Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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April 29, 2013

GUEST COLUMN: Code enforcement a vital part of city operations

JACKSONVILLE — “Code enforcement” is a term that, in municipal government, covers several different aspects.  

The first subset under Code Enforce-ment is the Building Codes. This code, as it suggests, pertains to the enforcement of building codes.  

Issues that we have with the building codes are: Doing work without a required permit and doing work that does not comply with the building codes. If a violation is noted, you will receive a call from the Building Inspector or be issued a Red Tag. Most compliance issues are reconciled during the plan review that is conducted prior to issuing a building permit.  

The second subset is the enforcement of ordinances passed by the present and previous City Councils that relate to nuisances. These ordinances are codified in the Code of Ordinances for the City of Jacksonville, hence the term ‘code enforcement’. If a nuisance violation is noted or reported, you will receive a phone call (if possible) or a letter notifying you of the violation with instructions on how to handle it. The lion’s share of nuisance violations are high weeds and grass, junk and debris, junk vehicles, and dilapidated structures.  

The last two subsets are zoning and GIS.  Zoning relates to land use regulations and incurs very few violations and GIS is used to gather information and data. A large portion of the Building Codes are dictated by state law and the authority to adopt ordinances regulating nuisances are governed by state law.

The Code Enforcement De-partment has five employees.  All hold college degrees, are trained and certified in their field of work and combined, represent over 30 years of experience in municipal government. These employees are professionals and understand their personal liability if they do not perform their job duties ethically and legally.

In our recent mayoral debate, Candidate Rob Gowin stated the Code Enforcement Department did not enforce the rules and regulations equally across the board for everyone, “and that he is living proof of it.” I can understand how the pressures of a public debate can lead to misspeaking and I do not know if Mr. Gowin meant to assert that this department is corrupt or simply that he did not like the regulations. I can state that the statement, as made, is profoundly incorrect and challenge Mr. Gowin or anyone to produce evidence that the Code Enforcement Department does not enforce the regulations and codes of this City fairly and equitably.

It is a legitimate discussion for a political candidate to question or attack the policies of the City that he or she thinks needs to be changed but illegitimate and shameful to attack the individuals that administer the policies and ordinances approved by current and past councils. If we cannot make this distinction then government cannot function properly. If Mr. Gowin is successful, he will be required to take an oath, swearing that he will uphold and enforce the laws of the City of Jacksonville, the State of Texas, and the United States. I did not leave the debate feeling that this was important to him, I hope I was wrong.  

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