Thursday, August 31, 2006

How I would fix Code

1. Change the leadership to people interested in doing things right. Look at TPD as a role model. Chief Hogue. Asst Chief Castor. Major McNamara. Majors Teague, Guidara and others.

2. Look at Code from top and bottom.

3. Are the Codes that are being enforced appropriate? Too restrictive or too loose? Ie Canopy laws.

4. Are Code time frames appropriate? Should there be a dual track for repeat egregious offenders that is stricter than for first time or for minor offenders?

5. Are the letters that Code sends out the best that can be written? Should they be less threatening and more informative?

6. Is the data system that Code uses the best data system? I have looked at the case recap reports and they are confusing. It was hard to tell in all the reports when the complaint was first made at times. Photographic documentation should be included in the system. There should be more detail in some of the notes. Given the amount of stuff I have to document in our case files, I was suprised how sparse these are. Detailed reasons should be given as to why a case is closed and should be approved by a supervisor.

7. Are people being provided enough info as to what occurs at Code Hearings? In watching Code Hearings on TV it's clear some people did not need to be there or did not understand what was going on.

8. The code cases should be on the internet just like they are in St. Pete. Furthermore, you (at least the homeowner) should be able to see the photos of the violations so they know what to fix. One neighbor cut down a tree they thought was blocking a view of a corner and it was the wrong tree because no one told them what the problem was.

9. Are the electronic ways homeowners can show that the problem is taken care off?

10. Do we have enough programs to help the elderly, disabled and others deal with the problem?

11. Get a one year grant and market and publicize code issues to people are aware of things. IE what need permits, what are code violations and etc.

12. Ensure code inspectors have access to all appropriate private and public databases that can help them do their job.

13. Transparenty, transparency, transparency.

14. Publish the municipal code board agendas online as soon as they are prepared so neighbors can be aware when something is coming up. Right now they are published after the fact. What help is that? Then publish results ASAP.

15. Create a bank of used plywood to help board up vacant buildings. Get contractors and home improvement centers to donate used plywood. There apparently is not enough money to buy sll the plywood needed.

16. Foreclose more. Seek more criminal cases.

15. Listen to the Neighborhood Improvement Committee. They have a lot of ideas.

16. Hire me for $60.000 plus a year. I am not an expert in Code Enforcement but I can look at systems issues and recommend alternatives. I can see what is broken and what works.

Readers, add your ideas.


Anonymous said...

Not a whole lot works so you would have your work cut out for you.

Resident Blogger said...

One of the most important things is a lack of understanding by the public, of the process and the manner in which to comply. The letter which everyone receives is very "official," and threatening to most. It actually scares some people so much they do nothing, feeling it is hopeless. Some where along the process people need to know what their options are, and who to call for assistance. I have sat in court and seen many cases that could have been derailed before they got that far if some where along the line a knowledgeable person had assisted,

A second thing It is ridiculous that violations of failing to take your trash cans in as you should, overgrowth, structural damage or a windowless, abandon car, take the same timeline to compliance and carry the same amount of importance. This skews the compliance rate and allows serious conditions to remain unattended for far too long. There should be more than a single path to compliance, depending on seriousness of the code issue.

Fines. Here is a thought. Collect them! Quit forgiving them for people who have just stubbornly not complied. I am not talking about the elderly etc. I mean people who can do but don't! After you collect them use them in code. To do things like finally fix the very expensive non working computer software system, that aparently STILL does not work after two years of hearing about it. Or use it to recruit capable, honest people.

Case closings. This is an area which infuriates the citizens. A case makes it up the line and all of a sudden you call and it is closed. You know it is not complied, and you ask what the reason was for closure and you are told. Mistake, closed by accident, or ,complied.
I believe there should be an mandatory entry on the form which closes each case with a detiled description of why it was closed. I am guessing they are closed electronically. If so it needs to be set up so you cannot close the case without a detailed description of the closure and the signature of the person who closes it. No more "mistakes."

Lastly, close scrutiny of both the administration and individual code officers is an absolute. No more excessive days off without retribution. No more pot smoking. No more sweeping things away out of site so the citizens don't see them. We pay taxes for this department and have a right have a department we can trust to properly represent our interests.

mightbeMike said...

The SESH NICE Committee came up with practically the identical list of recommendations almost 2 years ago. We identified a series of changes that if implemented would have increased awareness to the public, efficiency within the dept, transparency for those looking in, and changed those who have been on the govt dole doing almost nothing. Maybe you will have better luck making these suggestions via your blog.

Anonymous said...

In most larger cities, the code office is a revenue generating, self supported department. In Tampa, they never collect fines, they hardly close a case, at least legitimately. If they would enforce the codes, collect the fines and foreclose when necessary, it would be a stronger department not as dependent on tax payers.

The code process should start with the inspector leaving notice on the homeowners place of residence either with decal or door hanger. This should be very detailed and start the clock as soon as it is placed.

There should be time limits on how long it takes to get compliance. For example there are homes in out neighborhood that have been in violation for over 10 years. At this point the city should step in and correct the problem, ie mow the overgrown lawn, replace boards, etc For the smaller task, a fine should be added to the water bill. For example, if the lawn is not mowed within 14 day, the city mow, puts a $125-$200. fine on your next water bill. This eliminates the problem with Absentee landlords and owners of vacant lots. With a no exception policy, this would then encourage people to mow and keep up their properties.

All rental certificates should be processed through the Code Department. If there are open cases on the property, a rental certificate should not be issued. They should be able to look at non-homesteaded properties to determine who may be renting the home and not hold a valid certificate. Every 2 years the homes should be inspected to make sure they are safe and livable. Many cities have a team that consist of Fire Marshall, code and police.

There definitely needs to be more foreclosure. Take a look at the lot next to discount auto. It has been a constant dumping ground. This should have been foreclosed years ago. If foreclosed, it could then be sold to a commercial developer with restrictions. This would have allowed for faster redevelopment along the commercial corridors. They must get tougher on commercial/non-homesteaded properties! The city has the bad idea of foreclosing, then keeping for years as a city owned property. We all know that the city does not take care of what they have. What should be done is Foreclose, clean the property and sell the property (WITH RESTRICTIONS) within a matter of 1 month on the court house steps. This alone could generate millions and pay for the salaries of most inspectors. It will also encourage violators to clean up, which in turn will give us a cleaner safer city.

I could go on all day as their are so many problems with this department. They are not respected in the city and none of the habitual violators will change as long as the system remains the same.

Anonymous said...

Transparency is good! I would hold the Mayor and her goons accountable for the mess we are in. For the past 3 years, they have done nothing! I remember seeing a video of Curtis Lane a few years back in which he says "We are going to turn this ship around. It is a big ship. Tampa did not get this way overnight! Give us time"

Is 3 years enough time? If noticable changes were being made, I would accept this. But when the city has minimal to no change, this is unacceptable! If you start by replacing Curtis Lane, Bill Doherty and Harold Scott, you will see drastic changes. Look at our old inspector how everyone said she was the best. Now that we have a new inspector and see how good she is and what a difference she makes, I now believe that they all need to be replaced. If we had someone like her at the head of the department, this city would clean up in less than 6 months!


ShreksWife said...

I remember the good old ship analogy well, except, I now believe the name of that ship is TITANIC!

Anonymous said...

Fire Curtis, Bill and Harold. Hire people that actually give a damn about the city and about making a difference.

Anonymous said...

And put Scott and kristen in charge.
I trust them.

Bungalowlady said...

First of all, there are ways to help the elderly and poor. It is called a diversion program. The Code Board, Code Inspectors and, hopefully,your neighborhood Code Enforcement Chair know how to refer someone to the diversion progrsam.

I agree Code should be checked from top to bottom.

Some of the codes are too restrictive and some too lax. That's why it should be checked from top to bottom: people, procedures, codes, etc., etc.

The letters code sends out should be rewritten and should include an explanation of the process. This has been recommended to Code and only time will tell if anything changes. The current letters are intimidating, to say the least.

The agenda should be posted on-line BEFORE the hearings. This has been recommended but so far nothing has happened. "They" say when the new computer system goes up this will change. I, personally, have little hope.

If the neighborhood Code Enforcement Chair knows who is cited - and now they do not - they can help the resident understand the process. Code needs good neighbor notices on code citations just like they send out on other stuff.

Any resident can contact their inspector and ask them to stop by and inspect the violation and clear it. It only requires one phone call.

Transparency would be a welcome change.

I like the plywood idea.

Foreclose more AND foreclose faster. Do not wait until the whole neighborhood is up in arms.

Hire a local business to demolish buildings that need it. Do not wait for some Orlando firm to have a week's worth of work before demolishing them.

More feedback to the neighborhood Code Enforcement representative. Currently we live in a black hole. Our emails are answered now and then and the information is sketchy at best.

Anonymous said...

I am guessing they really dont care.
You can opinionate and procreate but I think they just laugh about your suggestions and want you to form a knitting group.
Code wants it to be sketchy so you will go away.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

ooooo we've been warned, ooooo


LittleBirdToldMe said...

Anon 6:21: FYI. For this to be a "formal" warning, I would think that it would need to include, at least, a name. Also, all Code Enforcement records are totally PUBLIC and out there for EVERYONE to see. So I guess that your opinion that your Code issues should be "private" matter just doesn't jive with REALITY!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Anonymous said...

I can warn you verbally or warn you another way I guess.
However YOU choose.
The easy way or the hard way.
if the code office disseminates a list of violators and infringes on my right to privacy so that ALL of the neighbors know I did something wrong..
Not only will it cause neighborhood feuds it will force me to drive by your house at 2 in the AM and do a drive by honking.

STAY AWAY said...

And let me guess...only you are interested in going down to the office and making sure you know exactly which people are in trouble.
I bet.
My formal warning stands.
You shouldn't tresspass on anyones property anyways.
Especially with the new laws in Florida.
You might tresspass on the wrong house one day.

Anonymous said...

The correct word is "anyway" not "anyways",unless you're 5.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who corrects someone elses spelling is probably a closet freak who has absolutely NO life and no funds.
Since you have no funds you just sit at home and look for others faults.

Vox Populi said...

you're a SICK BASTARD is what I think.
GO become a cop and fulfill your fantasy.