Thursday, January 31, 2013

Public Safety is not the point

Speech to Grants Pass City Council, 6/1/2011

            At our last meeting, Ex-Councilor Tim Cummings came before the Council to complain about the certified letter he’d gotten from the City, telling him to cut his empty lot a full 5 weeks before he’d ever gotten one before.  He said that it is too soon; he will have to cut it again.  He noted that the City cut one of its properties three times last summer; he complained that it is “not cost effective.”  He complained that enforcement of the code has changed from public safety to “noxious weeds.”  And he added that enforcement by complaint is not equal; there were several lots near his just as bad.
            I have to correct Mr. Cummings regarding our nuisance code; it does not say anything about noxious weeds; it forbids weeds and noxious growth—noxious growth as in shrubs growing over sidewalks, or uncontrolled blackberries.  It forbids weeds that are maturing and going to seed.  It has been that way the entire time that Mr. Cummings was on the Council, indeed, since 1960.  What has changed is that it is actually beginning to be enforced for the first time in decades.
            Weeds start maturing and going to seed in March, with the bitter cress and groundsel.  Dandelions started seeding in April, wild lettuce in May, false dandelion starts in June.  The last four spread seeds by air, and they do so all summer, taking over unwatered, dormant lawns.  By the time in late May that the grasses are flowering and ripening seed, the point at which Mr. Cummings likes to cut his lot once a year, weed seeds have been flying in the breeze for months, and keep spreading all summer.
            The point of our nuisance code is not only to prevent safety hazards; it is written to prevent weeds spreading to neighboring properties, thereby preventing bad feelings between neighbors, and to maintain a clean appearance throughout the city, rather than a weedy, seedy, littered mess.  Our present mess of weeds and litter does not speak well of our residents or policing to visitors who might consider setting up business here.
            I have to agree with Mr. Cummings that enforcement by complaint is not equal.  It also causes bad feelings between neighbors, negating one point of the code.  These violations of love for one’s neighbors are visible and obvious to all.  Every one of our police should look for such violations, and warn the offenders to clean up their properties.  It is too much for one CSO to keep up with, even if he reads the code and opens his eyes.
Published at Yahoo Voices

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