I am indebted to David Izraelevitz (link) for explaining to citizens in excruciating detail how burdensome, unpleasant, aggressive and bureaucratic the enforcement of weeds over 18 inches has become in Los Alamos. For this enforcement we must create acronyms, have well defined timelines and threaten court action. It’s really difficult for me to think of something so anathema to good neighbors and neighborhoods and a clearer demonstration of poor governance.
That there are reports from citizens that the “best practices” described are not followed might also further encourage citizens that the County is not acting with the health and well-being of the residents in mind. Even if followed, ten days, or even 30 days to complete a significant project is often insufficient and while it might be justified for vital safety concerns it could produce an undue financial burden and stress when the need is less pressing. A paint infraction or similar might be an important maintenance issue, but may not be sufficiently urgent to justify financial hardship. A family on a fixed income should not be pressured into making an immediate choice between school supplies or other educational opportunities and house painting when the painting could be scheduled over a longer time. And busy, working families should not have the added stress and have to spend time to respond in great haste to the County simply to avoid these difficulties.
Further, there are reports that these violation notices are delivered with ruthless efficiency to the elderly, infirm and residents with serious medical conditions. It should be an embarrassment to all that we expect these disadvantaged groups to maintain their property and environs to the exacting requirements of the ordinance and cite them if they fail. If dispensation is made for these people, and from the reports of enforcement it seems there is not, one would have expected it to be mentioned in the “how” of enforcement. No suggestion at this point that these people might be treated with consideration if they acknowledge the NOV is sufficient. This is a group of people that are inadequately equipped because of age or medical priorities to respond to regulatory notifications. As a community we should be treating this group with compassion and respect and providing assistance. Threatening them with court dates is wretched and reprehensible.
Stating that anonymity is required is still perhaps the most damning condemnation of the program. If reporting a violation is so divisive and abusive that all complainants need anonymity suggests that the ordinance is so offensive that we should immediately cease enforcement and it should be removed from the County code as quickly as possible. I cannot report labor law violation anonymously, the Post will not accept anonymous letters nor can I speak out on social media and yet the County will accept anonymous reports of violations. I agree that there may be exceptional cases for which we should make modifications. I would suggest that such complainant be able to report the violation at the County building and provide a signed affidavit indicating the reasons that they feel having their name publicly available would be a burden to them. However, the anonymous and potentially illegal doxing that is allowed by the current reporting website must promptly cease. If your complaint is legitimate then own it, if not don’t file it. If it’s legitimate and you need it to be investigated anonymously you must still provide contact information but it may be held confidential – this is the standard maintained by most government investigative agencies.
After the unconvincing “why” in part 1, a part 2 that serves primarily as a vilification of the program I hope that, as the quality human being that I, personally, know him to be, Councilor Izraelevitz will have the courage to admit that he is wrong and that this program is flawed in design and implementation and will spare himself the indignity of further defending this unconscionable program in its current form.