Tampa City Council is full of suggestions on how to improve miserable code enforcement

Councilman Frank Reddick suggested that all Tampa Police officers be trained in observing and then citing code problems. Major Marc Hamlin said that officers already do that, along with passing on other issues to the proper city department for followup.

Councilman Harry Cohen suggested that the city revive the popular "Peer to Peer" program, which goes back to the Sandy Freeman administration. Under that plan, members of neighborhood associations were trained to observe violations and send a postcard to their neighbor asking that he or she clean up the property. Cohen said it would be a natural item to use with the mayor's recent call for a Neighborhood University, a 12-week course where participants will learn skills to help establish and maintain successful neighborhood organizations.

Councilwoman Lisa Montelione said that the city should look at withholding rental certificates from landlords who have been cited for code violation problems. There are approximately 17,000 rental properties in the city and over 6,000 foreclosed homes.

Council chairman Charlie Miranda summarized succinctly that "the system doesn't work," which is certainly not a surprise to the many citizens who have complained for years about the city's inaction on the issue. He said both the police department and solid waste department need to have their officers involved in the process.

Before the board deliberated, a Tampa property owner named Bob Nixon lambasted the city for its inaction. Saying he abides by the law, Nixon questioned why the city couldn't insure that others do the same?

"The city of Temple Terrace doesn't seem to have this problem," he said. "How can they, with very limited resources compared to the city of Tampa, pull that off and we can't? Somebody answer that question?" he wondered, saying the problem goes back two decades. "Doesn't that sit poorly with you?"

  • GET OFF MY … UM … LAWN-AREA! Code enforcement agents will have their work cut out for them in Tampa.

Long before Hillsborough County GOP fundraiser Hoe Brown was busted for allowing his rental properties in Tampa to fall into disrepair, the city had been subject to severe criticism for its lax standards when it comes to code enforcement. But it's also undoubtedly true that the front-page stories on Brown exposed how impotent the city government has been in addressing the issue.

Currently the code enforcement department is on a 30-day offensive to go after egregiously maintained properties, and Mayor Bob Buckhorn's proposed new budget includes funding for additional agents. Specific actions to change the status quo were also discussed extensively at today's Tampa City Council meeting.

Until recently, Code Enforcement had only 26 agents to survey the thousands of Tampa homes that have violated code. But Jake Slater, director of Neighborhood Services for the city, is seeing that upgraded to 35 now that the Mayor is adding four new positions, and five other agents are coming over from another department.

Acknowledging the obvious problems at hand, Slater said he did see things improving, and pointed to the added manpower and a new software system the department will employ in January.

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