OUR VIEW: Code enforcers crack the whip

By NEMS Daily Journal

Vigorous and heightened – but short term – Tupelo city code enforcement creates an opportunity, as Ward 1 Councilman Markel Whittington suggests, to segue into a stricter long-term standard for maintenance of all kinds of property.
Department of Development Services Director BJ Teal said this week she expects a backlash from some owners unaccustomed to rigorous enforcement for violations like debris, illegal parking, exterior rot, overgrown yards and lots, and trash bins left curbside.
Laws should be enforced if they’re on the books.
More importantly, strict code enforcement is foundational in Tupelo’s quest to reinvigorate neighborhoods and strengthen existing properties’ values.
Sixteen people – roughly five times the normal number – will concentrate on code enforcement until the end of summer.
Often, code violation citations get immediate corrective attention from a property owner.
And then, there are exceptions – the people who want a code requirement to apply to everyone except themselves.
Codes are not inherently punitive. They are protective rules for the benefit of the property owner and the public, embracing safety, value and community standards.
Teal said she agrees with Whittington’s statements about devoting additional time to code enforcement, and she hopes a new budget year will make provisions for at least part-time additional hours in the department.
Teal said code enforcers and inspectors are responsible for 18,000 rooftops, including commercial structures, and 5,000 rental units in the city.
In the temporary crackdown, most of the employees in the department are refocusing their time to include at least part of each day devoted to code enforcement, plus maintaining regular responsibilities.
The City Council has indicated it places a high priority on code enforcement, which means a need for strongly backing the citations issued for violations.
In some former terms the exceptions to code requirements at times seemed as important as the ordinances. Codes are only as effective as uniformity of application, with the sensible exceptions for what’s known as cases of “compassion.”
Code enforcement and other reinvestment measures have successfully redeveloped neighborhoods and downtowns in many communities.
A communitywide effort in Tupelo could reasonably be expected to produce the same kind of results, but more than a three months “blitz” would be required, plus a strongly supported reinvestment plan.
Tupelo has all the resources needed to address reinvestment and code issues. What’s lacking is an adopted, implemented, sharply focused plan pulling it all together.