City Hall

Liveblogging Quality of Life, As Code Violations and Animal Services Are on the Agenda

Middle o' the day to you, Unfair Friends. I'm here at good old 6ES inside City Hall, liveblogging today's Quality of Life Committee meeting, featuring Pauline Medrano, who has lost her voice and who is being spoken for by Vonciel Jones Hill. Joining us are David Neumann and Sheffie Kadane, along with a host of Dallas Community Prosecutors and, presumably later on, animal issues folks who are anxious to hear a presentation from Dallas Animal Services, a city branch what you may have heard of coming under some deserved fire as of late.

But first, it was the Dallas Community Prosecution Team up to the plate, with City Attorney Tom Perkins and assistant city attorneys Rosalind Jeffers and Adam McGough talking about what a super-duper bang-up job they're doing supervising action on code violations and community conflicts around the city. Perkins said the CP program is "maturing." For a bunch of attorneys, they sounded like they dislike litigation a fair bit, preferring to attempt "voluntary compliance" in: "substandard structures, hazardous or vacant buildings, illegal land uses, prostitution, public intoxication, graffiti, litter, noise, overgrown vegetation, illegal dumping, homelessness issues, and outside illegal storage," per the CP website. If anyone knows the Micro Machines guy, call him up and have him read off that list for me.

Naturally, there was a PowerPoint. Jeffers and McGough detailed the CP case flow -- referrals come from citizens as well as city agencies, DPD and others. Folks contact CP about all manner of infractions. Jeffers's slide show provided examples of attorneys getting a disabled woman out of squalid conditions in her home with the help of neighbors and community agencies, as well as removing a dog from "pretty horrible" conditions. "The dog with AIDS" case they called it, based on a phrase spray-painted on a fence where the dog lived "as a deterrent to keep others from seeing the condition of the exterior premises," shown alongside a massive pile of junk and trash that CP was able to get cleaned up.

The assistant city attorneys also detailed their work in utilizing "voluntary compliance" in getting illegal nightclubs out of struggling neighborhoods, code-violating homeowners ousted and shutting down an illegal auto repair shop that was tethering guard dogs and allowing prostitution and drug dealing on the property. Community Prosecution appears to be a persuasive bunch. They also shut down a strip of bars at Capitol and Fitzhugh Avenues that they say were responsible for 20 percent of reported murders in DPD's Central Patrol Area. Again, if you want the photos, feel free to consult the PDF.

But sadly, the attorneys say voluntary compliance is not always volunteered. Then come: the litigators. "It turns into pretty complex litigation," said McGough, when property owners get together with city attorneys to sue trashy neighbors and bad landlords who allow prostitutes, drug dealers and squatters. In fact, the litigation component of CP is rather new--they prefer the voluntary angle, but sometimes you just gotta sue.

Community Prosecution is so awesome, say community prosecutors, that they would like to expand from those based on "grant funding and historic analysis" to larger areas of the city. Tom Perkins is 'bout it: "They get to know the problems up close and personal," he said, because they office in the communities they serve.  Perkins proposed community prosecutors "align" with police divisions and code enforcement to have a "larger impact" by incorporating with the existing city structure. In sum: more lawyers in more places.

And now, to the committee for questions. Join me in the comments for updates.

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Andrea Grimes
Contact: Andrea Grimes