For the record, I may be a blogger that is interested in the subject, but I am not the Blogsider. When I posted on that board, I only post as Brian from Charlotte. I have an idea who that individual may be, but I am not he (or she). If the identity of the Blogsider really is who I believe, I think I should explain to him the difference between an intranet and the Internet.
Back on topic. Part of the argument started from someone posting about Bob Lonsberry’s article on the NET programin Rochester. While I do not normally pay attention to Lonsberry, he did strike some cords echoed by many in the community. I did leave a comment on the article, but it now it seems appropriate that to reprint it here.
The NET is not going to go away any time soon. The CGR report shows that it does do jobs that need to be done. That said, in its current form the NET is not doing its job effectively.
The primary solution would involve separating the inspection duties from the enforcement duties. This will eliminate the “Gestapo-like” currently seen by the people over at NET. The inspectors and other NET officials should be able to get away with only one or two of the six NET offices. Enforcement should be handled by the RPD, and should be given the other four to five locations to add to the two other police stations in the city. With the RPD handling all the enforcement details, this will eliminate the ambiguity in regards to who handles what. Currently situations arrive in which the NET police and the RPD do not know who is supposed to handle things which delays the whole process. I am aware of at least two occasions (a shooting and a person who was charged with ‘mental health’ problems) where it took 45 minutes for the police to show up in Charlotte after police were called.
The certificate of use program has severely hurt the relationship between the city and businesses. There are many businesses that are scared of the inspectors/enforcers (this is from the “Gestapo” imagery that would be eliminated from separating the roles), and feel it is unfair to lose the right to appeal a design, due process, that their privacy is being taken away, and that it creates an uneven playing field through selective enforcement (the same crimes taking place at a Wegmans and at Wilson Farms would result in Wilson Farms being penalized because its size is small, while Wegmans is greater than 20 thousand square feet). They feel that the law essentially tells them to police the neighborhood that their business resides in, yet offers no training. Also, some businesses are scared to call the police when something occurs because the C of U program can shut their business down if their are too many police calls from a business. Businesses are currently threatening to close up shop/leaving the city to avoid this hassle.
The program should be reworked to address these issues. The city should allow businesses the ability to appeal any decisions (due process). Open a dialog between businesses and the city to relieve tension — currently both sides are essentially yelling back and forth, with very little rational debate or compromises being formed. Force all businesses, regardless of size or type, to apply for the certificate, but scale the application/renewal cost to the businesses side (there is no reason why a 1 person/1 location shop should have to pay the same amount as say, Wegmans). Do not make business owners responsible for actions of their customers or people around their store (similarly, do not make landlords responsible for actions of their tenants).
Currently, the NET program suffers from a poor perception problem. Too many people are being snagged for “low hanging fruit” violations. Look at the previous posts above this one. A good many of them point to severe crime problems such as shootings and drugs going essentially unnoticed or receiving poor response. When people see this but are ticketed for not taking their trash from the curb fast enough they are rightfully upset! These nickel and dime violations do generate revenue for the city (which is in desperate need), but propagates disgust within the community.
The quote is slightly edited by me to “fix”/add some markup.
By “Gestapo-like”, I meant a “Gestapo-like” imagery, and was referencing one of the comments within the report, and was not an attempt to Godwin the thread. Alas, one can only edit a report so well within a simple textarea late at night, and thus I feel I may have made that explanation clear.