Shame on Schenectady Zoning Officer Steve Strichman.
He should have ignored Union Triangle gadfly James Livingston’s rant at a recent city council meeting about how his neighborhood could benefit from a code enforcement crackdown. Or at least Strichman shouldn’t have taken the criticism — which was, in part, aimed at him — so personally. As he and many other Schenectadians know, Livingston is something of a crank when it comes to life in his neighborhood.
Instead, as a story in Wednesday’s Gazette made abundantly clear, Strichman took the bait: He gave Livingston what he was asking for, all right, dispatching a code enforcement officer to Livingston’s Gillespie Street address with orders to give it a good going-over. Four days after speaking at the council meeting, Livingston was presented with two citations, one for having numbers about two inches too small and another for peeling paint on his porch eves and soffits.
It would have been one thing if Livingston’s citations were part of a neighborhood sweep, but he was the only one in the neighborhood cited that day. And it certainly wasn’t because no other code violations were apparent. Violations of house number rules, perhaps the most picayune of all on the city’s books, abound; and after a long winter, peeling paint is also fairly common. But it’s still too cold out to do anything about it, so citing someone for it seems unfair and petty.
The message from City Hall to Livingston — and, by extension, all Schenectady taxpayers — couldn’t have been clearer: Make noise about the quality of city services at your peril. It’s the kind of message that caused Michael Casadei, the homeowner whose house was robbed of $130,000 in cash, to hire a private eye instead of calling police to track down his money. He did so, he said, because he didn’t trust cops to investigate.
Stories like this are an affront to all Schenectady taxpayers, and they would have a right to feel outraged even if they didn’t shoulder one of the highest property tax burdens around. Apologies after the fact are better than denials — Livingston did at least get one from the mayor.
But when is Brian Stratton going to instill the kind of work ethic in his employees that makes behavior like this simply not an option?