Friday, September 10, 2010

A MUST READ! Another Senseless demolition by a city with NO CLUE!

Built in 1882, survived World Wars and the depression but couldn't stand up to the city Vacant Building Task Force and senseless policies.
We all knew it was coming but yesterday the clueless city of Cincinnati Vacant Building task force, under the clueless management of Ed Cunningham, the clueless directorship of Michael Cervey and the clueless overall management by the city manager Mr. Milton Dohoney, sanctioned by our clueless City Council and clueless Mayor, the ONLY Front Gabled second empire cottage in Knox Hill was knocked to the ground under the guise of "Bight abatement". There were 14 second Empire structures in Knox Hill now there are 13..

The house was appraised by the county at 38,200.00 will generate zero taxable income from this point forward. The vacant lot left behind by the city who wont take the step to enforce the demo lien because they do not want the responsibility of maintaining it will quickly become a trash strewn dumping ground as have ALL the lots the city leaves behind as part of its "blight abatement" Program or as most community leaders refer to it "The line the demo contractors pockets and haul in some federal dollars  for city payroll".I actually looked at this house in 2008 and I saw nothing that would prohibit restoration. All it needed was someone with some money and time to put in it. Now it will be 8 dumpsters in overly full landfills.
In taking out the house, the city destroyed a historic retaining wall which will cause erosion and potentially damage the foundations of nearby houses. Does anyone think the city will put back a retaining wall?  Thanks for the Help City of Cincinnati!

Make no mistake about it, this isn't about blight abatement or improving neighborhoods , it is about raking in Federal Dollars, which by the way are coming out of your pocket, because the city is "addicted' to federal money to help pay its payroll.

This tragedy did not have to happen but its indicative of how or current city system is broken, how the city vacant building task force doers more harm to neighborhoods than good and how cities like Cincinnati create a problem so they can go to the federal government and  “Beg’ for federal funds to fix a problem they intentionally created to get the money in the first place..

Why are some cities thriving and some are dying you ask? Well it’s a question of approach. Other cities approach code and building violations in a proactive method. Dealing with a problem property owner early on before a property becomes severely blighted vs. the Cincinnati approach with is no early intervention and continued escalation resulting in eventual demolition.

In other cities, Inspectors actually patrol neighborhoods, they look for problems early on, they follow foreclosure filings, most importantly when they find a problem requiring a repair order, they follow through with enforcement of that repair order including taking the owner to court if necessary, Most cities Cincinnati size have a dedicated housing court because they have come to realize that early enforcement prevents escalation, it prevents further deterioration. Demolition is tool of last resort and ONLY on property that has major structural problems.

Cincinnati on the other hand has no dedicated housing court. In a true waste of tax dollars, we have two sets of inspectors. One for occupied property, one for vacant property. That means we have TWO inspectors covering the same neighborhood and it also means that case files must be transferred back and forth depending on the occupancy of the property. But it means we have more people on the city payroll! Cincinnati is a ‘complaint driven’ system, meaning that neighbor disputes often result in calls to housing inspectors when there is no real issue, which creates needless inspections. Inspectors are also the unwitting tools for racist people trying to eradicate black people from the neighborhoods, or Applachians, or section 8 tenants.

We are not proactive in enforcement, meaning that, rather than do what we should do, take property owners who fail to respond to a repair order to court, we simply escalate the situation to a VBML (Vacant Building Maintenance License). VBML are a "get out of work pass" for inspectors who once a VBML is in place, are only required to do an annual inspection. Don’t pay your VBML? The city issues a Condemn Order. Thousands of properties in Cincinnati are "condemned" but have no structural issues. Condemn is simple “escalation’ by the Vacant Building Task Force. The city demoed over 160 properties in 2009, many potentially historic, using your tax dollars and many of them needed simple repairs, could have remained on the tax roles.
This is what a 'blight abated" property looks like 6 months later. Trash, debris and overgrown. How does this "help" Neighborhoods?

The problem for neighborhoods is that these practices by the Vacant Building Task Force “redlines’ neighborhoods to lenders. It drives down appraisals and banks are reluctant to lend money on a VBML or condemned property, existing property owners can’t get loans or affordable homeowners insurance. A standing condemned property (even if it has no structural problems) can drive down property values by 30-60 percent for adjacent property.

Our city solicitor Paula Boggs Muething in a 2008 Cincinnati  business journal Article on the VBML,“We’re really talking about the very worst buildings in the city – the most unsafe,”

REALLY Ms Muething? We have thousands of properties now on this list and most were put there over things like a broken window or a failed gutter.

She also stated  “There is a blight issue. But there’s also a very present safety issue to emergency responders. We don’t want firefighters to be subjected to roofs and floors that will cave in on them”.

However the city does not even follow the key provision of that ordinance. The ordinance requires that when a VBML expires and the city cannot reach they, they are required to go to court and obtain a search warrant to inspect the property. That’s does not take place and upon review after review of court records, the city failed to do that as mandated by the ordinance meaning our Police and Firefighters are being placed in clear danger because the Vacant Building Task force “picks and chooses’ what parts of the ordinance they want to follow.

1101-79.5 Procedure for Renewal: At the time of application for a renewal of a vacated building maintenance license the owner may arrange with the director of buildings and inspections for the inspection of the building, its premises and interior. If the owner fails or refuses to consent to and arrange for an inspection, the director must first obtain a search warrant from a court of competent jurisdiction to authorize inspection of the premises for the purpose of determining the structural integrity of the building, that it will be safe for entry by fire fighters and police officers in time of emergency, and that the building and its contents do not present a hazard to the public during the time that the building remains vacant. The director of buildings and inspections shall renew a vacated building maintenance license on being satisfied after having inspected the building that the building is in compliance with the vacated building maintenance standards set forth in § 1101-79.4, adequately protected from intrusion by trespassers and from deterioration by the weather, will not be detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare, will not unreasonably interfere with the reasonable and lawful use and enjoyment of other premises within the neighborhood, and will not pose any extraordinary hazard to police officers or fire fighters entering the premises in times of emergency; otherwise the director shall deny renewal.

Because of that failure to follow the mandate  and obtain that search warrant to inspect,  some Firefighter or Police officer may lose their life.

We MUST get back to proactive enforcement and stop wasting taxpayer monies on senseless demolition of properties that could have been restored had the city been proactive in the first place. What will it take given the way our city works?, Probably a federal lawsuit or replacement of our 'status quo" city council in the next election.

Had city inspections done it's job properly, taken the original problem property owner to court early on, This house could have been saved and the neighborhood would be better off. This house might have been under restoration now. Instead of a vacant lot we could have neighborhood with a  family who takes care of their home.

Thanks for your help Mr Cunningham, Ms Muething, members of the council, our illustrious city manager and Mayor. You can stop "helping' us anytime now. We would like to live in a neighborhood not a vacant blocks with house here and there!  Unless you are willing to maintain the vacant lots you leave behind we'd rather have a house that maybe someone would like to restore!

ARE YOU MAD? You should be and you should express to your city council just how you feel about your tax dollars being wasted . And let your friends who are firefighters and policemen know how much the City Vacant building Task force actually cares about their safety!


Karen Anne said...

Since this is federal money, where are your Senator and Representative in this?

St Charles said...

I am forwarding this to the Obama administration and Calling the US Senator. Destroying the essence of America. What makes this all more sickening is that the demo companies are the 4 companies that gave huge donations to the mayor. I am also going to call the Mayor's office and let them know we know how he is padding his pockets