For the past three weeks, I've been sending out about seven or eight code enforcement violation letters a day. Most of the violations are junked cars, weed-filled lots, and properties filled with debris of some sort. Thing is ... in a town that doesn't have a full-time code enforcement officer, but which does have a very busy planner, it's easy to say "hey, Dan, do more!" Which I do, because it needs to get done ... unfortunately, at the cost of the piles of some unknown papers that seem to accumulate on my desk.
Anyhow, I spend about half my day seeking out code violations, sending out certified letters with violation notices, or taking calls from angry residents, the most defensive being those with junked cars. I have a three page "Inoperable Vehicles FAQ" that accompanies every violation letter, yet the masses still ask the same questions and make the same statements the handout addresses. My car's not junk! (Not according to the municipal code.) I just have it under a cover -- nobody can see it. (Doesn't matter.) It ain't hurtin' nobody. (No, but 100 junked cars in a three square mile town are.) It's registered! (Yeah, and it's totaled, too.) It's a classic! (Yes, and it;s still junked, according to the code.) I'm selling it! (Doesn't matter.) Why are you picking on me? (You don't see the letters we send everyone else.) Why don't you do after cars in the other part of town? (We are, but you don't see the letters we send everyone else.) It;s my cousin's car, and he'll be out of town until June. (Fine. Tell him to come back and get it.) Can you give me an extra week? (No. When we give people extensions, almost always the cars are still there after the new deadline.)
Well, the deadlines are hitting, and the hard working tow companies are toiling in the Florida heat and humidity to remove the first batch of cars that weren't removed. Today I had my first encounter of code enforcement Hell. A woman had an unregistered Pontiac Fiero, sitting for months on dense overgrowth, pulled off her lot. The property owner signed off on the letter some 18 days ago; the deadline was Friday, and the tow trucks pulled it today. However, the car ower's daughter signed for the letter, and never told her mom. Oh well ... car's outta' there, especially considering it's a "repeat offender" property. "But I sold the car, and the new buyer's coming to pick it up next week!" Sorry, but a lot of people claim that.
The crying began. We're talking serious, "someone shot my kid" kind of crying, with appeals to Jesus and God and everything else. I feel awful, but there's nothing I can do. I feel for the cops that deal with crying motorists every day, pleading their cases and trying to get out of a three point offence.
I've got some doozies coming up. Known tin foil hat wearers. A church. A former mayor. A 300 pound female cross country trucker with a plethora of lawyers. Race baiters. Nice residents that everyone loves, where I'll be pressured to give 'em a break, even though the Saab or Volvo in their yard hasn't moved in two years, and I've cited 'em twice in the past, and told the usual "I'll have it out of there in a week" line. This is a take-no-prisoners-and take-all-junked-cars sweep. May is not going to be a fun month.
The Town Commission wants tough CE, and if you don't want it, vote 'em out. Once the town gets cleaned up, once we have a few more people crying over their dead grandmother's '78 Cutlass Supreme that was pulled off their lot after two years of collecting moss, things will get easier. I hope. CE work will then mainly be preventative maintenance, not a full-on blitz.
I hope it gets easier, becuase next month it's time for all the home occupation licenses to be renewed. Judging from the heavy equipment that sits in the driveway of many town residents (remember, upper-middle income but still blue collar/building trades leaning), I'm going to be facing a summer of unhappy campers. "How come you're telling me now I can't have a cherry picker in my yard?" "How come you can have a 20 foot boat in the driveway, but not a 20 foot utility trailer?" "My landscape trailer ain't bothering nobody." "Why don't you take care of those run-down houses in the [insert race here] neighborhood?" I can hear it now.
I almost feel like shouting "Jesus, take me now!", just like the woman cried today.