Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Council Disrespects A Resident

My Diary entry's a bit late this morning because I was busy writing an email to Council. I went to their meeting last night--I have to admit, I only showed up because they were honoring Garden Club Contest winners. There wasn't a whole lot on last night's agenda that I was interested in. It was all pretty much cut-and-dry motions. The only reason I stayed after the Garden Club Contest presentation was that I saw bright flashes of lightning outside and figured I'd wait out the storm a bit.

That's when, during the Public Comment part of the meeting, my next door neighbor got up to speak.  If you read my blog titled "Unlicensed Landlords," this was the neighbor mentioned in connection with the 2nd landlord--the one living in a house with an enormous number of code violations, that I only found out last month was owned by a landlord with no rental license.

The reason my neighbor had gotten up to speak was two-fold: one, she'd requested certain documents about her landlord from the Municipality under the right-to know act and hadn't yet received them. This led to the public revelation that her landlord had no license and therefore the property had never been inspected by the Codes Department. Mr Millner asked, rightly, if the property had since been inspected. Crandall Jones responded yes, but that the inspection had revealed no reason to condemn the property. Mr. Millner, bless his heart, asked if the inspection had revealed code violations at all. Mr. Jones never actually answered the question, but in his non-answer implied that no code violations had been found (which I knew was wrong).

Meantime, my neighbor had been trying to get a word in edgewise, but Mr. Caldwell kept telling her not to speak. After Mr. Jones non-answer, Mr. Caldwell said they had to move on to other business. My neighbor kept trying to say she had more information, but he kept cutting her off. He even said "If you have nothing new to add..." but before she could say that she did, he cut her off again and dismissed her.

Had I known she was going to be treated this deplorably, I'd have signed up for the public comment session and added what I knew of the matter. As it stands though, the system we have for citizens to speak before Council doesn't allow someone like me, seeing an injustice done at a meeting, to speak out right away. We don't really have a democracy in that sense in Norristown.

So here's what my neighbor would have said if she'd been allowed. Monday a week ago, an inspector showed up to look at the property. I know this because I was painting on my porch when he came. He wasn't from Norristown Codes Department, but was what Mr. Jones referred to last night as a "3rd party" inspector. I don't know why they didn't follow protocol and send someone from our department, unless they suspected our Codes people of letting this particular landlord off after prior incidents. The problem with this inspector was that he very obviously wasn't acquainted with Norristown's ordinances. I heard him tell the neighbor that certain things weren't code violations when she and I knew very well that they were.

Yet she wasn't allowed to say any of this in front of Council last night. She didn't have a fair inspection of the property. There are still loads of code violations, but Mr. Caldwell and Mr. Jones didn't want to hear it, and I assume from the silence of the rest of Council, no one else wanted to hear it either. At least, Linda Christian made a point to leave the meeting so she could speak with my neighbor before she left the building.

My neighbor is a resident of Norristown and therefore due some level of respect by her elected and appointed public servants. As I said in the blog mentioned above, she's in her 80s, and I was raised to give my elders an added level of respect. The only council persons who showed any respect for her last night was Mr. Millner and Ms. Christian. The rest, especially Mr. Caldwell, owe her an apology.

1 comment:

  1. Elena do you happen to know if the council meetings are aired on any of the public access channels or perhaps the website?