Tampa City Council debates toughening code enforcement

06/26/09 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday

The Tampa City Council today voted to delay for 90 more days a new plan that would expand the ability to enforce code violations in the city.

Neighborhood activists said the new ordinance does appear to be stronger than current law, but expressed concerns about how several other city departments will be able to issue citations and impose fines.

Councilman Charlie Miranda said he didn’t think it was fair for the city to crack down on citizens who live in homes that could be out of compliance.

Councilman John Dingfelder said Miranda had a point, but said that it was only fair that home owners do their own due diligence and take responsibility as well.

But neighborhood activist said the issue had been debated and discussed for too long, and the Council needs to act now.

Spencer Kass,from the Virginia Park Neighborhood Association, said most of the code enforcement violations occur in the poorest parts of Tampa, and that simply fining those out of compliance will never cure the problem.

Restaurant owner Rick Barcena sits on the City’s Code Enforcement Board. He said Council members might be able to understand the difficult position that members of that agency contend with on a regular basis.

City Attorney Chip Fletcher interjected to clarify that the proposal before the Council did not grant city officials the ability to immediately impose a citation.

City Council Chairman Thomas Scott admitted he was ambivalent about giving Code Enforcement more powers, but acknowledged that there is a problem in the City.

City Councilman Joseph Catano said he didn’t like the uniforms that code enforcement officials wear.

Debbie Harrington of the city’s transportation department said the new ordinance is a way for the city to have more power on basic issues involving rights of way.

The Council voted to have the issue come back to them on October 1st.

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