To the Editor:
I am responding to your April 11 editorial, “Code enforcement key for downtown DeKalb’s future,” because I feel you missed the point of the social media uproar over the Lord Stanley’s and the Annex condemnations earlier this month. Hardly anyone wants less code enforcement. We just want code enforcement that doesn’t stink of something inept or underhanded.
Take the misinformation issue, for example. DeKalb city officials decried residents sharing misinformation on Facebook. The word itself is insulting because it implies that someone asserted deliberately falsified statements. While a few may have shared inaccurate or speculative information, that’s not the same thing.
We might, however, suspect the city of misinformation. For one thing, DeKalb maintains that the April 5 inspections of Lord Stanley’s and the Annex were routine fire-life safety inspections. Not true. The chief building official accompanied the fire-life safety inspector.
According to the staff who persuaded the City Council to hire him in the first place, the CBO is supposed to assign the most appropriate and cost-effective person(s) to each inspection. The CBO sent his own expensive self, the one person empowered by the city to immediately evacuate and condemn structures. It’s the building code equivalent of being loaded for bear.
Let’s also talk about the failure to follow proper procedures. According to explanations made during the last City Council meeting, Lord Stanley’s and the Annex was the building with structural integrity issues. Lord Stanley’s itself was shut down for problems the inspectors had with organic growth near a food storage area, clearly a serious issue if true, but not an offense for which the city can condemn a business. According to the Chapter 16 of DeKalb’s Municipal Code, it’s the county with jurisdiction over food sanitation, so the city overreached its authority.
Additionally, Chapter 24 of the code requires that the city deliver a written notice to the building owner that includes the violation(s), plan of correction, and a reasonable deadline for making corrections. In this case, the deadline for corrections and delivery of notices both occurred April 9. How is that remotely fair?
So it’s not that the city is enforcing code, but how they’re doing it. The Daily Chronicle’s editorial was correct that city of DeKalb should have presented facts up front, but the real reason social media blew up over the condemnations was the perception – also correct, as it turns out – that city government was not playing by the book.