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BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for April 1, 2009

Ah, it sounds like a cruel April Fool's Day joke -- but it's not.

Today's lead story in the Herald-Sun, courtesy of Ray Gronberg: Landlords owe about $1.2 million in back-penalties for code violations and inspections issues, and for the unpaid costs of demolishing condemned properties. Most of those funds are more than one year past due.

Adding insult to injury, to quote the H-S:

Officials concede that they haven't tried very hard to collect the money, in large part because the state constitution bars the city from keeping it. By law, revenue from fines and forfeitures has to be turned over to the Durham Public Schools.

The feeling in City Hall has been that "there isn't an incentive for the city to prioritize the collection since 100 percent goes to the schools," Bonfield acknowledged.

Of course, that makes perfect sense! Why would the City of Durham spend time on something that benefits the schools? That's, like, a completely different government agency! I mean, this is Durham. Why should we be bothering to help schools in some place called Durham?

On the plus side, it's good to see city manager Tom Bonfield -- whose time in the city's chief executive role began after this was already a problem -- treating this as an opportunity for change. Still, the problem with skeletons in the closet is, you never know how many more there are once you've pulled one out.

In other news:

  • Speaking of troubled landlords, five of James "Fireball" White's apartments off of Boone St. in NECD may be demolished if a bankruptcy judge overseeing the restructuring of White's Haskell Properties consents. Meanwhile, White's largest creditor, one-time son-in-law (and recently-paralyzed) Durhamite and former NBA star Rodney Rogers is asking to have Haskell liquidated, not restructured. (H-S)
  • The N&O profiles John Dailey, the new Duke police chief; he returns to the university, where he spent eight years after college (plus high school summers as a security guard), after about eight years at NC Central as their assistant chief. (N&O)
  • Ongoing school searches continue to turn up weapons in DPS schools; this time, a powerful BB gun at Githens, after finds at Hillside, Carrington, and Eno Valley. (H-S)
  • NCCU's team came in second in an academic competition for historically black colleges and universities held in Orlando. (H-S)

Comments

Tar Heelz

This is the same City of Durham whose leaders never miss a chance to extort cash contributions from "private developers" in order to satisfy their proclaimed concerns over the funding of DPS.

duncan

Wow. They should be collecting those fines regardless of what they'll be used for, but how could they pass up a PR chance like getting more cash for schools? Incredible.

SteveG

Those "officials" who haven't been trying hard to collect this money should start doing their damned job. If they don't want to do their job, they should resign. If they don't resign they should be fired since they are just dead weight and won't be missed.

SteveG

Regarding Fireball, can we have a huge party when Haskell Properties goes out of business and is liquidated? I'll buy a keg.

Moe.rivera@gmail.com

Durham - Former City of Slumlords

This a prime example of Durham promoting a safe haven for slumlords. These fines are in place not to PUNISH the slumlords, but to be compensate for the harm they have caused to the communities. Let us not lose focus and get distracted by the dollar amount and where the money is going. I think we should pile up the slum money and burn it. This is about Durham's inability to enforce their codes and laws on these absentee landords. If these landowners cannot come up with the cash to pay back the harm they have caused, then I think other actions should be in place ie jailtime, revocation of property rights, etc. If Durham can't even collect on fines err "civil penalties" owed and services rendered, then there is nothing stopping these landlords from doing whatever they want/however they want. What expectations do we have on Durham to enforce it's codes and laws in a timely matter? Most slumlords know that it will take years for a municipality to condemn and seize thier assets. So, why pay now, when they don't have to pay at all?
Durham should make these lists available to the public so we know who we are dealing with.

Thank you Kevin & and the Herald Sun for bringing this to light.

-Moe Rivera

Philip

If I were a city council member, I would demand an update on the uncollected fees at the beginning of every city council meeting until all the fines were all collected.

If I were a city council member and I didn't do that, I would expect to lose my seat.

Seth Vidal

I think I agree with Philip here. 1.2 Million is a lot of books and meals for DPS.

Thomas

Gee, Tar Heelz, what development company or development law firm do you work for? Absent a transfer tax, the school contributions developers volunteer is the only way the Council and the Commissioners have to help development pay for itself. However, I bet you're going to try tell us that development pays for itself.

Bass

Good stuff Kevin. I am ashamed to hear this. This needs to be brought to the public eye on an even larger scale.

Tar Heelz

Thomas,

You mean "the only way" EXCEPT for maybe collecting this $1.2 Million?

I am not nearly as concerned about our leaders' demands for tribute as I am with the hypocrisy of the City as highlighted by this story.

Whether development does or does not pay for itself is probably a case by case situation, don't you think?

Toby

Congrats to NCCU's academic team! Go Eagles!!

Todd P

Wow. Not bothering to collect the money because the City can't keep it. And we wonder why slumlords continue to thumb their collective noses at Durham.

Of course, this $1.2 million pales in comparison to the $8.2 million Durham County is spending on County Stadium. Sure would have been nice for that money to go to the schools, too. Way too many Durham students go to class in trailers every day.

KeepDurhamDifferent!

You're forgetting that some of Durham's biggest so-called "slumlords" are very politically connected.

Natalie

So NIS has spent half a million dollars to tear down houses, thereby reducing their tax value and has done nothing to collect this penalty money because it's for the students who live in the neighborhoods they are working to fracture?

Excuse me, but that is bullshit.

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