Time will tell whether Schenectady’s get-courteous, as opposed to get-tough, approach to residential code violations will achieve the desired effect, or simply be treated with scorn by scofflaws.
It’s worth a try, perhaps, but only if the city is serious about following up when violations turn up.
As we’ve noted in the past, the city doesn’t always hold residents and business people accountable for their actions, or inaction — whether it’s motorists running red lights, residents refusing to shovel their walks or recycle their trash, or convenience store owners looking the other way when drug deals are going down in front of them.
Typically, when officials give such scofflaws a pass, they suggest it’s because they aren’t sure the violators knew what they were doing was wrong.
Even if that were so, which in most cases seems hard to believe, ignorance is no excuse. That’s especially so when there’s been a lot of publicity about an issue or the officials have conducted a public relations campaign to alert people how they want things done.
Will giving property owners the benefit of the doubt — handing them “courtesy” warnings instead of citations when building inspectors discover violations — make them more likely to buy into the city’s program? It may with some.
But there are a lot of landlords in Schenectady, among other financially squeezed property owners, who don’t care what their properties look like and who don’t want to hear the city’s sugar-coated rationale for fixing them up.
They may simply look at the warnings as another opportunity to stall, to bleed their property before selling or abandoning it.
Granted, an adversarial approach isn’t always the most practical because going to court can be time-consuming and expensive. But a lot of these properties — and landlords — have long histories. And in cases where they are blatant and the property owner is obviously thumbing his nose at the law, the city should be less patient. And in all cases, it should follow up “courtesy” notifications with return visits and a more business-like approach.
Mayor Gary McCarthy indicates that will happen. We hope he’s not just saying it.