McIntosh Mirror: Reflecting news in the Tosh

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06.09.06 -- EDITORIAL: Proactive Code Enforcement

By CHER PHILLIPS

McINTOSH -- Last night was not the first town meeting I've walked out of angry. I'm most angry with myself when I feel moved enough to say something.

But I am a registered voter in McIntosh. I'm not covering the town for a newspaper.

I've been to quite a few meetings now and I know Fred Del Russo to be an even-tempered, fair person. I've heard him discuss both sides of an issue. More than several times, I've seen him withhold judgement -- something alot of people in McIntosh find a challenge.

I've also seen the council gearing up for this code enforcement battle.

In the February workshop, Jim Strange said he'd like to light a match to the whole town by giving a code enforcement officer the freedom to be proactive. I had a bad reaction to that statement on that day.

During the meeting, it came out that after 40 hours of code enforement work, Art Davis had not written and complaints or violations of code. He just went around warning people, he said.

I blurted out, "That's harassment."

Some people in the room didn't take too kindly to that comment. Joe Phillips. Harris Fellman. I'm sorry the comment was out of turn but I'm not sorry for saying it. What is harrassment if not bullying?

See, like many people around town, I've heard the rumors that a certain Board of Adjustment member has been driving around with Davis looking for infractions, from house to house to house.

I looked a little bit deeper today for why this bothers me so much and I think this is it: the police are not allowed to search your property without probable cause or a search warrant. They don't get to just walk around your yard and look for reasons to create a complaint against you and then cite you or arrest you. So, why is the town of McIntosh empowering a man to be able to do just that?

I read this morning a code of ethics for code enforcement officers from the Florida Association of Code Enforcement, Inc.

Some of those guidelines were:
1. Members will recognize and uphold the rights of all citizens as granted by the
Constitution of the United States and the State of Florida.

2. Members will enforce all codes and ordinances in such a manner as to ensure a
quality of life expected by the citizens.

3. Members will perform all duties in such a manner as to instill in the public trust and
confidence in the code enforcement process.

4. Members will, at all times, conduct themselves in accordance with the standards of
conduct for Public Officers and Employees as contained in Chapter 112 of the Florida
Statutes.

*****

What I am not seeing in town is code enforcement being handled in an ethical manner. Instead, I see it being handled in a way that wrecks the public trust.

This was my concern when I learned earlier this spring that they council had learned that code enforcement could be used as a revenue building method. Why not just raise taxes?

One of the reasons I've heard during my reporting for the need for a code enforcement officer was that the town has been run haphazard for many years and that people have gotten away with breaking rules in a selective manner. Meaning that if you are on the right side of the council you are golden, if you weren't, you were denied.

I don't see how this council is running any differently as long as they see code enforcement as a means of raising revenue for the town's coffers. And when that code enforcement is proactive, that makes it far worse. It opens the door to harrassment and discrimination.

posted by Cher @ 1:33 PM,

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Editor

Editor and Publisher:

I'm Cher From McIntosh, FL I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida working on a master's degree in Mass Communication. While I was finishing my undergrad degree in journalism last year, I reported on McIntosh, Fla. for an in-depth reporting class. I figured that the reporting and the public record files should go somewhere people can access them. Reporters don't report to keep the information they find to themselves. Some of that reporting is included here in a forum that allows response. McIntosh suffers because with no news coverage, the local government and the rumor mill have too much potential to run rampant over residents. I moved to McIntosh in the fall of 1999. My profile

About This Blog

The primary purpose of this blog is to accurately reflect what happens in town public meetings and dispel rumors. I record the meetings and make them available for download. One of the goals of this blog is to offer residents a place to voice opinions. The comments, views and opinions expressed there are not necessarily those of the editor.

 
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"A Popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, 1822

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