Sunday, September 23, 2012

EDITORIAL: Explore options to pay for city’s rising costs

A number of seemingly unrelated things happened this week that should illustrate a call to action for city leaders.

First, the county announced the beginning of a process to remove many of the abandoned homes around Mansfield. Secondly, firefighters responded to even more suspicious fires in
some of those same abandoned homes in the downtown area. Finally, Mayor Tim Theaker stressed the importance of voters passing a proposed income tax to offset the cost of running the city.

The city seems to be caught in a sort of catch-22 situation that should
have been handled years ago.

The failure to enforce city codes and allow homes to become so dilapidated that they are now dangerous is simply unacceptable.

These eyesores are far more than just a blight on our city, they are a serious threat to members of our safety services who have to chase out vandals and drug users. Firefighters put their own lives in jeopardy when they are forced to work in these crumbling homes.

“If there’s one good reason for the demolition of the vacant houses in Mansfield, it’s this right here,” Mansfield fire Capt. Guy Daly said last week. “This is going to get a fireman killed.”

The reality, though, is that code enforcement takes time and personnel, something the city is extremely short on these days.

In his plea to voters last week, Theaker said people should understand the city has cut expenses all it can.

“We have kept cutting and kept cutting,” Theaker said. “We’re trying to match our revenues.”

He compared the city to a wageearner who is not bringing in enough income.

“We either have to go back and get a second job or live within our means,” he said. “We (city employees) are trying to go out for another job.”

Here’s the thing, if the city had forced homeowners to keep up their properties when it had the resources to do so, it may have reduced the need for such drastic measures. Mansfield, like many municipalities, uses code enforcement as more than just a beautification tool. It can be used as a revenue stream when enforced properly.

However, these homes that are going up in flames now have nearly no value to any homeowner. The city is caught in a downward spiral that will stop only when every eyesore is gone, or when the city decides it will begin enforcing the property codes.

“We’ve got to keep the services that we’ve got at a level our citizens are expecting,” Theaker said last week.

Going to the taxpayers for more money is just one idea. We encourage the city to explore other options as well as it seeks to pay for rising costs.