Those of us who live in older, in-town neighborhoods enjoy our bragging rights about our quality of life.

We have unique neighborhoods with unique architecture. We know our neighbors and our neighborhoods. We have trees, parks and green space. We are eclectic and diverse.

While these are advantages, we also must face our challenges. Some of our challenges include an abundance of trash and litter; dilapidated buildings owned by uncaring, absentee landlords; and unmowed, unkept vacant lots.

The City’s Code Enforcement Division is responsible for addressing many of these problems. It is the community’s expectation and the department’s mission to ensure compliance with the city’s 900 City Code provisions pertaining to the maintenance of structures and premises including zoning, litter and signs.

It is probably not a surprise to most of you that the City needs to improve its efforts. In a recent performance audit by the City Auditor a number of “opportunities for improvement” were identified. To quote the City Auditor “the Code Enforcement Program has not satisfied community needs.”

The results of the audit point to a number of factors that inhibit the effectiveness of the department, including the need for updated, current policies and procedures; more efficient utilization of staff; and a more effective use of the court system.

While these internal changes must be implemented, it is important that the City reach out to the community to improve service. Community involvement is critical to the success of any municipal initiative.

The creation of a citizens task force would engage residents in setting priorities and identifying solutions. Full implementation of the Citizens Involved in Code Enforcement program will establish partnerships between the City and the neighborhood groups. The program will include the development of volunteer “banks” for cleanup, educational campaigns and public recognition. The expansion of the voluntary mowing and maintenance programs that currently exist in some areas would also help neighborhood revitalization.

The City Council is committed to making better code enforcement a reality. In the past the Council has advocated for legislative changes that allowed for civil adjudication as an enforcement tool. More legislative changes are needed to increase that effectiveness.

Meanwhile, we should encourage the use of the civil remedies that are in place. We also need to work with the City Manager to ensure full implementation of recommend procedural changes.

The effects of dilapidated structures and unkept property have serious consequences. There is a direct link between code enforcement, criminal activity and economic development. In order to keep our community safe and viable we must keep it clean and maintained.

For more information about City programs visit the City of Dallas website at www.ci.dallas.tx.us.

City Councilwoman Veletta Forsythe Lill represents parts of East Dallas, Downtown, Uptown and Oak Lawn. To reach her, call 670-5415.


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