The Public Square

Rob McColley, Independent Candidate for Mayor of Urbana, on penalizing landlords for tenant behavior


Hi. This is Rob McColley, the independent candidate for mayor of Urbana.

The last few months of Urbana City Council meetings were enlivened by weekly protests from citizens, representing all points of the political spectrum, voicing outrage over Urbana's so-called "criminal nuisance" ordinance.

This is the law which would penalize landlords for the behavior of their tenants.

My cynical response is that the outraged citizens shouldn't worry. Urbana does not enforce its nuisance laws anyway.

In 1972 the U.S. Congress established the Office of Noise Abatement and Control, or ONAC. But in 1981, the Reagan Administration defunded ONAC -- giving the responsibility back to the states, and cities like Urbana.

Non-auditory effects of noise exposure include elevated blood pressure, loss of sleep, increased heart rate, cardiovascular constriction, labored breathing, and changes in brain chemistry. According to the World Health Organization's Guidelines for Community Noise, “these health effects, in turn, can lead to social handicap, reduced productivity, decreased performance in learning, absenteeism in the workplace and school, increased drug use, and accidents.”

Study after study has shown that children who live in neighborhoods with chronic noise nuisance perform worse in school. As usual, the victims tend to be from lower socio-economic backgrounds, and minorities.

Right now, the Urbana police will shut down a kegger if it's keeping you awake. But there's no city officer responsible for quieting chronic noise nuisance -- whether it's barking dogs or modified exahust systems on cars, and motorcycles.

It's not really a police matter anyway. It's a community development issue.

If you seek quiet enjoyment of your home, Urbana expects YOU to do the work. YOU have to stand up in court and face your neighborhood bully. Even if you have three children to watch over, even if you are confined to a wheelchair, even if you are 80 years of age and not as nimble as you once were.

Some cities have an Ombudsman -- a public advocate. Other towns have "Livability Court." In either case, it's not the victim who's expected to enforce the ordinance. It's the professional. Urbana can have that, too.

Government taxes citizens. In return, it provides services. One of these services is upholding and enforcing the law.

Government usually does not ask the people to police, and prosecute law breakers. But that's how Urbana handles nuisance issues.

It's a bad idea. It's a dangerous idea.

Would you care to know how many innocent victims have been assaulted, or KILLED, because they confronted bothersome neighbors?

The judges who adjudicate disputes between neighbors will tell you "when it's neighbor versus neighbor, it's never over."

That's why I decided to run for Mayor of Urbana. Urbana is a lovely place to live, raise children, and grow old. I'd like to make sure that it's lovely for everybody.

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