City Needs to Step Up Ordinance Enforcement

The city of Dearborn’s decision to be more “compassionate” with residents in relation to exterior property maintenance codes in these trying economic times isn’t working, according to an article in the Dearborn Times Herald.

Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly, Jr., appears to acknowledge his policy adjustment isn’t working and hints that changes are coming.

“I realize that it isn’t always easy to stay on top of (maintenance), but it became clear that we need to re-examine things,” O’Reilly told the Times-Herald.

We agree with some of the assertions made by Dearborn community leaders quoted in the Times Herald story. Many readers of apparently do, as well. Several readers sent  links to the Times-Herald story that was written by J. Patrick Pepper.

“This is an important issue and needs the widest possible dissemination so that the residents of our city know and understand the direction the administration is taking us and why our city is looking more and more like Detroit and other blighted areas around us,” one reader said in an e-mail to DeepsaidWhat. “If the Times Herald thought enough of this story’s importance to put it on the front page above the fold, I would think you would attach a similar importance to it as well, so that the widest possible discussion is made possible. I know a great many of our city leaders and employees read your blog daily, and they need to see this and the comments it will generate.”

As the Times-Herald article points out, part of the change in how some neighborhoods look is the result of relaxed city enforcement. Another cause that can’t be overlooked is the simple elimination of city workers whose job it was to regularly patrol neighborhoods. Cuts in the city budget have eliminated some of those dedicated resources.

The good news is that residents do have a phone number to call in the city if they spot something in their neighborhood.

The Residential Services phone number for neighborhood complaints is 313-943-2161. Of course, you can always call the director of Residential Services, Nick Siroskey.  A lifelong resident, Mr. Siroskey came to this city position from Ford in July 2009 as part of a comprehensive restructuring of the functions of Dearborn’s Building & Safety Department, developed by O’Reilly, as a way to enhance customer service.

To read the full Times-Herald article, click HERE. welcomes your views and encourages lively -- but civil -- discussions. Comments are unedited, but submissions reported as abusive may be removed.

30 Responses to “City Needs to Step Up Ordinance Enforcement”

  1. Donna Hay says:

    I think we all feel that most of the city ordinances are a big joke. If the city ever decided to enforce just half of them and collected for the violations I think they could add some money to their ‘kitty’. People don’t want to ‘report’ their neighbors for violating an ordinance so we do need the inspectors. I know that they interviewed for 3 inspectors positions not too long ago but those jobs fell by the wayside due to the budget. I myself think that these positions should be filled immediately and some of these vioations that are occurring and reocurring might be eliminated.

    I don’t understand what he is talking about “being compassionate”, no one is telling people that they have to have a manicured lawn just get out once a week and cut it and trim the weeds in the flowers beds if you cannot afford to buy flowers this year. It doesn’t take much effort or money to do a little maintenance and upkeep on your home.

    Time to re-examine things has come and gone it’s now time to take action.

  2. joe v says:

    Completely disagree. My grandparents get harrassed every year for things as petty as going 7 days between lawn mowings when it is rainy and the grass is growing quickly. They are elderly and cannot do this for themselves and get very upset about being harrassed for these petty issues. I put their trash cans in the driveway on a handcart for them so they can take it out themsel es the next day and they get a citation. It’s ridiculous and wasting money to pay people to run around neighborhoods harrassing their residents all the time like this.

  3. joe v says:

    I’m confused? The city doesn,t enforce the ordinances? Does just certain neighborhoods get it? Like I said, my grandparents seem to be checked on daily. My dad got a citation for having materials in the backyard (you’d have to go up the driveway and look in the yeard to find it) for having construction materials (they were there less than a week) so they assumed he was doing a home project with no permit. He had the permit to do work on the other side of the state, which is where the materials went at the end of the week. My experience is that the city already has too many people doing this job, not that it’s lacking at all.

  4. New Neighbor says:

    Is the problem here about people who own the homes and just don’t get out and mow or is it about the abandoned houses where there isn’t someone in the house???

    In my area, the spots that look bad are out in the middle of Outer Drive. I think that’s where the city mows, if I’m not wrong.

    The neighbors keep up their yards quite well!

    If it rains for several days and it isn’t cut immediately when the rain stops, I think that there SHOULD be some leaway given. People have lives – it’s not all about mowing.

    So, if the main areas are cut and the empty house areas are cut, I think that would do to make things look much nicer. And then, a couple of days leaway could be given to people who have lives beyond their lawn.

  5. Abe says:

    I’m glad O’Reilly and his rat pack got bushwacked by Councilman Tafaleski at the last council meeting. He is the only one with the balls to stand up to the big guy, as the others are all yes men and women. Clean up the neighborhoods, as that was we were known for before, you got in big boy (I refuse to address you as Mayor, because you haven’t earned that yet).

  6. bob says:

    I agree that “little things can lead to bigger crimes” and in areas that look abandoned, perhaps criminals would try to take up residence there (knowing there was no one in the house) but in my experience, the city is very “hit and miss” on inspections. For my house, the previous owners tried to leave me with frayed electrical wires, at the box and the city inspector didn’t cite them for it. Yet I’ve been cited for putting my trash out before 5pm, the day before trash day. So if my house burns down because the inspector didn’t do their job, but there’s no garbage can out, does that make it pretty?

  7. Donna Hay says:

    joev, what area are your Grandparents in? If I were them I think next time someone from the city harasses them they should point out every violation in the immediate area. If their area is anything like mine they can find enough violations to keep the inspectors busy for a couple of days.

  8. packards1 says:

    I continually report an abandoned home on my block. They finally come out and mow it and add it to the tax bill. However they don’t come back to the property unless I call again. What am I missing here, the house is abandoned and its being reported. Isn’t there one person responsible for checking it out once it is reported and having the required maintaince done to be in compliance with our code?

  9. Dearborn Watcher says:

    Actually, Residential Services Department does not handle grass, trash or other exterior property maintenance complaints or enforcement. Those are handled by the Neighborhood Services Division of the Public Works Department, which can be reached at 943-2161 (same number as above, both Residential Services Department and Neighborhood Services Division were part of the old Building and Safety Department)

    The city does enforce ordinances, the point of the article was to highlight the changes in how those ordinances are enforced and the results of the changes. The building inspector that comes out to inspect properties for sale or rent do not enforce property maintenance ordinances, their responsibility is to make sure the structure meets the building codes.

    As to the ‘harassment’, the city is divided into twelve districts, each with a Neighborhood Services Field Inspector assigned to it. The field inspectors are responsible for all the residential property maintenance enforcement in their respective district. There are 33,600 residential homes in the city, with 12 inspectors (part time, at that) to cover. When someone receives a notice of violation, which is not a citation, they are given time to correct the violation. Every violation visible from the street is addressed, the inspectors do not do selective enforcement. While you may feel you are being harassed, be assured you are not being singled out. If there are violations in yards that are not easily visible from the street, the field inspectors cannot know they are there unless someone calls in a complaint.

  10. Good Grandson says:

    “joe v says:
    May 26th, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Completely disagree. My grandparents get harrassed every year for things as petty as going 7 days between lawn mowings when it is rainy and the grass is growing quickly. They are elderly and cannot do this for themselves and get very upset about being harrassed for these petty issues.”

    I used to cut my grandparents’ grass so they didn’t get “harrassed every year”. Why don’t you do it or have one of your kids do it or pay someone from the neighborhood to do it? If they can’t maintain their house for themselves, SOMEONE has to do it. It’s not going get get done by itself. Too busy to mow that 30 foot lot once a week for your grandparents?

  11. bmw says:

    Here’s something that kills me…I had a pop-up camper in my backyard, closed mind you, and got a citation telling me it had to be moved. So I rent a space in the lot on Neuman behind Bob Evans. Then “somebody” claims that the lot is an eyesore with all the campers there and the city “rezone’s” it and the owner of the lot has to kick us all out. Who the hell is the lot an eyesore to? The other 5 business on the street with lots full of cars?…and here is the ultimate kick in the b***s, there is a guy off of Monroe (Gregory maybe?) with a giant 5th wheel camper next to his house, YEAR ROUND! seriously, what is going on?

  12. FedUpNow says:

    It was refreshing to see that someone on the council is trying to hold the mayor and his henchmen accountable. That DPW director that decided to be “compassionate” and let the weeds grow doesn’t even live in Dearborn.
    Another henchman of Jacks that makes decisions to run down our city and then goes off to live in another city,and there are a lot more than just the DPW director that does that. That article about the change in the lawn policy really highlights a much deeper issue,most of the mayors changes are bad ideas,failed or are failing. His idea of closing the pools sparked outrage,he talks of closing the libraries,now he admits his change in the grass ordinance may not be a good idea. I have heard stories of a merging of two DPW divisions has been a disaster thats costly and has hindered the work output and decimated morale.
    One must wonder if it is the mayor that is making all of these bad changes or is it a lot of the inept people he appointed or promoted that is giving him bad advice.
    I have noticed that on a national level,state level and now local level, the catch word “CHANGE” has become another name for INCOMPETENCE.

  13. Mr.Blond says:

    That article is the tip of the iceberg. The only place that this type of neglect,unqualified and incapable decision making and lack of leadership can survive is in government and government only. I can tell you from someone that owns his own business that the Mayor,the new Chief and all of his new Directors and Division heads would all have been fired by now if this were a private company.

  14. Dearbornette says:

    @DBN family: the author of the article is I believe a relative of Jeff Pepper who is the attorney; the author is not an attorney. (I looked it up)

    I agree with bmw and joe v that the enforcement is completely uneven and is often political. I walk alot (which helps to see things closer up than driving, people) and I can’t believe the things I have seen lately in this city. There is a house on Grindley Park (corner of Harvard) used as a storage facility for a commerical business (and God knows what else) with garbage bags in the back yard and grass that regularly gets as high as 18 inches. Other places I walk by are so overgrown that I have to bend down (I am not that tall) to avoid getting hit by branches while I am walking on a City sidewalk. Then there’s the city who lets the grass and mostly weeds get over at foot at the former Rehoboth Church and parish house on Outer Drive; the buildings themselves are falling apart, too. The City also owns another “lovely” dwelling on Academy (near Monroe) where the grass and weeds had grown well over a foot. I heard from a friend on the block that someone in the neighborhood got sick of looking at it and cut it themselves. Then there are the people who leave their damn garage sale signs out (you can only put them on private property, people) well after the sales have ended so that the easements and phone polls end up looking like hell. And finally there’s the enforcement people who ticket or warn businesses that have a few weeds growing in sidewalk cracks, when the business across the street has foot high weeds and grass. Anyone who calls about boats or campers being stored in someone’s driveway for an extended period of time are told you must identify yourself and you must be an adjacent neighbor to complain, otherwise they won’t do anything.

    The only way this will change is if everyone says they’ve had enough. Walk the neighborhood you live in and use your phone to report violations and share the information with your neighbors.

    And remember the response when it comes time to cast your vote, Dearborn!

  15. Donna Hay says:

    FedUp – When they changed the parking time on Public Service Days from 7:00 AM to 8:00 AM someone wasn’t paying attention at all once again. The day in my area after the change the street sweepers were out at 7:20 AM so there were cars still parked on the street. I wrote to city hall and basically was told that it was something they hadn’t taken into consideration. Does anyone at city hall think ahead about what could, may and does happen!!! I don’t think so.

  16. Anthony says:

    Isn’t the solution just mow your damn lawn and quit bitching? If you can’t physically do it, get it done! If you choose not to do it, then you’ll get a visit from the City. End of story.

    Ever try and sell a house on a block where there is “ghetto house”?

    Oh, yea, I’m a business owner, too. Doesn’t give me any special privileges. Don’t want ’em. And yea, there are quite a few shady business owners in our little village, Blondy.

    You people really wanna bitch about something substantial? Outlaw the SHORT SALE: Taking your home’s value down more than it has already been depreciated.

    Ms. Hay: Thank you again for your objective insight. Always a pleasure reading your posts.

    If you need to get a hold of me, I’ll be out mowing my lawn, weeding and washing my windows.


  17. 48124 says:

    If most of you “armchair” citizens really want to encourage the city ot take action on something, how about it going toward recycling efforts for business’.

    There are very few along michigan ave that seem to participate.

    Make it happen!

  18. tdogg says:

    I want to single out one person for praise in all of this – Nick Sikorsky. We had a big problem on my block involving a house owned by a very prominent person. Unlike everyone else in the Administation, Nick was concerned, sympathetic and really tried to help. It can be incredibly frustrating dealing with the City, and its important to remember that there are folks there who really do want to do the right thing.

  19. Michael D. Albano says:

    AS far as I’ve been told in Residential Services there were 8 Field Inspectors in Residential Services for neighborhood residences and 12 in DPW for mostly commercial services. But the DPW/Commercial division does somewhat overlap into residential enforcement in some areas. Recently, due to budget issues, the budget for Residential and Commercial Services were cut and 3 Field Inspector’s who resigned were not replaced.

    I was also informed in an interview that Residential Services Field Inspectors do inspect and respond to issues like tall grass in neighborhoods. But due to the past practice that the city is changing back to the original plan, the inspectors were responding to complaints far more than they were surveying/driving/walking their territories. Some on here that feel they or loved ones are being harassed repeatedly by the city, should realize that with a complaint/reactive system the city was using, that the reason the city was coming out repeatedly was because neighbors were calling in the complaints on a regular basis in the majority of cases. I’m not saying that policy was right or wrong, but instead just telling you what I’ve been told by the city in interviews.

    Due to the foreclosure and economic crisis, there are far more vacant homes that lenders now own and lenders are not usually very good at maintaining the property and many tend to let them sit in this depressed market and are waiting for the market prices to pick up before the list them for sale.

    One of the problems Dearborn had in this foreclosure crisis is that we are one of the few cities that had an expensive escrow policy for new owners of properties that need to be brought up to city code. Putting it simply, if a home needed $20,000 of repair/upgrades to meet code before occupancy, then the city required them to put up 150+ percent of that 20,000 before work permits could be issued. Therefore many people that would consider moving into Dearborn, instead moved into surrounding communities instead, because they didn’t require this type of escrow account.

    Thankfully, the mayor and council just changed this policy and now now matter what the amount of repairs needed to bring the home up to code, the amount is a flat $495.00. When one considers the expense of a home’s downpayment, monthly payments, insurance, etc, this will make it more desirable now for people who are choosing surrounding communities, to perhaps choose Dearborn instead. This $495 fee is non-refundable and I am hoping that if this new escrow policy works, that the city will use this money to fill Field Inspector positions that are now not filled.

    My comments are not meant in any way to endorse anyone or to say what is right or wrong. They are simply my own comments from sources within the city that have given me this information. Information that is available to anyone should the contact the city, department heads, the mayor or council members.

    Sorry this was so long, but it was required to explain it.

  20. Mr.Blond says:

    Anthony did you read the articles or are you just trying to intentionally mislead?
    You brought up the term “ghetto house” and the articles and the change in policy that people are complaining about makes it easier for there to be more “ghetto houses” now. Everyone of house cuts our own lawn and i have no idea as to why you think i am want special privileges,i believe you are intentionally trying to misrepresent the point of the articles and the complaints. I agree with you about the short sale problem but i don’t think legally the city can ban how a home owner decides to sell his house.
    The cities DPW director basically said he took a more “compassionate” approach to the lawn policy,more compassion means more ghetto house’s anthony.

  21. Sloppy Joe says:

    Fed up, I would like to know the department or divisions you are referring to? I had relatives up from Fla. last week , former natives of Dearborn . We wanted to go to the local park so the kids could enjoy the playground as we once did. But do to high grass and mud in the park, not to mention the unfavorable road conditions ,we chose to leave that park. So my question is did the mayor also change the grass ordinance for the city parks as well or is it due to the issues you were talking about ? So who is responsible for the condition of the parks? If there are newly appointed people as you say, than they need to be held accountable for the condition of the city parks ! Maybe the mayor is receiving bad advice from these people. All I know the grass did not look like this last year. Oh by the way I was told the person who decided I need two large plastic trash cans w/ wheels does not even live in the city… is this true? If this is true, than why in Gods name are these people telling me how I have to LIVE IN MY HOME TOWN ??? ” GOD BLESS THESE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA “

  22. Michael D. Albano says:

    Sloppy Joe,

    For informational purposes, could you please tell us the name of the park that is in the condition you describe? I always have noticed that in years past our parks were kept up immaculately, so perhaps the budget cuts may be affecting this as well.

  23. Donna Hay says:

    I went by Columbia and Penn-Vassar parks today and they looked in excellent shape.

  24. LifelongDbnRes says:

    I live next to Schemansky Park and the grass was not getting long but it got cut today anyhow. I’d say they mow it about once a week.

  25. Michael D. Albano says:

    I went to a neighbor kids Little League game at Levagood yesterday and spent over 4 hours there, some of it walking the entire park. They were preparing the pools for opening and since I believe this was always the nicest park in Dearborn, this park is FAR nicer than even when I grew up here in the 50’s and 60’s. It now has sand volleyball courts, much nicer diamonds, with 3 lit diamonds instead of one in my day, the playground equipment is far nicer and there is a larger variety than in my day and the overall park was stunningly beautiful.

    The only disappointment was to see where one of the 7 outdoor, boarded ice rinks used to be that were all torn out in the late 60’s to early 70’s when the Adray indoor ice arena, now the DISC was built. But the ground there still has the grooved in area and the large pipe there where they can fill it up with water as the city does regularly at 7 outdoor ice rinks without boards all over west Dearborn. Many friendly people there informed me that the city does not freeze the Levagood Park rink anymore and that baffled me and no one knew the reason why. Does anyone know why the city still fills the outdoor ice rinks at Penn-Vassar, Elmhurst, Oak, Ten Eyck, Tanahill and the 2 at Oxford, yet does NOT fill the one at Levagood???

    These rinks do not have the freezer, pipes and boards surrounding them as the original 7 rinks did in other locations, but they are a wonderful free service to Dearborn residents and the city does supply free hockey nets at many of them for us hockey lovers.

    The fact that so far we still have all of this and that I still haven’t seen a park that looks trashed in Dearborn, says that up till now, we are lucky to still have these wonderful parks and amenities and to still have them so well maintained.

  26. LifelongDbnRes says:

    Michael, I grew up a block from Ten Eyck and in my recollection the rink there hasn’t been filled in a number of years. My guess is at least 10 unless they randomly decided to do it again in the last couple of years and I simply didn’t notice. I do know that they usually fill the rink at Schemansky (Elmhurst).

  27. Michael D. Albano says:

    I remember Ten Eyck being filled, but didn’t check it last year Lifelong. I’ll try to make sure to check it out this coming winter.

    Even though I realize it’s Schemansky for a great reason, growing up here I always still mistakenly call it Elmhurst, which is just easier to remember I guess.

    I also noticed last year that no one seemed to even shovel Schemansky and wonder why. Oxford seems to be the busiest, usually with hockey and I’ve never seen anyone free skate on the much smaller rink closer there, as there are 2 rinks there. Penn Vassar is the 2nd largest and I see people playing hockey and free skating there a lot.

    It seems unfathomable to me that with Levagood’s outdoor ice rink almost approaching the size of an NFL rink, that the surrounding kids and neighbors don’t ask the city to flood it. This is as close as we can get to when we grew up with those 7 wonderful, outdoor boarded pools that were free, and the current outdoor, non-boarded ones are free too.

  28. Anthony says:

    No attempts past or present at all, Blondy to mislead. I may have edited one too many lines from what I was going to post, for brevity. Yes, I did read the articles. I will clarify by posting my full comments as I was going to post them earlier.

    I find it odd and interesting that decisions for more ordinance inspectors and the c & o escrow reworking came out at the same moment. Driven NOT by home-owners but The Board of Realtors. Why all this now? Now, you may reference my statement regarding ‘Ghetto Houses’. As an added clarification that ONE under-mowed lawn under maintained house on the block makes it difficult to close on the houses for sale on said block.

    It seems that business owners in our fair city are chomping at the bit to blame Mayor O’Reilly, the City Council, City employees, etc. when the going gets tough, yet want special City privileges and favors or else they’ll pull out. Nice. You’ve seen this game time and time again most recently with a failed commercial real estate baron wannabe ‘dreamer’.

    So, the going is getting more tough for real estate. They needed changes for an easier sell and to justify a 6% selling fee. No, my opinion was never to change the enforcement of residential AND commercial maintenance rules in the first place. Make it look like the changes are ‘in response to the citizens needs and requests’ as opposed to a business easing of regulation. Except now, business (real estate) is whining, panicking and changing their minds.

    Government isn’t a private business. Never will be. Don’t want it to be. Period.


  29. Michael D. Albano says:

    Sorry, in my posting above I meant 7 outdoor, boarded ICE RINKS, not pools. I guess I’ve just got the pools on my mind too much lately, because I hope we can save them. SOP is working hard at it…

  30. Michael D. Albano says:

    Back to the Ordinance Enforcement issue. Recently I’ve noticed that the former News-Free Press building rear areas on West Point between Oxford and Princeton have a large amount of weeds growing up in both lots, with some that must be 6 feet tall.

    There are other businesses as well that have their building paint that is quite visible and that has been peeling for quite some time in other retail areas of the city.

    The city should address and resolve this, as I know residents who are cited for having tiny weeds in the cracks of their sidewalks and driveways and for their homes and mainly garage paint that is peeling.