Thursday, January 9, 2003

City staff promise to use court on housing

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The city's failure to bring any code enforcement cases to the county's new housing court is "inexcusable," Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken said Wednesday.

But the mayor said he's satisfied that city lawyers and building inspectors are getting their act together and will have cases ready for the next session Monday.

"It happened. It's inexcusable, but it happened," Mr. Luken said. "We knew this was coming, and we should have been prepared."

Hamilton County Municipal Court judges agreed to create the housing court - or, more accurately, a housing docket - after more than a year of lobbying by city officials. The city hopes that consolidating housing code cases under one judge will help bring more scrutiny and consistency to cleaning up neighborhoods.

But on Monday, the first session under Judge Guy C. Guckenberger, the city failed to bring a single case.

City Solicitor J. Rita McNeil, in a memo to City Council Wednesday, admitted that the transfer of cases to the housing court "was not smoothly facilitated."

But she promised that the city would bring at least three cases next week.

Mr. Luken also asked the Department of Buildings and Inspections to find ways to streamline its enforcement of building codes.

Mr. Luken showed City Council a code enforcement flowchart so complicated that, he later quipped, it looked like a schematic design for the Zimmer nuclear power plant.

"It's not as bad as it looks," he said, pointing to the 33 boxes signifying steps in the process.

"But it seems to me it should be more of a straight line, where we file a complaint, give somebody 30 days, and then we go to court."


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