Patching up eyesores that dot the Clinton landscape is more than a full-time job, according to Building and Neighborhood Services Director Mike Harmon. Harmon on Thursday told the Neighborhood Improvement committee that a permanent fix to nuisance issues will only come with a public change of mindset.
“It seems the more we enforce (nuisance and property maintenance ordinances), the more people push back and rebel,” Harmon said. “I think it’s a community issue.
“If you can’t teach people to live well together, you can’t legislate them to live well together.”
A full-time official hired with the express purpose of investigating property maintenance violations has already performed more than 700 inspections this year, Harmon said. He said that with current staffing levels, it is impossible for the city to get ahead of the problem.
Harmon estimates that 60 to 70 percent of people with property maintenance or nuisance violations have them because they do not care to fix them. However, he said the remaining 30 percent or so may genuinely need assistance in maintaining the property. Several ideas were presented at the meeting. Harmon said that if the smaller portion of violators were given assistance, possibly through community organizations, the department could focus enforcement efforts on those who willfully violate property maintenance ordinances through inaction.
Clinton Police Chief Brian Guy said issues arise when details and smaller fixes are overlooked. What starts as a broken window can lead to an eventual neighborhood-wide drop in property values, Guy said.
“We know that some of these issues are systemic,” he said. “It’s not going to be cleared up over night.”
Guy suggested offering incentives to those who fix violations, and education programs as deterrents. Harmon agreed, but said that drastic changes won’t stem from policy changes alone.
“We’re never going to cure everybody’s problem,” Harmon said. “That’s why we need a community mindset.”
In other action, the committee:
• Discussed manning a booth during the upcoming National Night Out event from 3 to 7 p.m. Aug. 6.
City Administrator Jeffrey Horne suggested the Neighborhood Improvement committee should have a presence at the event.
Horne said that participating in the event, which is part of a national initiative to promote safe communities, would allow the committee to gain public input, as well as make city government more accessible.
The committee agreed and will discuss it further at its Aug. 4 meeting.