I guess they are going to keep trying until they get it right.
Salisbury City Council members Debbie Campbell and Terry Cohen are hosting their third public meeting to solicit public comment on the ‘Safe Streets’ initiative at the Government Office Building in downtown Salisbury tomorrow evening at 6:30 p.m. Despite two packed previous hearings, the legislation is stalled in Salisbury City Council.
In a press release, Campbell and Cohen bill this Neighborhood Legislative Package as a public safety initiative:
“Just today, I discussed the “Three Strikes, You’re Out” proposal with a city resident and what reducing the high-repeat call load from certain properties can mean for making better use of our police resources,” said Cohen. “It’s astounding when you see statistics like 59 properties in just one neighborhood generating 1,800 calls for service to police in three years.”
Campbell said that the previous two meetings, both with overflow attendance, yielded useful feedback on possible changes to the legislation. “This legislation could provide substantial benefit to the public and contribute to the overall Safe Streets initiative already under way, thanks to our law enforcement agencies in partnership with the community,” Campbell explained.
In reading the seven portions of the proposed legislation, I fail to see how many of the new laws will reduce crime. It seems like much of the legislation instead is a broadbased effort to both wipe out many of what the city considers ‘nonconforming uses’ which have been around for years or even decades and in the process make a little bit more money in licensing fees and fines from landlords.
There’s no question there are landlords who don’t do their due diligence, instead succumbing to the allure of the almighty buck. Yet they are in the minority, and the proposed laws are akin to taking a sledgehammer to an ant hill. Those who live in houses adapted decades ago or who bought a property intending to become an entrepreneur and landlord may find themselves facing the prospect of extensive and expensive repairs if they can’t convince a judge that the use predates an arbitrary deadline. Obviously they will be stuck with a property which has lost its appeal and value to prospective buyers and face financial ruin.
Like it or not, Salisbury will be a rental haven for years to come due to a combination of a growing university where demand for housing outstrips on-campus availability and a crashing housing market which forces former homeowners to become renters. Soon the largest group of new homeowners may be financial institutions, and certainly they’re not going to be interested in following these regulations – instead, houses may sit empty and become tempting targets for crime. That defeats the purpose of the bill!
This bill, which is strongly backed by Mayor Jim Ireton, can’t move forward because Council President Louise Smith won’t put it on the Council’s legislative agenda for a vote. Likely this is because the bill as written has little chance of passage – Smith and fellow City Council members Gary Comegys and Shanie Shields seem to be immovably against the bill. With just one City Council meeting remaining on the docket this year, all are marking time until bill co-sponsor Terry Cohen (along with Smith and Comegys) have their seats come up for election next spring. After the holidays, the city’s campaign season will begin in earnest as the filing deadline is January 18.
While Cohen and Campbell may be trying a TEA Party-style tactic by holding frequent public meetings to denounce the lack of progress, the political reality is that this change isn’t desired by a large percentage of Salisbury residents. They want real, tangible answers for crime, and picking on landlords won’t make a difference in the perception that Salisbury is a drug and gang haven. It’s no wonder people flee to the county the first chance they get.