No one is more pleased with the encouraging progress involving the effort to clean up our community than yours truly. Like many others, I was on the ground floor of this massive effort and have tried to nurture and encourage the changes along the way. Just browse through any of the city court news in our newspaper and you'll see that action is being taken. That action - common sense would tell you - should result in progress.
Having said that, I have a suggestion that may improve the process even more. Some won't like this proposal while others will. So what else is new?
For repeat offenders to the city's ordinance on eyesores, why don't we mandate a weekend jail sentence? I know of one offender who has been fined four times in the past year for property maintenance violations. I'm told that the offender has been allowed to make either partial payments or to opt for community service. But with four offenses, that process doesn't appear to be working. So what's wrong with having an offender spend an uncomfortable weekend in jail.
Here's my reasoning, flawed as it may be. Punishment in any form is designed to recognize wrongdoing and to bring about a change in behavior. It's what you do with your child. But if the punishment is insufficient to bring about the desired change in behavior, then it's ineffective and it just plain doesn't work. There really isn't anything complex about it.
I don't want to keep harping on the need to cleanup our community. But please understand, it's not just the issue of appearance alone. It is a fact that business and industry take a close look at neighborhoods before they make a decision on a community. And in the past, we've had a major problem in that area.
I don't mean to pick on those who fail to maintain their property in a suitable manner as established by community standards. I'm all for giving a person a warning before a ticket is written. But beyond that, I'm tired of allowing offenders to pay paltry amounts toward a fine or to provide minimal "community service" without changing their behavior. We've tried this for a year or so and now it may be time to turn the heat up a notch or so.
I firmly believe if a tenant or landlord sits in jail from Friday evening until Sunday evening, you'll see property improvements virtually overnight. And all we as a community are asking is for minimal effort. In fact, I know that elderly property owners and tenants, for example, can call for assistance with a property maintenance problem and receive help. We all recognize this is a community problem and I believe, we're all willing to help.
But for those few who continue to flaunt their behavior, we need to send a clear message. A weekend in jail would convince me to change my property's eyesores. And I suspect it would work for most others as well.
In an interesting final note, a former city council member here suggested this very same idea well over a year ago. It was viewed then as too radical since most people believed that a heavy fine would work. In most instances, that is true. But for those problem properties, it's time to put additional teeth in a good plan.