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Sideways on Code Enforcement

posted Dec 16, 2014, 5:10 AM by Doug Roberts
A common question I hear around town about our Village Government is "why aren't we enforcing our code?"  But when I talk to people at Village Hall, they believe they are actively enforcing the code, and they tell me about how our new code enforcement officer is walking the sidewalks every day and doing a great job.  I wanted to believe them but have never heard a report at a Work Session meeting from the Code Enforcer on his progress.  There is no link on our website that says "Code Enforcement Update" and a search yields nothing.  But I haven't given up! 

At last night's VB meeting, I brought my laptop, because, as I wrote last month, Greenporters who attend the Work Sessions are given no paperwork at all.  Tens and tens of pages of reports are handed to the Trustees, and the public is given nothing.  So we guess as to what it is that the folks on the board are discussing.  So I thought I'd bring my laptop and see if I can find some of the information, in real time, while the Board was discussing an issue.  I found the agenda under the "Agendas" link on the side of the website, though it took a while to load because, ironically, the place where we hold our Village Government meetings has no wi-fi of its own, and the signal from Optimum's wi-fi is weak.  But at least I was able to see the agenda and understand what they would be discussing.  But no reports.  Then, after the meeting, I was researching and noticed that the agenda page had reloaded with many pages appended that included the contents of the reports submitted by the Fire Chief, The Village Administrator, etc.  I'm not sure if this is a common practice- posting the reports AFTER the meeting- or if I was just unable to load the pages due to the lack of connectivity.  Either way, it puts up an unnecessary barrier between the public and our elected officials.  

So I scroll through this document, and finally, there it is!  A list of code enforcement violations that have been cited.  Except...it is sideways.  The page orientation is 90 degrees off with my screen.  So, I flipped my laptop on its side, and read through the work that our code enforcement department is doing.  The good news is that they've been quite active, citing people for unsightly yards and abandoned unlicensed vehicles and other issues around town.  This is great.  Our tax dollars are at work. Why is it so hard to find out about it?  

I don't want to believe that anybody at Village Hall is trying to keep us in the dark on these reports.  As Trustee, I will make sure that packets for public meetings are available in advance for public meetings.  I don't want to see us waste a bunch of paper, so these can be posted online, and those who can't access the documents online can request a paper copy in advance of the meeting by email or telephone.  But the documents should be available at least by noon on the day of a meeting for the public to review.  There can easily be a link to Code Enforcement information on the website, and it would be easy to post this information in a more reader-friendly format- perhaps in a Google Spreadsheet- with a vertical, not sideways, page orientation.  This stuff is all easy to do.  It just requires a little effort.  

Moreover, these board work sessions are the only I've ever seen where presentations are extremely short and do not include slides that frame the presentation of work completed and goals for the next month.  The Village is a $2.9M enterprise.  Could you imagine the CEO and Board of Directors of a $2.9M company coming together and being satisfied with Word document outlines and sideways reports?  Could you imagine a $2.9M enterprise where none of the directors or those reporting to the directors are using technology during the meeting to review materials or do quick research on something being discussed to inform the discussion?  In the past 10 years, I've probably been to a handful of meetings that didn't have an LCD projector or decent wi-fi in the room, and almost all of them have been Village Board meetings.  There is good work happening at Village Hall, at our utility plant, at our road plant.  People are working hard.  I think it's fair to ask those who lead our various Village efforts to honor those efforts by providing professional presentations to the board that include progress toward milestones and goals for the future.  

We need more people involved in our government.  The path to this participation is to use modern technology tools to make it easy for even those casually interested in our government to connect and learn about the work we're doing.  I will work diligently to improve this as your Trustee. 
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