Moroni City Council: Junk is serious,
so stick to your guns on cleanup enforcement
Is junk serious?
That is the fundamental question facing the Moroni mayor and city council as they try to decide how far to go to clean up the town.
We believe junk is very serious. It is a threat to health and safety, harms people psychologically, erodes the quality of life in a community, and can undermine the whole concept of community.
For starters, junk cars attract skunks and raccoons, which can lead to terrible odors and can even spread disease. They can also become traps for inquisitive children. Old cars and other accumulations of junk can get hot, cause spontaneous combustion of the inevitable nearby weeds and lead to fires.
We believe junk is also negative for the people who create it. It can be a manifestation of low self-esteem and lack of initiative. When people clean up, they feel better about themselves. Correspondingly, when people start feeling better about themselves for whatever reason, they tend to tidy up their surroundings.
Cleanliness, tidiness, green lawns, flowers—yes, aesthetic qualities— are cornerstones of quality of life in a community. They are also the pillars of stable property values.
On the other hand, neglected property undermines the whole concept of community. If someone doesn’t have pride in his or her property, sooner or later the person may lose a sense of pride and connection with the community itself.
He or she may become more isolated, less likely to help neighbors, less likely to play a role in community activities.
People who have junky properties often argue that they have a right to keep what they want on their lots. We agree that property owners have fairly broad rights. But as courts down through the decades have ruled, no right, including our cherished Constitutional rights, is unlimited. The question is where to draw the line.
Many people don’t like the looks of chain link fences and very high sunflowers. But if a municipality tries to ban those things, we would say they are going too far.
On the other hand, if people, through neglect of their properties and hoarding of junk, create an environment that makes others feel uncomfortable walking down the street, the people with the unsightly properties are infringing on the rights of everybody else.
Another question the Moroni council is dealing with is whether people who violate ordinances, receive warnings, ignore the warnings, are ordered to clean up, then do not comply with the orders, should be called into court, and potentially, sent to jail.
That’s the easy one. The answer is yes.
If someone gets parking tickets, even one parking ticket, and refuses to pay it over an extended time, and if the person is ultimately called to court but doesn’t show up, a warrant will be issued.
One day, as the person is blithely driving down the street, an officer may pull him or her over. What happens next? The person goes to jail and doesn’t get out until the tickets, and all late fees, processing fees, etc. are paid.
The same applies to speeding and other traffic tickets. Even refusal to comply with a civil court order can land a person in jail.
Should the punishment be any less for someone violating zoning or nuisance ordinances?
In light of the serious consequences of rural blight for a whole community, the Moroni City Council should make such violations of zoning, nuisance and related ordinances a Class B misdemeanor, which is the required tool for the city to realistically enforce the ordinances.