Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Goals for the City of Grants Pass

The City of Grants Pass had a citizen input meeting for “goal-setting” on November 15, 2012.  This is an expanded version of the outline I brought, explained, and passed out:

Enforce all city ordinances per City Charter: (Chapter 5, section 2, paragraph 3: “The powers and duties of the Manager shall be as follows: … See that all ordinances are enforced and that provisions of all franchises, leases, contracts, permits, and privileges granted by the City are observed.”  Our Charter mandates that our Manager enforce all City codes, not state or federal laws.  Our nuisance codes have been ignored since Nixon bought our cops for his drug war in the ‘70s.)

Eliminate Code Enforcement/Community Service Department; (It was created by then-Manager David Frasher to pretend to enforce code while discouraging complaints.)
Community Service Officers continue to answer phones and track violators.  (These ladies do a good job of taking complaints; the male CSOs who check out complaints and head their department are the problem.)

Acquaint all police officers with nuisance codes regarding weeds and litter; (Regular officers are currently not allowed to enforce city codes.)
Have them warn violators on sight; (Code enforcement is by complaint only now, which creates slums and doesn’t work well even in good neighborhoods.)
Cite if not fixed in 3 days. (Maybe a week?  But seeding weeds seed out a lot in a week, and litter should never lie that long.)

Comply with City Code on all city properties: (Blackberries and weeds are taking over major portions of parkland; at least one buffer zone is a major fire hazard.)
Cut down hedged plants where not necessary to hedge; (They hide campers and thieves; are great litter holders and refuges for weeds; and are high maintenance.)
Limb up and thin out shrubs rather than hedge in most situations; (Does not hide litter, campers, or criminals; makes it easy to weed; and looks more natural.)
Use leaves on site for mulch, not compost.  (Leaves stop weeds and feed soil.  They should not be taken away from where they are most useful.  They should be blown from pavements and lawns onto soil and transported only to cover more bare soil.)
Pass an ordinance forbidding leaves, rocks, and soil on pavements, public or private.  (It’s amazing we don’t have one.  It would make it safer to walk, present a neat appearance, and keep our river clean per EPA requirements.)

Continue to enforce Sign code and resulting permit violations by complaint. (Complaints work here, where competing businesses have a financial interest, and so does the city.  This code the city is willing to enforce.)
Repeal or rewrite any oft-appealed provisions.  (Our current code is so tight that nearly everyone has to appeal or have inadequate signage.  Council grants almost all appeals, after much discussion.  The Planning Department gets permit and appeal fees for their salaries, a conflict of interest in granting permits.)

Comply with the Oregon Constitution regarding no special immunities or privileges:  (Article 1, section 20: “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”  Every grant is an ordinance, a new discriminatory law, with terms that do not apply to all citizens.)

Create a Municipal Court; (We take all violations to Circuit Court, and City codes are not enforced there.  When they cited me for signs on sidewalk, they used state law re blocking sidewalks, which I was not doing.)

Have Muni Court handle all code appeals as well as violations.

Court grants appeals only on grounds of process violations or constitutionality, as is normal for courts.  (Not the City Council, who passes the ordinance, and then grants exceptions to particular parties for particular reasons by ordinance.)

Create an administrative process for economic development grants:  (As the legislature does for education grants.)

Provide equitable grants for starting a business license or taking out a building permit;

Use grants to pay permit fees up to a fixed amount per applicant, removing barriers to development for all comers and granting proportionally greater help for small businesses.  (Currently, the City and Council judge individual business applications and plans, and does not spread such seed money equitably; it goes only to well-connected businesses.)

Rycke Brown, Natural Gardener         541-955-9040

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