Can you safely roast marshmallows without the government’s help?
Are BBQ’s using too much BBQ sauce a fine-able infraction during a burn ban for which surreptitious photographs are taken and mailed – along with the fine – when a courtesy contact might have sufficed?
Are rental inspection programs that sweep into the dustbin all landlord properties – with few exceptions – for later sorting the good from the bad from the ugly – a violation of anything that might have really mattered?
To all three.
“All too often,” wrote Ezra Taft Benson, former Secretary of Agriculture, 1968, in a treatise entitled “The Proper Role of Government,” answers to concerns about the legitimacy of whatever governmental project and proposal is being discussed, “seem to be based, not upon any solid principle, but upon the popularity of the specific government program in question.”
Lakewood’s Rental Inspection Program (RIP), or as the city website changed its reference from RIP to RHSP (Rental Housing Safety Program), is popular – if you can call it that – in eight cities in the entire state, as listed by Lakewood (the 9th): Seattle, Lacey, Pasco, Bremerton, Tukwila, Tacoma, Mountlake Terrace, and Bellingham.
But popularity (the cart) – or even legality (contents of the cart) – so as not to get it before the horse (the people who pull the freight), not to mention save a lot of grief and angst among both the elected and their representatives over what decision to make, it is principle, says Benson, that must be primarily addressed and then the principle’s popularity can in good conscience be promoted.
In that order.
“Unlike the political opportunist, the true statesman values principle above popularity, and works to create popularity for those political principles which are wise and just,” says Benson.
The question then is not whether RIP has RCW or LMC (Lakewood Municipal Code) authorization, or what other cities are doing, but whether it is principle-based and therefore wise and just.
Benson again: “the early pioneers found that a great deal of their time and energy was being spent defending themselves, their property and their liberty in what properly was called the ‘Lawless West.’ In order for man to prosper, he cannot afford to spend his time constantly guarding his family, his fields, and his property against attack and theft, so he joins together with his neighbors and hires a sheriff. At this precise moment, government is born. The individual citizens delegate to the sheriff their unquestionable right to protect themselves. The sheriff now does for them only what they had a right to do for themselves.”
But with Lakewood’s RIP, good landlords must now ‘fight the sheriff’ or in this case the city council which passed August 1, 2016 Ordinance No. 644 which requires, ‘rounds up’ to continue the Old West analogy, “all rental property owners to register their property with the City every year and have the property inspected once every five years.”
Suppose Landlord “A” (for ‘awful’) does an awful job – in contrast to Landlord “B” (for ‘best’) – of maintaining his rental property. At Landlord A’s property after all, the toilet is backed up, the sewer overflows, the drain field has failed, and thus the tenants are pooping in the yard. But the City shows up at Landlord B’s door with an inspection checklist of Landlord B’s property.
Extrapolating a bit on Benson’s somewhat similar Lawless West scenario for which he poses a question addressing the limits of authority, in our Law-filled West RIP setting:
If “A” is the villain, shall “B” be brought in for questioning?
Even as “it is a firm principle that the smallest or lowest level that can possibly undertake the task is the one that should do so” (Benson), so it is – or should be – a firm principle that the effort put forth to right a wrong should be measured by its finest touch, not its broadest brush.
Otherwise, “what will stay the hand of government from reaching farther and yet farther into our daily lives?”
More useless babble. You better higher a lawyer to help you out with this one. How about that one you hired during Camp Murray Gate?
David Anderson says
“To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead.” Thomas Paine
David Wilson says
Administering medicine to the dead and you create fRAYnkenstein! HA HA!
More Nazi references!!! Leave the Nazis out of your damn Suburban Times LETTERS!
The Nazis did many worse atrocities than anything the Lakewood City Council could do to you poor landlords and Ex-Landlords. Even though you don’t think so with your outlandish opinions based on nothing because the program is not even in effect yet. Plans often change once worked. The true details must be worked through to see what works or not then it will be improved by recommendations by the ones that do the job. This is how new programs work. DUH!
David Anderson says
Who is alleged to have said the following?
“The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see these rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.”
Betsy Tainer says
Keep ’em coming Mr. Anderson. What the city is doing here is wrong on so many levels.
Why isn’t the monthly Tillicum Woodbrook Neighborhood Association (TWNA) Meeting -meeting tonite-listed below on the Community Calendar? It’s a great pro-community organization chaired by David Anderson!
Joseph Boyle says
People may not always agree with you, but at least when you share your opinion you are open and mature about letting us know who is behind the opinion; David Anderson.
While our rules of engagement make it possible to use first names only or even false names, I would say 95% of those opinions should be discounted.
Who is Ray? What city department does he work for? The possibilities are endless. Ray who? It is easy to be critical while hiding from view.
Babble? No. Babble is not understandable. The very fact that I understand what you are saying confirms yours is not babble..
The city’s decision on the rental inspection program is wrong. Like the Norwegians when the Nazis occupied Norway from 1940 – 1945, keep writing your opinion every time you have something to say. Never give up on righting a wrong.
The city’s Good, Bad & Ugly link is illuminating. Notice the photos in the Bad show that not only do we have a slumlord problem, we have a slum-tenant problem. The landlord did not decorate the interior of his rental like a garbage dumpster, hoarder, bum or slob. These tenants probably do not work, suck up our tax dollars, use drugs and cancer sticks and yet have no time or inclination clean the inside or outside of their home.
When I owned property, I would inspect each property 1 – 12 times per year. If I found one of these tenants, they would be given a 10 day notice clean up their dump-like condition. If they failed, I evicted them. I did not want a tenant who promoted cock roaches.
I have the experience of spending thousands of dollars on building improvements with the thought that being poor was not a reason for a tenant to live in anything other than a neat clean and safe home. Wrong! The tenants burned the hall carpet with hot pans off the stove, melted long streaks in the brand new carpet locking up bicycle brakes, broke the front door glass and punched new holes in the hall sheet rock and spread garbage in the hall.
Some tenants live like pigs and will have it no other way. Many tenants want to pull their environment back down to the slumlord level. You could put a tenant in the Mayor’s personal home and in no time the Mayor’s home would not pass the city’s rental inspection program. The Mayor would be left with thousands of dollars of clean up and repairs.
I think one of our problems is our city council has no clue what it is like to manage the full range of rental property
The city wants to hammer the slumlords. Good for them. Will the city hammer the slum-tenants? Probably not. That kind of action goes against the bleeding heart, head in the sand attitude.
So City of Lakewood, you have two problems; slumlords and slum-tenants.
Lastly Ray “what’s his name” makes a good point. Mr. Anderson, it would seem to be a good idea to have 54% of the property owners, who own rental property, form a Lakewood Area Landlord Association (LALA). They could meet one time per month, hire a lawyer and present a strong voice back to the city.
Will any qualified individual rise to the occasion?
Joseph Boyle (I have listed both my first and last names. You may or may not agree with me, but at least you know who you are dealing with.)
David Anderson says
“It would seem to be a good idea to have 54% of the property owners, who own rental property, form a Lakewood Area Landlord Association (LALA). They could meet one time per month, hire a lawyer and present a strong voice back to the city.”
As to your idea, specifically that referencing a lawyer, what has been done so far:
Step 1: Inquire of the Municipal Research Services Center (MRSC) of Washington the legal potential of a referendum to overturn Lakewood’s Ordinance No. 644 Amending Chapter 5.60 of the Lakewood Municipal Code creating a rental housing safety program.”
Done. Inquiry made August 9, 2016. This is the response I received from Jerry Anaya, Administrative Assistant, 206.625.1300, 800.933.6772:
“Thank you for your inquiry. MRSC is a private, nonprofit research and information service for towns, cities, and counties in the state of Washington. We are only able to provide our services to local government officials and employees. From the information you provided, I cannot tell if you are eligible for MRSC services. Can you please clarify if you are local government official or employee?”
Obviously I don’t fit their criteria by which to receive an answer to my question. So on August 9, 2016 I emailed Lakewood City Councilwoman Marie Barth, the lone dissenter in the 6-1 August 1, 2016 decision that passed Ordinance No. 644 asking if she could assist.
As of today, September 1, 2016 there is no indication Barth did.
Step 2: Inquire of the Rental Housing Association of Washington (RHAWA) as to whether there is within their legal resources an answer to the referendum question.
Done. On August 12, their spokesperson responded:
“I will be honest and say that it is extremely doubtful that this is an option which could be pursued. The Courts and Legislature have both said it is okay for a municipality to enact these programs, so long as they are consistent with state law. This has occurred now in six or seven different cities in the state.
“If there is any feedback I receive which is counter to that I will absolutely be following up with you.”
As of today, there has been nothing further from RHAWA.
Despite the RHAWA spokesperson’s initial opinion, I find it interesting, for example, that Regulating and licensing bicycles is subject to Initiative and Referendum. “Every city and town by ordinance may establish and collect reasonable license fees from all persons riding a bicycle or other similar vehicle within its respective corporate limits, and may enforce the payment thereof by reasonable fines and penalties” (RCW 35.75.010).
If a “city can regulate and license bicycles” and that is subject to referendum, then that “a local municipality” can require rental inspections (RCW 59.18.125), why would that not be subject to referendum?
Step 3: Inquire of the attorney who reviewed the 2008 gambling initiative in Lakewood to see if the already-drafted petition to overturn Ordinance No. 644 could pass legal muster.
Done. On August 8, that inquiry was made and on August 14 he responded: “Sorry, I am not taking any new cases at the present time.”
As much as an estimated $2,000 would likely be needed and then an attorney found to review the initiative to ensure it would pass legal muster as we can be sure the City Council which passed this Ordinance would likely mount a challenge.
While I asked City Attorney Heidi Wachter the same question posed to all others mentioned above, this was her August 9 reply:
“As Counsel to the City I do not provide legal opinions in response to general opinions from the public. That being said, in the most general terms, unless an ordinance fits a stated exemption, it would be subject to initiative and referenda.”
In summary: (1) One would think some one of the elected Lakewood City Council – in an honest effort to be representative – would take up this matter with MRSC and inform the public in this forum of The Suburban Times, with a comprehensive answer; (2) that there would be an attorney associated with some landlord association, rental property management group, etc. that would be willing and able to assist with a legal review of a referendum.
Joseph Boyle says
Some readers see the word Nazi and their mind closes. They fail to understand the point being made and then lacking that information, operate out of ignorance. It is interesting to observe.
My comment was not about Nazi’s. My comment was about the tenacity of Norwegians to continue fighting for what was right even under the most difficult circumstances which included among other things writing in underground newspapers outlawed by the Nazis.
If the Norwegians could do all of that, David Anderson should be able to continue writing until our city council rights its wrong.
My comment has nothing to do with connecting our city council with the Nazis or the Nazi atrocities. My comment is a response to some readers who wish to have David Anderson stop righting new material on this topic. It is my opinion that the writing should continue until our city council rights this wrong.
Chris Anderson says
Thank you David Anderson AND Joseph Boyle for your posts about the fiasco known as Lakewood’s Rental Registration & Safety Inspection Program (RRSIP). While I do not live in Lakewood and am not effected by this, University Place, where I do reside, could very well follow this same slippery slope. I hope more people wake up and smell the effluvium that is such a program, and I believe your efforts to enlighten are very much needed….again, I thank you and keep up the good works!