Refuse stored in public view
Code enforcement should work to eliminate health and safety hazards as first priority– I agree. What is priority #2? Here is where I disagree with code enforcement. De facto if not admitted, code enforcement’s priority is collecting fee revenue from property owners. Council members say, “We need the money.” I say, “You need the money because council allowed Portnoff Law Associates to drive property abandonment; less than 80 percent of real estate tax billed is paid current. It’s not right to bail on taxes and make it up by increasing fee revenue.”
Enforcement-centric view of the world also plays a part. I’ve heard statements to the effect that enforcement causes good property maintenance and rehab meeting standards. No, it is the willingness of owners to invest and their own resourcefulness that improves property value; code enforcement is just the guide and the catcher of the minority who have no respect for the rules. I’ve heard statements to the effect that some owners (what proportion?) will do the wrong thing, so code enforcement should be inspecting work in every single family house. But code enforcement doesn’t have the Orwellian capacity to look inside every house, so the effort to collect fees affects more people than does the desire to control.
Counter to the enforcement-centric view of borough government is the expectation that most people want to do right and want to be on the same side as their local government. A previous director of code enforcement (no name mentioned here, but he liked to drive a borough vehicle that identified the driver as a first responder) did consider working with residents. He proposed to enlist a special corps of residents as deputies for enforcement. Their duty would have been to rat out their neighbors who weren’t “on the team.” You know what– if you get the majority of people on your side, by providing accurate information in a friendly format, together we will make Wilkinsburg better. People ask me why I don’t become a candidate for borough council. Answer: it should not be necessary to be a member of borough council to make contributions to the borough. More successful municipalities know this, and involve expertise of their residents, and that’s a factor in their success.
I think code enforcement priority #2 should not be collecting fees so the government has more money to spend delivering solutions. I think priority #2 should be be no- or low-cost solutions, getting residents and owners to correct the conditions that blight Wilkinsburg, starting with the conditions that do not cost much money to fix. First let me say that the definition of blight is not only “conditions that will be addressed by the government budget. ” The definition of blight is– people whose quality of life is hurt by blight know it when they see it.
The prime instance of blight that could be corrected without major funding is garbage and trash on display. Wilkinsburg does have an ordinance that requires refuse to be stored “out of view.” The community would be so improved if this ordinance were enforced.
§ 222-16 Standards for storage of solid waste.
A. The storage of all solid waste shall be practiced so as to prevent the attraction, harborage or breeding of insects or rodents and to eliminate conditions harmful to public health or which create safety hazards, odors, unsightliness or public nuisances. Reusable containers are to be stored out of view and, conditions permitting, at the rear or side of buildings.
My neighbors across the street store their refuse at the side of their brick porch, where it is out of their view as they use their front door and porch, but where I see it every time I use my front door and porch. I suppose this is for their convenience, as refuse kept out of sight at the back of the house would have to be carried an additional 38 feet to the curb for collection.
Would this be tolerated on the Regent Square streets that become Edgewood streets? Does the owner of this house, a Penn Hills resident, see his neighbors’ garbage cans from his front door every day of the year? If this property were required to obey the ordinance, would the cost of compliance create a hardship?