The Richmond Register

April 13, 2011

OUR VIEW: Take up trash dumps before speed bumps

Richmond Register editorial board

RICHMOND — We are happy to hear that city government is working on new ordinances to crack down on residents and property owners who pile up trash and expect it to be picked up at the taxpayers’ expense.

We’re not happy, however, that it took a series of front page photos of trash heaps that can be found in many areas around town for the mayor and city commissioners to get serious about the issue.

The mayor and commissioners, who have been in office more than 90 days, have already passed or heard first reading of ordinances to ban long-term parking of large vehicles on city streets and take up the speed bumps that the previous city commission had installed.

The disgraceful, and illegal, trash dumps appear not to have caught their attention, or were at least given a lower priority.

The Register was prompted to begin running the Dump of the Day series, in part, by a city employee’s comment that enforcement personnel “don’t drive around looking for stuff.”

If city officials are unaware of the trash heaps, we thought we could help point them out in a way that would not be missed.

Mayor Jim Barnes, however, apparently missed the point of our photo of a Parrish Avenue home that was partially burned more than six months ago. We realize the city has to go through a lengthy legal process to get it condemned and demolished, but what about all the trash scattered around the house.

The unsightly mess was there when many out-of-town guests came to Richmond for the Harry Connick Jr. concert, just a block away at St. Mark Catholic Church. We hope it’s not still there when former first lady Laura Bush comes to St. Mark in late May.

Many residents have told us they have complained for weeks, even months, about the illegal dumps, but got no response from City Hall. When a citizen recently appeared before the city commission to complain about a trash site in her neighborhood, she was assured something would be done. Nine days later, however, no action had been taken.

We think illegal trash dumps are a matter of priority, if not urgency.

However, objectionable speed bumps may be, we hope the city takes up the trash dumps before it removes the speed bumps.

If current ordinances do not have enough “teeth,” we urge new ones be written with the highest penalty available. If state law allows, fines should be levied on a daily basis until property owners take action.

Barnes has said one in five residents does not pay their garbage collection bills, but the bills are so low taking them to court is not practical. However, he also said some apartment complex owners are “thousands of dollars” in arrears on their garbage bills. Such amounts seem sufficient to warrant court action to collect what is owed.

When apartment tenants leave without taking or disposing of their old furniture, the property owners should not be allowed to pile it at the curb.

Renting apartments appear to be profitable. If not, why are new ones being built?

Landlords who do not keep their property up to code should be fined. Persistent offenders should face the loss of their business licenses. That should get their attention rather quickly.

We’ll be watching to see what comes up first, illegal trash dumps or speed bumps.