Water meter readers may look for code violations

Toledo's water meter readers, who visit every home in the city four times a year, soon may be asked to keep an eye out for housing code violations for the city's Department of Neighborhoods.

Embracing an idea offered at his quarterly directors' meeting yesterday, Mayor Carty Finkbeiner told the Department of Public Utilities to require its field personnel to begin passing along code violations they observe.

Water meter readers visit 92,000 homes in Toledo, as well as locations outside of Toledo where city water is distributed.

The idea was offered yesterday by City Council candidate D. Michael Collins, who attended the morning-long quarterly directors' meeting, held at the McMaster Center in the Main Toledo Library, which was open to the public.

Mr. Collins, an independent running in District 2 for the seat being vacated by Councilman Rob Ludeman, said the practice could help the understaffed Department of Neighborhoods and save the city money. He said he didn't envision meter readers writing tickets or discussing code violations with property owners.

"All you need to do is put a code in a machine. The last thing I would want is a meter reader in conflict with a citizen over a housing code violation," Mr. Collins said.

Public Utilities Director Bob Williams initially objected, saying meter readers' work could be made more difficult if they are viewed as "intruders." He said meter readers already are expected to report unsafe situations involving children or senior citizens.

He was quickly overruled by the mayor, who said, "that is a great suggestion. Do it. All they have to do is write an address down. I don't even want any debate about it. Just do it."

Mr. Finkbeiner said meter readers could identify "very obvious decay," and "run-down, ramshackle properties."

http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071018/NEWS16/710180360

No votes yet

George Orwell - 1984

Sounds like killing two birds with one stone. If it saves the city money I say go for it.

MikeyA

MikeyA

The only thing that would concern me about this is if somehow a meter reader was held liable for a violation *not* being reported. (Say if someone were injured on a rental property and decided to file a lawsuit against the city, etc.)

The meter readers aren't experts in the housing code. If they see something that's obvious and dangerous while they happen to be there, it does make sense to quietly note the address and pass it on to the city. But you can't expect them to know all the little nitpicky stuff...not their area of expertise.

Keep in mind that meter readers sometimes have keys to enter people's property to read meters. Would you want a meter reader poking around in your basement looking for violations?

... they would just be passing on obvious violations. For example, if someone put in a furnace, and didn't have the inspection notice displayed by the city that could be reported. It would result in additional revenue for the city, and perhaps some headaches for owners who tried to have furnaces installed with inspection. Also, if electrical wires were hanging like spaghetti throughout a basement that might warrant an inspection by the city. These guys would just be passing on information. A pain in the butt to some of us, but also increase safety in our neighborhoods.

Old South End Broadway

I take a different look at the article and would appreciate your thoughts:

http://thurbersthoughts.blogspot.com/2007/10/this-is-how-mayor-makes-dec...

Well, maybe not.

They would observe something and then some would have to verify the observation and then deem it to be a violation and of what kind.

http://toledoohioneighborhoodconcerns.com/blog

...until a major conflaguration results in "urban renewal" for an older part of town.

Old South End Broadway

as there are clear, concise and reasonable violations documented as being worthy of a citation...I have no problem with this. However, why not have volunteers respresenting each neighborhood (which I would gladly participate in) that would monitor their own neighborhoods and have authority to cite the guilty individuals?

I think this would work because neighbors know what problems are real problems and long-term problems bringing the neighborhood down...and they know which ones are only short-term and not worthy of citation (i.e. long grass) in which they could recruit volunteers to help their unable neighbors with upkeep (i.e. elderly).

But, something must be done. The majority of Toledo citizens take pride and care of their property...and there are always those one or two packrats who bring down the values of all the other homes with cars in the yard, furniture in the yard, pallets, garbage, etc. I am trying to sell my home which everyone tells me is beautiful...but, everyone who has come to an open house has told me they are worried about living near one particular house that has pallets in his side yard, two broken down cars, and constantly playing loud music. How many times have I lost out on selling because of this jack-off?

Why should the majority of respectful homeowners who work hard on the curb appeal of their home...have their neighborhoods and home values subjected to the Fred Sanfords of the world?

The Mayor referenced junk vehicles and other items.

My water meter is outside in front of the house and if a meter reader needed to see anything related to my back yard, the reader would need to go out of their way to see it.

This idea seems good but the original concerns of the one official are valid.

http://toledoohioneighborhoodconcerns.com/blog

...usually 2.5-3 foot high in empty lots, or a house abandoned with the doors left open weeks at a time, the city has responded (sometimes not for three weeks to a month but they do respond). I don't know most of my neighbors well enough to know what it's like inside their homes. The person most likely to see their home on a regular basis is a utility worker. But if people put their meters outside of their homes that eliminates that problem. So, if I want privacy I just make sure there is no need to enter my home. As for stuff in the yard I recommend calling the Department of Neighborhoods. It might be a while, but they do respond. Especially if it is a safety issue (an abandoned home with all the doors wide open, and the windows broken).

Old South End Broadway

in the way he sees fit, and your property value is no concern of his."

Well, not exactly.

There are standards that each community adopts that are for all to follow. Like cutting the lawn and maintaining a clean and safe environment.

Unregistered cars for instance a Mayoral and Departmental favorite. You cannot keep them on the property.

http://toledoohioneighborhoodconcerns.com/blog

Seriously, we're paying people to walk around and read numbers off a meter. Even without citywide wifi, isn't there a way to read the meters remotely? For example, this meter would allow a single employee to drive down a street and read all the meters on the block without leaving the car.

I think we're debating the wrong issue. We shouldn't be discussing the legality and morality of having meter readers report code violations, we should be asking why we still have meter readers.

---------
"When I say your dumb name, please stand up briefly, but then quickly drop to your knees and forsake all others before me." -Ignignokt

There's a city full of walls you can post complaints at

Guest Zero...You Big Dummy! How narcissistic of you to think how you maintain your property doesn't affect your neighbors.

have to spy on neighbors Jaycott. Usually the blight is so obvious you need only be driving by in your car. My friend from Maine was here to visit and after we went around Toledo to eat and go out...she commented how dumpy Toledo looked. Mainly she was commenting on how many run down homes there were. She was not spying. And, you don't have to be an expert or certified to know when something looks worse than it should. Why don't some of these people put a paint brush in their hand and make the community look better?

10 buckets of paint for a house? $200
2 paint brushes? $20
The price of making your community look better? Priceless

Also, I can only assume that those of you who oppose property owner accountability and think beauty is in the eye of the beholder...would have no problem living on Detroit Avenue or lets say Prospect street. Right?

Like My grandmammy always said, "Just because your poor, doesn't mean you can't be clean."

I find it frustrating that there has been multiple references in this thread about "Big Brother" and "Soviet Style" spying, but the President Bush wants to be able to listen to any phone call in the United States between any two people with out a warrant or over cite and no one says a thing?

Multiple conservative Toledo bloggers have commented and/ranted on having city employees look for people who have broken city laws is somehow wrong, but having a government that can tap your phones at will is ok I guess...
http://writ.news.findlaw.com/dean/20071019.html

Shamelessly stolen from another blog...
Daddy Government
Perhaps someone else has made this observation, but it occurs to me that George Bush has completely undercut the Republican party's war on government, a key pillar of their brand. You can't spin a story about how the all powerful macho gov't, headed by commander codpiece, is going to take care of everything and keep you safe while simultaneously disparaging government in every other way. The narratives collide and become incoherent.

"How many Fred Sanford's are in Toledo? Why should those few ruin it for the rest of us lawbiding citizens who are in the majority? Do we really need a whole herd of meter readers not trained in code enforcement (see www.aace1.com/) spying on people who are granted by the 4th amendment of the Consitution an given expectation of privacy in their homes, persons, papers. . . ?"

So am I a lawbiding (sic) citizen if I knowingly violate the safety and building codes? No, I am just a regular American exercising his "right" to get away with as much as I can when I can.

Old South End Broadway

Because people have failed to maintain property(s) in a manner considered to be the norm.

Why do cities and towns have regulations for any thing?

Why do we have electrical codes, plumbing codes, sanitation codes and so on?

http://toledoohioneighborhoodconcerns.com/blog

There are regulations and codes that make how a person maintains there home.

One cannot or should not allow the property to become rat infested and leave trash laying about the yard and other intentional things.

There are communal standards that we have.

And bringing or finding homes that have problems we can raise them up to code and not bring down property values because a homeowner or absentee owner allows the property to not be maintained or kept up.

http://toledoohioneighborhoodconcerns.com/blog

No justification to stop people from throwing trash and tires out in the yard.

Wow, and I thought I had heard everything.

"We'll use the law to attack residents who don't keep up the property in line with our snobbish needs."

Snoobish needs is equated with allowing to throw trash where they desire?

I can only dream of what non-snoobish ideals would be.

"You need to pay attention to the logic of what I'm saying, instead of reverting to supporting the status quo merely because it IS the status quo."

The problem this is that there is no logic.

No laws, no enforcement and in some dream like state people will self police themselves.

RRRRRRRRiiiiggghhhttt.

"I can only advise you that America is SUPPOSED to be a land where personal liberties tend to trump most social actions. We're SUPPOSED to be a land of strong property rights."

And the vision of strong property rights is to allow people to do as they please.

I don't have my time travel machine fired but I thought have regulation sewage systems, as an example, was better than open sewers that ran along city streets?

I lived in a town that until 1974 had open sewage dumping in a river, meaning that when they flushed, Mr. Hancky and company said Hi-De-Ho while white rafting down the river.

And the town was forced to step into the 20th. century by following community sewage system regulations the river was returned a heritage river.

Here there seems the advocation backwards to doing as we wish when we want and with no regards to others.

Hardly worthy of being called freedom.

http://toledoohioneighborhoodconcerns.com/blog

Blade Editorial

NOW and then, something that seems like a good idea at first glance really isn't. Ordering City of Toledo water meter readers to report housing code violations falls in that category.

We understand how Mayor Carty Finkbeiner felt: Who better to ask to report violations than the 14 Department of Public Utilities employees who read water meters at Toledo's 92,000 homes four times a year?

They are already on the payroll and in the field. No wonder Mr. Finkbeiner likes the concept. If the plan works it could save money, and information about decaying housing could be quickly and efficiently sent to the Department of Neighborhoods.

But the idea is full of uncertainty. Meter readers might face hazards they never planned on or have not been trained for. Though most water meters are now read from outside the home, readers still have to go inside about 10 percent of Toledo dwellings. That raises real concerns as to whether some citizens, aware that the readers are also there as inspectors, could become hostile or worse, and take it out on the utility employees.

The readers are already required to report if they encounter unsafe conditions involving children or senior citizens. Adding another responsibility could result in their being seen, in effect, as government spies.

Unfortunately, Mayor Finkbeiner has dismissed these concerns in his usual shoot-from-the-lip style. "All they have to do is write an address down. I don't even want any debate about it. Just do it," the mayor declared at his quarterly directors' meeting.

Whoa, now, Carty. Healthy debate on matters of public policy can avoid serious mistakes.

We applaud the mayor's zeal to save money, to get by without adding staff to the Department of Neighborhoods, where two of 10 positions are now vacant. Kattie Bond, the director, wants funding for four additional inspectors added to the 2008 budget but the city's looming $10 million deficit may prevent that.

Still, the city should not risk its meter readers being viewed by the citizenry as snoops. Meter readers aren't trained to be inspectors. They are supposed to record water usage, not report homes that are dilapidated, have overgrown lots, scattered trash, or illegally parked cars.

The money that it would take to train meter readers for such duties should be used to hire trained inspectors. Identifying and stopping housing blight is important - so important, in fact, that it needs to be left to those who are properly qualified to do it.

http://toledoblade.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071021/OPINION02/710...

http://toledoohioneighborhoodconcerns.com/blog

Check out this guy who is making a movie about how he "handled" dipshit neighbors who didn't have respect for their neighbors.

http://www.reuters.com/article/entertainmentNews/idUSL239140420071023?fe...

Guest Zero...your freedom comes with a responsibility as not to make life hell for others. You are selfish.

Im guessing that if you're willing to give a complete stranger the key to your home you wouldnt care one way or another.

...that would presume that all housing violations were safety related, which is not always the case... but I understand your point...

Fred Sanford has the right to maintain his property in the way he sees fit, and your property value is no concern of his. You might want to think more carefully about what "private property" really means. Liberty is built upon tolerance, not rules.

agreed about maintaining safety - but this is sometimes taken to an extreme...like my friend who put his van on his lawn during a garage/yard sale with a 'for sale' sign on it...it was only on the lawn during the actual sale, being moved off the lawn at night. But he got a ticket for parking a car on a un-paved portion of his property.

This particular law has to do with aesthetics, not safety. And, as we all know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder...

But the meter readers could be considered 'government spies' travelling legally through your neighborhood, onto your property, into your home (sometimes) with the intent to 'spy' on your activities to see if you're doing something that the city has a law against. And while many might think this perspective is 'overboard,' I'm sure there are some who will see it this way.

My point is that how I maintain MY property is simply none of YOUR business. Whose property is it, anyway?

We already recognize that we have freedoms that annoy others, like speech, assembly, privacy, keeping and bearing arms, and the like. The overall design of this Democratic Republic makes it clear that rights are retained even if someone doesn't like them.

The neighbors should consider how a property is worth X on its own merits.

You need to pay attention to the logic of what I'm saying, instead of reverting to supporting the status quo merely because it IS the status quo.

People only ASSUME that since the grass gets high, the place gets "rat infested". Yet they don't say a word when large plantings create the same sheltered environment for "rats". (Note nobody calls them "mice", as in field mice, which are more apt to inhabit such. I guess "rat" instills more FEAR.)

As for laying "trash" about, again, it's just not your property. Also, oftentimes what one consumerist and yuppie fuckhead says is trash, just isn't. The values of the property owner or resident should trump what any neighbor says.

As for the "property values" crap, I've already derided that enough. There's NO LIMIT to what some yuppie fuckface doesn't like about how people keep their dress, cars and homes. How much more of that idiocy are we going to tolerate until we wake up every morning with yet another "VIOLATION" notice posted on your doors for merely having left a basketball outside overnight?

If you really want these "communal" standards, go to a place where Communism is accepted. I can only advise you that America is SUPPOSED to be a land where personal liberties tend to trump most social actions. We're SUPPOSED to be a land of strong property rights.

Look, NC, you should have just posted one sentence ("We'll use the law to attack residents who don't keep up the property in line with our snobbish needs.") and left it at that, since there's really no other justification for it.

We have electrical, plumbing and in fact BUILDING codes since once you seal up a home after construction, you can't see burns (from electrical problems), stains (from water leaks) and cracks (from structural failure). Properties enter the public interest ONLY when sold to the unsuspecting buyer. Beyond that, how the home is kept up is largely only the affair of the property owner or resident.

As for regulations, I must thank you for your unintentional slip of the tongue: "for any thing". Yes, there are far too many laws, and in fact we're all criminals under them, by breaking one or another on a daily basis. These laws are also made on the local level by the worthless morons we largely see sitting in city councils. They pass laws to invade our lives, just to score political points. If Americans returned to valuing liberty again, then they'd treat all this make-work law with appropriate disdain.

And I'm guessing that if this goes through, a lot of locks are going to be changed.

Notice the aesthetics of Japan called wabi-sabi which is the opposite of ours. "Pared down to its essence:

is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay, and death. It's simple, slow, and uncluttered-and it reveres authenticity above all. Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores; aged wood, not Pergo; rice paper, not glass. It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the other marks that time, weather, and loving use leave behind. It reminds us that we are all but transient beings on this planet-that our bodies as well as the material world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came. Through wabi-sabi, we learn to embrace liver spots, rust, and frayed edges, and the march of time they represent.

How do you think this idea compares to Carty's view about making the city, "bright, colorful, and cheerful"? Which view is the correct view or is aesthetics merely a matter of one's own personal preferences?

Not entirely...public safety is still an issue.

Fred Sanford doesn't have the right to create hazardous conditions at his house. If Fred Sanford's home is a fire hazard, it can take his neighbors' homes down with it.

Spies?

Are inspectors spies responding to complaints?

Are neighbors or others who report a vacant house with grass over grown, spies?

Am I spying on people, well Code Manager Frederick's recently decided I was, when I send in complaints about situations like this?


More neighbors reacting to spies

http://zapatopi.net/blog/?post=200505213650.home_ase_under_attack

http://toledoohioneighborhoodconcerns.com/blog

...are you suggesting that homes should now have fire inspections, like businesses, to ensure that all wiring/etc...is up to date or that space heaters are being used properly?

Regardless, I doubt that meter readers could be trained to 'notice' internal wiring deficiencies and the like...

imho - it's a matter of one's own peronal preferences...which then leads me to question why the city - through the force of the majority and/or government - can dictate such things...

Expecting that defense of such actions will eventually boil down to "it's for the children..." LOL!

How many Fred Sanford's are in Toledo? Why should those few ruin it for the rest of us lawbiding citizens who are in the majority? Do we really need a whole herd of meter readers not trained in code enforcement (see www.aace1.com/) spying on people who are granted by the 4th amendment of the Consitution an given expectation of privacy in their homes, persons, papers. . . ?

I think the city needs to seriously reconsider this creation of "peeping Toms". This is how the USSR and Nazi Germany operated.

Besides, it will create a situation where legitimate complaints cannot be addressed because they will be tied up sorting out spurious complaints made out of spite, retribution and ill-will toward their neighbors. It will be class-envy and class-warfare. Who knows if the wrong person predisposed to violence and anger just may just go postal on someone who pushed the wrong buttons?

Shame on us if we let them get away with infringing on our rights to privacy.

Kooz was only talking about appearance and property values. Hence, my response. However, you yourself have to keep another focus here, since a pallet in the yard is not a fire hazard, yet dipshit neighbors will take that tack. Like another poster implied already, YOUR home could be full of bad wiring and tippy space heaters, and look impeccable on the outside ... so who is the real "fire hazard" here?

I greatly enjoy watching people lie through their teeth when they screech about how one neighbor's tall grass is a "haven for rats", yet another neighbor's extensive plantings are not mentioned at all. All I hear are excuses for targeting neighbors who maintain their homes in a lazy or unconventional fashion. (Lazy or unconventional -- that is THEIR RIGHT.) There is a great sickness at the core of this, and it's called "property value". Instead of NIMBYs, we need a lot more GOMBYs -- Get Outta My Back Yard!

My thoughts exactly. The more they dictate on anything not just aesthetics, the more they think they CAN dictate without consequences.

Unfortunately, if nobody does anything to stop them, we will end up with dictatorship in one form or another.

Not necessarily. Just trying to point out to GZ that there are legitimate reasons for the public to be concerned about how a private property owner maintains his property (not aesthetics, but legit safety issues). The fire example was just one thing I came up with off the top of my head.

I definitely agree that meter readers don't need to be looking for stuff like wiring - that's for trained inspectors with electrical background. (If you see another comment I made above, I mentioned that I wouldn't see a problem with meter readers passing along common sense, obvious deficiencies, but that I didn't think they should be liable for poking around at things that are outside the scope of their background/training.)

Since you mentioned fire inspections...do rental properties need fire inspections in Toledo? (Honest question - I don't know.) When I lived in another city, all rental properties had to have a fire inspection.

I'd view inspecting a rental property for fire safety as different than an owner-occupied home though. One would hope that owner-occupied homes would follow reasonable safety measures to protect their own families and not need any intrusion. I suspect there are shady landlords out there though who don't give a rats ass about the safety of their tenants.

Suppose one of the 14 meter readers is up for an evaluation of his job performance. Will his pay be based on how well he does his job which includes how many violations he finds? What if there are few or none? Will his pay be cut? Conversely, if there are many will his pay be increased?

What kinds of checks and balances will there be in order to prevent the inevitable invention of violations that don't really exist just so he can keep his job or get a pay raise?

How many residents will begin to just fill out the form and do their own meter reading just to retain their right to privacy?

I mean freedom to do as we wish and all that.

Any problems with these situations that are in the back yards, so to speak.



If we read the Mayor's, Act First - Think it through later action, we see the main intent is to replace the laid off, not replaced, not hired inspectors with people on the payroll already and most of the complaints about situations like these.

And before other people were to be deputized to inspect and fine and that fell by the gutter, also.

http://toledoohioneighborhoodconcerns.com/blog

thanks for clarifying...I don't believe rental properties (houses, not apartment buildings) have fire inspections...interesting question though. Maybe someone who reads here can let us know???

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