the public.

First of all three days is not enough time for some people to request time off from work, let alone budget and reprioritize according to the county’s directive. The average working person needs at least 14 days to work through at a single two week pay-cycle in order to have time and potential funds available to begin to think about fixing a problem that has fallen into disrepair. This doesn’t exclude weeds or overgrowth of vegetation as it can take time to plan, buy supplies and secure a truck depending on the extent of the issue. Hence, a 14-day minimum has to be the first priority of change, a 30 day standard and a 90 day for the “larger, more complex findings”. This would go a long way to ease a lot of tension. The matter of ideology and philosophy being set aside for the time being in favor of the more practical issue of a temporary solution. The Ideology and Philosophy of the ordinance scope can and will continue to be debated by the community as we move forward and hopefully we can find some broader satisfaction in time.

My second suggestion is one you have almost gotten to on your own reasoning. You note in your second letter to the editor that the wording of the “Notice” vs. “Citation” has caused confusion. I would add heartache and worry to that list. If the county cannot clearly state the difference between these two terms as well as the options for the recipient, and also provide a clear final resolution to the notice when it doesn’t progress to a citation, then you can expect to see a lot more anger and hostility rather than agreeable outcome for anyone.  

Furthermore, if a home owner does get to the point of citation and in the course of their efforts they get the charge dismissed by Judge (Alan) Kirk, the county should eat the $65 court fee. When we met you seemed to be dismayed at this suggestion because of all the cost the county had incurred to get to that point. While I see your point I also see that if the county’s true objective is to “clean up” as it claims then this cost is marginal. I correspondingly believe that if the county has to eat the cost of dismissed charges it will keep the actions of the county enforcement honest in issuing complaints that only fall within the guidance of the ordinance and not go traipsing into some gray area.

The third suggestion is two-fold. I believe that we have to reduce our ordinance staff back to one person and the directive should be curbed back to address only the issued complaints instead of being on patrol in a seek and find kind of role within the community. These two people are making approximately $47,000 each in annual salary not to mention benefits. Why is a code enforcement officer making more than firefighters? Do they play pro-basketball on the side that I am unaware of? One person working full time instead of two, will literally cut this problem in half. 

The second part of the edict is the anonymous reporting. In our very own town there has gathered a group of tattle tales in our midst who have taken upon themselves to break reporting records and do double the damage to their neighbors in an attempt to “clean up our town”. Somehow when I was told about this I pictured a group of beehive wearing ladies with notepads carpooling on Sunday afternoon trash talking and gossiping about so and so and how she hasn’t even deadheaded her irises and it is October! Oh the outrage! While I am sure the tattle tales in our town are far less comical they are also a lot more damaging to this community and its morale.

The county council can cease a lot of heartache and bitterness and end the anonymous reporting. Make people stand up for their complaints. In our talk together, David, you said that I am a far braver person than most, because I have stood up to bad neighbors, even when they were real criminals. I am not a braver person than most. I believe it is a matter of character. If a person wants to remain anonymous due to some fear of retribution, at the very least let’s make it a little less “efficient” in the process. It is easy to find examples of anonymous bullying in this age of technology because it is easy to hide behind a keyboard and not take responsibility for our accusations. This isn’t just a matter for children either. Let’s not let our county pay for this in morale or budget.

In closing I would like to thank you, David Izraelevitz as well as James Chrobocinski (Councilor), for being accessible to your constituents. I am leaving an honorable mention to Antonio Maggiore (Councilor) as he has intended to meet, but has been enjoying a well-deserved summer vacation. I look forward to speaking with him on his return.

You can only represent Us if you can hear Us, and you have taken the time to do that. Now we will work together to find a path forward that works.


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