Over the next month or so, you’ll hear a lot about what the bureaucrats and the bosses downtown want to do with the city budget. The important thing: Find out what they do, and pay very little attention to what they say. Case in point is the code compliance budget.

Code compliance matters because code compliance is a cheap and easy way to fight crime, something that every expert and police officer I have ever interviewed has said. Get rid of graffiti, abandoned buildings, and junked cars, can you can cut the crime rate without putting one cop on the street. So consider these numbers:

In 2001-02, the city spent about $20.5 million on code compliance, which includes animal control, inspecting homes and apartments, enforcing zoning, citing litter and weeds, and the like. In the proposed 2007-08 budget, the city wants to spend about $23 million. In other words, the code compliance budget has increased less than 2 percent a year this decade, despite various councils, the mayors and city managers calling it a priority. In that same period, the city budget has increased almost 16 percent, or more than 2 percent a year. (All city budgets since 2002-03 are available here.)

What does this tell us — other than that the city spending has remained remarkably flat, despite the cries of waste from Mayor Park Cities and his cronies? That code compliance is not a priority, and has never been one. In fact, it’s on its third director since February, when Kathy Davis — brought in a couple of years ago to revitalize the department with promises of new employees — retired.

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