Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Railroad is Not a No-Man’s Land

Speech to the Grants Pass City Council, 7/18/12.
An article in the June 23rd Daily Courier told us about the problems along the railroad track through the middle of town, with homeless people living in the bushes, and littering, stealing, and defecating along the tracks. One such man, Michael Walker, said "Tracks are like a strip of 'no man's land' in the middle of the world."
But the tracks are not a no-man's land; they belong to the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad, according to the sign at the M Street crossing near Home Depot. This city has nuisance codes against weeds and litter. They can be enforced against that property owner, who should be made to keep their property clean.
According to Dennis Ward, the city has been enforcing our no-camping ordinance against the campers. Should we not enforce our weed and litter codes against the property owner? The railroad should do their part to love their neighbors by not allowing easy camping spots and fire hazard through the middle of our town, and by periodically cleaning up the trash on their property. Ken Emilio of the Gospel Rescue Mission said that the Mission might have to cut the weeds and pick up litter. But that is the job of the railroad, not the Mission or the City.
Our city, however, has not been willing to enforce its weed and litter nuisance codes against property owners, who include a lot of big landowners like the railroad, the County, the state, and the feds-not to mention a lot of builders holding land that they can't build on or sell. Police cite the occasional homeless litterer when they see it dropped, but once the dropper is gone, they show no concern about litter, and none about weeds unless someone complains of fire danger--and complaints are discouraged and often ignored. 
They occasionally enforce the safety hazard code against a homeowner, but not the big properties and empty lots. They do not police the city, which is to clean it up; they use our codes to selectively prosecute the powerless.
The camping, stealing and littering along the tracks happens all along the tracks, not just the west end of town. All through town, the railroad brings down the immediate neighborhood by allowing weeds to seed out and litter to accumulate, discouraging neighbors from maintaining their own yards.
Governments and large property owners should set a good example for the rest of us to follow, not a bad one. City police should use our codes to make them do it. 
Publishing at Yahoo Voices:

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