Monday, November 12, 2007

J Spike Rogan Responds to Easton Undressed Questionnaire

The quality of neighborhood living has been negatively affected by the persistent, and often ignored, decay of properties. Detail a plan using current code regulations to immediately improve the appearance of under maintained properties?

The codes are already written. The main issue is enforcement. Our city needs more codes officers, and we need more active patrolling of the city. Not only by the codes officer but our city Police and public works. They drive the city as well. The cities employees need to work as a synergy in making Easton "clean and safe" to steal the "Badapple" and "House of Crayons" battle cries for better living.

There is no reason why Police can't report large piles of trash at the curb before trash day. And lets make sure all city departments know which part of the towns trash pick up falls on. These are more than a eyesore but a health hazard between possible arson, and god knows what else could be in them.

Also if you look up properties owners and see owners with multiple properties these need to be checked more often. The more properties one owns the harder it will be to keep up. And chances are if someone runs a bunch of rentals around this city they have a higher chance of tenets who don't care about the upkeep of the neighborhood or who are moving constantly.

I lived for well over a year and a half downtown in a Apartment building that had Asbestos in not only my bathroom, but right above the dryer in the laundry room most of the tenets use. We are allowing "Slum lords" to get away with shoddy conditions that violate codes galore. Again if the Fire Department has a call in a building and sees its against code there should be a form to file on the matter.

This "bureaucratic" tactic would create more communications and better enforcement of codes.

It has become fairly common practice to resolve problems of the moment by creating new legislation. Easton has a comprehensive set of ordinances already on the books. How can we more effectively enforce the laws/rules that already exist?

Nothing defines this better than the debacle that was a increase in parking meters. Again we need leaders who read whats on the books. Often some have cast votes and decisions without reading the matter. If I a 28 year old kid can find time to go to the clerks office or where ever need be to read a piece of legislation why not those who are "serving the community"? Reading the matter over is only part but a large one. Reactionary policy comes from uneducated persons on a matter.

The parking meter increase never did focus on the future it was just "what was good now". Again the matter of codes enforcement falls under the reactionary matter. We have a downtown and College hill that has a thriving night scene. While many who enjoy going to bars are fine folks. Many in a college town are out of decent hands.

We need some ordinances enforced more. These violations are not maybe the crime of centuries where the bat-signal needs to be turned on. Granted good people do stupid things. BUT public drunkenness and public urination goes on all the time. Yet the Police department seems invisible at the time these violations occur. Again more man power equals more enforcement like codes. I know many hate when I do this but to our north Stroudsburg has increased Police presence on Main Street and the area around it from 10PM till 3AM.

When the bars close there, the Stroud Regional Police are out of their cars on the sidewalks and alley corners. Public urination, and fighting has dropped and it also forced many more to seek sober drivers. Again that is a single idea many subjects could be spoken of. But considering we had a gang hit at Larry Holmes Ringside during that time a more concentrated police presence would deter many violations of our city.

The city’s 20 (or so) authorities, boards, and commissions significantly impact the progress and the quality of every facet of life in Easton. Because the authorities, boards, and commissions are sanctioned city government subdivisions, how can we better ensure that the nominated appointees are qualified and representative of the needs of taxpaying residents?

Honestly we need to allow the citizens the right of deciding. It is their lives these individuals effect directly. With the passing of the charter perhaps legislation can be made allowing for a citizen meeting where those who attend vote for or against first. Granted this would be flawed with many unable to attend but a No vote leaves the door open for a citizen led recall from that position.

It would be hard to have a "board" that decides other boards. The more we make things citizen involvement, the more we help to make more stake-holders in this fine city.

Failure to reinvest in the maintenance and upgrade of the city water plant was a key factor in the decision to relinquish responsibility and oversight of a significant municipal asset. How can we prevent losses of this magnitude in the future?

First and foremost hold the elected official who let this happen accountable. Again this was a direct result of reactionary policies. Not just handing over responsibility which was a total reaction to protect political capital in "saving taxpayers dollars". When water is a asset that should not be profit driven since we are a municipality NOT a business.

Plans and models with 5, 10, 15 and 25 year plans should be laid out and could be amended for the future. Also the water plants like our pools were victims of the city giving money to other projects that private funds should have been more involved in.

We need to stop acting like the City of Easton is a business, its not. Our utilities and services are more important than tax breaks and projects that benefit private for profit interest.

What is more key for our residents... providing the best service a city can, the most outstanding public safety, and the best infrastructure? Or what some Fat Cat with downtown business interest who doesn't care to reach into their own pocket to fund the deal?

For years the city’s annual budget was planned and discussed over a few weeks. Devise a 12 month budget development program.

Easy. Instead of having the position formerly known as City Treasure report maybe twice a year. In-place have the Director of Finance have a regular part of council between Comments from the public on Agenda items only and the council members committees reports. It would be quick and easy like taking a bandage off a hairy arm. The way we do budget sessions now a long cram session, thats as painful as yanking six feet of duct tape off that hairy arm.

Also aside from a cheap punch line. It would focus on a regular basis allowing more proactive discussion and not a summary of why we lost money for the year.

Give us an example of something you will do to make Easton’s government more open, accessible, and/or accountable.

Well considering at one time I use to record council to back up Mr. Hand (and two meetings were from my audio) I know the very first thing we need to do. Posting ALL city meetings audio from Council Chambers (not just City Council) digitally on MP3 on the cities website. Perhaps using Internet Archive sites. The relatively small expense to do this will back the city up for decades to come. Citizens could listen to audio at home.

I would like to also push legislation making the local cable suppliers agree to air on the local region City Council meetings on their access channels much like the FCC agreement to allow cable to operate as long as they provide a public service which gave us C-Span. Sadly federal deregulation may have made this a unlikely possibility.

But more than just clerk written summary of minutes needs to be posted.

I recommended the city STOP posting files for meeting minutes, agenda and such as Microsoft files but PDF's so Mac only users (like myself) can access them as well. This ways the city uses a neutral party and does not have to worry about change should the market tip to Mac's side and suddenly our files are readable to a lone few. (Considering we have a Apple Store in the valley now, it will only increase the number of Macs in the valley)

To the Clerks credit he almost instantly made major changes to PDF.

I think more city employees want to make it accessible, its getting the leaders to make it more so.

In recent years we have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants resulting in a sizable stack of reports and critiques, while not resulting in any type of strategic plan. Propose a method to develop a strategic plan in more economical, more comprehensive, less fractured, and less consultant dependent way.

This will sound like a cheap answer since its short. Our leaders need to do their own homework more. Thats why they get a salary. It is basically just like someone buying answers for tests in school. Just a lazy way out of putting any effort into the job at OUR expense.

Economic development efforts have been focused on the city’s central business district for the past quarter century, while the residential neighborhoods have received less attention. Propose a residential neighborhood development program.

It is time to let the birds leave the nest. What I mean is if business is dependent on the "free market" in this post NAFTA WTO economy. Then they need to deal with the costs to operate more from their pockets. Many who want a hand receive relatively great treatment from the Fed in the form of taxes. I find it hard to imagine that Crayola who is a international company could not afford to fund the downtown more which was part of the bull we as a nation were fed with NAFTA and the free market. The Free Market is not pulling their share of the weight. Donations are weak from the corporate side to keep the community thriving.

The residents of the west ward are not in the "Free Market" we are citizens with needs. 30K would have been better spent repairing my back ally (1100 block of vine street) than benefitting already financially secured interest of Bank Street.

Our own head of public works Mr. Hopkins admitted my alley lacks good snow plowing due to its condition. The garbage company uses the alley to remove our trash. We need it properly plowed.

That is a more important example than a kick back for Fat Cats. Simply the Citizens need to stay the TOP concern of our leaders.

Collection of taxes and fees has been identified as a major financial issue in the city. Provide a few tactical solutions that would positively impact our collection deficiencies.

We need to prioritize in amount due. The Russell Russo days can not be repeated. Nor can we allow scofflaws to rack up tens of thousand of dollars in unpaid fines.

I also understand that our national economy is a joke these days. Open up the classifieds and see the lack of jobs more and more. I would rather have thousands in unpaid due from families with problems from unemployment, and corporate cut backs. The main problem is we have been going after the little guy and the big offenders who can pay but choose not to get by.

We did finally stop Mr. Russo but now we have a condemned house on Chidnesy that is loaded with trash is falling apart with busted basement windows so as to allow illegal activity to operate in there at night.

Again the mega slum lords who don't pay taxes and fees often are the same who don't correct codes violations. Again more synergy at the Alpha building with department directors would change this.

Also we should go after those who have numerous locations that have owed fees and taxes. Chances are they have the money but are too stingy to pay up.

Also we need to use eminent domain to obtain some of these properties not of merit. I do believe the "officer next door program" specifically uses this to make project houses available at a bargain price for City Police officers. That would make things better to making more members of the Police department stake holders by living in the place they protect.

Are you satisfied with the way city hall functions? What issues need to be addressed to improve interaction between departments?

Well the employees have always been very polite, friendly and professional I have ever dealt with. Now as far as Directors go. They report to the Mayor.

I would not shy down from riding the Mayor's behind about a director not doing a good job. But the Mayor is who controls them.

I would recommend every Tuesday a AM meeting with all department directors and the Mayor so perhaps problem properties and problem issues can be cross referenced as to draw red flags early. If one property has numerous code complaints the name could be checked by finance to see if the taxes were paid. Etc.

No comments: