I have written and spoken on several occasions regarding Lakewood City Council’s decision related to the now passed currently titled Rental Housing Safety Program (RHSP) under Lakewood City Ordinance #644.
Two words in one of my writing(s) proved controversial enough that at least a few good and intelligent people suffered the experience of having a strong emotional reaction which blinded them to the message I was attempting to communicate.
I am going to use two new words in my effort to make my point which I expect can only produce a positive emotional reaction. The two words are Rotary Club.
My relationship with the Rotary Club began 1962. I was just a kid in my late teens getting ready to leave high school. Oh, by leave, I do mean graduate. My high school guidance counselor, Miss Gertrude Hansen, who proved to be one of my key lifetime mentors, asked, “Joe, are you going to go to college or not?” She informed me that if I decided to attend college, she wanted to submit my name for a Rotary Scholarship.
It was a small $200 scholarship, but from my perspective, it was a giant scholarship because Rotary was investing $200 in a teenager with an unimpressive grade point average, a weak goal set which all amounted to an unknown and unpredictable future. The scholarship might as well have been a $10,000 in terms of how the Rotary’s generosity had such a huge and important impact on my entire life beyond high school.
I knew I had to work hard in college, and I had to do my best so as not to waste the Rotary Club’s money. The Rotary Club got me started down a successful pathway in life.
Rotary has a decades-long positive reputation built on ethical activities that are strongly focussed on helping mankind on a local and international level. As Rotary accomplishes their good works, they do so by doing things the right way based on a just foundation.
While I have numerous reasons for admiring the Rotary Club, allow me to share just one more of those reasons. A significant moral and ethical code supporting Rotary Club decisions and the actions of its members is called the Rotary Four-Way Test. The Four-Way Test relates to things we think, say and do in all walks of life, including personal, business and government.
Rotary Clubs are composed of hard working citizens most of whom are blessed with significant leadership skills. Rotarians come from a variety of professions, businesses, educational institutions and governments.
My research shows that close to 50% or more of our Lakewood City Council are now or historically have been members of our local Rotary Clubs. Additionally, a significant number of city staff in positions of influence belong to Rotary.
That being said, it easily follows that the Rotary Four-Way Test is an ideal and non-controversial way to evaluate the city council’s recent decision on the RHSP.
Rotary Four-Way Test
FIRST – Is it the truth? PASS: Lakewood City Council earns a PASS on the first test.
I am not aware of any falsehoods related to Lakewood City Council’s decision making process. The two most important truths are 1) City Council is absolutely correct when they tell us there is a problem with inadequate and dangerous housing produced by a few slumlords in Lakewood. 2) City Council desperately wants to bring a solution to this problem so as to eradicate slum and unsafe housing.
SECOND – Is it fair for all concerned? FAIL: Lakewood City Council FAILS this test.
It is not fair to involve, punish and victimize innocent high quality landlords, innocent quality property managers, and innocent renters by taking their time and money as a part of Lakewood City Council’s effort to eradicate the actions of a few slumlords.
THIRD – Will it build goodwill and better relationships? FAIL: Lakewood City Council FAILS this test.
City Council can only expect to irritate and alienate the innocent members of our community who are not a part of the slumlord problem by their implementation of a program that marks the City of Lakewood as unfriendly to business.
FOURTH – Will it be beneficial to all concerned? FAIL: Lakewood City Council FAILS this test.
This plan will be detrimental to innocent landlords, innocent property managers, and innocent renters. The city plan may not benefit slum-condition tenants either once you factor in the unintended consequences when slum-tenants face rent increases and evictions thereby adding to our homeless population.
It is sad to note that our Lakewood City Council failed 3 of the 4 Rotary Four-Way Test ethical standards.
I recognize that an immense amount of courage is required for any politician to admit a mistake has been made and then to take action to reverse a wrong decision.
I challenge members of Lakewood City Council to revisit and reverse their decision regarding the Rental Housing Safety Program. Once the proper correction has been made, I urge Lakewood City Council to find a solution that passes the Rotary Four-Way Test.
Betsy Tainer says
Thank you Joe Boyle.
John Arbeeny says
Excellent! I believe that some on the Council are members of one of Lakewood’s clubs (Rotary, Lions) or at least appear before them periodically. Perhaps some of this common sense will rub off on them and they’ll reconsider the RIP program which does not fix the problem, is unfair to most everyone ensnared by RIP and had generated a lot of ill will within the City of Lakewood.
David Anderson says
Lakewood’s City Council initially considered “a robust tenant/landlord outreach educational program” when deliberating how best to address substandard housing in the city, but opted instead to pass (August 1) the controversial Rental Inspection Program (RIP), Ordinance No. 644.
Ironically, and in the tenor of Joe Boyle’s article, ‘robust’ means “straightforward and imbued with common sense.”
What shall we say then of a decision that bypasses what is ‘robust’ – “straightforward and imbued with common sense”?
And what further shall we say of a council – elected to be representative; a council which acknowledges the controversy its decision generated – which fails, to use Joe Boyle’s assessment, to inquire of the Municipal Research Services Center as to the applicability of referendum to Ordinance No. 644?
Chas. Ames says
May I ask how many here are renters?
Betsy Tainer says
I’m a landlord.
One of my tenants in Lakewood has stated that he won’t let them in.
Under state provisions outlining these programs he or I could be charged/fined and otherwise handled for not allowing them in to ‘search’ for deficiencies.
Programs established in other cities get around the complications of gov’t entering private residences by allowing/demanding that not only will the property owner pay for membership/participation in this program BUT also hire an outside/approved firm/company to perform these inspections for a fee ranging between $100-200 per inspection, to be performed on a regular basis, usually once every 3 years.
Total cost to me via my tenants/rent over the course of 10 years for the privilege of having both of my units inspected (duplex) could be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,600. That would just about cover the cost of a new carpet without installation. It very nearly is the amount of my property taxes on the same property in one year. It is a considerable amount of money and a very real inconvenience.
Betsy Tainer says
correction… very nearly what I pay in property taxes in 6 months, not 1 year.
Chris Anderson says
Thank you, Betsy. I appreciate your illuminating how costs via this invasive program can effect owners, and that ultimately may effect renters as well!
Joseph Boyle says
Mr. Ames. Yes, you may ask. After all this is America where our rights to free speech have only been eroded down to about 90%.
Now, to answer your question, I am not a renter. When I was young, I chose to be a renter. I rented 1 dorm, 1 apartment and two houses. Following that, I purchased my first owner-occupied duplex. I have been an owner ever since.
When I am older, I may well have to become a renter again.
When you look closely, you, our city council and I all want the same thing. All Lakewood citizens should have the opportunity to enjoy clean, safe and reasonably priced rental accommodations. I say opportunity, because some slum-tenants are the cause, not the victim of slum condition property. Others prefer living under a bridge.
Where we disagree is how do we best solve the problem for those tenants who might deserve and appreciate reasonable living conditions.
Right now we have one group of people who are victims of slumlord conditions. They could in many cases, use some help to climb out of their housing predicament.
The city council’s plan creates a second, third and fourth group of victims; namely non-slumlord property owners, property managers and non-slum renters.
The city plan Ames (pun intended) to help one group and in the process creates three more groups to be victimized. The fifth group of victims the city council is creating will be any city staffer, police officer, renter, landlord, child or innocent bystander who is injured or killed when someone decides to stand up for their Fourth Amendment Rights as the city safety inspector squad crosses the threshold.
One group is suffering now. Under city plan, four more groups will suffer.
Mr. Ames, we will have a better city if everyone helps unwind the RIP and puts energy and intellect behind developing a solution that will be fair, ethical and beneficial to all concerned.
Lastly, my status of renter or owner has no impact on this issue. The question is, “Does the city plan pass the Rotary Four-Way Test?”
Betsy Tainer says
The next conversation and issue will address ‘affordable housing’.
In the numerous reports I’ve heard and read the blame is laid entirely on landlords and developers and their greed.
Truth and huge degree of blame rests on the state, cities, county, school districts and fire districts, as well as public utilities and services, to include water, sewer, garbage and electricity, as they find new and different ways to extract money from all of us in a variety of ways.
Just a couple of years ago the city of Lakewood instituted a franchise fee and utility tax on our sewer bills, adding an additional $20 per bill to my bill on a duplex in Lakewood… University Place is now following suit, as lead by Lakewood’s inspired actions. Our sewer rates have doubled in the last 8-10 years. Our sewer bills are subsidizing the development and operation of a county owned golf course that most of us either have no interest in and/or just flat can’t afford.
The TBD is another such state authorized access to your pocket book voted on by city council adding $20 to the annual registration of our vehicles.
Our electric bills are used to provide subsidized cable services to low income households… where many of us opt not to include cable in our budgets BECAUSE WE CAN’T AFFORD IT.
Increases in sales tax, fuel taxes, surface water fees, utility taxes, franchise fees, etc… and now additional costs so that the city can satisfy themselves that I’m responsible. One day they will get around to something that impacts you directly… oh, no… they already have. You just haven’t noticed until just now.
I challenge you to look at nearly any receipt or bill and not find where the federal, state, county, city and/or all of the above are not taking a bite out of you. The impact of any one or another of these items could/is or has been compared to the price of a cup of coffee… together they have a very real impact on how we live day to day, pay check to pay check.
When will it end? At what point will it matter to you?
Given all of that… are you willing to allow a city employee/official to demand entry into your home with a clipboard to inspect it, to make sure that you are not living in substandard conditions at your expense? Tell the truth.
The program is immediately paying dividends in Bellingham. http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/local/article103062632.html
Betsy Tainer says
Where did I get this link? I swear I got it somewhere above, but can’t find it. Anyhow, here is a link to a Bellingham Herald article just a couple of days ago with interesting comments regarding their first round of inspections, people’s expectations, concerns, findings, deficiencies and COST… $100 per UNIT, in addition to the annual dues. Regardless of what they find, don’t find that’s a substantial amount of money… you’d have a tough time convincing me that anyone is getting rich in the rental business… it’s hard work, repairs, maintenance are costly, turnover fairly high, finding good repair people (plumbers, electricians, carpet layers, etc) can be very difficult if not virtually impossible at times.
I’m small time. NOT A SLUMLORD. My units are nice, above market (I think) to keep out the rif raf and lower the possibility of pending disaster.
The cost of this program is high, really high. The invasiveness is huge, really huge.
The likelihood that someone, anyone with an agenda, a checklist and a clipboard will create yet another expense (however big or small) is huge… how am I expected to deal with that and how will it play out on my ‘clients’/tenants?
Go ahead, dismiss it and pretend that I’m the evil one. That I’m living large while my tenants suffer. It simply is not so.
I provide a service. A product. A really good product. A much needed product. It’s a fair price for the product offered. Very few potential clients view my units without taking making application. I’ve had many past tenants call years later wanting to know if I had anything available. Funny how usually it was their very previous unit that was coming available and they were shocked how much the rent had changed in their absence. (side note)
With nearly 50% of all housing available in Lakewood provided by rental housing on all aspects of the scale, there is simply no way that this program will not impact the cost of living, especially renting in Lakewood.
In Bellingham they are demanding a sink replacement for a chip in an enamel sink. All of my units have stainless steel… BUT, the reality of that is that it will cost $100-200 or more, much more, and several hours, depending on your skill level to replace a kitchen sink…. pure and simple.. and to demand such a repair for a chip in an enamel sink is ludicrous at best.
Read about it here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/local/article103062632.html
David Wilson says
Sounds like it is working in Bellingham!!!
Can’t wait for it to start here in Lakewood.
Again nothing but Landlords complaining…blah…blah…blah….
Chris Anderson says
“Again nothing but Landlords complaining…blah…blah…blah….”….I’m not a landlord and I find the whole concept despicably Orwellian; Big Brother Lakewood seems an uninviting city to live in.
David Wilson says
Again you don’t live here so you don’t count…..UP Chris.
Betsy Tainer says
Clearly Mr. Wilson, you aren’t understanding the impact of this policy.
Chris has every reason to be concerned. This is a regional issue. It will ripple through every community with a dense enough population to pull it off, where ever the municipality if looking for ways to grow their revenue base on the backs of it’s constituents. Being as UP, lacking any leadership of their own, often follows in the footsteps of Lakewood.
I am also in UP, by the way, although this does touch me and my tenants directly by virtue of owning a rental property in Lakewood.
Chas. Ames says
So you will sell.
Betsy Tainer says
No! I’ll raise the rent to cover increased costs, and then no doubt we’ll move one step closer to the discussion of affordable housing and rent control. I’m imagining that you’d be all for that, that you believe I’m an evil greedy slumlord and that by virtue of the fact that I own something and you probably don’t that I, somehow, owe you something and that there is something inherently wrong with me expecting to make a little money with my ‘investment property’.
My rental increases over the past several years have almost entirely consisted of covering increases in costs: Water, Sewer, Garbage, Property Taxes, Insurance, and now this.
People choose Lakewood, lots of times, because of it’s relative affordability as compared to Tacoma, UP, Fircrest, etc. That gap is closing fast. Really fast. Even as the costs in those other areas also are driven up by local taxes, public services, policies and fees.
When it does close how will that impact the city of Lakewood and its neighborhoods? With, what, 40% of all housing in Lakewood being rental properties and those ‘investments’ have less appeal to those people who might operate those rentals, do you imagine that that will have a positive impact on Lakewood? On home values? Potentially impacting the number of vacant or abandoned properties.
Oh, you don’t believe that that could happen… wait until this program gets up and running and us evil slumlords are faced with requirements, costs, improvements that we can’t afford.
David Wilson says
I hope UP follows Lakewood that would be smart and helpful for the renters that need help.
Please University place do something that matters more than traffic circles.