To the Editor:
Why would our business administrator, Joe DeMarco want to get rid of these employees who provide a vital service to our city? I grew suspicious when I learned the zone management program would be restructured. When the employees were identified, it was my opinion that there was no clear justification for them to be fired and sadly, I feel this was a personal decision by the business administrator potentially motivated by politics.
The department itself was created to identify illegal apartments and address the concerns of neglected properties throughout the city. Its main purpose is safety through compliance. Performance was not the reason cited in the layoff notice. The layoff notice stated “the economy and severe budget shortfalls.” Much like the parking authority and police department enforce parking and traffic codes, Code Enforcement enforces property maintenance codes. Summonses are handed out for violations and there’s a financial penalty. Much like the Parking and Police Department, the goal is safety. If you look at the records and the growing number of complaints, our city certainly enjoys the benefit of revenue as a result of noncompliance, thus debunking any fiscal justification or suggestion that the citizens are more compliant and the department no longer necessary.
As I revealed at the council meeting I obtained an email from a person in the department who claimed that Mr. DeMarco instructed the department to “slow down” on writing violations. This email was sent out two weeks after DeMarco assumed his appointed position as Business Administrator. I don’t believe a thorough review of the violations was ever conducted. In my research I discovered that the violators were mostly absentee landlords and the out-of-town firms that own multiple properties in our city.
The administration has created a false narrative in which they could deem the department’s employees expendable. The unfortunate side of a new administration taking office is the saying, “it’s out with the old and in with the new.” The problem was DeMarco couldn’t just fire good employees like he did the directors. He needed a reason. Look around the city. Walk down the side streets and inspect the perimeter of some of these homes. Does it look like everyone is in compliance? The need for this department exists. Had the department not been ordered to “slow down,” as that person in the department alleged, we would see more production, the city would have less blight, and as an added benefit the city would see the additional revenue it produced as it had during the years prior to this administration. DeMarco’s decision to restructure this department based on what I believe to be political allegiance completely undermines everything our mayor campaigned for. His decision jeopardizes the safety of our city, and his audacity to think he could convince us otherwise insults the intelligence of our residents.