City isn’t the bad guy

Lee's Summit JournalJanuary 22, 2014 

The story had all the marks of one where the City of Lee’s Summit was going to take a beating.

Codes enforcement, bulldozers, city staff, bureaucracy, red tape, kids…it was the perfect storm of bad PR brewing.

Blaming the city for enforcing codes rules that ultimately took down a playhouse in New Longview is, quite simply, lazy. It’s too easy.

Sure, the city has a huge target on its collective back when codes enforcers have to do their jobs, particularly where kids are involved.

The issue in Lee’s Summit was going to be a no-win for city staff from the beginning. All they could do was make the best of the well-publicized event and hope there was some lesson to take away from all of it.

The funny thing is, we all want codes to be there when there are things we don’t like or deem unsightly – tall grass, appliances in the front yard, cars on blocks, unstable structures or any of a number of violations we have to be on the lookout for due to public safety.

Anything I listed above could be deemed “fun” for kids, too. Heck, we played on abandoned refrigerators when I was growing up. We lived for grass to get so tall that we could hide in plain sight from our parents.

Unfortunately, in this case, an unstable structure was assembled on a vacant lot in New Longview. And even more unfortunate is that the real bad guy here is not Mark Dunning, director of codes enforcement, or anyone at City Hall. It was the anonymous neighbor that didn’t have the good sense to talk this out in the neighborhood instead of taking it to the city, thus forcing the “bad guy” to take action.

Instead of demonizing the city, let’s look at who the “good guys” were in this scenario.

First, David Gale from New Longview received a letter from codes stating the “playhouse” needed to be taken down. Gale made a whole event out of this, including hard hats for the kids, food from Next Door Pizza and supplying the heavy equipment to, mostly symbolically, take down the small structure.

The kids from Longview Elementary came over after school and were greeted by Dunning, who should be applauded for showing up at the event and not ridiculed by those brave souls who take to social media to complain about every little thing in town.

This lesson in city government and codes enforcement led to a positive community event, some (good or bad) PR for New Longview and Lee’s Summit and to some awareness for the kids. How can any of that be a negative thing? Heck, the kids will even build a bigger and better playhouse now based on this story.

The negative energy comes mainly from the ability to spout off online without having to make any real contribution to the topic or come up with alternative solutions.

Dunning, Gale and the city didn’t have that choice. They had to face this head on and find a resolution.

You can’t have codes enforcement both ways. They have to enforce across the board lest they be accused of favoritism or neglect.

 

John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail jbeaudoin@lsjournal.com.

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