Dear City Council: Can 2013 Be the Year of the Rat?

City Council fails to address rats or sanitation code violations in 2012.

I recently amused myself by perusing the Baltimore City Council agendas and minutes for 2012.  (I admit, I have a pretty boring life.  C-Span is the most watched channel in my house.) 

From what I could gather is that the City Council deals with a lot of land-use issues, confirmations of mayoral appointments, land-use issues, a very limited amount of tax issues (none that actually lowered our property taxes, that I could see), land-use issues, a very limited amount of crime fighting issues (the only one I could find was requiring the city to put statistics on line), land-use issues, resolutions, recitals of bills, motions to adopt bills, ways to keep rec centers open, and more land-use issues.
Mind you, I am no anti-government crank.  I think a strong central government (federal, state, or local) is very important and necessary for a civil society.  I think the City Council probably needed to address all of those issues, and the other seemingly mundane tasks.  I am not demeaning the importance of the work the City Council performs.

But I have to wonder why the City Council appears not to have address probably one of the main problems with city living that drives people out of Baltimore - sanitation code violations and rats.

I saw absolutely not one word from anyone on the City Council concerning rats or sanitation code violations.  Not one word on how we can better control rats or how we can better combat serial sanitation code violators. 

Not one word.  (If I missed something concerning sanitation code violations and rats, I hope someone on the City Council will correct me and I will gladly make a public apology.)

Yes, a sanitation code issue was addressed. 

Apparently the City had a rash of complaints about people throwing trash "other than litter" into public trash receptacles.  The City Council heard the chorus of complaints and they took action.  Bill 12-0119 is designed to combat this major issue.  The City only wants you to throw "litter" into a trash can in the park.  They don't really seem to care if you put your household trash in a plastic bag in the alley four days before it is to be collected; but throw a bag of household waste into a trash can in the park, and you've had it!

All of this would be funny if it weren't so serious.  The lax attitude Baltimore City has on pursuing sanitation code violations is causing real problems in good neighborhoods. 

I will show in my next blog how the rat problem and the City's failure to commit to a sustained effort to combat sanitation code violations is adding a "city living tax" on to the backs of residents. 

Until then, could someone, anyone, on the City Council please make it a point to address the problem of rats and sanitation code violations at least once in 2013?

Even if it is not a serious effort, can you please try to amuse us? 

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Baltimore Matt January 21, 2013 at 05:45 AM
Sean, you are asking the city council to take action, for example "I saw absolutely not one word from anyone on the City Council concerning rats or sanitation code violations. Not one word on how we can better control rats or how we can better combat serial sanitation code violators." When the city council as a whole gets together to take action, they make new laws. It sounds like you are asking for laws to be made regarding sanitation. All I'm saying is that there are strong laws, with strong language (stronger than most counties in MD) regarding sanitation and there are government organization that are supposed to keep violators in check (such as the housing department). Whether they do is another question but I will tell you for a fact, at least in my part of town, they are nazis about trash can lids, they will fine you on the first offense (people I know in the county are at least given a warning on their first sanitation offense).
Christian January 21, 2013 at 02:00 PM
Baltimore Matt, without revealing your location, can you geographically advise me what section of the City you live in? I would like to find out why your community gets the concern of the City and apparently we do not get the same services as well. Many of us in this community are completely concerned about the growing rat population and the filth generated by the improper disposal of trash and would like to get better control over it. Thanks for your advice in this regard.
Sean Tully January 21, 2013 at 03:18 PM
Matt, the City Council can call the administration up on the carpet for hearings on what they do, how they do it, and how it can be improved. They can demand the administration better respond to residents complaints. They can - gasp - pass tougher laws. In other areas, the Baltimore Sun can request emails and other communications from the administration on sanitation code violations. I suspect the pile of paper would not be too high. As far as comparing Baltimore City with Baltimore County, just look at the Riverview section of SW Balto. Co. to see how giving warnings out helps the problem. It doesn't.
Baltimore Matt January 22, 2013 at 04:22 PM
Christian, I am not going to share which neighborhood because I would not want to compromise our services. However, with strong community envolvement, many 311 calls, and a neighborhood based sanitation effort, my neighborhood has been able to reduce the rat population. You would be suprised at the responsiveness of the trash police (housing) when you make a specific complaint regarding a specific property. What really holds up progress are the absentee slum lords that will rent to anybody with section 8 because it's hard to put pressure on their tenants when they receive the fines (it can take a year to force out a section 8 tenant and the landlord usually does not live in the neighborhood to keep tabs on their properties), therefore they just pay the fine and nothing changes.
Christian January 22, 2013 at 04:45 PM
Baltimore Matt, I wasn't specifically requesting the name of the neighborhood, but a geographical sign post that I could use to show to our City Council representation that a successful resolution can be accomplished in the trash disposal issue. However, I respect the fact that your community has been successful in accomlishing their goals of having a cleaner community because of the response of the Housing Department. I agree that it is difficult if people living in the area are not aware of the proper disposal systems in place and therefore provide a eating frenzy for rats. However, this issue is not one reserved to just a few residents, but it is a community issue, that involves the institutions, businesses, absentee landlords, residents and sanitation workers who rush through the job and leave much garbage behind, that then creates a situation of filth, not to mention creating a obstacle course for the drivers. We have been communicating with the housing, zoning, institutions, businesses, absentee landlords and residents alike in order to address this issue, while apparently not achieving your success.


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